How I Ruined TV And Films Forever…

And maybe if you’re lucky, I’ll ruin it for you too. It’s actually quite doubtful that I could ruin it for you but you never know. So here’s the phenomenon in question. If you have any experience with video or film production you probably know already that it is much more expensive to have actors on the clock when all they are doing is standing with their back to the camera while the camera is shooting other people (or more commonly another person) in what’s known as an “over the shoulder” shot. So to save money the filmmakers shoot only the scenes where it’s absolutely necessary to see both actors. Then they have each actor come back separately and do the “over the shoulder” shots. Of course, for continuity’s sake, they put something in the lower corner of the screen thus giving the illusion that that other actor (who is actually not present that day) is hearing and reacting to what the actor whose face you can see is talking to. Here’s an example…


Now the red hair here could be the actual other person in the scene but more likely it’s either a crewmember with similar colored hair or it could simply be some hair inserted by a computer graphics specialist. There are all sorts of solutions like this one…

ots shot

I mean really, it’s just blackness and not difficult to approximate with modern editing equipment. OK, so onward. Sometimes (and it’s becoming more and more frequent), in scenes where they show two people conversing, they show both people/then over the shoulder (ots) of one/then ots of the other/then both again and on and on. What happens to me is I start focusing on the dark blobs in the lower corners of the screen eventually having to rewind the movie to hear what they said because I was paying too much attention to the blobs and whether not they are moving, that the filmmakers had taken the time to make the blob the correct color or even that the same objects are on a table in the background as there were in the scene that had both actors. I’d like to point out here that this problem of focusing has nothing whatsoever to do with cannabinoids. Unfortunately, it doesn’t stop there. As the movie progresses and I’m thinking to myself… “stop stop stop paying attention to the blobs and pretend you’re not noticing them and immerse yourself in the movie”. At some point it seems almost impossible. The next plateau is now it becomes painfully obvious that the actor present in the “over the shoulder” shot is really a solo person on the set completely alone aside from the crew that has to be there to shoot the scene. Once this leap has been made, the acting loses it’s quality and the actor seems to be emoting or overdoing it (because you know the person they’re talking to isn’t present). Then I start thinking about the problems actors must have shooting all their scenes out of order and how they need to remember where they were to make the ots shot seamlessly attach to the surrounding shots. Maybe a better example is needed. The following stills are from a typical movie where a reporter is interviewing someone. I wish I had the video of the movie but I can’t remember the title. It’s amazing that I found these stills at all. Judging by the TV tube’s perimeter, this movie must have predated all this digital HD television rigmarole. I can’t remember the name of the movie but it was a mystery if I’m not mistaken. I will post the stills in order with blob comments when appropriate…


This is not an “over the shoulder” shot.


This is an example of the ots shot and it’s apparent that the reporter is speaking to someone with long unruly red hair. This could be an actual person but I can attest that it’s simply some hair pasted to the scene.


Now this ots shot has the dreaded black blob. This is the cheapest option and in this particular case the actor is sub-par because she’s not even looking in the direction of the other “person”.


Here’s a darker version of the red hair blob from before. Takes a bit more time but the effect is better than the black blob.


Here’s the black blob again but a bored graphics person gave the blob “person” a horn growing out of their head.


Here’s a blurrier version of the red hair. The extra blurriness creates more depth of field.


Here’s the bad actor again. She wasn’t looking in the right direction so the film editor must have decided to put the black blob up higher so that it wouldn’t look like she was talking to the ceiling.


Sometimes other parts of the body are inserted. Here a fist is inserted to show that the other “person” in the scene is upset by what the actual actor is saying.


Another black blob… it’s obviously not important what’s there this far into the scene.


Red hair blob is bigger as if the other “person” is leaning closer to the reporter.


Black blob bigger for the same reason as the previous shot.


This is not an ots shot, the reporter has ripped the hair off the actress.


Just a touch of blob to accentuate the surprise and horror of the actor that’s really in the scene.


Same here.


Ditto on this one too.


Final shot… no “over the shoulder”. That concludes the example section and I hope this gives you a peek into my mind’s inability to enjoy TV or films. Remember to repeat this mantra when viewing… Don’t look at the blobs, don’t look at the blobs, don’t look at the blobs, don’t look at the blobs.

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13 Responses to “How I Ruined TV And Films Forever…”

  1. Michael Kline Says:


  2. Carolyn Says:

    Thank you! I needed a good laugh! You two are a great team!

    I never thought about paying actors to shoot the back of their heads but now I’ll be watching movies more closely. I guess their acting is even more impressive if they’re really talking to a blob.

  3. Jamie Says:

    OK now I am really confused. I used to work for OTS – Office of Technology Services. Now that I have learned it actually means “over the shoulder”, I’m not sure how to tell people that I retired from Over the Shoulder. Any ideas? I did enjoy seeing that beautiful red tie on the reporter! Who was that person in the wig?

  4. meredith Says:

    Good God man you are giving away all our secrets….
    I do this as well and I lose the plot when the sandwich is whole again after being half eaten. Btw… you are so hot in that wig….smiley face here.

  5. zygote Says:

    Ha!!!!! Oh my goodness you are killing me!

  6. Nadia Says:

    Dude look like a lady.

  7. Jessica Fong Says:

    Ha! Perfect execution. Besides the ceramics gig, I’m a film student during the day. We have been going over the complications of actors (with names) the last few weeks. The film industry also pays for hand models… do you really think Tom Cruise turned the page of that book (I think not). Best wishes on your film premiere.

  8. Rowan Rose Says:

    This is your best blog post to date! Every time I think Sofia can’t get any more awesome…she does. And if you ever decide to dye your hair….I think the red looks fabulous.

  9. Patricia Griffin Says:

    too cool for school… You, sir, are basically brilliant.

  10. M@ Says:

    You’re right, Jim. I will never look at movies the same after seeing you in that wig.

  11. AndyC Says:

    Definitely cannabinoids involved here!

  12. Dawn Says:

    Well DONE you Two!!! I love it!

  13. ang Says:

    you’re a crack up Jim!!!! love the acting, a second career perhaps 😛

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