Multi-Camera Techniques

What are multi-camera setups used for? 

Multi-camera setups are used to create a range of television shows, these are split into two main genres, studio based shows and sports based shows. Under ‘studio’ come programmes like game shows (e.g ‘Weakest Link’), talk shows (‘The Jonathan Ross Show’ or ‘The Jeremy Kyle Show’), magazine shows (‘Blue Peter’) and the ‘news’ (‘Breakfast’). Multi-camera setups have the advantage of practically guaranteeing that all ‘action’ is captured and nothing is missed, hence it’s use in sports. With this comes the danger of perhaps capturing too much, for instance, if a fight breaks out between two football players, the programme makers have a responsibility to cut away to something else and quickly as possible. The other disadvantage of multi-camera setups is that it costs more money than a single-camera setup, the equipment costs, the operators cost, the electricity costs, more. But, overall, a multi-camera setup captures things quicker and the director/editor (dependant on live or pre-record) has more choice and more safety when it comes to choosing shots to use.

Basic multi-camera setup, ‘talk show’.


From this clip I’ve gathered this show uses (approximately) twelve cameras to capture every angle of the action that takes place on and behind stage. Some of the cameras are free-roaming as apposed to stationary, as they need to run around the stage after the guests, the other cameras are stationary and just pan or zoom where needed. Opening the show, we have an ‘in the crowd’ shot of clapping hands, facing towards the stage to set the show up. Cut to Jeremy talking, they then cut the main guest on the show, to refresh viewers’ memories, (from what I can tell this is a second half to a show). After which they go to a backstage camera capturing an angry looking ex-girlfriend when her name’s mentioned by Jeremy. The show goes on and they cut where appropriate. The cutting is quite quick, a shot isn’t held for longer about four seconds, this creates the fast paced feel that the show is known for. The primary guest’s girlfriend is then summoned, as she comes screaming in she attacks her ex. The director has obviously anticipated this and cuts to an audience reaction shot, we see nothing. I find that the ‘reaction shot’ is extremely important with this type of show, (dealing with the content that it does), and are used very often to create the tone and tension between the guests that we see. For example, when Jeremy is talking to the secondary guest backstage, as she insults the primary guest, we cut to a shot of him shaking his head, laughing. We now know that he denies these allegations, but without the insert, the whole tone would be different, we wouldn’t be seeing as much of the story as we are. This setup isn’t particularly complicated as it’s in a studio, controlled, and the crew can pretty much guess where the action is going to take place next.

This is the fixed-rig multi camera setup that is becoming more and more commonly used with ‘reality’ television shows. In this clip from ‘Educating Essex’, the first small dialogue we see is between a student and a receptionist. We cut between the receptionist and the student, and care is taken not to cross the 180 line. The director, with their vast choice of camera angles, could’ve completely ignored this technicality and just cut to anything as long as we could see the action, but something wouldn’t have felt right. It doesn’t matter if it’s a single-camera or fixed rig multi-camera setup, the rules still apply. With this kind of rig, the programme makers have a lot more leeway when it comes to what story they’re going to tell. After a seminar with the director of ‘Educating Essex’, he mentioned that he had to choose whose story he was going to tell and how. He said he didn’t find it difficult to represent the ‘characters’ honestly, which I found a surprise, (where something involves cutting parts of a story out, is this an honest representation of what happened?).

Highlights of the England-Brazil world cup 2002. With sports, the use of a multi-camera setup is to capture all of the action. The speed of play with football demands fast acting camera operators, (around 12-18 cameras). Before kick-off, we have a slow zoom into the centre of the pitch to build the tension, and then the whistle is blown. The ‘primary’ wide shot camera follows the action the best as possible. As a player approaches the goal with the ball, we cut to a closer shot of him and the defender as he gets closer, so we can see exactly what is happening, mixed with the wide. After the attacker makes the shot (and misses), we see one slow motion reply from another angle, then to a close up of the player that made the shot then back to wide to continue play. These small inserts of the player and the slow motion shot all contribute to the ‘narrative’, if you will’ of the football game, creating tension and covering everything. As the opposing side scores later in the game, the coverage of ‘celebration’ goes on a little longer, we cut to various close ups of the players celebrating, the disappointed opponents, three slow motion replays from different angles of the goal and then to the reaction of the coaches and the manager. Even further into play after the goal, we get a gap in the play and the director takes the opportunity to insert another slow motion reply of the England goal. The highlights go on covering the game like this, a mixture of shots, covering all it can. In some situations, players have seriously injured themselves on the pitch and the visuals are deemed inappropriate for the home viewer, so the director has to cut away as quickly as possible to something else, narrowly avoiding being sacked by the station.


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