Why This is a Bad Idea

On Saturday evening I shot a product commercial on a white cyc, and the director had a very specific request: he wanted two cameras, side by side on a Dana dolly, on one tripod head. Somewhat similar to a side by side 3D rig, but he wanted to put different focal length lenses on each camera to shoot two framings of the same action at the same time. My argument against was overruled, and we did it anyway. It didn’t work.

To start, lateral dolly moves on a cyc usually aren’t a great idea. In a wide shot they don’t really show much movement – you’ve got a single color background and very little elements in frame to show motion. You see very, very little movement.

The easiest, fastest way to get multiple framings out of the same movement is to shoot in a higher resolution and punch in during post. For a web commercial like this, that was my recommendation. Shoot in 4K, finish in 2K, and punch in for your close up. For some projects (features or projects where you need to shoot at your camera’s max resolution) this might not be ideal, but even with those I would recommend shooting multiple takes with multiple lens options.

The big problem with this dual camera system is that you can’t frame independently. For a close up you usually want to be angled either higher or lower than your wide if you want to capture your talent’s face. With both cameras on one tripod head, you only get one usable camera, or you get one with a pleasing frame and the other with a non-optimal framing (top of head cut off, too much headroom, etc). You also have the problem of pulling focus on the cameras. Without two 1st ACs each with a follow focus, how are you going to track focus during the movement?

In short, you probably all knew this wouldn’t work just by looking at the picture. If you didn’t know this wouldn’t work, I’m glad you came to read my rant so you can prepare for an instance where you might have a director ask about this. Show them this post and give them a resounding “no.”

Any setups that a director made you do in the past that you knew wouldn’t work? Sound off in the comments below!

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