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2 cameras vs. 1 for comedy pilot


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#1 Brian McCann

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Posted 29 August 2013 - 09:39 PM

I would like to get peoples opinions on the drawbacks and advantages of using two cameras rather than one.

I am dping a low budget comedy pilot in a few weeks and the director and producer like the idea of shooting on two cameras. I have reservations about it and don't have much experience doing it myself.

 

Part of the reason they want to do it is to save time. I think that two cameras doesn't necessarily save time. Another reason, which I think is more valid, is that they think it works better for comedy when an actor doesn't have to do a take too many times so it doesn't sound canned. 

 

I am worried about the challenges that will come up with trying to light for two cameras. They've said that it's comedy and while they want a filmic look they are ok with the lighting not being too intricate. I also feel like their is a right place and a wrong place for the camera to go and when you shoot with two one or both end up in the wrong place because they get in each others way.

 

I wonder if maybe I am wrong and in fact shooting with two will help us make our days and be good for performance. Will it just create more hassle and not save time? They are taking my opinion seriously so I don't want to take us in the wrong direction if I'm wrong.

 

I'd appreciate if you all could share your experience. Have you made 2 cameras work? 


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#2 James Steven Beverly

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Posted 29 August 2013 - 11:04 PM

Two cameras is faster and easier on the actors as they often get better performances playing off each other. It also makes editing easier as the sound/picture should always match. It can limit you camera angles and lighting can be more complicated and time consuming. it can become more difficult for the director to focus on on the images he's shooting. A single camera can allow one to focus on creating the perfect mes en scene. It also allows for far more complex camera movement and lighting choices. there is also the question  of budget. Having more than one camera crew can cost a lot more, however having a second unit that is split off from the existing camera department to do pick ups and inserts can help efficiency immensely with minimal costs. There is also the option of adding a second camera crew for selected sequences during production. Ultimately, it will depend on the needs, budget and schedule as well as the director of the production. I, PERSONALLY, prefer using a single camera for most shoots and adding a second camera where there is no other choice. On some action sequences or vital shots, there may be several cameras running but those are generally HUGE films with a LOT of money behind them. If you're funding this yourself, just use a single camera and try to avoid overlapping dialog unless it's a two shot or more, as it's easier to cut and sync. I'd really use that advice for anything under a mil budget. B)


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#3 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 29 August 2013 - 11:56 PM

As a DP, it's your call as to when a second camera can be used well or when it doesn't work or just wastes time compared to simply changing the lens on a single camera and doing another take in a new size.

 

There are certain combinations of focal lengths and camera positions that work OK for two cameras, for example, if you are doing a waist-up and a chest-up shot at the same time, even as overs, if the focal lengths are not too wide so parallax is less of an issue.  

 

Being up closer and wider-angle, it makes a second camera position look farther off to one side even if side-by-side.

 

There is still some compromising but if it's a small compromise and you get two sizes in one set-up with two cameras, it may be worth it.  They are also useful in group scenes where each camera may be shooting two different parts of the group but perhaps in the same size.

 

Trying to do two sizes at the same time though can force you into semi-static cameras, it would be hard to dolly side-to-side or push from wide to tight on one camera without getting into the other camera's shot.  But I've done that, for example, have an loose over and a close-up and have the wider camera dolly into a close-up on a key moment, blowing through the close-up camera's shot.  Sometimes after you get the good push in, the director will ask for one more take on the close-up camera where the shot stays clean all the way until the end.

 

If you do two-camera set-ups every day on a TV show, you learn what works well and what is messy or compromised way of doing it.  Sometimes it's just expected that you'll always shooting something on the B-camera no matter how sloppy or bad it gets, but I'm not a fan of that style unless it is for a semi-documentary look.  On "Smash" the look was more controlled and we didn't just shoot a lot of multi-camera stuff for the sake of more coverage.  We preferred using a wider-angle on A-camera and doing a moving shot in medium size for a master that carried a lot of the scene without much coverage.  But other times, it just made sense to roll more cameras on the scene, like for reaction shots of people watching a stage show.

 

A second camera doesn't always have to be used at the same time as the A-camera, sometimes you can use two cameras to leap-frog set-ups, B-camera can get set-up for the next shot as A-camera is shooting, then while B-camera is shooting, A-camera can get set-up -- especially when you are moving quickly from one room to the next.  Or you can leave B-camera behind to get a missing insert or something while everyone else moves on to the next place.


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#4 Surendra Mehta

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Posted 30 August 2013 - 04:30 AM

hiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii sir


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#5 Bruce Greene

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Posted 01 September 2013 - 03:02 PM

From my experience...

Pros:

2 cameras can save a little time. Maybe at most, 20%.

2 cameras have a better chance of capturing a good performance that only happens once.

Cons:

2 cameras require a 2nd camera crew and equipment. Might not save money.

I think it's easier to cut the single camera film, provided you've placed the camera well.

It's a challenge for the DP if he/she must operate the 2nd camera.


I've done it both ways for comedies. The single camera(with limited b cam) was more cinematic. The 2 camera almost always was much more about the performances. It's really up to your director, producer, and you to decide what is best for the project.

Best of luck to you!
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#6 Darren Levine

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Posted 03 September 2013 - 09:06 AM

I was just having this conversation with some associates of mine, and we all agreed that in comedy, sometimes these moments just happen and if you didn't have glass on them during that moment, it's gone, unrepeatable. having two cameras can ensure you get the gold, no matter who its coming from


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