Production: 5 Tips for Multi-Camera Shooting

With any film production, a filmmaker must understand how to use shots from multiple cameras to tell a story. One of the basic principles involves the 180 Degree Rule. In it, the spatial relationship between the subjects being filmed must remain the same throughout the scene so as not to confuse the audience. Here are tips on how to use several video cameras to follow this basic rule.


1. Film from Only One Side

Multiple cameras placed on opposite sides of the action will confuse the viewers. For instance, if you cover a basketball game from two opposite sides of the court, one camera will show that the action is moving from left to right while the other will show the action towards the opposite direction. The drastic change will confuse the viewer on where the action is really going. This is why cameras during games are only placed on one side to show that the action is moving towards a particular direction even if the shots change.


2. Include a Crossing Shot to Show a Change in View

If you wish to film from the other side, you must show one shot where the camera crosses this imaginary line. This is a more direct way of orienting the viewer on the change of view. Dolly shots and tracking shots are effective in this method of showing that the camera is switching from one side to another.


3. Use a Buffer Shot to Indicate a Change of View

Instead of panning, multiple cameras shoot the same action from at least three sides: the left side, right side, and the front or back. The shots are cut and placed one after another to show the view of the scene moving from one side to another. Instead of one continuous shot to show the cross, the flow of the action will consist of different frames taken from these three sides. For instance, the action will start with a shot from the left followed by the front and then the shot taken from the right side. The transition is not as smooth as the panning shot, but still achieves the same effect of informing the viewer of the change in the view.


4. Use Different Shots of the Same Scene

You can still have different shots even if they are all taken from just one side. Zooming in on different aspects of the action from the same side will provide additional views. Using the same basketball game as an example, one may have a wide shot covering the entire stadium, a medium shot showing the action between the players and another showing the reaction of the audience.


5. Film from Different Sides Only to Show Discontinuity

In some cases, breaking the 180 Degree Rule is needed to achieve a stronger effect. Some filmmakers take shots showing the left and right side of the same subject to induce a dramatic change in the subject's character or emotion. With the Lord of the Ring's Gollum, the character looks towards the left to signify the good side while looking towards the other side to signify that the evil persona is talking.


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