Video Switcher

Six Things to Avoid when Directing a Multi-Camera Production

The foundational principle for video directors is to support and enhance the viewer’s experience without calling attention to what they are doing. Here are some sure fire ways disrupt the smooth flow of content from the source to the viewer:

1. Using “special effects” type transitions. 

For most productions there are only two acceptable transitions, the cut and the dissolve. A cut is never wrong, but the dissolve can be used to enhance certain situations. Using the church service setting as an example, cuts should be used exclusively during the delivery of the sermon or message. Dissolves here do nothing to enhance but do subconsciously distract. Likewise, during uptempo music, the dissolve transition tends to fight instead of enhance the pace and energy of the situation.

The dissolve, by nature a smooth, flowing transition can support and enhance some portions of a church service, namely slow music and prayer.

2. Cutting between similar shots of the same subject

A transition between a head to toe shot of the subject to another head to toe shot of the same subject from a different angle leaves the viewer with the subconscious question, “why?” Transitions between shots of the same subject should vary significantly in “closeness”.

3. Dissolving a face through a face.

When dissolving between two shots of people (either the same person or different ones), first offset the two images so that one face does not materialize in the middle of the other face. That type of transition can create a subliminal jolt.

4. Changing shots too often (or not often enough).

This is a lot more subjective than the other problems. A good director will eventually acquire the skill of “feeling” the pace of the program. A faster pace is enhanced by more frequent transitions, often on the downbeat of music, while slower paces are supported with longer times on individual shots. Once you are familiar with the equipment and operations, begin mentally engaging in the program, and your transition pace will flow naturally.

5. Starting zooms or movements after taking a shot.

If a camera is to be moving, it should begin its movement before it is “taken”. It’s generally OK for the motion to be completed while the camera is “live”, but starting the motion after selecting the camera is generally not preferred.

6. “Crossing the Line”

This problem occurs when a transition is made to a camera on the opposite side of the eye line between the subject and the one or ones with whom they are relating. A church related example would be a situation when one camera is located to the left side of the audience and the other is on the right side. The shot from the left side of the audience will show the subject facing to the right side of the frame. The other cameras image will show the facing to the left side of the frame. Cutting directly from one to the other will make the subject suddenly change direction.

For three camera installations, this is not an ideal placement, but if you are stuck with it, always make a transition through a center camera, rather than directly from one side to the other.

There are some who may disagree with some of these principles, and that’s OK, and this list is certainly not exhaustive, but these are good to consider as you contemplate your directing from the perspective of the viewer.

In a coming post we’ll take a look at framing of camera shots from the viewpoint of both the camera operator and the director.

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