Choosing whether to do a production as a single-camera or a multi-camera production

If trying to work out whether to film something as a single-camera production, or as a multi-camera production, here's some consideration points:

For a talking head, a tour around the factory, an instructional video, et cetera, a single camera production is probably how best to do that kind of job (stop/start filming, short segments, segments filmed in different places).  But to cover some sort of live performance (a concert, a band, theatrical work, conferences), anything lengthy, and anything that involves filming something that can't be repeated, it's probably best done multi-camera.

A multi-camera production is more interesting to watch than a single-camera production.  Multi-camera work is like most television shows that you watch, there are different points of view throughout the show, as needed.  A single camera can only show from one point of view, to change viewpoint means stopping and starting recording while you change where the camera is placed (and missing something, in the meantime), or the camera has to drift from one spot to another, and you can see it moving around.

Multi-camera productions can be made by filming with independent cameras, then editing them all together, or live-switching between cameras on the location (the cameras are all cabled together, and centrally controlled).  Independent filming is more expensive, because of all the post-production editing time (the length of the production, times the number of cameras, plus the extra time involved per edit).  Live-switching is virtually edited as you go along, so the production is finished at the end of the filming; and the director is controlling what all the cameras are doing, as they're filming, so all the shots are co-ordinated.

We can produce a live-switched multi-camera production for about the same costs as a single camera production, sometimes cheaper, and certainly faster.  A live-switched multi-camera job's production costs are easy to work out, up front.  It's the costs of what you do on the filming day (set up, film, pack up, transportation and materials), since there's usually no need for any editing after the event.  A single-camera job will involved editing, and it's hard to estimate how much editing will be required.  But, generally, editing time is several times as long as the material that's being edited:

  1. You watch the unedited material, take notes, and decide which bits to use (this takes at least as long as how long all the material is).
  2. You edit them together (this takes as long as each clip lasts, plus the time involved in finding the right bits).
  3. You check the edits as you go along (either taking as long as each clip lasts, or just checking the beginning and ending moments).
  4. Sound editing is done separately than video editing (so this takes as long as each sound clip takes).

Almost all work involves some editing.  Single camera work involves editing each individual shot, plus the sound.  Multiple independent cameras, likewise (multiplied by the number of cameras).  But live-switched multi-camera productions involve little more than putting titles on the beginning and end, which may be possible to do live, but editing the middle of the production shouldn't be necessary unless something went wrong.

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