Knowing when not to Switch

As a director one of the things I always try and do is to get into a grove.  In my case that sometimes involves dancing in my chair while I’m directing.  It’s a bit awkward but I find it effective… no matter how many times people laugh (they don’t laugh at the end product J).  It is really all about the grove, finding the beats or off beats depending on the song.


When I was first learning to direct my mentor would always tell me, “If you have a good shot, it is ok to stay with it for an extra second or two.  Don’t switch just because you think it is time.” Over the years I have become better at recognizing when to hold a good shot rather than switch off of it, but sometimes it gets tough because when you get in a grove and ops are finding shots you just want to keep cutting, you get on a role!  I also have have trust issues at times with my ops.  How long can they really hold that shot or make it interesting? Which causes me to cut off them when I could have ridden it out a bit longer.


This last weekend I directed a music festival and this year we brought in a jib and flew in a hand held operator who I had created “Magic” with before. Overall I had a great team of ops that did a bang up job (yes they were hired).  After the first day I knew I had to alter my directing style.  I won’t go into everything I did in that moment but the biggest thing  was re-learning: if you have a good shot, keep it. Sometimes it is best not to switch.


As I was working with some great ops that included a great Hand held guy and Jib op I felt like I had to Stop and smell the roses every now and then.  The jib was a new ball game for me as I had only worked with one once before.  Jib shots tend to change even more over time and last even longer which plays into this waiting concept. It allows your audience to enjoy the shot, connect with your subjects, and hook them into your magic spell.


When you make the decisions to hold a shot it still has to fit the song, it has to match the tempo, the beat, and overall “fit.”  This is really on your ops to get their movement just right, and as a director you may have to coach them a bit.  Slower songs are easier, faster songs are harder (in most cases).  Not switching may be as simple as an extra beat, bar, second or section of a song.   There is no formula, it is about keeping the end product interesting and grabbing the audience’s attention.


As you let the good shots linger, communicate that to your ops so they know they are still on air.  There is nothing wrong with saying “Still on 3” or “Make it last 2” or my favorite “we’re going to ride the wave on 4.”  If you don’t do this ops will forget they are live because they get in a rhythm as well.

The second thing I was reminded of during this festival was to let the production guys do some of the work.  When you have a big hit coming, don’t always try and cut on the hit. Audio & lights will hit, the band will get excited, so let them communicate what is going on rather than you trying to do it yourself.  Sometimes the most effective way to have a big hit is to just…. Wait! Usually on a wider shot.

Don’t make something that is already there! If I were to always cut the show on the beat and try to be a one man show, I will fail every time.  Remember you are part of a “Production Team!” let the other areas do their job and then enhance what they do!

I’m not saying you should do an entire production of not cutting on the big hits and only taking shots that last a long time.  I’m saying just every once in a while don’t cut! Don’t change sources.  Avoid your natural instinct and see what happens.  Sometimes less is more, experiment with quality rather than quantity.

About brhoda

I freelance doing a few different thing in the video and live production market. I worked for a church for 5 years directing services and designing control rooms.
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