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How to film seamless conversation with one camera?

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Kevin Schaich
How to film seamless conversation with one camera?
on Jul 20, 2012 at 7:53:26 pm

Hey guys, I'm curious as to what the best way to approach this situation is:

I want to film a conversation of two people with at least three different angles: wide, over-the-shoulder of person A, and over the shoulder of person B. I only have one camera and buying another one is NOT an option. I'll be recording the audio to an external recorder and syncing in post.

How can I film this so the transition between shots and audio is seamless?

If I use audio from a master track, it will not match up with the close up shots. And if I film it three times and then use the corresponding audio for each individual shot when editing, I feel like the audio between the shots will be jumpy. What's your workflow for shooting a multicam shot using one camera? How do they do it in Hollywood? I'm trying to improve my videos and any help would be appreciated. Thanks!


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Mark Suszko
Re: How to film seamless conversation with one camera?
on Jul 20, 2012 at 8:53:38 pm

Netflix Hitchock's "Rope". Supposed to be all one take, he actually planned camera moves across blocking objects that hid the splices where the next roll of film began.


If your actors are very good, they can also be so consistent that three takes with one camera will look like a 3-camera live-switch.

If you don't spend money on good actors, you WILL wind up spending money on more cameras - that's a fact.


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Mark Suszko
Re: How to film seamless conversation with one camera?
on Jul 20, 2012 at 8:59:00 pm

And if the actors are not great... You need a second audio recorder. Can you afford to buy a used audio recorder from the pawn shop for like, 20 bucks? Record audio of each take as you shoot it, then play back the audio from the previous take thru the second recorder and a small speaker, to give your actor(s) the exact timing for the next part being shot. This might help a lot for overlapping dialogue.


If you can't afford a second camera, or the extra audio recorder, I'm worried you don't even have decent mics or lighting. In which case, the whole project's going to be a waste.


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Kevin Schaich
Re: How to film seamless conversation with one camera?
on Jul 20, 2012 at 9:19:01 pm

I'm not looking to spend any more money, and this thread was certainly not meant to be a discussion of gear or resources. I'm one guy doing some casual short films with friends for a video class and am just looking for some insight on how to approach the shots.


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Mark Suszko
Re: How to film seamless conversation with one camera?
on Jul 20, 2012 at 9:29:38 pm

Student, eh? Do you or your friends have iphones or ipods that record? There's your extra audio source for recording and live on-set playback of the synch track.

I don't have much faith in student actors regarding their ability to keep perfect timing AND continuity across multiple takes, so if you don't use some kind of system like mine or another to maintain the timing of the multiple performances, expect a very choppy edit, especially if you're trying to do realistic, overlapping dialogue.

You could try an on-set technique tried and later abandoned by Orson Welles. Sit your actors down and record one take of everybody, just for the audio. Now, have the actors all lip-synch themselves, like those youtube lip-dub videos. The key is one master playback track they each can rely on for their parts.

Best of luck: even trying and failing teaches you more than not trying and wondering.


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Todd Terry
Re: How to film seamless conversation with one camera?
on Jul 20, 2012 at 9:07:29 pm

[Kevin Schaich] "And if I film it three times and then use the corresponding audio for each individual shot when editing, I feel like the audio between the shots will be jumpy. "

Well, keep in mind that that's exactly how films have been shot since, oh, the beginning of sound film.

It's usual practice to shoot a master and then all your coverge from different angles and setups, getting new audio each time.

Part of the solution is making sure you have a good audio guy who knows how to get good clean and consistent takes that will all edit together seamlessly. In fact, really good boom operators will even ask the DP what the focal length of a lens is... because they know they should boom tighter for longer lenses, and looser for wider ones. I'm not talking about just keeping the mic out of the frame, but because a wide shot should sound as if the mic was a further away, and a tight shot should sound as if it is closer (and not talking about volume level either... but things like room tone or ambient sound on location in relation to the voice). Often you'll see a wide shot where the sound is actually an audio lift from a tighter shot, and it sometimes just "doesn't look right" even if the sync is perfect. That's because to your ear it just sounds like audio that was recorded much closer to the subject than visually the shot should warrant. The same is true with radio mics or any microphone actually worn by a performer... they may technically sound great, but they often sound too good, meaning the sound is very clinical and sterile... whereas a good boom mic will have a much more warm, open, and natural sound.

T2

__________________________________
Todd Terry
Creative Director
Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.
fantasticplastic.com



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Rick Wise
Re: How to film seamless conversation with one camera?
on Jul 20, 2012 at 9:10:45 pm

You either have to use lip sync (not recommended) or use the live audio of each angle. For those to cut well, you would do best to have a good sound person with a good ear. It is common that a wide shot will have slightly less mic presence than the close-ups. Reverses should match acoustically as well as visually.

As to cutting together visually, there should be no problem, especially if you shoot true reverses. That means, you answering or reverse shot has: the same focal length, the same distance, the same height as its counter-shot, and the same framing but switched (don't cross the line.) So you'll have a profile shot, and two OTS shots, classic coverage. You can even, if your actors are up to it, add two clean singles. Provided that actors can remember the script well, all of these should cut together very, very easily.

The Hitchcock Rope gag is a whole different issue/problem/solution. In the following diagram, the camera on the right does not quite match the camera on the left as to position. (I should have redone the image, but instead leave it to your imagination....)



Rick Wise
Cinematographer
San Francisco Bay Area
http://www.RickWiseDP.com


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