On Thursday, I was down in Las Vegas filming a Caribbean cooking show (the 12th cooking show I’ve filmed so far!). I was able to pull off what normally be should be done by at least three people: a 2-camera, dual-system shoot. (Dual-system is where audio is recorded to a separate system, not to the video camera). Instead of two camera operators and an audio guy, there was just me. I don’t recommend this type of setup on every kind of production, but the fact that we weren’t filming a live event, and were able to spend as much time as we needed setting up each shot and also re-shooting if necessary made it work.
For all you film & video nerds like me, below is the setup, and then below that, my thoughts on the setup, which is basically a mini-review of each piece of gear and how well it worked out on the multi-cam shoot.
PART ONE: THE SETUP
The Camera Setup:
I used a Canon 5D Mark II (+ 70-200 2.8L IS lens) as the main camera, capturing master shots and tight shots of the talent. I set up each shot (did exposure, pulled focus, framed the shot, etc.) and then actually had the talent’s husband stand at that camera and just press the record button on each shot. The reason this worked is because the talent wasn’t moving around (except once or twice, and I filmed that separately) so no camera movement, zooming or focus-pulling was needed during a shot.
For the second camera, I used a Canon 60D (+ 24-105 f/4L IS lens) to do close-ups of the food being prepared. I manned this camera, and I followed the talent’s hands and the ingredients they were using at the moment and pulled focus throughout the shot. The flip-out LCD on the 60D was a real plus, as I put it up high on an extended tripod and pointed it down at the food, so without the swivel LCD I would have had to stand on something high in order to see the screen. With the 60Ds screen, however, I was able to just point it down towards me so I could see it. Sweet!
The Audio Setup:
On the last Caribbean show we did, I hired an audio tech who brought all his equipment and recorded the sound. This time, I simply used a Tascam DR-100 to record the sound to, and placed a wireless lav (Shure PG14/PG185) on the talent. Being able to monitor the audio with headphones and adjust the levels as needed is huge. Whenever I run and gun on the street without dual-system, I’ve always got my fingers crossed that I’m getting good audio. Going dual-system and monitoring the whole time takes the worry out of the equation.
PART TWO: MY THOUGHTS
I was expecting the 5D footage to blow the 60D footage out of the water, but surprisingly they looked pretty similar…and the footage from both was beautiful. There was a difference, but it was a very subtle difference. If anything, the 5D may have had a tiny bit smoother tonal transitions. I do know from experience that the 5D is much better in low light, and the 60D/7D/T2i (all the same sensor) is already amazing in low light, especially with fast glass. The 5D with fast glass is just unreal in low light. I filmed a plane landing in the middle of the night in L.A. with the 5D and 50mm 1.2L (a super-fast lens!) and it was phenomenal how much detail and how little noise there was. And I was at ISO 3200! Shooting like that with anything but the 5D I think would be very hard to do without ending up with a very noisy image.
I love the Tascam DR-100!! I lot of people use the Zoom H4N, however, after hours of studying up on the internet, I chose to go with the Tascam, and I don’t regret it. They are both the same price at ~$300, however, the Tascam actually has a Lithium Ion battery so you can just charge it up and use it, no need for AA batteries, although you can also use AA batteries if you want. (However, the Tascam doesn’t come with a normal AC power adapter, which I feel is a must, so I bought one off Amazon for ~$20. So overall, you’ll pay about $20 more for the Tascam than the H4n, but have the added benefit of the Li-Ion battery, which is definitely worth more than $20.) Note: I found than just using the Li-Ion lasts about 2 1/2 hours, give or take, which is less than the 5 hours that one web site I checked said it lasted. So if you are on a shoot longer than an hour or two, definitely bring the AC adapter and leave it plugged in. Another Note: I haven’t personally used the H4N, and I’m sure it’s a great device. So if you are looking to buy one of these devices, I recommend reading up online on both the Tascam DR-100 and the H4n, before making your decision.
Overall I was very happy about how the audio turned out. It was a much simpler setup than the one we used the last time, but it still sounded great–the audio was very clean and there weren’t any problems with it. (Statistics show that problems with audio is the leading cause of stressed out video producers or filmmakers who can’t sleep at night!)
If you are crazy enough to try a one-man multi-cam shoot like me, make sure that you have plenty of setup time and patient clients. My client saved money because of the fact that we weren’t hiring any other crew members, so they were more than patient with the setup. Also, if you are shooting a live event, be warned that doing a setup like this by yourself is VERY difficult to pull off, and not recommended. There is a reason why separate people are hired to do each job. Each element of the show (audio, video, etc.) is extremely vital and having someone assigned to that piece of the puzzle helps to make sure nothing goes wrong. Overall, if the client has the budget, I definitely prefer to hire additional crew (and on most of my productions I usually do just that), but each production is different and sometimes it can make sense to do it this way.