Shooting multiple angles as a one-man show

Sometimes one camera just isn’t enough. A well-shot scene grows with different perspectives. We explain how to master the challenge of multiple angles though different cameras – as a one-man (or woman!) show.

Filming with more than one camera has significant advantages. As everyone who has watched amateur productions has discovered it: Sticking with one single angle looks cheap and boring. Different perspectives instantly make a scene more interesting. This is why even news anchors turn to different cameras in their studio during longer on-camera segments. 
But there is also an upside from the filmmaker’s perspective: a smaller risk to miss the best moments, be it the famous goal shot by grandma, the first step of your child or the one important statement of the interview. A second camera minimizes the chance of not capturing every precious and unique second. 
And this isn’t just something for pros or teams. With a small investment and a little bit of preparation, multi-angle shoots are feasible for everyone. Here we walk you through the phases of effective two-camera filming.

Filming with video camera from several angles
Filming one scene from several angles

1. Preparation is crucial: Know your gear.

First things first: Even if you don’t need two people, you will definitely need two cameras. If possible, use the same camera model for each camera, and configure them as similarly as you can. This makes the post-production process a lot easier, especially with issues of color matching. 

Second, have a close look at what is underneath your camera. As you will be moving between them, make sure you have a sturdy tripod for each camera that you won’t be holding. 

Third, check that your cameras have remote control capabilities. You need to be able to start and stop them from a distance. 

Pro tip for scripted scenes and interviews: If the scene is scripted or can be repeated without major problems, you can also try to film the scene multiple times with one camera. In this case, take the audio from one of the angles and apply it to the final cut. And remember, you can always show the person who is not talking. That way you get to see that person’s reaction.

2. Know your setup.

Preparations, step two: now that you have the right gear, check the setup. Make sure you have storage media in each camera that is large enough to record the entire event. Or at least have a plan for switching storage media one after the other during filming. The worst-case scenario: Several cameras run out of storage media at the same time in the middle of the shoot. This could potentially lead to some very embarrassing situations where you’ve missed something critical on each camera, or you become a distraction as you run from camera to camera in a panic swapping out storage media. 

Choose your filming mode, and decide whether it will be best to use auto settings for each camera or whether you should set them manually, including focus. This is one of the configurations you should be aware of the moment you enter the set. And don’t forget to verify just before the shoot because light or other conditions might have changed. Be flexible and adapt accordingly. 

Next, synchronize each camera’s clock before filming. This makes editing a lot easier, as you might be able to use time stamps for automatic synchronization in your non-linear editing system (NLE) later on. 

Even if you feel comfortable with your equipment, we highly recommend setting up a test shoot well beforehand, even if you have to do it at an alternate location, and even if you plan on shooting in your own studio or location. This is important for you to get to know and to run through the entire process, so you’ve done it at least once before the pressure is on and every second counts.

3. Know your setting!

Now focus on the surroundings. How much space do you have? Are there people who need to pass by your cameras, and can this be avoided? Are there unexpected sources of noise? Do your best to picture the entire process up front and understand the location and the sequence of events. 

Also, don’t forget to check the light. Where does it come from? Is it artificial or natural? Plan your setup accordingly, including the question: Do you need spotlights? 

This is also the moment to think about the angles of your cameras and what they should focus on: the face of an interviewee? Gestures or movements? Or the entire setting? This is something you shouldn’t neglect, as it has huge impact on the final result. 

Once this is done, make a detailed plan for setting everything up, starting and stopping recording. This helps you to cope better with unexpected events during filming.

4. Hear, hear! Quality audio for multiple cameras

One of the trickiest things in filming with more than one camera is the sound. This requires special attention. First of all, make sure that you have a dedicated pair of headphones connected to each camera, so you can easily monitor the audio of any camera at any time. Do not mess with the headphone plug and jack of the cameras while recording, as this may result in cracking noise and shaky footage.

Just as you record the image on each of your cameras, always record the audio for every camera. This will be invaluable for synchronization later in your NLE, especially since some NLEs can analyze the audio to automatically synchronize your footage.

Consider shooting some background footage without the main action or the main conversation. This is known as “B roll” and can save you when your cameras capture something that is boring or inappropriate to show. You can cut to a B-roll clip while still hearing the main audio and cover up anything you don’t want the viewer to see.

Pro tip for scripted scenes and interviews: You can try taking your scene in one long shot and without pauses in between. Alfred Hitchcock was known for this kind of technique as was Woody Allen. The record is held by Allen with a scene of over 15 continuously shot minutes!

5. At the scene

Now that your equipment and you are prepared, don’t neglect the following checkboxes on the big day:

  • Find a secure and convenient staging area where you can keep all of your gear and equipment during the shoot for easy access.
  • Keep the cameras as close to each other as possible while still getting the angles you need so that you can more easily get from one to the other if you need to.
  • Find secure locations for each camera where a passerby won’t bump into them.
  • Make sure the tally light is on for each camera, so you can see whether it is recording.

And finally: Do your best to make sure you capture every moment with the camera you’re holding or operating most often. If all others fail, you know that at least one camera has everything!

Because if all else fails, in the end, you absolutely must have at least one good recording to deliver the project. Don’t compromise the main recording in attempting to capture all of the others. The main recording is your lifeline. You must have that at least!

14 thoughts on “Shooting multiple angles as a one-man show

  1. Sound quality is awful on many home movies and ‘net videos. So just take a moment to listen to the location where you plan to shoot. Many such productions are unintelligible due to the echoes and reverberations within the room they are shot in. Choose a location where these distortions are minimal – test the room’s distortion by clapping your hands once and listening to hear what comes back at you. Use directional mikes as close to each of the subjects, without them actually being in shot.
    Outdoors, there’s always background noise, but unless its a necessary part of the video, minimise it by carefull choice of location. (TV presenters are articularly prone to this ‘noise is OK it’s part of the ‘ambience’ approach!) You can always record the noises off separately, and dub it in during editing.) Remember that many older people loose the ability to distinguish spoken words from intrusive background noises – try to keep ALL of your audience happy and connected!
    I’m still a novice at this, but already I’ve found that using a slideshow program during editing footage lets me combine video with graphic and other material when I’m putting together documentary/demonstration shorties. This technique would improve very many of the DIY-type short ‘how to’ videos out there on the ‘net. Short ‘combos’ of this type can be inserted into slideshows to make specific points, and are far superior to the tedious ‘text plus pic’ PowerPoint slides that so many speakers use to parade their rigid presentations before bored and irritated audiences!

  2. Thanks for this information. How do I synchronize the sound of multiple cameras in Vegas Pro 16……i always just use the sound but ain’t there a better and quicker way.

  3. When shooting with more than one device (or recording sound separately) I will clap my hands 3 time in quick succession. You can do this at the beginning (which I do) or the end of a shot. That way, when you get into your video editing software you can sync your different clips by looking for the 3 sharp wav forms in your audio tracks and matching them to each other. And if you forget to clap at the beginning of your shoot, you can always do it at the end. Or you can begin AND end the shot with 3 quick claps. That way you have two different places to line up.

  4. I have been doing this kind of work for quite a few years, and would endorse these really helpful – and sound – directions.
    I would add that I generally connect an external mic (Rode NTG2) to my ‘safe’ camera. This enables me to place the mic in a location where the best sound pickup is possible, which is not always the same location as the cameras (you can have things like children eating crisps, or people chatting, next to your camera, which is not good for your final edit!).
    And I really should do more B-roll footage. I’ll take this as a reminder.

  5. Interesting. I have been shooting live performances for years but there is only one take. If a mistake is made the show is not going to stop and do it over. There are people that walk in front of the camera but some duck down. It can’t be avoided so I have a “tower cam” 10 feet up in the air with ptz. I use the “close-up cam” on a good tripod and during post I can switch between the two cameras. For quality audio I connect to the stage sound system with a direct recorder and mix in the audio from the cameras. It works out well. This is a great hobby for a retired person and my customers like my work.

  6. Good article. I would add that if you are going to shoot with two cameras, be sure that the second camera is set up in a significantly different way from the first by both position and focal length. In terms of position, the second camera should be at least 45 degrees away from the first camera, higher or lower, and perhaps closer in or farther out. If the second camera’s position isn’t significantly different, then there really is no compelling reason not to just stay with the first camera then. If boredom is the concern, then you should consider cutting to B roll or insert shots of photographs or other things related to the story. There is something called the Simon Principle which says that a well-composed static shot is better than a moving shot that makes no sense. If you are going to cut to something, give the audience something worthwhile; otherwise, it is okay to stay put.

  7. Your blogs are a 6 monthly embarrassment. You are seen by other NLE users as an unprofessional piece of software. Such a shame. You could be so much more than you are but I don’t think you care enough to make it happen. This ‘magazine’ just typifies the lack of interest you have in making your product better. It’s like a carry over from when Sony had it. They never put any effort in either. I’ve been using Vegas since 2004. I’ve earned my living from it over that time probably averaging 30hrs per week over those 15 years. It’s got to a point where you are really behind the curve. You used to be ahead – many of the ways Vegas does things have been adopted by others over the years. I remember when Final Cut showed their fading clip handles on the edges of a clip and how the audience gasped when Vegas had had that for years. There have been lots of instances of that. But your tools are dated now. Newer tools that are included aren’t very efficient and implemented in an amateur fashion and the constant crashes I have because your team and Hit Film’s team can’t (in my opinion) sort out how ignite plugins work together means that I am on the last stages of being able to work with what once was a great piece of software.

    I hope that when 17 Pro (if it is going to happen) comes out that you have upped your game and moved with your loyal user base into a more modern way of using new methods because if not i think this once great programme will die as a professional NLE and that I feel would be a real shame.

  8. Those same tips we used 20 years ago,
    That post looks ancient.
    *What Vegasy in it?
    ** Indeed I would love to read about projects, if they will be accompanied with few timeline sections snapshots that will show practical technic for all to benefit.

  9. Does Vegas Pro Edit 16 do this and if so how? Thanks, great article!

    always record the audio for every camera. This will be invaluable for synchronization later in your NLE, especially since some NLEs can analyze the audio to automatically synchronize your footage.

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