Continuity, Coverage and Matching Shots: What Actors Need to Know
Acting for camera combines art and technology. In this video acting lesson, 3-2-1- Master instructor and veteran television, film and stage actor John Walcutt discusses what matching shots means to actors, or “coverage” and “continuity” for screen actors. With a wealth of on-camera experience that extends far beyond the acting school for kids, teens and young adults in Los Angeles, John’s insights on the actor’s relationship to camera are invaluable. Watch an example by advanced scene study students, and see why actors need to know continuity and how to “match that.”
Stage actors need to learn about the stage. Whether for commercial, television, film, online productions or print, on-camera actors need to know the basics of camera shooting and set work. In this lesson, we introduced some “shots” or “frames” you can expect to encounter at auditions and on set, and discussed the importance of match-cutting or continuity of action.
In the video above, you saw examples of how two actor repeated action multiple times. Their performances were filmed from different angles. There were five distinct camera set-ups plus two adjustments to shoot the material for this short scene. Both teen actors “matched action” or repeated blocking that could be cut together to give the illusion of a continuous scene in time. Of course both actors stayed “on book” or kept true to the script. Additionally, both performers used the same hands to gesture, moved the same direction each take, and performed with a consistency of energy and tone to stay “on the moment.” The result is continuity among a series of shots that “can cut.”
The relationship of actor to camera is key for anyone interested in commercial, television or film acting, and even print modeling. Knowing the frame you’re working with should inform your performance. Learning how to adjust your performance to meet the technical needs of different camera angles or shots takes practice and is easiest to learn by doing and reviewing. On a working set, you may have the opportunity to see a playback of your performance, but time is tight on most shoots. It’s best to learn the basics before you get to a set.
Practice on your own, or find an acting class that incorporates both on-camera filming and playback of your work. Avoid an overly critical eye. Instead, use playback as an opportunity to review how you met particular goals for a given take. In this case, maybe check to see if you maintained “matching the shots” with the same blocking for each take , or if your performance seemed as “in the moment” as it did the first time.
The more you practice in front of a camera, the more comfortable you will become. Your confidence will rise and your natural talent will shine through. If you’re a younger performer, look for acting classes for kids or acting schools for children that specialize in building confidence in child actors and teen actors. Reviewing your work, especially with the help and feedback of a trained acting coach, will help you develop your skills and understanding better and faster.
Actors who understand the technology directly involved in their work will always have an edge when it comes to auditions, booking jobs, and getting the most out of their time on set. The more you know about what you’re doing, the better your chances of getting cast. Being aware of how the technology involved can affect what you do and how you do it is a great addition to any actor’s toolbox.
The camera of course is a major technical element of commercial, film and television acting. By understanding your relationship to camera, the particular shot, and how shots are edited together, you can better ensure that your artistry will compliment and even eclipse the tech time and again.
The actor who knows how to keep each repeating take fresh and match their physical movements take after take is the actor who will be hired again. This actor saves the production company time and money by requiring less do-0vers.
Hi, I’m John Walcutt coming to you from 3-2-1- Acting Studios in Los Angeles. Our teaching site is Top Hollywood Acting Coach dot com. Today we’re talking about fundamentals of acting on camera, and we’re working with some of our advanced scene study students here in Los Angeles. We’re talking about coverage, and we’re talking about matching and continuity.
These are very important ideas for actors to grab onto. What will cut, what won’t cut. What I mean by that is that you’re never going to do a scene just once. Almost never. Usually a scene is going to be covered. Many different shots, many different angles. And you need to understand what works, what won’t work, and that’s what we’re going to talk about today.
[TITLE CARD] “Continuity” Starring: Veronica Backer and Alex Echegoyen (Advanced Scene Study)
[BEGIN SCENE: Friends at lunch. The GIRL enjoys her lunch. The BOY does not. He makes a disgusted sound.]
GIRL: What is it?
BOY: My sandwich keeps crashing.
GIRL: Let me see. Oh! I didn’t know they still made those. Looks like you need an upgrade.
BOY: No kidding.
GIRL: Check this out: the new Taco Bell steak quesadilla with three layers of cheese and pre-installed steak.
GIRL: Welcome to the twenty-first century.
So it’s very important that you understand what it means when someone says to you, “we have to match that. We have to have continuity.” An actor has to understand that.
Believe it or not, there’s somebody on a set who is in charge of—whose entire job is—continuity.
So as an actor, you have to understand that everything you do as you go through these multiple angles and multiple takes, as you repeat a scene again and again and again to get a close-up, to get a wide shot, you have to understand that even though every take has to be fresh and like the first time—
Because that’s the first, most important thing. Our work always has to be fresh and like it’s happening for the first time. It can’t seem repeated, can’t seem rehearsed. So the trick is you have to stay fresh and full and open and “on the moment,” as we say. And yet you have to repeat the same thing the same way. Because if you don’t, what’s going to happen is a “blooper.” Right? You’ve all seen those. And your job as an actor is to make sure that, A: you always give a fresh performance. But, B: technically, everything has to be able to cut together.
So you kind of have to learn how to do this. Just like anything else, you have to spend time and to study. And you have to work on it.
That’s just the beginning. There’s a lot of great stuff to learn about being on camera. It’s really fun, and it’s exciting.
Fundamentals of on-camera acting. That’s what we do here at 3-2-1- Acting Studios in Los Angeles. You can always come in and take a free class. Call us. It’s a great group of people. If you’re not here [in Los Angeles, California], practice wherever you are. Practice. Get closer to that dream. And we’ll see you in Hollywood.