Friday, March 13, 2020

Friday the 13th Questions

Don’t be scared. Here are this week’s Friday the 13th Questions.

h leads off:

My question's about single-cam vs multi-cam shows. Why is there no middle ground?

Traditional multi-cam shows feel like stage plays - obviously all the cameras have to keep out of sight of each other, so they tend to be arranged on one side of the set, forming the ole' fourth wall.

Single cam shows can take us anywhere, any angle on the players, because each take is shot at a different point in time - but that can lead to continuity problems. Schitt's Creek, which I've been rather enjoying, has this problem in spades. You'll be watching one character, but they cut to a reverse shot and the character's in a completely different pose. I find it quite distracting.

So why is there no middle ground of "oh, we're shooting these two talking, so let's get the two sides of it at the same time"? They obviously can't get every shot they'll need for coverage - wides will have to be shot later - and the characters' lighting will end up being compromised a little, but at least the dialog will be perfectly in sync and continuity won't be a problem. It'd give the players more scope to act spontaneously without worrying they've got to perfectly match every move again.

There is middle ground on both.

A number of multi-camera shows don’t film before a live studio audience. HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER was one. They “block and shoot” so it’s like a single-camera show in that regard, except with four cameras.  And the cameras can go deeper into the set.

Even multi-cams that do shoot with an audience will pre-shoot some scenes from time to time. If there’s a show with children, chances are the bulk of their scenes are pre-shot the day before the rest of the show is filmed in front of an audience.

Now for single camera shows, most today are double camera shows. They’ll shoot two angles at once, thus saving time and the number of takes.

If there are matching problems on SCHITT’S CREEK that’s the problem of the script supervisor. One of her/his jobs is to check on continuity.

PolyWogg wonders:

Do you think there's a market for ebook versions of scripts? I've been ordering some plays recently, and most of them are only in paper form, unless you order direct from a playwrights website. One playwright's agent will send you scripts for free if you pretend you're a theatre group (or even if you don't).

I do think there’s an appetite for scripts and plays. Maybe a problem with ebooks is formatting. It’s hard to stay in script form in an ebook when the reader can change the size and font.

If you want one of my plays, just go to They’re downloadable but not in ebook form.

From Waylon Mercy comes a CHEERS question.

What are some of your favorite season 11 episodes? I have to say- "The Beer is Always Greener" and "Last Picture Show" are near perfect episodes to me. Would put them in pantheon of best sitcom eps of all time!!

Season 11 is the final season. I would say the series finale written by Glen & Les Charles, and I like one that David Isaacs and I wrote called “Loathe & Marriage.”

There are a lot of really good episodes in Season 11 and one reason is that Glen & Les came back full-time to shepherd the last half of the year, and no one ran that show as well as them.

And finally, Kent Cross has a question about collaboration on one of our sitcom sets.

Can anyone from the crew submit notes (like the caterer), or are they generally only come from certain job titles?

Certain job titles. Primarily the director, actors, writers, and producers. I’m not saying I wouldn’t listen if a cameraman had a note; I’m just saying I wouldn’t encourage it. And it’s pretty well understood that crew people don’t give notes. It’s not their department.

But that’s not to say a prop master can’t have an idea for a prop that will really help a scene, or a set dresser might have some thoughts on how to spruce up the set. The right wardrobe can really enhance a scene. Within their own departments, crew members (who are all consummate professionals) add immeasurably to a show, but script and acting notes are reserved for others.

Watch out for black cats and submit your FQ in the comments section.  Thanks. 


Baylink said...

Wow, Ken; you mean I can download *paper* now? Cool!


Scripts are not available in electronic form, largely, because they're too easy to copy, that way, and the rightsholders believe--largely correctly, I suspect--that they would lose a lot of money from doing that.

As a stage manager, I have often worked on plays where an SM book -- you know, one at a readable and markable size? -- was not offered. While I never had any compunction about making my own (they'll tell you it's flat illegal to even make the scaled-up photocopy, but they are wrong)... I always made it from a spare copy of the script, not then used by anyone else.

The *practical* reason why ebooks aren't popular for scriptwork, though, is likely that it's hard to get the pagenumbering stuff right in some of those systems. You have to be able to get to "halfway down 27" pretty quickly, and if your book reader is the reason you can't, well...

PolyWogg said...

Thanks for the info on scripts and answering my question! Now off to your website to download stuff!


Y. Knott said...

"Look Before You Sleep" from season 11 was a very different sort of Cheers episode (Sam visits everyone's home, desperate for a place to sleep) and it really stood out for me. It showed us sides of the Cheers characters not seen in other episodes -- tough to do so late in the run -- and was very, very funny.

VP81955 said...

The coronavirus pandemic has thrust everything into turmoil, including TV. I note many live sitcom filmings have been canceled, including the final three season 7 episodes of "Mom." How might Chuck Lorre, Warners and CBS approach this?

* Film the episodes with a closed set, then either run them without an audience or showing a filmed version before a small group to get recorded laugh reaction.
* Scrapping the final eps for now and perhaps tack them onto season 8 (already renewed) in the fall. And how might this affect the story arc?

Canceling the NCAA men's basketball tourney also impacts "Mom," as it was to have a two-week hiatus before returning April 2 -- the night "Man With A Plan" returns and "Broke" debuts, replacing "The Unicorn" and "Carol's Second Act." I suppose CBS could run two straight weeks of multiple "Young Sheldon" and "Mom" repeats.

Wendy M. Grossman said...

Friday question: In the current crisis shows are shifting to recording without studio audiences. First one I've seen was last night's Samantha Bee. She had staffers sitting widely spaced in the audience seats and used a few sound effects. You could hear the staffers laughing sometimes, and she herself broke up because, she said, the writers had put in some jokes she hadn't seen before to liven things up. If you'd had to do this on one of your shows, what adaptations would you have made, do you think?

Stay safe, everyone.


Not woke and proud of it said...

Some people on twitter are calling the Coronavirus the "Boomer Remover."

Aaaah, it's that decent, kindhearted, compassionate and pleasant millennial left in action again, wishing death upon millions.

Happy Friday the 13th everyone and stay safe whatever your politics are.

Joseph Scarbrough said...

There have been a few occasions where I can tell a single-cam sitcom shot a certain scene or sequence with more than one camera - one prominent example I can think of is when BEWITCHED recreated the famous I LOVE LUCY chocolate factory scene with Serena and Uncle Arthur (fitting, since I LOVE LUCY was not only multi-cam, but Bill Asher directed both).

tavm said...

Wendy, the same thing happened with Stephen Colbert and-having just seen the monologue portion of it-Jimmy Fallon. NBC had now suspended Jimmy and Seth until further notice. I suspect the same to happen with Colbert...

Andy Rose said...

Cutaways that don't match is an issue on just about every single-camera program I can think of (and even some heavily-edited multi-cams like Seinfeld). I think editors believe most people focus only on the main subject of a shot and not whomever might be peripherally (and partially out of focus) on the edge of the screen. So if they need a particular reaction shot, they'll just take the best reaction from whatever take it can be found rather than the "B" camera shot of the same take, even if that causes a slight change in facial expression or lack of lip-sync on the person speaking. Also, the mismatch can result from a portion of the scene being cut out entirely in order to meet time limitations or at the director's preference. Or from a piece of dialogue being changed in ADR after the scene is filmed.

Clara said...

Tom hanks and his wife tested positive.

To All,

Is it just me or does anyone think that the World is going on an overdrive?

There are many other problems which are crushing common man... but these world leaders never bother about solving them. But this virus - more of an internet phenomenon - gets more attention and generates so much hype.

Mike Bloodworth said...

Rain, pestilence, price gouging AND Friday the 13th. What a great time to be alive.

P.S. Regarding Tuesday's blog, watch the blasphemy.

Andy K said...

I have 4 black cats and I'm always looking out for them!

Robert Brauer said...

Regarding TV programming, the loss of the NBA is going to hit TNT particularly hard. They're gonna have to dust off "The Shawshank Redemption" and start running it continuously again.

Parts Unknown said...

Love Me, Love My Car is a favorite of mine, perhaps due to guest star Dana Delany.

Jim, Cheers Fan said...

I didn't remember Loathe and Marriage, so I looked it up. Way to undersell it: THE RETURN OF NICK TORTELLI! And Lo-Retta! I freakin' love that episode. Carla's glasses, Serafina landing a retired cop with a pension. "Knock knock! Who's there? Opportunity! Opportunity who?" "Some of them are yours...."

Tom Galloway said...

Ken, now that pretty much all sports have been cancelled for at least a month, what would you do if you had to program ESPN and its child stations for the next month? So far, I've come up with 1) A selection of sports-related test patterns 2) ESPN Classic 2, 3 4, 5, 6, 7, and of course Ocho 3) All Ocho, all the time.

slgc said...

Ken - Do you have any gut feeling on when the MLB season might start?

Presumably the players would need some kind of extended spring training or warmup period before embarking on regular season games, wouldn't they?

Marc Wielage said...

Ken commented: "If there are matching problems on SCHITT’S CREEK that’s the problem of the script supervisor. One of her/his jobs is to check on continuity."

Not completely true. The editor and showrunner (and sometimes other producers) cut the show together and make those decisions. Often, the script supervisor and camera operator knew already that the shots and/or actor positions didn't match, but because the edited scene still got a laugh and the timing worked, they ignored the visual flaws and hoped the acting and story would carry the scene. I've worked on more than 500 sitcom episodes where I've (respectfully) pointed out a continuity problem, and the producer shrugs and says, "hey, we all still laughed, and you only noticed because you're a technician looking at the picture." Often, visual logic is ignored in favor of story, and they hope for the best and go with story over technical issues. And I get that.

Note that VFX people can now move individual actors around within a scene, but very few shows want to spend the time and money to do that. Features can and will: the character on the left may be from take 3 and the character on the right may be from take 17, all while the camera is moving. David Fincher, George Lucas, and Robert Rodriguez are big on that. Traditionalists like Chris Nolan and Quentin Tarantino would insist on it being done right on set.

mike schlesinger said...

For what it's worth, I keep a happy and open set and will gladly take a suggestion from anyone, cast or crew. A few of them even wound up being used. A good idea is a good idea, and as Jack Benny noted, I'll still get the credit.

Dave Daskal said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
J Lee said...

Going a long, long ways back, "Burns and Allen" did their six season of filmed shows three-camera, but without a studio audience because Gracie wanted it that way -- the shows were then replayed for audience response. Garry Marshall also did a couple of episodes of "The Odd Couple" and "Happy Days" as hybrids in order to get exterior shots in, with both three-camera shots with live audiences and single camera scenes in the same episode (something that "Cheers" would do as well for Season 11, when they did the on-location exterior shots in Boston).

Roger Owen Green said...

FQ: What do you think of the Cheers-themed Dominos Pizza commercial?

Bob Waldman said...

Hi Ken,
Once the coronavirus is contained and it's safe to start production again, do you think shows will possibly add more writers than usual to catch up on schedules? And do you think they might even turn to older writers to help?