This DIY documentary that I made in 2012 shows how much you can do by yourself with two cameras. I filmed a two-camera interview at the home of a singer songwriter in Nashville and I also used two cameras at a live performance I filmed of her at a club in Philadelphia.
It was a big job setting up by myself so I asked if I could come in the day before to set up and test run everything. One of the hardest parts of working alone on a two-camera shoot is handling all the equipment. I made this film very traditional in the sense that I did a formal interview and put the cameras on tripods. I set up lighting and I also used a wired lavalier mic.
You can see the two different camera shots I was using. From time to time I would adjust the framing to mix it up. I had to match up the color from the two different types of cameras in post production and of course they had to be synced up as well. Both of these two-camera editing requirements were pretty easy since it was one long interview at the same location. I recorded audio with both of the cameras and used it for syncing the wide shot with the main camera. The audio from the camera closest to me (the close up camera) was wired to her lav mic. I would check the sound from time to time but for the most part I kept the headphones off. I’m a big believer in doing everything I can to make the subject forget they are being filmed. So wearing headphones while interviewing wasn’t an option for me.
I set the two cameras up with one next to me close enough to look down at the LCD screen. The other camera was set back a little and was connected to a monitor so that I could always look over at it. I wish I took a picture of this set-up but I didn’t. So picture this…I’m sitting in a chair with a clipboard doing the interview while peeking from time to time at my camera monitors and sneaking an occasional listen to the headphones.
Our next shoot was at a night club in Philly. I set up in the back right in front of the sound board. The sound girl took two XLR cables from me and sent a beautifully mixed sound of the performance straight into my camera from her board. I filmed with two cameras again. I used the board sound for the one camera while the other camera picked up the ambient sounds capturing the applause with the camera mic.
I set the cameras up right next to each other and went back and forth between them mixing up the shots. But for the most part I had the dedicated safe wide shot locked in while working the other camera. It was so easy to do and the results were great.
Here are the two shots from the different cameras. If you find yourself in a situation where the bulk of your film will be from one (sit down) interview or a performance, you may want to set up a second camera. Not just because it helps keep the viewer interested but a second camera can do wonders in editing when you need to avoid a jump cut and it’s really quite easy to do. Below is the trailer for the doc. I only put it in one film festival where it was premiered, the Garden State Film Festival, and it won best short documentary.