One camera is better than none when trying to preserve memories or information from an event. Some events lend themselves nicely to the one-camera shoot where zooming in and out occasionally gives you everything you need for visual variety. There are other events where having at least a second camera, is beneficial if not critical to the mission.
It’s all about choices. In scripted videography you have the benefit of being able to shoot the same shot at multiple angles and as both a close-up and wide-shot. Event videography does not afford you the same opportunity. There are no do-overs.
The multi-camera setup allows you to have at least one camera set on a wide-shot all the time and another camera roving on close-up shots. Editing is where you marry the two together in what will hopefully be a visually more appealing video than if it were a one camera shoot. The wide shot is your base shot or safety shot where you know you will not miss any action. Your additional cameras are your b-roll capturing the same activity close-up and at different angles.
I am writing this for producers who intend to edit their footage later rather than mix on the fly during the event. The plan still has applicability either way, but it is written with editing in mind.
You’ll need to know how many cameras you are running ahead of time. Determine your position for each of the cameras relative to the action and decide which camera / operator will do the wide shot and which will do the roving close-up shots. Yes, you really should have a camera operator for the wide shot. If for no other reason than to make sure the camera does not get knocked into in a crowd and ruin the shot. The other reason being that you will hang your main audio off the wide shot and will need a knowledgeable crew member to monitor audio during the show.
If you are just running two cameras you can have them run side by side. If you were to add a third camera you would want your wide shot in the middle and a camera angled on either side for roving close-ups and pan shots. Make sure each camera/operator is assigned a role and sticks to it. The last thing you want to find out in editing is that both of your cameras took the exact same shot.
As mentioned above, your wide shot camera will capture the main audio. You will want to make sure the person running that camera is also comfortable in monitoring and adjusting audio levels. You will want to make sure that the other cameras in your setup can capture some level of audio. This audio is important for syncing all the footage from the various cameras in editing, but will be discarded from the final product.
The final piece to this setup is syncing all the cameras. This is extremely important. All the cameras must start and stop at the same time and at the same intervals so they have the same time code in editing. For example; if you know your event is to begin at 7:00pm, make sure all your cameras start recording at 6:55pm. The cameras should not stop recording until two minutes after the event has ended. This buffer of time at the beginning and end of footage from each camera will allow the editor to sync all the footage once and proceed with editing. If one of the cameras stops for 5 minutes in the middle of the show and the others keep recording then there will be a sync issue somewhere in the middle of the footage. That will result in extra time for the editor to find the issue and re-sync additional points in the footage.
Prepping for the Event
Heading into an event, videographers will want to ask the event planner several questions;
- Can you describe or provide a diagram of the layout of the room?
- Are there power outlets available?
- How much flexibility do I have for camera placement?
- Depending on camera placement, how much traffic will be moving round the cameras?
The more information you can get up front the easier it will be to plan for gear needed and prepare your crew for the event. Setup will go smoother if you can walk in with a game plan.
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