Hollywood is famous for focusing on a single character in a dramatic situation. Think of King Kong in chains on the stage. Or Benjamin Braddock—the graduate—floating in a swimming. Or Michael Dorsey trying on a dress en route to becoming Tootsie. But far more often, memorable shots contain two people engaged in a activity such as a dance, a chase, a duet, a fight, or a conversation. Putting a frame around two individuals is known as creating a “two shot.”
In a two shot, the subjects may clash: Bond & Goldfinger; Rocky & Apollo Creed; Abbott & Costello. Or they may collaborate: Thelma & Louise; Ginger Rogers & Fred Astaire; Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid. The only thing that matters is that the two figures engage in some interesting way.
No matter what kind of movie you’re making, you’ll usually be able to find situations that bring together two characters. If you’re filmmaking an instructional video about flying kites, try staging the lesson so that the kite expert is explaining things to a novice. If you’re documenting a train trip, you might get a two shot of your traveling partner talking with the conductor. In a commercial about a restaurant, the chef could be chatting with a customer.
- If possible, look for two characters that contrast in obvious ways. This is easy if they differ in terms of age or gender or shapes (E.T. and Elliott). But if the two characters are similar in important ways, then give some thought about distinguishing them, for example, by the way they dress or move.
- If one character is the focus, be sure that the secondary one has something to do. For example, if the two shot features a child reciting a poem, the other person can actively listen, either through a facial expression or by making a comment
- Don’t limit your two shot efforts to two humans. You can get good results by framing together two animals, a human and an animal, or a human and a human-like creature such as a puppet or a robot.
If you’ve made a video that has one or a few terrific two shots, please share your work with us. Write: firstname.lastname@example.org.