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A camera vs B camera


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#1 Joey Riggs

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Posted 22 August 2015 - 03:35 PM

I see on a lot of shows, there's an A camera and a B camera. Is the B camera typically used for inserts or 2nd Unit stuff or is it being used at the same time as the A camera?

 

if you have a scene with 2 characters across a table, is the A

Camera getting a MS and the B camera is getting a CU of the same character?

 

Or is A camera getting 1 character and the B camera is getting the other in an over

the shoulder scenario?

 

I'm trrying to determine how B camera is typically used and if it is possible to

spot the B camera vs A camera in watching a final edited show?

 

 


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#2 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 22 August 2015 - 03:52 PM

Generally for intercutting of coverage, cameras A and B would be the same type of camera.  For second unit work, inserts, vfx plates, extreme slow-motion, etc. sometimes another type of camera is used.

 

In terms of how the two cameras are used, it varies quite a bit, but the most common practice involves getting two sizes from a similar camera position, i.e. side-by-side.  In order to not make lighting or mic placement too difficult, one tries to avoid having the two sizes be too extreme, like doing a very wide shot and a close-up at the same time (which often means that the tighter camera is using a very telephoto lens compared to the other camera.) But even that sometimes works OK, especially outdoors doing non-dialogue stuff.

 

Sometimes you shoot "cross coverage", the two cameras shooting almost at each other to get both sides of a conversation.  I did that once for a scene of two people talking at magic hour outside so that the light would match for each direction as it got darker and darker for each take.


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#3 Joey Riggs

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Posted 23 August 2015 - 12:25 AM

Thanks David. So from your response, it would be pretty difficult to figure out what was shot with the "A" cam and what was shot with the "B cam", just by watching a finshed show.

 

Would a "B" cam be used for moving shots (crane, dolly, stedicam) or would that typically be "A" cam?


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#4 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 23 August 2015 - 12:53 AM

Common practice is for the tighter angle to be done by the B camera, which is a practice I've never quite understood since the more experienced focus puller is often on A camera, but B camera is doing the harder shot, focus-wise.  So I tend to assign the shots more by which camera crew is better for that angle / shot size.

 

As for whether A or B goes onto the crane or Steadicam, it just depends on what is practical and whether the Steadicam Operator is the A or B camera operator, if you are talking about a Steadicam shot.  For a crane shot, again, it partly depends on which operator you want on the remote head, but also since one tends to leap frog set-ups when having to jump to a crane or Steadicam, i.e. one crew is shooting a shot single-camera style while the other crew is building the camera onto the crane or Steadicam, it depends on which crew you want to keep shooting studio-style while the other is prepping a camera.

 

On some shows, you have the budget for a third body, C camera in that case, that is set aside just for Steadicam (or crane work), often set-up for Steadicam at the start of the day so it is always ready to go to.

 

As for telling if the coverage of a scene was shot with two cameras, it generally is easier to tell when, unfortunately, the tighter shots look a bit too telephoto and sloppier, as if "grabbed" at the same time as the main set-up.  You can also tell if the lighting is exactly the same with no changes between the two sizes, though that is not a guarantee that two cameras were used.

 

B camera angles tend to be long-lensed just because it is hard to work multiple cameras up close to the actors with wide-angle lenses and not get in the way of each other or see the other camera -- it's easier with longer lenses to use multiple cameras.  But again, that is not a hard and fast rule, it is possible to find ways of working wider-angle cameras closer to the actors, it's just that odds are higher that the second camera will be more to one side, less on the same axis as the first camera.


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#5 Joey Riggs

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Posted 23 August 2015 - 01:01 AM

Gold mine of info, thank you sir.


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#6 Mark Kenfield

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Posted 25 August 2015 - 10:28 AM

Two camera shooting is a tricky little art, though god knows it's a lifesaver on dialogue-heavy scenes. How you split A-cam and B-cam duties is an interesting question though.

 

As David mentioned, the longer lens camera will have a trickier job focus-wise, which could lend itself to having the A-cam 1st AC on the job. However composing a pleasing long-lens portrait is a much simpler task (IMO), than composing an interesting wide - so that fact lends itself to having the A-cam operator on the wider camera.


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#7 Satsuki Murashige

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Posted 03 October 2015 - 01:32 PM

One thing I have learned recently is that a lot of DPs who would otherwise prefer to shoot single camera only are now being pressured to shoot with multiple cameras in order to save time. Most of these DPs seem to prefer that the B Camera crew stay well away from set and not plugged into video village until they have placed the A Camera. They will then come over and personally direct placement of the B Cam, at which point you can cable up. They really do not want to show the director, scripty, and whomever else is at the village a camera angle that they have not approved first. So you do have to avoid stepping on toes as the B Cam crew.
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#8 David Edward Keen

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Posted 11 October 2015 - 08:13 AM

"Sometimes you shoot "cross coverage", the two cameras shooting almost at each other to get both sides of a conversation. "

Is this referring to over the shoulder shots, reverse shots?
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#9 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 11 October 2015 - 10:42 AM

Yes.


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#10 Michael LaVoie

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Posted 12 October 2015 - 10:18 AM

David, with multicam single angle shoots has the topic of shooting over the resolution in order to avoid a 2nd B camera come up in conversations?  Meaning that you'd shoot 6K over 4K in a medium closeup frame with the idea in mind that you could simply punch in on in post to get a tighter "B-camera" shot on without much resolution loss.  I mean with digital of course.  Sometimes you want a more longer lens look for those closeups of course but I'm just wondering if that's an option that's coming up now with the introduction of a 6k and 8K shooting option.

 

You'd probably still want a 2nd cam in general but you could at least avoid compromising angles and cramming 2 cameras into tight spaces by shooting way above the resolution and then reframing on that shot.  Not ideal but is this something that's being considered now?


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#11 David Edward Keen

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Posted 12 October 2015 - 10:43 AM

Hahaha I found Michael LaVoie's question in my gmail...was about to respond that it's like he just asked a 6 year old how to land the space shuttle...then came here and realized it must be a question for David Mullen, ASC. But I'm interested all the same!
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