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September 04, 2008
Shot Reverse Shot
A shot-reverse-shot sequence is the normal way of representing a conversation between two people. The shots are taken from one prticipant' point of view usually over the shoulder although there may be variants on that. The next shot is taken from the other participant's point of view. The reasons for this convention are because taking a long take of a two shot might easily become tedious. The system also helps pull in the audience in an identification with one or other of the participants. Cetainly they will be encouraged to share the emotional charge that is generated between the participants. The close-ups of character's reactions can heighten the tension for example. The sequence can also be used in a fight sequence. Look out for this in Action-Adventure movies. This sequence is especially important in the continuity editing system.
Observations on film art and Film Art From David Bordwell. There are a lot of observations on shot reverse shot including some useful comments on the with-holding of that shot as a deliberate technique against audience expectations to introduce a sense of ambivalence into the scene and make it more open.
I tried to show that shot/ reverse shot is a fairly easy convention to learn because it mimics the alternation between speaker and listener that we find in the turn-taking of ordinary conversation.
As my examples suggest, even if person A is doing all the talking, we don’t fully understand the scene if we can’t also monitor the reactions of B. By contrast, the shot/ reverse-shot patern keeps a running tab of the dynamics of the conversation. When a director wants to suppress information about B’s response, deleting the reaction shot can create uncertainty or suspense.