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Old August 3rd, 2009, 06:35 AM   #1
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Shooting a 2 person natural discussion with 1 camera

I am going to be shooting a 2 person shoot soon where they are going to be discussing a topic and said they would prefer not to script as they are not practiced at reading/memorising scripts and also think that might hamper the real-time flow of conversation.

As I only have one camera has anyone got any advice as to how I might do this. If they are not going to script then doing 2 x OTS is going to be difficult and simple straight on 2 person MS is going to look pretty dull.

I might be able to get them to split it into 2 or more parts where one person has the lead, then maybe I can get the 'nods' fairly easily. However if it is going to be an ad lib discussion this probably won't work. The only other option is to record the other side of the conversation (the simplest bit) afterwords based on notes/playback.

I would be very keen to hear how someone else manages this sort of conversation. It looks like a second camera is not really going to be an option.

Alex
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Old August 3rd, 2009, 07:06 AM   #2
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Record them from above?

What's the purpose of this film?

Using one camera only seems to be making life difficult for yourself. Can't you borrow another one and lock it off on both people. Then shoot closeups with the camera you are operating.
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Old August 3rd, 2009, 07:18 AM   #3
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Hi Richard and thanks for your reply.

Its a tasting (wine) and from what I can gather they are fairly random (although I have never seen one).

I do have another camera although I don't fancy how well they might work together. My main cam is a JVC HD111 with SGBlade 35mm adapter. My old camera (now just an emergency backup) is the pro-sumer Canon GL1. I really don't know if i could use the two together or not.

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Old August 3rd, 2009, 09:15 AM   #4
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I often do 2-3 or more person conversations using only one camera, although I always make it look like the interview or conversation has been filmed by several cameras.

To do this, I film the conversations twice, going over the same ground or asking similar questions.

If I need to include myself in the conversation then it is simple to set it on a tripod and then control the stop & start using a remote control.

By filming the first conversation with mainly a wide angle, and then the same sequences a second time using tighter head shots using a telephoto, then it is possible to edit in post so that everything flows smoothly as if the scene was shot on several cameras.

If some of the footage is also shot from above and behind the people, then it is also possible to drop sections of movie clips into the audio time zone during post editing so that it looks natural (because those sections do not need to be in lip sync).

If it is a one-off conversation that can't be repeated, then it is also possible to keep the camera running throughout the conversation and change framing or angles at intervals. Then simply cut into the sections where the angles are changing (possibly adding a few seconds of one of the persons not speaking or a tight shot of the wine glass or hands etc) so that the end result is a polished smooth movie with good sound.

If it is being filmed from a static position or on a tripod, I normally add radio mics to some of the people being filmed, and also sometimes an extra shotgun mic on a long XLR cable positioned close to the subjects but out of camera frame. Unless of course you are using an assistant holding an extra mic on a boom.
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Old August 3rd, 2009, 12:18 PM   #5
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If you want slick, professional and uncompromised shots on an unrepeatable session, then you just cannot do it with one camera. If the contributors are not willing or able to repeat at least a decent proportaion of questions/answers/examples, then you need to tell them. The only other alternative is to fly your camera, steadicam style and move around the action to pick up both sides in a single seamless shot. Horrible, hard works and risky - and probably a bit too contemporary for wine tasting?
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Old August 3rd, 2009, 01:03 PM   #6
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Yes, Paul, two cameras are normally better than one, and 3 even better than two...but Alex only has one camera...so is asking for advice or ideas on one-camera shoots.

Single Steadicam mixed with fixed position cam filmed during a re-take of the same shoot can often look very good.

Add-lib conversation filmed during two two separate long takes can often be merged into a decent single clip if the camerman adds enough variety to the shooting angles and does a good job in post editing.

Another question needs to be asked, Alex. If you need to use a second camera, is there a second cameraman available? If yes, then certainly Richard's note on paying extra to hire a second camera for the duration of the shoot is a valid one...especially if the wine-tasting shoot is vitally important and you don't have a chance for a re-shoot.
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Old August 3rd, 2009, 01:40 PM   #7
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Hi Paul and Tony,

Thanks for your help so far. As I mentioned I do have a second cam available its just that its not very good and I am worried that when cut with footage from my JVC it will not look good. Maybe I will do some tests and see what the difference is (although I won't expect much).

Yes I will have an assistant available so I shall have to see if there is any budget for a second cam. Out of interest what do you recomend as to attempting to get different shots with 2 cameras, ideally I could do with a mix of MS, MCU and CU's so I guess as long as I am reframing on the non talker I should be ok. I can see how three would be better as two doesn't allow for a 2 shot if you want to get OTS/MCU's of each person. Oh for an unlimited suppy of money....

I must admit this sort of thing is new to me and am keen to get info from the pros (hopefully that is you!).

Thanks again.

Alex
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Old August 3rd, 2009, 02:52 PM   #8
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Here's some tricks...

1. Get a few minutes worth of a wide shot of them just talking to each other, but it not being part of the actual conversation you want to film.

2. Get a few minutes worth of shots of the same thing, but shot over the shoulder of the interviewee looking at the interviewer. You can also ask that the interviewer to do some reaction shots, or just try to get general reactions. Zoom in to the interviewer from time to time too.

3. Shoot the main interview over the shoulder of the interviewer, zooming in to the interviewee from time to time.

Once that is done, edit it all together using the wide shot and the OTS interviewee shot of the interviewer as cutaways. You may have to make sure that if they are talking in one of the cutaways that it looks like it matches up with what they are saying.

This is how most of the news shows, like 60 Minutes, Daily Show and The Colbert Report, do it...although the latter two use the cutaways for rather comical reasons.
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Old August 3rd, 2009, 03:08 PM   #9
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This works fine for a news style interview, but if I read this correctly, then we have a two person conversational style piece - not, question and answer. In this kind of shoot, it's a two way communication thing - and you won't have much opportunity for the over the shoulder, mouth obscured shot and cut-aways and noddies.

It's pretty likely that the equal 2-shot will be the most atractive visually, but will be boring if it's the only one.
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Old August 3rd, 2009, 10:45 PM   #10
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What's your target delivery format? I've had reasonable success shooting 2 person conversations in HD then cropping in post for individual close ups - but this has always been for SD web delivery where I didn't need the full HD resolution. It's certainly not ideal - a 2 person shot doesn't give you the right angles to truly duplicate a 2 or three camera setup but it's certainly workable.
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Old August 4th, 2009, 09:38 AM   #11
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One further thought.
Whichever technique you decide to adopt you may find it useful to try it out on some friends first of all.
That will give you some confidence that it will work when you do the real thing.
There's enough to think about when filming an interview without having to learn on the job any more than is necessary.
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Old August 6th, 2009, 01:50 PM   #12
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Thanks guys, really useful info and somethiong for me to think about. I think I might have to chat with the client and work out a plan based on what we have been discussing.

Bryan, I shall try what you suggested if we can get it so that they take it in turns to play center of conversation. That way I can easily stick to a tried and tested format.

Evan, It's going to be based on a web site so yes there is plenty of room for cropping, I do however want to keep it as HD if possible as who knows what they might ask for later. Great idea though.

Richard, Yes I agree I want to practice first as I have not attempted this sort of thing before and want to get it right on the day.

Another question if I may.

I am due to be shooting some footage against a green screen later this month and wondered if it is still the norm to be able to use a variety of shots. This time a presenter will read from an autocue and yes I will still only have one camera. I assume I could shoot it straight on as a MS and then again as an MCU and even a CO. I did read that each shot is supposed to vary by an angle of at least 30 degrees. Is this still true for green screen. If so isn't that going to be tricky as they will immediately be looking into the camera for each shot with no turning (as they will be looking at the autocue). I am worried this will look wrong hence why I think maybe keep the angle the same and just vary the shot type?

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Old August 6th, 2009, 03:33 PM   #13
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For the green screen: The angle does not need to vary at all if you are in fact shooting medium and then close ups. You can cut with those two.

For a whole conversation with one camera? Can't you go through it again with close ups by having them repeat some lines, and also reactions? (reactions help with cutting)
Are you saying you just want 1 long shot? Hand held documentary style is much more accepted these days in narratives, and you could certainly get away with filming close to medium shots of each actor, panning back and fourth through the conversation. That show "the Office" does it a lot and you can tell they choreographed when to quickly zoom in further for serious reactions, or widening out when the conversation comes to a close.
I know the office is posing as a reality tv show, but movies do the same technique.
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Old August 7th, 2009, 03:20 AM   #14
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Thanks for the green screen info, I did wonder.

Alex
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