GoPro–Three Camera Shoot–One Cameraman
“Doing more with less.”
We’ve heard this a lot over the past number of years, particularly in the wake of the 2008 economic downturn. I’ve taken advantage of that ethos in expanding from shooting TV news to shooting and being my own reporter. Certainly also with my films as a writer-producer-director-cameraman-editor-distributor. But these efforts have always involved me and one camera. I was recently challenged to do a shoot where I would be the sole cameraman, and there would be two cameras — one on each reporter while they had a conversation. However, once I saw this in my head I decided: “Why settle for a two-camera shoot? Let’s go for three cameras.”
The Situation: I’ve written a number of times on this site about the in-depth magazine stories that I have reported, photographed and edited for Common Ground, KCRA-3‘s once-a-month news magazine program. For the November episode the entire focus, as it has been for the past few years, was the Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services and their annual Run To Feed The Hungry, which KCRA is a sponsor and promotor and broadcasts the race live on Thanksgiving mornings. Run To Feed The Hungry is a very big deal in Sacramento and the annual run & fundraiser is the largest run of it’s kind in the entire U.S. This recent 2015 Run To Feed The Hungry had 28,644 participants.
The Set-Up: This segment was simply going to be a conversation between KCRA anchor Deirdre Fitzpatrick and KCRA morning reporter Brian Hickey talking about their experiences covering the Run To Feed The Hungry over the years.
Rather than film this in a studio at KCRA, we shot this in an adult education classroom at the Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services center. I used two cameras locked down on tripods, one camera on each talent, and a handheld action camera to float back and forth and always have both Deirdre and Brian in the frame. The lighting was purely natural/artificial indirect overhead flourescent room light.
Camera #1: Sony XDCAM
My basic TV news camera, framed up in a medium-close shot on Brian. For sound, Brian wore the Sony wireless livelier mic that is part of the Sony wireless system built into the camera. Deirdre wore a livelier mic worn under her clothes and connected via hard-line cable to the Sony XDCAM news camera.
Camera #2: Canon 7D
I could have grabbed another Sony XDCAM from the station, but since I was also going to use the GoPro, I decided to mix everything up. For Camera #2 I brought my personal Canon 7D with a Tamron 17-50mm lens zoomed in all the way on Deirdre, and mounted atop my own Bogen-Manfrotto tripod.
Camera #3: GoPro Hero 3+
GoPro Hero 3+ on the end of an unextended selfie, which I monitored via the GoPro App on my KCRA-issued iPhone.
The Sony XDCAM and Canon 7D shots were loose medium-close shots, so that I could manipulate the framing in editing.
For audio, at the beginning of the interview I had Deirdre snap her fingers a few times so that I could have the visual and the waveforms to synchronize the three angles on the Adobe Premiere timeline.
Then, quite simply, as they talked, I just moved with the GoPro back and forth between them.
The one thing I realized only after Deirdre and Brian had started talking and I was rolling all three cameras was that with the GoPro I had inadvertently broken the axis and was shooting on the wrong side of them. But I figured, Clint Eastwood breaks the axis from shot to shot and no one calls him on the carpet. As long as I keep the camera moving and cutting, plus I would be layering in file footage from past years’ Run To Feed The Hungry events, no one would notice.
“The Dateline Effect” — Adding Digital Zooms in Post
For the final touch, when cross-cutting between the three angles, since I had intentionally kept the two static (non-moving) shots on Deirdre and Brian loosely framed, on the Adobe timeline I added slow, subtle digital zooms of about 5% to the shots to keep them moving and from becoming dull. I call this “The Dateline Effect” because it’s seen all the time in Dateline. Very slow, almost imperceptible zooms. I used to think this was done in-camera with very high-end zoom lenses. But it’s just added in later in post and is incredibly simple to do.
When first told of this shoot I did not know what this would be like, and an ordeal to put together later in the edit room for sure. However, it was one of the easiest things I’ve cut that was 3 1/2 minutes long. And I think it is impossible to tell any difference between the cameras.
But I am not the judge. That is for you to determine. Please e-mail me or submit comments here. Thanks!