Learn how to capture a scene with a single camera

Published by bizprat on

Shooting with a single camera can be the best way to cover a scene, and that’s why.

Every filmmaker knows that every film starts with a solid foundation. A movie needs a foundation to build on before all the intricate details are added later. To create that solid ground, a cameraman needs to sit down and plan how to cover a scene, including discussing what camera angles and shooting size are best for each scene.

Many directors would like to be covered by multiple cameras, and some directors stick to the traditional way of filmmaking with a single camera. There is no “best” way to make a movie, but we have a few tips that could get you to use one camera for the rest of your filmmaking career. While using a single camera isn’t the fastest way to capture footage, it’s still an iconic way of making your film personal and uniquely stylized.

Get coverage

Before you can capture a scene with a single camera, you need to understand the concept of coverage.

In order to compose a scene, there must be several camera angles and recordings that can be worked with and joined together. The reporting process includes taking a master shot. The master recording records the entire action and dialogue of a scene. As soon as the master recording is made, a variety of other settings are rotated from different angles, positions and sections. In this way, a scene is captured from multiple angles and can be cut together with parts from a collection of recordings. A script supervisor is there to ensure that there are no continuity errors that spoil the illusion of the film.

There are other great ways to capture scenes that don’t need to be edited together.

A long take is a great way to film an entire scene, but it requires perfection. There’s no way for an editor to change the tempo of the scene, avoid mistakes, or insert the best moments of a performance. Blocking, performance, camera movement, and focus must be carefully planned and rehearsed before the camera gets rolling. There are ways to hide cuts from visible, but that is a skill you can read about here.


‘Son of Saul’Credit: Mozinet

Why take photos with a single camera?

Many directors who shoot with multiple cameras do so because it allows them to capture more footage in a short amount of time. This allows the director and cameraman to quickly capture footage and get back to the editing process as quickly as possible. Filmmakers who like to edit their films quickly, such as Edgar Wright, usually take in multiple angles while filming and take the extra time in post-production to work on each scene together.

Using multiple cameras is beneficial for dialogue scenes as the cameras capture the actor’s reactions to the dialogue in real time and allow the best performance to be selected from the footage. Multiple cameras are also great for scenes that can only occur once.

Blown up hospitals, dangerous stunts, or actors shaving their heads are a one-time thing, and multiple cameras capturing the one-time event can provide more angles to create a dynamic scene.

The problem with using multiple cameras is its limitations. While there are great advantages to using multiple cameras, there is always the possibility that you will need to change your angle of view to make sure there is no other camera in the recording. Adjusting to use two cameras may also require different focal lengths, which will blur most of the background in a close-up. Unfortunately, not all cameras have the option to use a wider lens that will allow you to get the shot you want. Also, shooting with multiple cameras can be expensive. Renting multiple cameras for weeks or months can be expensive, and that doesn’t even include paying for the extra camera crew required to run those cameras.

All of these limitations can be removed by using a camera. Although shooting with a single camera is more time consuming, filmmakers can carefully create scenes that require focus and perfection. These things cannot always be achieved with multiple cameras as the focus is on making sure the image is perfect, not the performance. With a single camera, a director can focus on the nuances needed to highlight the underlying themes of the film or create tension between characters.


‘1917’Credit: Universal images

Here’s how to record a scene with a single camera

Imagine taking photos with a single camera as if you were going to a party. When you first step in, you have a wide field of view of the room and everyone in it. This first scan of the room is the first wide-angle shot. This recording establishes who and where everyone and everything is in the room. Starting with a wide angle shot helps the script supervisor minimize the continuity errors later in the scene and helps the actors become familiar with their character before the camera moves in for close-ups. That first wide-angle shot should capture the entire scene from start to finish before you move closer and closer with the camera.

As you gain more confidence in the scene, move around the room and capture casual conversations in a medium shot. With each new setup, move the camera closer to the actors to capture the required angles while also getting the footage needed to cut the scene together.

In dialogue scenes, the camera starts with one actor before capturing the other actor in the middle of the recording. At the end of a scene there should be one wide angle, two medium settings, and two close-ups. This is the standard filmmakers follow when filming with a single camera.

Once you master this technique, start experimenting and confusing the order in which a scene is created and how the scene is put together.


‘Jackie Brown’Credit: Miramax films

With all of these basic shots, you should have enough footage for the cutter. Once you understand this basic formula, you can experiment with inventive methods to cover an entire scene. It is important to note that the camera should always help with storytelling and should not be used to show your skills. The camera work should not distract the viewer from the story. In the end, chic camera work can be cool, but the best way to tell a story in film is with the tried and tested method that has been around since the beginning of the film.

What do you think of filming with a single camera? Let us know in the comments below!

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