We've been watching Steven Moffat's reboot of Sherlock Holmes on BBC. Moffat's Sherlock is contemporary, so he's always getting text messages.
Rather than shooting an insert of the phone, which is a pain to shoot, Moffat simply puts the text message on screen as a title.
This seems so obvious, but I don't think I've seen it before. You could probably also do it for emails and texts on a computer: rather than trying to get a shot of the computer screen and a shot of the actor, just shoot the actor and lay the screen text over the actor as titles.
Describing this it sounds like a bit of a kludge. But when you see it on screen, it is immediately obvious what you're looking at. Which makes it more of a hack.
I'm so glad you mentioned this technique, it absolutely blew me away during the Scandal in Belgrade episode. I'm a recent convert to graphic novels (forgive me, I was 26 when I finally read Watchmen) and I'm always so jazzed when television and film draw from the comic book genre to tell stories in new, compelling ways. Reading a graphic novel is a unique cinematic experience, what I think of as seeing the words like pictures and reading the art like words. When Sherlock finally has his breakthrough at the end of Scandal, the entire left side of the shot is blocked out by the blinking cursor of the smartphone's code screen, each blip adding more intensity and suspense to the scene. The onscreen text does not distort or hide the acting, it actually amplifies it. The very definition of crafty, you might say.
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