February 3, 2011

Two Camera Shoots

When you get hired for a shoot, it may be for a two camera shoot. First you need to find another camera operator that has the same skill set as you as well as complimentary equipment. Hopefully there is a budget for an audio recordist, if not you have quite a bit of extra work to your day. When you arrive at your location, you should determine where the shoot would be best. This is very different from single camera shoots because normally one background is great, then the reverse is a blank wall. When consulting with the producer/director, one thing to ask is how big the shots need to be. If the subject single shot is tighter, your background can be pretty small. Normally the “talent” or reporter camera is a two shot or a “dirty two”. A “dirty two” refers to a piece of your subject’s head and shoulder in your reporter’s shot therefor the background needs to be bigger. This shot helps the viewer put these two people in the same room even thought their backgrounds may not exactly match. There are many ways to light an interview and it will depend on your feel, your room, your show, your vision and many other factors. The biggest thing when beginning to shoot two camera interviews is keep the cameras on the same side. If cameras are on the reporter’s left side, it must stay on the subject’s right side. If the cameras cross over the axis, they will not cut together correctly. Once the cameras locations are established, you should attempt to match the cameras. Many cameras used today are menu or card based systems and should be matched as close as possible. Also both cameras should be white balanced to the same color temperature. Believe me matching the cameras will make your editor very happy. Next is time code. Broadcast cameras have a time code in and out. The A camera (master, time code out) should get the time code from the producer or audio mixer (slate) (time of day/free run) and feed it to the B camera (slave, time code in). Having the same frame accurate time code will once again make your editor very happy. If you do have a sound mixer, they should feed both cameras split feeds of the subjects. Subject A is fed to channel 1 and subject B fed to channel 2 to both cameras. As a camera operator, you should have headphones and check both channels to make sure both channels are correct and coming in loud and clear. If there isn’t an audio operator there, you will need to take your audio source (boom mic or lav) for each subject and split the feed with a “Y” splitter. So you start with subject A, take the audio source to a Y splitter then send that XLR to Cam A channel 1 and to Cam B channel 1 and do the same for subject B. Once again you should monitor your audio to make sure there aren’t any hiccups in the wiring.
That is a very basic set up. There are many things to be discussed between the producer and camera ops. Communication is the most important thing when with working with several crew members. When you are finally ready to roll, make sure your shot is good with some last looks. If you need to tweak, make sure you speak up. When you roll the cameras, announce “A camera rolls, B camera rolls” or however you can confirm verbally that your camera is recording. During the interview, I find it very helpful to catch the other crew member’s eyes to check in. A simple look and nod makes sure we are all on the same page, things are good.

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  • Found you on a search tonight. The information is very helpful as I’m starting to experiment shooting with two cameras.

  • Thanks for the comments Chris, love sharing what we can!

  • Boomer, this is great advice. From an editor’s perspective, the one thing I would add is to also provide some sort of audio/visual sync point at the start of your takes if possible. Even with the best intentions, it inevitably seems that TC sync-ed sources are still off from each other by a few frames once they get into the edit suite. A simple clap captured by both cameras is more than sufficient, and can save an editor lip-flap headaches when he or she may be under the gun to cut together a multi-cam piece.

    Looking forward to more great stuff – thanks Boomer!


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