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3 Cool Multi-camera Production Tricks of the Trade

By: Joseph Johnson

With multi-camera integration being a key component of nonlinear editors like Final Cut X and Premiere Pro, it’s become a staple part of the production workflow for those individuals doing interviews.  As an editor I see all kinds of footage and I would like to talk about a few handy techniques that can help with this increasingly common production workflow.

For many, the multi-camera premise is deceivingly simple.  Light your scene, mic your talent, start Camera A, start Camera B, then press record to fire and forget.  Upload at your editing workstation then viola, magic!

Not so fast.

Here are 3 “tricks” that will save you a lot of time when working with multi-cam.


DSLR cameras have become more popular with shooters because of their small form factor and interchangeable lenses.  Unfortunately, most DSLRS are not designed for extended shooting and their sensors overheat after about 20-30 mins causing an automatic shutdown of recording activities.  This doesn’t make them impossible to use for multicamera shooting, however it does create some issues with syncing later one.  Additionally if you’re shooting with two identical DSLR cameras, starting them to run simultaneously will result in both of them cutting off at the same time.  To get around this, stagger the record time by a couple minutes.  This will allow you to swap out cards and restart the camera.  Have your cards on standby.  A lot of DSLRs have multiple slots that allow recording across media and negate the need to do a hot swap.  Video cameras are designed for shooting for longer stints and you can find more and more cameras that take interchangeable lenses that give you that great cinematic look.  I would recommend at LEAST one video camera in a multi-cam setup for stability and reliability.


With any shoot, stuff DOES go wrong.  Cameras start and stop.  Planes don’t reroute over your production.  Dogs are gonna bark.  It is what it is.  Hopefully a solid location scout prior to shooting will afford you some insight as to what to expect.  That being said, always have ALL of your cameras recording audio as this is used as the sync point by your nonlinear editor in post and (most importantly) have SOME kind of independent uninterrupted audio capture device (like a TASCAM or other digital audio recorder) recording AT ALL TIMES.  I cannot stress the importance of this enough as this is THE most reliable way to automatically align your different audio and video footage sources in post.  The fidelity of these sources isn’t as important as the data is used for the alignment process HOWEVER this audio can be life saving should one of your other audio sources be unusable for whatever reason. If your “master” audio source has breaks for whatever reason, CONSOLIDATE the audio files into ONE file prior to auto syncing in your nonlinear editing application.  This will help you to avoid the notorious “sync error” issues that arise.  Additionally, make sure your audio sample rates match as this can also cause those same errors.  Also, when all devices are recording, implement a visual hand clap or slate marker as a fail-safe just in case you run into any technical issues that prevent automatic syncing.  These markers show up clearly in the waveform in your editor and can be manually aligned with ease.


A decent editing system with sufficient processing power and RAM can cut footage from a variety of sources with little to no effort whatsoever.  Multi-cam footage is a little more difficult to manage considering that you will have multiple video files running SIMULTANEOUSLY in your browser as you cut.  Because of this, your laptop may begin to choke a bit under the pressure.  To circumvent this problem somewhat, make sure you have dedicated sufficient RAM to the application and close other applications in the background.  Additionally, down-converting your video to a lower resolution for an “offline” edit may be beneficial to you if you’re seeing significant performance issues.  You can then “online” your project and replace those lower resolution files with higher resolution files when your edit is “picture locked.”  Apple and Adobe both have compression apps that work great for this purpose.  Input your raw video and apply any of the presets (or make your own) and leave your video to bake into smaller, more manageable files.

Considering these issues should make your shoot much less painful and contribute to a successful multi-camera production.


Categories: DDMC Info

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