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  • Directing a two cam op

  • Mark Bennett

    April 16, 2009 at 9:08 pm

    I am directing a vision mixing a two cam live op tomorrow of a band in a pretty big venue. It is my first time doing it. I am usually an editor.
    I am wondering if anyone can give me some ideas to make it look great for the audiance as it will be projected on a screen.
    I will have 1 static cam and another cam moveing around.
    Just wondering if anyone could help me with some nice groovy techniques. Oh and the band is a heavy rock band.
    This forum might not have been the right place to ask…but what the heck.
    I hope some one can help me.
    Mark Bennett

  • Bill Davis

    April 17, 2009 at 11:42 pm

    You’re going to learn a LOT on your shoot.

    For my money, the most important thing is to have RELIABLE communication between you and your cameras. Then make sure you are SPECIFIC when you give cameras their cues.

    The typical rookie mistake is getting excited when looking at the monitor – pointing at it and shouting “PUSH IN” – which will likely result in both cameras suddenly pushing in.

    You want measured commands that are crystal clear… like “Camera 1. Get Ready to push in on the drummer. OK, Camera 1 start your push. Dissolving to 1. Camera 1 you’re live. Camera 2, give me a medium two shot of the guitar and bass. Ready to Take 2. Take 2. Two is live. Camera 1 move to the marimba player…”

    That leave nothing to chance and everyone knows what they’re supposed to be doing.

    Also, understand that what you see on the monitor might be all that’s possible for your camera ops. I’ve seen a lot of newbie directors get caught up in their monitors and their “creative vision” and forget there’s a real human in a real world of limitations out there. “Camera 2 – I need you to go further right to clear the drummers face. Further. You’ve got to go further…” never realizing that poor camera 2 is at the edge of a riser and if they go further right, someone’s gonna have to call for an ambulance.

    Finally, pray you have solid professional ClearCom type Com units, expect the loud music to make it hard for everyone to understand anything, And in fact in concert settings, it’s typical for the camera ops to disengage their mics so the com circuit doesn’t get blown out by stage sound. So don’t expect feedback from the ops – just be as CLEAR as possible when you give commands.

    As to the creative, think of setting up shots that have both positive and negative space. Then during the cross fades, you can fill a negative space on one camera with something positive from the incoming shot.

    I remember back in my early days as a camera op before I ever directed I was handheld op on-stage in a 4 camera live show featuring a blind pianist/singer, and just on the spur of the moment, I framed the pianist head lower left with a MASSIVE amount of negative space frame right where the grand piano lid and upright support made a nice vector up and away. The shot was pretty out of balance as a single. But the director saw it, and instantly got the second camera to shoot an enraptured listener in the crowd, composited the two shots with a half-dissolve and then held the damn thing for about 2 minutes.

    I felt great about getting that shot, but unfortunately my angle had required me to crouch and my thighs hurt for about a week after that.

    The real reason I tell that story is that the director came up to us after, demanded we all assemble back stage and then brought up that shot – and went off about how THAT was what he liked – “Give me more of that in the second half” he blurted – before punching out the tape and running off, presumably to impress the client.

    After about 10 uncomfortable seconds of silence – and to my eternal gratitude – the woman on camera 2 finally said what was NEVER heard on com during the four days of the show. “nice shot 3”

    Good shows are a team effort. Your real job as a director is not operating the equipment, it’s inspiring your team.

    Have a great time.

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