Live streaming rig with multiple cameras and video switcher

Multi camera production. Could this be the way forward for your next project?

Multi-camera production is a filming technique where more than one camera is used to capture video. Most people are familiar with this technique without realising it. You will have seen multi-camera production in action if you watch TV. Sports coverage, chat shows, magazine programmes, quiz shows, and news programmes, all use the technique. Multi-camera production allows the director of a programme to cut between viewpoints. This is much more exciting and immersive for viewers than a single fixed perspective.

A typical multi-camera production uses changes of angle to draw the viewer’s attention. A good example is an exchange between host and guest on a chat show. Wide-angle views of a whole stage are mixed with closeups of the talent as they converse. In this example, changes of viewpoint create a sense of context, while also focussing on each speaker as they talk. 

Pre-recorded or live.

Pre-recorded production.

In a pre-recorded production setting, each camera will record continuously. The footage is then edited together to make a finished video. This allows retakes and edits to take place, giving more control over the final product. Changes of angle can be used to cover edits, so whole sections can be cut completely if needed. This is a common method for filming things like interviews, because it allows for multiple takes, editing out gaffs, etc.

Live production.

In a live production setting, the video signal from each camera is sent to a production switcher. These feeds are then cut between in real-time and the output is broadcast or recorded as a continuous programme. This type of multi-camera production is used for sports coverage, live TV shows, concerts, and so on. The action can’t be stopped in these situations and part of their appeal is the feeling of immediacy.

multi camera production camera switcher

The Blackmagic Design ATEM Television Studio Pro HD, a typical live production switcher.

Learn more about production switchers.

Video resources needed for multi-camera production.

In a pre-recorded multi-camera setup, all we need are cameras for recording and software for editing. We also need a computer to run the software, of course. 

In a live multi-camera setup, we will need a production switcher to combine the incoming video signals. We will also need to get the signals from the cameras to the switcher. Specialist cables or wireless systems are needed to do this as consumer HDMI cables only work over short distances. We also need some kind of stand-alone video recorder and/or a streaming encoder for internet broadcast. The recording and streaming are sometimes handled by a computer. 

The image below shows a typical live multi camera setup to live stream a seminar or conference. In this example three cameras are used. Slides from the presenter’s laptop can also be shown as part of the video.

a multi camera production setup with three cameras and a presenter laptop

Handling audio during multi-camera production.

We need some way to capture the audio in any video production. This is quite straightforward with a single camera; a microphone or other audio source is plugged into our camera and voila! However, things become a little more complex if we’re capturing video from multiple sources. This is because our audio needs to come from a single source to be consistent. 

Master audio, from a single camera, can be used throughout, in a pre-recorded multi-camera production. Video from the other cameras can then be synced to this in our editing software. The audio remains consistent because it has come from a single source.

We can apply a similar principle during live multi-camera production. However, we have a choice of methods for achieving this. 

We can bring the audio into the system later in the chain, bypassing our video switcher. However, this can cause lip-sync problems because video takes time to process and will be late compared to the audio. This means that, the audio will need to be delayed using software or a hardware delay. line 

However, some video switchers allow audio from a single camera to persist, even when another camera is live. This allows audio from a master camera to be embedded into the switching process, therefore remaining in sync with the video.

Find out more about Mooma Media’s live production services.

When is it a good idea to use multi-camera production?

Any content that can benefit from multiple viewpoints can benefit from multi-camera treatment. This could simply be for visual interest when capturing something like a performance. Or, it could be used to provide improved visual information when capturing a practical demo.

Pre-recorded multi-camera production is suited to situations when you can edit your video after the event. We may want to record several takes and use the most successful sections from each. Or, we may want to remove unwanted material, including mistakes. Having footage from multiple cameras makes editing easier in this kind of production. This is because we can use changes of angle to effectively paper over the cracks.

When we need to capture a continuous, real-time event, live multi-camera production is ideal. Events with a live audience can’t be paused to retake a shot or to re-set a camera, so editing later isn’t an option. Capturing events like live performances, lectures, and seminars demands live production.

Are there any disadvantages to multi-camera production?

It’s obviously a far more complex process to shoot with multiple cameras than it is to film with a single camera. It requires additional equipment and expertise; and has additional points of potential failure. 

However, trained personnel using professional-grade equipment can elevate video to a much higher level with multi-camera production. In many respects, multi-camera production is the key to truly impressive video content.

Mooma Media brings a range of video production and live production services to individuals, businesses, and non-commercial ventures in the West Midlands region. I offer competitive quotes to produce website and social media marketing videos and to support both live and virtual events. To find out more about any of my media production services, please use the contact button below.



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