Shooting Narrative Scenes with Two Cameras

Lately we’ve been shooting narrative fiction shorts where we are using two cameras rolling simultaneously as opposed to just one. There are two primary benefits from this

  1. The ability to keep good continuity between two actors in a scene
  2. Not missing any great performances from your actors that you may have otherwise missed if you only had one camera.

Here we’re using the 2 cameras to simultaneously get a medium shot and close up.

Here are some tips to keep in mind when shooting scenes this way.

  • Shot lists. You should be using a shot list anyway, but it becomes even more important when shooting with two cameras. As much as possible, determine in advance what kind of lenses, framing and movement for each camera on your list.
  • Notes. If you can get a talented script supervisor, do it. It is so nice having those detailed notes back in the editing room. But if you don’t have a dedicated script super, at least take some notes on your shot list about what takes you liked.
  • Slating. Take a separate slate for each camera. This will help you greatly in editing to know which angle you’re watching, which helps when comparing notes. Make sure the AC (or whoever is slating) holds the slate at the appropriate height and distance for each camera’s focal point. If for some reasons both cameras are focused on the same subject (e.g. one a CU and the other a medium shot), it is okay to do one slate clap for both cameras as long as you have notes as to which shot belongs to which camera.

2-camming with the 5D Mark III and the 7D. Mark III and monitor courtesy of LensProToGo. Those guys rock!

  • Lighting. This is one of the biggest challenges shooting with two cameras. Lighting already takes a long time, but it will take longer when you have to light for two opposing actors. (If you’re using two cameras on the same actor, one for close up and one a wide shot, it’s less challenging.) I have found that any extra time it takes lighting for two cameras is more than made up from the time saved in not having to re-shoot an entire scene to get the second actor’s lines.
  • Audio. You should be fine using one audio source for both cameras. Just make sure both cameras and the audio recorder are all rolling before you slate. If you’re using a boom mic to capture audio and alternating the direction to point to each person as they speak, make sure you have someone who can do it smoothly and without rubbing the boom on their clothing.
  • Camera Settings. Ideally, shoot with two identical cameras with identical settings for color profiles, shutter speed, ISO, etc. Depending on your shot list, you may want identical lenses too. But, in cases where you’re shooting with different cameras and lenses, try to set them to be as equal as possible. Is one of your camera a 5D Mark III and the other a 7D? (like on my recent short film shoot), then keep crop factor in mind, picking lenses that will approximate one another. Where this may become particularly challenging is if one of your cameras is significantly superior to the other and lighting is not as good as you would like. A low lit scene may look great for the actor shot with the 5D3 (which has impressive low light capabilities) and the actor shot on your second camera (say a T2i) looks like crap.

I’m sure others of you out there have experience with shooting on two cameras simultaneously. Please share some of your tips in the comments.

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One Response to “Shooting Narrative Scenes with Two Cameras”

  1. I use this for non-scripted interviews, the advantage comes in editing, I have a CU & MS to work with, especially shooting with DSLR’s which do not have TV zoom lenses so it’s tough to zoom in for a CU while filming, so I just shoot with 2 cameras and the problem is solved.

    Malcolm

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