Film & TV

Frost/Nixon: Steadicam Staging

Ron Howard

Lesson time 21:34 min

Ron reworks the scene for a Steadicam, which requires technical movement and choreography from actors.

Ron Howard
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So. That last one was a pretty rough assimilation of what we did with it as a movie. It was a kind of applying the same aesthetic sensibility to this scene today as it when we shot the film. But I want to experiment a little bit today. And this is something that I actually thought about for the movie. We didn't really have time to explore it this way, and I ultimately rejected it. But today I'm going to-- we're going to experiment with it a little bit. Which is the idea of playing it in a long, extended steadicam shots. I'm not sure we'll get it to be a one-er. But, using a steadicam, I want to go at the scene in a different way, and which is going to require some different staging. Now when you're working in a scene that's a one-er-- if you think of a movie like Birdman. It all had the feeling of a one-er. It requires some technical willingness and adeptness from the actors. Because very often you have to work with the camera operator. You know what we were doing was a little more spontaneous and natural, and the camera was hand-held, and it could move to find the shots. But when you get into this kind of highly choreographed sort of shooting, the actors have to be a little more technically willing to really hit specific marks and make it seamless. So we're going to work on that now. The only thing that I'm going to change, for starters-- because we have to reblock-- is instead of going in that alleyway, because it would be very difficult to do much with the steadicam inside that narrow alleyway, instead we'll assume that when you want to go, that you're going out the garage door. And we'll finish out here. And this is an area where the steadicam can operate. And move around you guys a little bit. OK? So let's just begin to experiment. It may be one shot. It may be three shots. I'm not sure. But just walk in, and do what you were doing more or less and let's see how much we can adapt a single shot to that. And then we'll have to start tweaking it. But I'm going to sort of be the steadicam now for a second. And we have a steadicam operator. Work with me here a little bit. OK. OK. All right. And, so maybe we'll just hinge him in, like in a profile or something. And action. What revolution? Let him come through. And keep going. You just let Richard Nixon claim the country was in a state of revolution, with protesters bombing and assaulting police officers. That's not how I remember it. What I remember is people protesting peacefully and legitimately against the Vietnam war. So if you got a wide for a second. That's what I remember. Music off, please. Music off. I need to see that. Hang on, whoa, whoa whoa. So how are we going to see that? So we've come into this situation. That's pretty good, because we get him yelling. If maybe, you might need to mot...

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Doha I.

An old, successful actor friend of mine swears by the value of memorising his script very early on, and then not even holding it in his hand....


I would like know if they really have so much time on a real set to allow Directors trying different angles with two cameras on the set. Plus Ron does not seem worried at all about crossing the imaginary line of sight between the actors. I wonder if he is going to refer to that later or it is so elementary now a days that it is not important if you cross it.

Ruben R.

@ the edge of my seat! Great acting & Directing/Instructing by Ron Howard.

Matthew B.

thanks for the reality of this process Ronnie and to your hard working actors

Matthew B.

I am self employed and got to work alot like everyone, but control my schedule so would Love to help and/or work on a Project like this

Lucrecia Sarita R.

I discovered something while playing with the playback speed. Some of the lines were better acted slower and some faster and that the actors could play around with different speeds when delivering their lines. The varying playback is a terrific feature and fantastic tool for directing rhythm in the script.


Its amazing how much the presence of the steadicam interfered with the actors' performances in the first few takes, It took them a while to readjust.

Chris B.

Man he's good, I have to agree a master at his craft. Just so much fun to watch the process.

Kevin B.

Wow this is such a great lesson! I absolutely loved how he moved the steady cam operator around the scene. I have to try this when I can find a steady cam and operator on my budget. LOL!

Maria Elena S.

Love being able to visualize the difference in all these cameras and lenses that many of us as indies, can not afford. great to know what I need to save up for - lol.