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Brandon McCarthy

Multi-Cam Set Up

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I had a question about on location multi-cam set up.

In a few weeks, I'll be shooting a short film in a bar. It's mostly a dialogue heavy comedy piece with most of the dialogue being shown with over-the-shoulder shots and close ups on both actors speaking (and a few cutaways, etc). I want to shoot the OS and CU shots in one long take for each shot.


My question is... would getting a second camera reduce my shooting time? My producer seems to think that the additional set up time wouldn't make up for the time saved by using two cameras (and the cost of renting the second camera and lens). However, I believe getting a second camera will cut the shooting time in half, and additional set up time will be minimal. Can anyone with multi-cam experience chime in?


I've always enjoyed the idea of lighting a scene, not a shot. I've heard Rasmus Heise call it "All Around Lighting" and I really like the style, but all my experience is with setting up the lights for a single shot, shoot it, tear down the lights, wash rinse and repeat. I feel like lighting the scene, while it would take longer, would allow for an overall faster shoot and more creative freedom.

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Shooting multicam coverage helps for continunity - and does make you go faster -the lighting can't always be tweeked as well but I do it all the time for speed.


A lot of shoots can go this way.

Single camera setups can be better for performance because one actor can relax - but if you are knocking out a OTS and a CU clean yes you can easily go for it with 2 cameras as long as you can get them in there.


Now with digital more and more shoots have multiple cameras to cover dialogue scenes.

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I think an ensemble comedy with lots of dialogue and improv is the perfect situation to shoot with multiple cameras. It will help you keep continuity for spontaneous moments in the performance and also keep the actors fresh by not having the repeat themselves so many times for coverage. It should definitely save you time.


One thing I would avoid is trying to shoot a very wide master and closer coverage at the same time. It makes it impossible for the sound department to get decent audio on the boom and often the B Camera angle is highly compromised by the need to stay out of the A Camera's shot. So I would instead shoot a master with a single camera, then shoot a 2 shot and CU with both cameras, then turn around the B Camera for the reverse CU.


It's tricky to do an OTS and CU at the same time because the OTS generally demands that the lens be very close the eyeline in order to keep the foreground shoulder in frame, but then usually you want the CU to be tighter on the eyeline than the OTS. So you would have to compromise the eyeline in order to shoot a clean single and OTS simultaneously.

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One thing you will need is a very talented and proactive B Camera operator whom you can rely on to find frames that cut without waiting for directions. Without that, you will be doing twice as much work running between both cameras.


One alternative to shooting multiple cameras is to block a moving camera that can get all your coverage in a single long take or in a few shots with specific cut points. But that tends to work better when working with a single actor, not an ensemble used to improvising during a take.

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