When shooting a new video project, one of the first decisions made is whether it will be multi-cam or single cam. Both strategies have their benefits depending on situation and context: multi-cam offers the freedom to switch between multiple points of view in a single setting, while single cam creates a more cinematic feel. By identifying your needs and your desired end product, you should be able to determine whether multi-cam or single cam is right for your project.
Multi-Cam Shooting: Fast, Affordable and Simple
Multi-cam shooting is often used for event coverage, interviews and other live events. In a multi-cam setup, two or more cameras are placed throughout a set. In the case of an event, cameras may even be in separate rooms. The end result is that the video can switch between these different perspectives throughout the process of recording. In an interview, a multi-cam setup may be used to switch the focus between speakers. In event coverage, a multi-cam setup may be used to switch between different perspectives of the same event.
Shooting with multiple cameras is usually less expensive than shooting on a single camera. The shooting can be done quickly because the cameras do not need to be moved or positioned throughout recording, and it eliminates the need for multiple takes to capture a scene from a different angle. However, shooting with multiple cameras can also be seen as restrictive, because the set needs to be positioned and created to accommodate them. As an example, one might look towards sitcoms which have a multi-cam setup. Commonly, an apartment or house is only viewed from a specific angle. It can only be viewed from that angle because there is no wall there — just a camera.
Multi-cam shooting lends itself particularly well to live event coverage. A good example of a multi-cam shooting would be at a sports event. It would be prohibitively difficult to shoot a live event with a single camera, as it would be impossible to know when a recordable event was occurring. With a multi-cam setup, the entirety of a live event is recorded and the data can then be worked through in post-production.
A notable drawback to multi-cam shooting is that the cameras must remain in the perspectives that they were setup in, though they can usually scan, pan and zoom-in. Because of this, the multi-cam setup won’t be able to capture events that occur outside of a handful of perspectives. Thus, it’s important for a multi-cam setup to be planned very carefully before the cameras are placed. If a multi-cam setup is done effectively, there should not be any meaningful blind spots.
Single Cam Shooting: Cinematic, Controlled and Clean
Single cam shooting is most often used for commercials, promotional videos, training lessons and other similar media. When a person thinks of a movie rather than a television sitcom, they are usually comparing single cam with multi-cam. In a single cam setup, one (or occasionally two) cameras are positioned for each scene, but they are not installed permanently within the environment. Single cameras often move during shooting, with the use of dollies and tracking devices, and provide a more cinematic feel to the resulting video. Movies, dramatic television shows, commercials and music videos almost always use single camera shooting rather than multi-cam shooting.
Single camera setups can be used in diverse environments because the cameras do not need to be positioned in a certain way or so that they are not in each other’s line of sight. Thus, a single camera may follow a person around as they speak and may move from scene to scene. However, single camera shooting does generally take longer and is more expensive. Multiple shots often need to be taken of the same scene in different angles, and there are more things that may need to be corrected — especially when the camera needs to be in motion. Occasionally, a second camera will be used outside of the range of the first camera to pick up additional footage, much like in multi-cam shooting — but that does not make it multi-cam shooting because the cameras still have free movement.
Despite the additional complexity and cost, a single camera setup is usually the best way to get a professional look for commercials and promotional videos. Single cam shooting provides complete control over the appearance of each scene and is more flexible than multi-cam shooting in some situations. Shooting a video while walking down a hall, for instance, is something that can be done in single cam but not in multi-cam. This adds additional viewer interest and a more dynamic feel, but is something that would be unnecessary during a seminar or event coverage. Further, single camera shooting is far more challenging: it requires a level of skill and talent, not only to appropriately frame the scenes but to operate the technology involved.
One notable issue that is often introduced through single cam is an issue of consistency. Professionals will notice whether there are things that are inconsistent between takes; amateurs may not. In a multi-cam setup, the recordings are usually either completed all at once or sequentially as focus shifts from one camera to another. But with a single cam setup, multiple perspectives may involve entirely separate takes. This requires that the set be restored between each take to make sure that there aren’t any visible inconsistencies, such as objects being moved in the background.
It all comes down to this: multi-cam is an affordable, easy and dynamic way to get specific perspectives of a single event or set. Single cam is a more detail-oriented but expensive way to capture video from a cinematic perspective. So, do you need to use multiple cameras, or a single camera for your next video? If you’re still not sure — or just want to discuss more about your project — contact us today for more information. We can discuss the pros and cons of each strategy and figure out the right path for you.
Article by Joe Forte, co-owner and producer at D-Mak Productions, an Arizona video production company specializing in various types of video production.