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Filmmaking Guide: Advantages and disadvantages of shooting with single-camera and multi-camera set-ups

A film shoot requires the use of a camera to record the film’s basic components known as shots, scenes, and sequences.

Shots, Scenes, and Sequences

A shot is the building block of film. This pertains to the actual footage acquired when the camera starts and ends one particular recording. During editing, these shots are arranged in a logical and/or creative progression for the purpose of storytelling.

A scene is composed of a series of continuous shots related to one another’s basic action or situation. These shots are regarded to have a particular impression that often involves the same set of characters, time element, and/or setting.

A sequence is made up of related scenes that are often situated in the same location and plot point in the story. It follows a specific order in which a related topic and specific events and actions follow each other in a logical and/or creative progression.

Each film project has distinct camera requirements. The techniques involved in each type of production work is primarily affected by the use of only one camera for the entire duration of the shoot or the use of two or more cameras to record the same shot using varied shot sizes and camera angles and movements. Using a single camera means having to repeat filming one particular scene to capture all the required shots, while using more than one camera means being able to record shots simultaneously for a faster turnover of all shots required in a scene and a sequence.

One-camera Shooting Set-up

A one-camera shooting set-up allows the production to strive towards perfection of the scene’s lighting and art requirements, as well as the blocking of the actors. This set-up is typically used in narrative films, mobile shoots, and documentaries. Since only one camera records each shot, the camera operator has more liberty to move the camera around with less limitations caused by having to avoid seeing another camera simultaneously recording from another position and angle. However, the primary disadvantage of a one-camera set-up is how it requires more time to shoot, as covering all camera positions and angles would mean having to repeat shooting scenes more than what a multi-camera set-up would require.

Having only one camera in a shoot may present a challenge with the film’s continuity, especially when shooting crucially interactive scenes involving many characters, situations, and other production requirements. For instance, a scene inside a classroom, a market, or any other relatively dynamic setting would mean having to exactly copy the initial reactions of the characters and replicating difficult-to-perfectly-replicate shot requirements such as falling props, stained costumes, breaking glass, and blasting cars.

Multi-camera Shooting Set-up

A multi-camera shooting set-up typically involves two or more cameras simultaneously recording the same scene. Using two or more cameras is primarily used in talk shows, news programs, and other live programs that are typically set up in a studio or any other controlled location. Yet, it can also be used in TV dramas and films set in varying locations, especially those that find it more practical to shoot certain shots in different angles and shot distances without having to frequently repeat the entire set-up. This allows two or more cameras to shoot the footage with perfect continuity coming from the cameras’ simultaneous recording of the same scene.

Using more than three cameras in a project usually involve production-savvy shots like shooting a car blast or a huge and/or expensive movie set that should be destroyed in the scene. Multi-camera set-ups are also used in more innovative and creative shots. For instance, the production of “The Matrix” used a number of still cameras to infuse a series of shots as special visual effects in the scene of Neo (Keannu Reeves) avoiding the bullets around him in slow motion.

Rianne Hill Soriano
Rianne is a director, writer, educator, and consultant in film and commercial productions. From mainstream essentials to independent flair, she knows the drill in making entertaining and well-meaning productions. She can lead a pack passionate about extreme action and technological edge; she can breathe an endearing and sentimental style for a team with a sweet disposition.

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