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Tony Jones December 11th, 2005 01:11 PM

Shooting Multiple Subjects In Discussion
If I can describe a scene first:

There are five or six people sat in a circle having a discussion - this is unscripted and neither cameraman or sound man know who will speak or reply next. The maximum distance between any two particpants is about seven or eight feet.

I am a complete novice so forgive what may be an obvious question. With a boom I can't see any way of capturing this discussion without being psychic or bionic. In these situations, would a professional film crew go around and attach a lavalier to each participant in advance and capture the entire discussion this way?

We have a scene just like this in a documentary we are about to shoot, but we are severely limited budget wise. Is there a way to capture this scene without spending serious money, or is it a question of simply eliminating this scene?

Kevin Wild December 11th, 2005 02:52 PM

This is a bit challenging. I would try and get 2 cameras. One that can stay wide on the whole group and another that does CU's. That way, you can edit between them and always have a safety and then cut to the CU.

Audio wise, if you don't have a mixer that can handle 6 inputs and 6 lavs, you might consider a good boom operator. Again, I would do one mic that is a static, more omnidirectional pointing to the whole group and then one more directional boom that moves to the person when he/she speaks.

Anyone else have any other ideas?


Bill Ball December 11th, 2005 06:20 PM

I have done something similar to this in very noisy conditions with 10 poeple around a big table (other discussions going on in the same room) and have had reasonably good luck. However be aware that we were only taking short clips of the discussions--not trying to use the whole session.

Tools were GL-2 on a spiderbrace and a boom mic with a Sennheiser ME66 when really noisy or ME64 when ambient noise was less. This was in a large banquet room so off axis audio reflection wasnt a problem for the ME66

The single boom mic worked pretty well for audio. If there is 7 feet between your most distant speakers a boom mic over the center is 3-4 feet away from any speaker. Farther than ideal but not a bad place to start. The operator needs to smoothly rotate the mic toward the next speaker as they start then adjust as needed while monitoring the sound. Of course you dont want someone trying to hold a long boom for an hour straight.

The bigger problem, as we were using 1 cam, was how to cover the pans from one speaker to the next. One strategy was to stay on the old speaker for a sec as they got quiet and then whip pan to the new speaker. In post, if your lucky, you can start the new speaker's voice over a slightly slowed down vid of the old speaker listening and then cut to the new speaker once the pan is finished. If you can get two cams and have each cover one half of the disucssion you will have a much easier time.

Tony Jones December 12th, 2005 02:26 AM

Thanks a lot for the suggestions - I think we'll give it a go and I'll see if I can get another camera. I also like the idea of the delayed cut away from the previous speaker, perhaps we could also have shots of the entire group 'listening' to mask the very beginning of a new speaker in some places if only the one camera is available.

Kevin Wild December 12th, 2005 08:43 AM

Tony, if I were you, I would shoot a few minutes of footage before the actual meeting begins. Don't just get a long shot as it will be obvious in the edit that the wrong person or no person is talking, when you hear the voice of a person talking. Rather, get close-ups of people listening during the prep. This way, you'll have cutaways to cover your camera swing.

Good luck.


Tony Jones December 12th, 2005 09:17 AM

Thanks Kevin, I didn't think of that at all!

Joshua Provost December 12th, 2005 11:51 AM


There are flat microphones intended to be placed on tables that are probably ideal for this situation. Very similar to the remote mics for conference room phones in offices. It think they are called "barrier" mics, the table being the barrier in this situation. I think you could put one in the center of the table. Your only issues would be ensuring no one is rubbing/tapping on the table.


Tony Jones December 12th, 2005 02:15 PM

Thanks a lot Joshua, I'm googling this now :). The scene will likely include a large table, or maybe several desks. If it proves to be a good possibility, I could simply tell the participants before hand to ensure they do not touch or fiddle with anything while we're shooting.

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