Football Camerawork And Sound
Not only was Clooney prepared with shot lists and storyboards, he was judicious
with his angles and his takes. The day typically began at 7 a.m. and finished by 5:30 p.m.
The pace was rapid, the mood was light and the director often completed impressive
amounts of film setups per day. Clooney focused without losing his sense of humor or
perspective, as both actor and director. The cast and crew grew accustomed to seeing
him set up a shot in costume; often, after running the full length of the football field or
receiving a nasty tackle, he’d appear at the video monitor to analyze the shot.
Filming football involved everything from Steadicam and dolly tracks to whizzing
around the field on Grip Trix’s Electric Motorized Camera Dolly, affectionately known
by the crew as “Trixie.” Much of the action was captured via ingenious rigs, invented on
the spot by key grip HERB AULT. This kinetic, boisterous and physical work had to
seamlessly meld with the film’s banter of the romantic comedy. Potentially, however,
these two different genres could have been at odds. The key, says director of
photography Thomas Sigel, was a distinct, unfussy cinematic point of view.
Sigel offers, “We are paying homage to the great, classic comedies of the ’40s—
Howard Hawks’ His Girl Friday, Preston Sturges—that kind of comedic oeuvre. George
wanted to draw on the grammar of those films, yet not in a way that was replication,
more as a reference. A lot of the camerawork is fairly static, set, composed frames—
straight, lateral dolly moves. There’s not a lot of swooping cranes or cameras from
objectives that are not the actors’ perspective. There are no strange oblique angles.
“Today, we have these tools to film football—cameras on the helmet, sky cams
on cables that go flying through the action,” the DP continues. “There is an enormous
range of what one can do. But we approached the football similar to the way we’ve set
out to shoot the overall style of the film, which includes romantic comedy. A lot of the
football is done with a fixed camera, or almost as if a newsreel camera was recording it,
as in those days. The exception is that we have some tracking shots where we’re moving
within the players, mostly when we want to feature Carter or Dodge. Even there, we’re
doing tracking with a Steadicam on a car, but it’s not dissimilar to the way you saw them
do certain kinds of tracking shots from the back of trucks in that time. It’s very
straightforward, and it’s all totally from the characters’ perspectives.”
Production designer Bissell had to craft his sets with not only the camera crew in
mind, but also with consideration for the sound mixer EDWARD TISE. The mixer faced
sound challenges on the football fields—with the constant action of the game
complicated by the expanding stadiums and the vagaries of weather. Tise couldn’t
always rely solely on traditional methods to capture the conversations. Fortunately, as he
notes, Tise also had good partners in the producers and director. Not huge fans of
looping, they provided him whatever he needed to capture the sounds as they occurred
Relates Tise, “One problem with filming football, is that with all the physical
contact, radio microphones [usually buried in the actors’ costumes] are not an option.
One must rely exclusively on boom-mounted microphones—the placement of which are
limited by the shadows they cast—and multiple cameras with wide and tight lenses of the
same action that might also see the booms. It’s like having a 10-man sound crew.”
Additionally, Tise and team overcame these obstacles by being as light on their
feet as possible. Instead of the bulky, heavy
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