Camerawork and Editing in “The Hills”

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One thing that I thought was interesting about “The Hills” was that the shots and editing mix documentary-style and narrative-style techniques, much like the show itself (which I’ve come to understand is about real people, but is mostly scripted).

On the one hand, many of the conversations are filmed with a shot reverse shot, where there is a close-up of one character talking to the other, which then cuts to a close-up of the other character. It looks like this:

The shot reverse shot is a convention used in countless narrative programs, sitcoms and dramas alike. It is less common in pre-“Laguna Beach” reality shows, and in shows that still strive to convey authenticity (even though they’re all scripted, if not on paper, then in the editing room). Take “Project Runway” for example, whose director filmed this conversation using a single camera in its recent season finale:

The camera starts with a close-up of Irina, then zooms out for a medium close-up of both her and Althea. This has a more realistic feel than the shot reverse shot technique used by “The Hills.”

“The Hills” does break some of the conventions seen in most narrative television, though. For instance, it breaks the “180 degree rule” at least once. This rule  says that “two characters (or other elements) in the same scene should always have the same left/right relationship to each other.” Here you can see where “The Hills” breaks that rule:

The scene begins with a shot of Lauren and Heidi from the back (wtf?), but then cuts to a shot that shows them from the front.

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