Blocking a Scene: 6 Essential Blocking Steps for Filmmakers

by | Sep 29, 2020

Every video production starts with a plan; we call this the pre-production process.

Based on the goals of the project and the target audience, our production team formulates a plan of action. The necessity of blocking a scene before filming begins is one constant among the many variables that must be established in pre-production. Making a shot list early allows you to plan and prepare adequately. Working with a director of photography who has experience filming on set and has developed his or her photographic eye for capturing visually attractive material is essential. Blocking a scene includes framing, which creates interest through unique juxtapositions of talent and their environment. 

You are likely to run into an unknown while shooting, so having experience will play a significant role in ensuring your production is on time and within budget. We don’t account for mistakes, as it takes considerable financial and human resources to prepare for the big day. Our production team always makes certain that we capture the shots we need, and a seasoned director or producer can improvise on the fly if things change or go wrong.

Blocking a scene requires an experience crew to get right

Every video production that involves talent requires six stages of blocking a scene.

1. Scouting: This pre-production stage is contingent upon how familiar the crew is with the location. Most video production companies will film at new places they have never visited. Scouting a location involves the DP (Director of Photography) and the person in charge of lighting, usually the lead gaffer on the project. They will visit the site before the day of production, determine shooting locations, and create an inventory of gear and lights needed for the production.

2. Block and Stage a Scene: The director will determine where the talent will be on set in relation to the camera position. Film blocking is about directing your audience’s eyes to where you want them to look and how you want them to feel, not just where your performers stand.

3. Lighting: The Director of Photography will work with his or her lighting crew to determine what lights will be needed and their placements to prepare the cameras to start rolling. 

4. Rehearse: It’s time to go through the motions with the actors and the crew. Rehearsing will ensure that the talent will hit their mark and that the cameras are in the desired position to capture the action. 

5. Adjustments: The lighting crew will make final adjustments so the talent and set are evenly lit.  6. Shoot: This is the most significant part of the video production process. Shoot the first scene, then move on to the next! 

Here are a few tips to consider for blocking a scene.

Learning how to film block is essential to become a skilled filmmaker. Every director works with actors and actresses to how they stand and move in scenes. On the other hand, great directors use the filmmaking technique of blocking subjects in delicate lines to reflect character dynamics in a scene. Mastering these visual methods will propel you forward.

  • Create a shot list before you start shooting. Having a plan will be a huge help, but you can certainly make changes on the fly when you start filming. 
  • It’s great to work with a crew you are familiar with, as everyone will know how you like to work, and it’s nice to know that each personality is a good fit because it can get tense on a set. And, above all, you’ll know they will have experience! 
  • Remember the camera 180 rule while shooting; continuity is key! That said, sometimes rules are made to be broken. 
When blocking a scene, the rule of 180 is a great way to ensure your scenes flow well.
  • You might want to let experienced talent ad-lib a little to see if they can add visual interest to the composed shot. Sometimes, you’ll be working with non-actors. In this case, the more direction you give, the better. The process will be foreign to them, and letting them show you moves will cost you precious time. 
  • Think about the camera position one last time. Sometimes, the environment plays as significant a role as the talent delivering the lines.
  • Don’t hesitate to get a second opinion if you are unsure about a shot. I’ve heard some fantastic advice from crews I know and respect in the past. Something may have changed or shifted on set without your knowledge.
  • Try shifting camera positions if you are not feeling a scene. You are probably not getting a second chance. Everything is there and set up; go for it.
  • Mark all camera locations if you need to repeat a scene the following day. Marking camera placement will save you a lot of misery trying to remember where the cameras were the previous day.

And that’s a wrap!

Being on set with a talented crew is rewarding, fun, and challenging. Sometimes, video production budgets aren’t what you want them to be, so you might have to wear more than one hat. You might be directing, blocking a scene, and filming. That’s why having experience on set is essential. I’ve learned a lot from working with professionals from other disciplines and listening to their advice. Being behind the camera is still the most rewarding aspect of my work; I love the challenge of transforming the ordinary into extraordinary.  

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