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Using Coverage When Editing Narrative Scenes

written by: Shane Burley•edited by: Rhonda Callow•updated: 7/4/2011

Coverage is a common film technique, and editing this approach has a standard way to keep things organized.

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    Traditional Hollywood

    Coverage is a very standard way to film narrative scenes. This often happens where a large master shot of the whole scene is filmed and then medium and close up clips are filmed of the entire scene as well. From here they are all edited together to make a single scene that has a number of different perspectives and depths. This is a fairly classical film method and has a simple way to approach it when you are in the editing room.

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    The first thing you must do after you have captured and labeled all of the clips is to lay down the master shot. Hopefully this has all the best audio for the scene, otherwise you are going to have to have some problems. Here you can go through the scene and mark all the places that the medium and close up shots are likely to go according to filming notes, director requests, or storyboards. This chosen master shot will likely not all be one cohesive scene without stopping or starting so you are going to have to assemble the pieces of several takes of it to create one fluid scene. This does not mean that there will not be jumps from where you have cut together two different takes, but make sure that those jumps happen where a different depth range clip will be covering it. The most important thing to find here is that there is a good pacing that fully represents the scene.

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    Setting in Closer Shots

    Now you are going to select the medium and close up shots that you are going to want. There will be only a few medium shots, so they should go in after you select the placement of the close ups if at all. Go through and find the chosen locations where the close up clips should go. These are usually when someone is talking in a dialogue. From here you go through and select the medium shots that you want, which are usually focused on a single character like the close up but instead they are performing an action where you need to see part of their body. If there is a time that the two characters are very close together you may want to select the medium shot of this as well. In this situation you have to make sure that you select the medium shot that is not biased toward one character or the other, mainly because this is where they are supposed to be meeting together on neutral ground.

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    Arranging Clips

    You take these shots and begin placing them on the marked points on top of the master shot. Once this is done you begin putting cuts in the audio and video of the master clip. You are going to spread this out because the close ups are going to carry the specific moments in the scene longer than the master shot did. Begin spreading this out so that the master shot picks up at the correct point in the scene after each medium and close up spot has left off. This is also important because it breaks up the of the master shot that you are going to mute while a medium or close up shot are on the screen. Once you have correctly spaced the master shot so that it maintains a relative pacing to the rest of the clips and have made it so that all of the audio being heard associates the image on the screen, you are going to need to put light fades on the beginning and end of each audio clip. This will make it so that no audio piece sounds awkwardly abrupt when it comes in. The last thing you do is to lay down the natural sound and sound effects under the whole thing to smooth out the rest of the audio patches.

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    This is a very basic model, but is difficult if you have a number of takes. Hopefully that director keeps the editing job in mind when setting up and filming each scene.