Friday, 12 February 2016

Single Camera Production Techniques

Single Camera Techniques 

In this essay I will cover the techniques that aid a single camera production, I will explain in detail how the techniques work and how they can differ from a multi-camera production. A single camera production is when a TV show or a film is produced using one single camera to capture the footage, an example of this is in the film Drive (2011) and in the TV series Scrubs (2001). Where as a multi-camera production is the use of two or more cameras at one time when filming a TV series or film, multi-camera tends to be used more for TV programmes than films as the action and stories to cover in a TV series would be impossible with one camera, where with multi-camera filming can be completed more quickly for a weekly deadline of episodes. An example of a multi-camera TV series is EastEnders (1985) which is a weekly demanding programme.

One of the first techniques to cover is the camera itself, in a single camera production there is use of one camera. The purpose of this single camera is to be the predominant mechanism to get the audience engaged with the story and in a sense 'into the scene'. With the single camera there is opportunity for the audience to interpret the story-line in their own opinions, as it is easier to maneuver, it gives a greater perspective from different sides of a story. There are occasions on films where there is more than one camera in use, however usually due to the action packed demand of the scene, where is lots of different story lines in one, or to cover an action shot that is fast paced and shows all aspects. Evidence to show this is through the single camera production of a feature film; The Great Gatsby (2013) because there is many stories being told in The Great Gatsby and perspectives from all characters being shown to the audience, single camera was effective by being able to capture this with keeping the footage realistic, below is an example from the film:
 In the first image it is a shot from where the camera is behind the fan, showing a shot of Gatsby and capturing the tension within this scene. The second image is showing Gatsby's perspective of the room, this gives the audience a greater and clearer understanding of where the room is set and what the composition of the scene is. This is accomplished in a single camera production, however if it were a multi-camera production in the second image the camera behind the the fan would be visible, this results in the realistic aspect of the film not being fulfilled, also distracting the audience from the story line.
Single camera production set-up
This is the make up of a single camera production, less equipment which means it is able to complete difficult shots and a broader range of shots from different view points. Allowing more room to cover the story and a greater advantage for the characters to interact. Directors for films often appreciate the use of single camera because it gives them more control over the camera and are able to set up shots individually. In comparison to multi-camera which can limit the room you have to maneuver the camera, and the amount of equipment is greater, resulting in the restrictions when it comes to making films, why directors usually choose single camera.
Multi-camera production set-up

This is a multi-camera set up, as you can see these camera's limit the space there is for sets and scenes, this is why sit-com's like Friends is studio based and usually focuses on the apartment they are based in. These camera's also have to watch that they do not capture each other when filming commences.

The lighting becomes an important technique when filming with single camera, it allows far more control because you can light each shot individually. There are parts in films where you can get a character to walk into a certain position so that they step into or out of light and then say their line. Not only does it make the scene more dramatic but also more intimate with the audience because that light can reflect a certain feeling or atmosphere to the scene. Lighting using a single camera is complicated because it's adjusting to the specific shot and there is more consideration that goes into lighting a single camera production. An example of a film that is a single camera production and tells the story through the use of lighting is the film Drive (2011).

The lighting in these scenes are shown to be controlled, both of these scene include a high intensity of emotion and this is reflected through the light. The first image is of a male who is in a bad place, the lighting reflects this emotion because he has his back to the light and could be seen as turning his back on the positive side of his life. Furthermore only lighting one side of his face, this would not be able in a multi-camera production as there would be a camera placed in a different position, which means it would capture a different take of the light, possibly promoting a different atmosphere.
In this second image the same rule applies, there is an atmosphere created from the lighting showing a silhouette of the young boy and a darkened shadow of the dominant character in the scene. With a multi-camera this would not be possible because it would pick up different lighting from a different perspective of the scene. The ability to use a single camera for lighting comes with the constraint of making sure the light is adequate for each shot, as this could result in scenes not looking as authentic and flat.

Here is the basic set up for a low key lighting shot with a single camera, the same set-up used for the images above. As every shot in single camera is set up individually you can see how the lighting is easy to control and move around, the complications come with what kind of lighting and what mood you want to reflect in any specific scene.

When filming with a single camera you cannot always rely on the mic from that camera to be adequate at picking up vital dialogue as they usually pick up background noise, which interferes with the dialogue. This is why additional tool can be used when filming, an audio device that can be plugged into the single camera to pick up specific dialogue within the scene and drown out any ambient noise, these are called boom mic's. Often in a single camera productions there will be a second camera predominately use to capture certain scenes or shots with a large amount of dialogue, in a sense a 'back up' to the main single camera. Sound effects can be and usually are added in the editing stage to enhance or create a certain feel to the scenes atmosphere, this means it is important to note that not all dialogue used in a scene that you see, is from that actual take, it could have been recorded after shooting if there was a need to strengthen the dialogue in that scene. Sound in a single camera production is more flexible in regards to post production, there is most likely to be multiple takes of scenes and shots, which means during this time the editor will have a variety of takes to work with on the sounds (may include dialogue, ambient noise or Foley sounds). This gives the editor a chance to combined the best audio with the best footage and make sure it links together, the shots that are filmed with single camera often require a certain amount of overlay which means begin filming a little earlier and ending a little later to make sure there is no mishaps when it comes to combining the footage with the audio, it also gives the editor more to work with.
In comparison to multi-camera which is mostly used on sit-comes, they often mic the characters individually to pick up clearer dialogue, especially with multiple cameras picking up different intensity of audio it can be harder to edit sound into each piece of footage that each camera picks up. Like a single camera when using audio devices like a boom mic, it can be complex in multi-camera productions as they are sometimes visible within the scene, an example of this is in The Jeremy Kyle Show, which is a multi-camera TV show.

Here is an example where the one camera captures another camera in a multi-camera set up, also the boom mic would be visible in a set up like this. Which is a result to of why films usually stick to using single camera's because it can show more realism to a scene.


When filming with a single camera there is an extensive amount of footage to deal with, because there is only one camera capturing all the events that occur in the footage. There is usually an overlap of film, to make sure that you've captured the shot, for example if there was an explosion in a film that was a single camera production, they would have one opportunity to capture that event, therefore they may use a second camera, but also continue filming after the event to make sure they have enough footage to edit with. They are also multiple retakes when using a single camera for the same reason to ensure they have that scene perfected to how the director wants it, this results in editing taking longer than a multi-camera production, because there are various slices of different reels of footage, when evaluating all the files in preparation to edit it can take time to just sort out those files. For example when we have experienced making shorts for 3 minute videos it has taken us a few weeks to gather and place all that content in a line in an editing software, if you were creating a 90 minute feature film, you can see why it would take a while for editing. In comparison to a multi-camera production which can often be edited live, from sporting events to competition shows, they have multi-cameras that are all live at one time, they change on the directors call of which angle they want to switch too and what camera corresponds to that angle. This is controlled by a vision mixer which is a large board situated in the same place as the live action, but behind the scenes. It is in a sense a live editing system which can be interpreted by the audience live, also shows what the director wants the audience to see at any specific time. In single camera this is not possible because the editing must take place after filming has been complete in order to follow story boards and keep to the story being told, there are rarely re-takes once editing commences as the single camera films over to ensure they have good coverage of each scene. Shot logs can come in useful when editing an extensive amount of footage as you can place what pieces of footage worked well and those that didn't, therefore ordering the pieces you are most likely to use before editing and keeping organised.

Single Camera Genres and Formats 

There are specific formats that tend to be associated with single camera production, this is because the use of single camera compliments a format in which corresponds with the story they are trying to tell. One of the most known formats is a series, a series is a running of episodes which have the same characters in every episode, however a different story line within each of the episodes. Although there may be a background sub-plot which exists now and again throughout each episodes of a particular season. They may also be a focus on central characters through a particular season or selection of episodes, a good example of a serial is Criminal Minds (2005 - current) which is based on a FBI behavioural analysis unit, they tackle different stories/ crimes each episode it is about tackling a criminal case from a criminal mind perspective, looking at how and why these crimes have occurred, is a crime drama dominated genre. It is also commissioned for a certain amount of time, however this can change in regard to how successful the programme becomes.
Below shows an example of the set up of characters within a series, there are different series' where each character gets to play the main parts, also a set up of how the story move on from one another and if there is a recurring sub-theme embedded in a few of the episodes.
A reason why single camera is of better use to a series is because they are not live, they are all shot with months of editing time before they are released. They also include a movie-like tone to them, capturing different perspectives of the situation from the criminals side and from the FBI side. Especially in this shot below; this shows a shot from above capturing hostages being released, the high shot with a half cut of a police officer/ military personal suggests a protective element to the shot, it then cuts to a shot on the same level of the hostages to capture the different perspectives of those included in the scene. If this was done using multi-camera the camera from above would pick up the camera that is filming on the ground, which would take away the authenticity of the scene and would not be good for a TV crime-drama series.

Another type of format associated with single camera production is serial, serial's may run for a specific period of time, like a series. However there is a type of serial which can go on forever, until they want to stop producing it, other than that they can just leave it open each episode. It consists of keeping the characters the same from one episode to another, however unlike a series, this story line develops throughout the on going episodes, (although you can get story arches in a series) a serial is where it is open for development across the episodes. As a result of a serial, soap operas are the most known for carrying on a developing story, there is a multi-strand narrative which means there is overlapping of stories within the episodes and often a way in which they link together, once a story has fully developed it will usually link into another story or situation, therefore it is never-ending. There is no main protagonist, which means there is usually no story that gets completely closed, allowing room for characters to leave and come back in future episodes with a different or binding story that was never resolved, even if it has been years later. These take a large amount of planning to predict ahead what will happen in future episodes and individually to each character.
An example of a soap opera serial drama is Hollyoaks (1995- present) this serial reinforces that it can be never ending and never fully has closure, Hollyoaks has been continuous from 1995, and has kept the door open to continue for years. The episodes last 30 minutes including adverts, it captures the lives, loves and careers of teenage friends and their families, also the people that surround them. This allows stories to develop through the years and episodes that come out, forever changing and winding situations within each characters stories.
 Another serial is EastEnders which has been continuous since 1985, and even Coronation Street since 1960, which is the longest running serial in the UK, 25 years before EastEnders. However these examples are both filmed in multi-camera, this is due to the weekly demand of the episodes and filming quick-time can be difficult to cover with a single camera set up.
The image on the above-right shows that the serial uses a single-camera set up, this is best when shooting serial's because they are not live, which gives the editor more time to play around with the footage captured. It also gets produced quickly which means the less equipment used to film with a single camera gives the directors a greater opportunity to get a broad range of shots done before the release of the next episode. Below is an example from the serial drama Hollyoaks, as you can see these shots are possible with a single camera set-up, they look authentic as if this conversation is actually happening and the audience are in the room or in the situation. This would not be possible with a multi-camera because the camera's would capture each other in the shot, which would withdraw the realism from the scene. The long life of a serial could be credited to multi-camera techniques as they can be produced quickly for the weekly release, capturing different sets at different times. However Brookside (1982-2003) is a good example of a single camera serial production which lasted for 21 years.

A single drama is another format often associated with a single camera set up. A single drama is a one off story for TV purposes, it can often present a topical issue that is current. Often referred to as a self-contained story, and comparable to a TV movie. Some last from 5 minutes to an Hour and half, they present a story that gets straight to the point, they can sometimes run over two or three parts. An example of a single drama is the BBC's Toast(2010) , Below is the trailer for Toast, this single drama was about a nostalgic trip through heartfelt drama of cooking for acceptance, the main protagonist is Nigel, once his mother dies (who is hopeless at cooking) he is left with his distant father, there is a step mother which comes into the picture who is an amazing cook, poses as a rival to Nigel who is the only male in his cooking class at school. The competition begins to find a way to his fathers heart. Through finding love and acceptance for his sexuality, it is a compelling single drama with an underlining topical issue that is shown in this 1h 30mins showcase. Below is the trailer for the single drama.

This is one of the most known single dramas, however there is another which is significant and a won an award for The Best Single Drama 2015  and that was Marvellous (2014)  which was also a topical issue which included a young man just born after WW2, with learning difficulties, trying to find himself a career, being independent and getting over the death of his mother. Single dramas use a single camera set up because like a serial and a series they are not filmed live, therefore they have to uphold an authentic theme throughout. They also don't take an extensive amount of time to produce, as a one off, they can use all materials once that do not need to be re-used for another series, only for re-takes would material need to be used, which there can be a lot of when using a single camera to make sure all the scene is captured. As it is referred to as a TV movie and most feature films use single camera, it is another reason why a single camera is more efficient when directing and capturing different perspectives of characters, especially on topical issues. In comparison to using multi-camera for a single drama which would take longer to move around the cameras to get specific shots, and for a small production this would cost more to run a variety of cameras, with such a low budget production, as single dramas do not have the same extensive budget as a feature film.

There are many genres that people associate with single camera productions, this could be because for some of the genres there is more intimacy and engagement needed from the audience, which is more likely to come from a single camera production because it is able to capture more difficult angles from characters perspectives. Although some are used for multi-camera production due to the turn-over of episodes and allowed time to film.

A period drama is usually set in a specific area of the past and often romantic dramas but can also be adventurist or have the theme of a thriller drama. As it is usually based in the past, the props, costumes, backdrops, acting techniques are made to seem dated to that time, a good example of this is Jane Eyre(2011)  based in 19th century England based upon a girl who is growing up and going out into the world to become a governess, tackling friendships and love affairs it is seen as drama packed genre. Single camera benefits this type of genre from the lighting flexibility you get with single camera as it is easier to control, as well as the camera angles, capturing all the emotion in the scenes from one single camera. In comparison to the use of a multi-camera which can make it seem staged, as if it is a live performance, taking away the authentic and dramatic feeling of the text. Further more crime dramas and thrillers focus more on the emotion of the characters, between the 'good' guy and the 'bad' guy, between authority and the criminal. Usually using low key lighting which is more stabilised when using a single camera as you can control each shot individually, this is seen in the TV series, crime drama, Sherlock(2010 -present) . Below is an example from the TV series, it is noticeable in each shot that the lighting has been shot individually to reflect the atmosphere in this particular scene, both shots in the same room, however from a serious shot which is darkened to and more light-hearted shot which is brighter on the characters face. This would not be possible in a multi-camera production because the different takes would be extremely difficult to control on the various different type of camera set ups, it would not have same effect, which is why period dramas are often produced using single camera.

This also applies for the genre of Horror, single cameras are used to capture the realism of a scene, to create a personal connection with the audience and make them feel as if they are in the action. Also the action used in horror's are usually a battle off between the killer and the victim, which includes fast pace scenes. Single cameras are use more for these to capture different angles and play a part of both the killers side and the victims side. If a multi-camera were to be used, the cameras would capture each other and could also go against the 180 degree rule if not followed correctly, it is at greater risk. A good example of a Horror film that does this is Scream(1996) and also Saw(2004) 

Comedy's often use multi-camera techniques, sitcoms like Friends(1994-2004) which are also filmed in front of a live audience, and are more comparable to a theatre performance. However there are existing comedy shows that use single camera, for example Orange Is the New Black(2013 - present) Based around one main protagonist, however does explore and gives other characters opportunities to be the protagonist each series like Criminal Minds as mentioned previously. Set in a Female prison that tells the lives of these specific characters, from how they ended up in prison and what their lives are like, it is a fictional comedy.
It has also won an award for it's outstanding single-camera picture editing, this reinforces how much of an impact single camera can have when filming a text you want the audience to engaged with effectively.

Another genre is a soap opera, however this is mostly associated with a multi-camera production due to the rate of which the episodes need to be released, weekly, twice a week, or even more. Some soap operas are produced however with single camera as this keeps the authenticity in tact, especially with the drama that is captured in soap operas, and it is known that the best way to keep the audience intimate with what's occurring in the scene, is delivered through multi-camera. As mentioned previously in the Serial section of the post, there are many examples of soap operas that have lasted over 60 years, due to the episodes never fully giving the audience closure of a situation, a character either leaves with an open door to come back in the future. An example of this is a print screen below, stating of the characters that are returning to the soap opera.

Single Camera
Set up.
Based on the evidence I have explored involving camera techniques of both single camera productions and multi-camera productions. There are advantages and disadvantages of both techniques, it is based on the type of production and what you are shooting for, for which type of set up is preferred. Single camera production is mostly used for movies, this is because there is an allowable time to shoot and perfect each shot. As feature films are criticised not only on the performance, but the techniques behind the camera. Directors have more control over each shot, this means the sounds and lighting of the shot is individual, to get the perfected shot which tells the story as well as the actors on the screen. As previously mentioned in the post, films like  Drive (2011) tell the tales of the story through the lighting and dynamics of the shots captured.
Below is a video explaining the system used by a single camera set up, and how this set up allows the director to control each shot and let the shots and sound track tell the story, it also mentions the quadrant system which some directors favour when shooting with single camera as it is more organised and can have greater effect on the audience without them realising.

Single camera set up can also make the production feel more personal, allowing an intimate connection with the audience, to place the audience 'in the scene' or 'in the action'. Although continuity errors are often more frequent due to accounting for the different characters perspectives throughout the film. This could be seen as an advantage, as a single camera set up makes room for the possibilities of producing a master shot for each scene as well as individual angles. Footage can be shot in a collection even if not in order of the film, this results less time spent waiting for shots, for the cast and crew. Single camera is usually created on a tighter budget than multi-camera as less equipment to order and less money spent on constructing locations, with single camera there are many real locations as your disposal because of the less equipment used. However single camera productions usually run over-time, therefore can be more expensive to run due to the length of filming.  Although not all films are shot single camera, a few may need a second camera to capture a different angle at the same time, and some movies are shot multi-camera due to the broad amount of action scenes that need extra coverage as some stunts can only be filmed once, for example an explosion.

Multi-camera set up. 

The alternative to shooting a moving image product is a Multi-camera production, this is where footage is shot on more than one or two cameras. Mostly used for live shows or to shoot soap operas, however for many different reasons. With a live show, multi-camera allows coverage of each position of the production, editing live, also called 'mixing' which is where the director calls for which camera to switch to, to get perspectives of all that are involved. Often used to shoot shows like X-Factor and Britain's Got Talent and the The Jeremy Kyle Show, which previously in the post has an example that these cameras usually capture each other in shot, which keeps the audience reminded, this is real, this is live. Therefore continuity errors are less frequent, as this is what keeps the 'live' authenticity in tact. As for soap operas, filming can be completed more quickly in the weekly release of episodes, as there are more single takes and fewer re-shoots, which results in a higher chance of being able to edit the footage in time, with more shots to choose from. Although unlike single camera the lighting can be difficult to manage, as there are multiple cameras, getting the lighting the exact same in each shot proves difficult. This reinforces the control the director has over the shots, which is very little compared to single camera, the amount of equipment usually needs more than one director, possibly co-directors or specific managers of one camera. The equipment also poses an issue when it comes to filming in locations, this is limited because of the amount of equipment needed to facilitate a multi-camera set up would not be easy to manuver from location to location. Overall there are different formats and types of media text which requires either the benefits of single camera or multi-camera, both have drawbacks, however it depends what type of shot you want to capture, this determines which one will be better for the production.

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