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Techniques for Independent Production
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Old February 4th, 2007, 09:42 AM   #1
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Single or Multi Camera

Hi gang,

Is there a huge advantage to filming with more than one camera?
I know you get more coverage with two but you have to set up
lighting to accomodate both cameras and editing could be more
challenging.
I currently have a DVX100 and am thinking of getting another for
my upcoming feature. Just wanted to get some advice from you
filmmakers out there. Thanks for your time!
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Old February 4th, 2007, 09:51 AM   #2
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Are you making a feature film, documentary, or covering live events?
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Old February 4th, 2007, 09:56 AM   #3
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It is a feature film.
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Old February 4th, 2007, 09:57 AM   #4
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It depends on your workflow... Having 2 units helps sometimes, but it increases the costs in crew and you would have to be a great DP to make a 2 camera shot look good. I think is really challenging, keep the posting!!
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Old February 4th, 2007, 10:00 AM   #5
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Thanks Federico. You have a good point.
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Old February 4th, 2007, 10:06 AM   #6
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In a narrative feature format, I would only go to two cameras for 'crucial' scenes.

Obviously, one-off takes of stunts or special effects come to mind. If you only get one take, you need as much coverage as possible. But it can also come into play with 'difficult' acting situations. Think of working with a child, an animal or a 'difficult' actor. (Someone who has a LOT of trouble remembering or delivering their lines, or someone who will ONLY be there for one day/scene/take.) Maximizing your coverage in these situations, can justify the additional time/personell/effort to get the extra camera(s) up and running.
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Old February 4th, 2007, 10:12 AM   #7
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It will save time, but require an additional camera, cameraman and more lights. One needs to figure out whether the time saved is worth that much money.
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Old February 4th, 2007, 01:59 PM   #8
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One important thing to think of is also sound...

I Know it sounds weird, but remember that you have to place a boom pole somewhere and a lot of times if you have a wide and a close shot your mic would be a little bit to far from the subject.

One solution is to use wireless lav mics but they're not always the best shot.

I agree with some posts that say use it only on crucial scenes, but in the short and small experience I have, when i've tried to film with 2 cameras it kinda gets out of control unless you have it all figured it out on advance.

One good show that uses multicamera really really well and looks awsome is "24", if you can get to see the making of it would really help you.
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Old February 4th, 2007, 03:43 PM   #9
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I do two camera shooting for my sitcom and it definitely has pluses and minuses. We do it for additional dialog coverage, and it helps a great deal when the actors are improvising. There are always some trade-offs though - times that we can't get the perfect shot because the other camera is there, or times that we can't get the perfect lighting, or times that we can't get the perfect boom placement. For me it has been worth the trade because we are covering 14+ pages of dialog per day, and we have a format that makes it useful.

With a more visually-focused gig with no improv, it would be less attractive. There are definitely times when we set the DP up with camera one and then just let B cam pick up whatever shots he can around that, and we often get things that help in editing. That cuts back on the compromises, and gives us more coverage, but it is slightly less-usefull coverage.

The word(s) of the day is trade-offs. Good luck.
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Old February 5th, 2007, 09:33 AM   #10
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Lighting is really tricky with a two camera shoot. if you're shoot across (i.e sitcom style) then there are fewer places to put lights becuase so much more space is in frame. If you shooting two frame sizes (wide shot and close up on the same subject, often done for TV movies) you have to make compromises for one shot or the other, again as you might not be able to get reflectors or small units in to really help in the close ups. |This is the reason multi camera TV shows such as sitcoms tend to have such flat, high key lighting, as it's more likely to look good from any angle, but then theye're shot in studios where overhead lighting is not an issue.
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Old February 5th, 2007, 08:40 PM   #11
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Thank you all so much for your advice!
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Old February 6th, 2007, 01:06 AM   #12
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All good points

I was shooting with one but had 3 people with cameras who wanted to shoot (all with canon xl1) I didn't have space in my living room to put them all in.

I was feeding footage to computer with 100 feet firewire so you save about 20-30 hours in editing.

Now you can do it with disk recorders.
I had bad experience with DV tape during short before feature so decided for live feed to computer.

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Old February 8th, 2007, 01:05 PM   #13
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Everyone has great points here, but I always tell my students (and remind myself) that, aside from a bigger cost, it's not always easier. Where do you put the lights behind the actors pointing at the opposite person? How do you hide it? Sometimes it's very easy (esp. if it's a studio where you can hang lights), other times, it's very hard (a location got at the last minute--yeah, that's a "rare occurence"--that has small rooms).

I stick with one camera, though in TV, they sometimes designate shows as a "one camera drama," or a "three camera comedy." They used to use video and punch the board on the cameras, keeping the editing down. Live-to-tape. I think most shows are considered "one camera," even if they have another camera for b-roll or cutaways.

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Old February 8th, 2007, 02:21 PM   #14
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Well, the three camera shows are the old-style sitcoms like Seinfeld, Friends, etc. They acted it out live on stage and three cameras caught the action. And they had the perfect, albeit kinda flat, lighting hanging all the time.

I Love Lucy was the first three-camera show, and it was a huge innovation. But it all has to happen basically on a stage - the characters never walk around corners.

There are fewer and fewer three camera shows debuting now, because the look is going another way. I think Malcom in the Middle was one of the pioneers of the modern one camera half-hour sitcom. It helped usher the look of things like Earl, Scrubs, etc.

I know Arrested Development used to shoot with two or three cameras. I'm not sure about The Office (can one of the Second Unit people tell us?), but I get the sense that they run a second camera at least some of the time.
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Old February 8th, 2007, 02:45 PM   #15
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The real issue is production style. Shooting single camera a la feature films means that the actors are required to repeat things until you have collected all the shots you need. Planning and storyboarding is essential if the shots are to cut together properly. You also need somebody to look after continuity to make sure everything is repeated exactly. you can the light for each shot. Shooting TV style with multiple cameras requires less post production if you cut while shooting and record the output, or just a bit more confusion if you shot x 3 and edit later - hoping that one angle caught it? You just have to be better at lighting. So the key for one subject is a fill for another, and vice versa. TV wise, when time is paramount then they do have a wash style - looking more to lighten shadows than provide proper keys. multiple cameras also needs them to match - and mixing makes is always a bit tricky. Exposure is crucial if the shots are going to match later and worse of all - with multiple cameras it is really easy for them all to frame the same shot and nobody gets the wanted shot for editing - so if I do do this, I make sure I can see all the camera outputs and have talkback to the cameras to make sure they frame what I want. If time isn't a problem, shoot single camera, filic style!
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