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Multiple Camera Angles


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#1 Terry Hsieh

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Posted 04 February 2007 - 08:58 PM

Okay,
So this may sound like a sophomoric and infantile question to any experienced director/camera operator/film-maker but seeing as i'm still a first year in the film program, I'm wondering-

In cinema, we usually get multiple shots of, say a dialogue scene. How do camera-operators get multiple shots of said dialogue scene? Do they do 4 takes of the scene from different angles with one camera, or do they get 4 cameras on one scene? If the latter's the case, how does one "erase" the other camera out of the background when you see opposing angles of a shot?

Thanks,
Confused Terry
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#2 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 04 February 2007 - 09:11 PM

They generally shoot multiple takes of each angle one at a time, although multiple cameras are becoming more common -- two cameras for dialogue scenes sometimes, even more cameras for action scenes, stunts, etc.

We have a two-camera team on "Big Love" (and a third just for Steadicam work) and we perhaps use the second camera at the same time as the first for a dialogue scene about a third of the time. Just depends -- sometimes it's faster and better to just change the camera lens and adjust the position rather than make room for a second camera set-up. Depends on the director too. We'll talk about using the second camera on some part of the scene, but after blocking the actors and designing an elaborate camera move for the main camera, there's no place to put a second camera. Sometimes you run two cameras and let the other camera be in your shot, or pass through it, because you know it will be clear at the moment you need that second angle.

But for low-budget folks, the reality is usually that they have a single camera.

Using multiple cameras at the same time tends to compromise lighting and composition on some of the angles, plus if an actor blows a take, they blow it on all the cameras, so you tend to burn up a lot more film stock. It's generally easier to use multiple cameras in larger spaces and with longer lenses. A wide-angle lens on a camera up close to the action makes it harder to run a second camera where the two cameras don't see each other.

I have mixed feelings about multiple cameras on dialogue scenes. Sometimes it's a great way to knock off some boring but necessary piece of coverage, or to get an interesting angle on the scene as a freebie (second camera following tight on what the hands are doing, for example) that you may not shoot otherwise due to time, but other times, you end up compromising everything (including the sound because of compromised mic placement) just to get that second or third camera in there, when it would have been just as easy to do another take with a tighter lens, for example.
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#3 Zamir Merali

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Posted 04 February 2007 - 10:19 PM

On watching the special features for Poseidon they said that by the end of the shoot Wolfgang Petersen
was using 6 or 7 cameras at once to do an entire scene in one take. They had a 160 million dollar budget so thats why they could do that. I would think that the only real advantage to doing that would be that you might save time and the acting would be a bit more natural..

Zamir Merali

Edited by Zamir Merali, 04 February 2007 - 10:22 PM.

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#4 Terry Hsieh

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Posted 08 February 2007 - 10:35 AM

so how does the continuity work out in a dialogue scene? If you cut back and forth between several takes from different angles, doesn't that affect the continuity? Would you overlap monologue from one guy while you change shots?

Terry
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#5 Chris Durham

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Posted 08 February 2007 - 11:49 AM

You shouldn't see a problem unless the actors are giving significantly different performances from take to take. I've got a short I'm having a hell of a time editing because in a scene with a guy and a girl on a sofa there's one shot with his arm on top of the sofa kind of around her, and then another shot where it's not. This was my first shoot and they were friends who had never acted before so one performance wasn't consistent enough to get a good master to go to and I'm left trying to figure out how to make it seem like a continuous thing. When dealing with proper actors you shouldn't have a problem though; and with a bit of experience I expect it's easier to notice and correct it. In the big leagues that's what a script supervisor is for.

And you might change lighting from shot to shot to get a better picture but I think if you keep your key light consistent you should be ok.
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#6 Josh Bass

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Posted 08 February 2007 - 12:02 PM

Hey, on your shot with the arm on the sofa mismatching the other take, could you zoom it in (in post) to crop the arm out? I'm doing a short with the same situation. . .in one guy's CU/OTS, his arm's along the top of a couch, and in the other guy's CU/OTS, it's down. I just zoomed in the shot to where you can't tell. It's not so much that the resolution falls apart. Sorry to get off topic.
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#7 Chris Durham

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Posted 08 February 2007 - 12:28 PM

Thanks Josh. I'll probably try something like that. I think in that scene it should be ok because it's well lit (well, not well lit, but there's a lot of fill) and there's really not a lot of gain like in some of the other scenes.
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#8 John Thomas

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Posted 10 February 2007 - 06:30 PM

I have mixed feelings about multiple cameras on dialogue scenes. Sometimes it's a great way to knock off some boring but necessary piece of coverage, or to get an interesting angle on the scene as a freebie (second camera following tight on what the hands are doing, for example) that you may not shoot otherwise due to time, but other times, you end up compromising everything (including the sound because of compromised mic placement) just to get that second or third camera in there, when it would have been just as easy to do another take with a tighter lens, for example.


The worst part for me is when I sacrifice the lighting for a wide and a tight camera and then the sound man appeals to the director to only shoot one camera at a time. I've already spent extra time fitting the two cameras in and dealing the lighting problems of two angles. Now I'm going to take twice as long to shoot my poorly lit scene. :angry:
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#9 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 10 February 2007 - 08:53 PM

The worst part for me is when I sacrifice the lighting for a wide and a tight camera and then the sound man appeals to the director to only shoot one camera at a time. I've already spent extra time fitting the two cameras in and dealing the lighting problems of two angles. Now I'm going to take twice as long to shoot my poorly lit scene. :angry:


I run into exactly the same problem!
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#10 John Thomas

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Posted 11 February 2007 - 12:37 PM

To take the funky lighting nightmare one step further: Now a producer will have a bright idea and convince the director to block shoot the next scene in the same goofy lighting to make up for the time lost preping for two cameras but only shooting one. "hey we're already lit this way" Lately I'm trying to get the sound mixer to sign off well in advance before I create any two camera sound challenges.
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#11 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 11 February 2007 - 02:33 PM

To take the funky lighting nightmare one step further: Now a producer will have a bright idea and convince the director to block shoot the next scene in the same goofy lighting to make up for the time lost preping for two cameras but only shooting one. "hey we're already lit this way" Lately I'm trying to get the sound mixer to sign off well in advance before I create any two camera sound challenges.


I warn the sound mixer to "speak now or forever hold their peace" when we decide to run two cameras on a scene once we explain what the frame sizes will be, etc. What I don't want happening is that after the shot is set-up and lit, and we run a full rehearsal, then the sound person asks that the two cameras be run separately, negating the entire point of trying to save time by running them together. Especially if the main reason for running two cameras is some unrepeatable action, like when children or animals are in the scene.

If the sound person really wants needs us to shoot single-camera, I'm more than happy to oblige because I don't like lighting and composing for two cameras any more than he likes trying to record sound for them.

I regularly work with one sound recordist who generally complains about two-camera set-ups and who I try to oblige by never proposing to the director that we shoot something very wide and very tight at the same time, even when it's possible (like when outdoors). I try and keep the two camera's shot sizes in a closer range, like medium and tight, or wide and medium, or both tight, etc.
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#12 John Thomas

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Posted 11 February 2007 - 03:28 PM

If the sound person really wants needs us to shoot single-camera, I'm more than happy to oblige because I don't like lighting and composing for two cameras any more than he likes trying to record sound for them.


My friend Constantine Makris would tell the sound guys: "It's not going to sound any worse than it looks". :lol:
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