I’m new to shooting, and I’m about to shoot a marketing video for my company. It’s just two people talking to each other in the office.

I want the rhythm of the dialogue to be pretty fast, so I’m wondering if I should do it single camera or with two cameras. I’m mostly worried about editing dialogue together with multiple angles coming from different takes since the dialogue is very fast and often has people talking over and interrupting each other.

–Shania, New York

Shooting two cameras for complicated dialogue is a great idea– but it’s a very high degree of difficulty if you’re new to shooting video. Because you are, I suggest you shoot single camera.

Multi-cam is a great time-saver if you’re in a hurry. It’s a great budget-saver if you’re doing stunts or other expensive shots, and you can’t afford to repeat them all day long. It’s great for capturing doc footage, reality shows, or scenes with a lot of improv.

But shooting multi-cam is actually harder to keep track of on the set than a single camera. Suddenly you have to remember all the visual and audio details of what you just shot with TWO cameras! Were those overlapping lines clear? Did she use the same hand to pick up her file folder as that last take? Experienced directors often picture the edit in their heads as they shoot. But if you’re new, you’ll have plenty of other things to think about on the set. You’ll more likely end up with unusable dialogue, shots that don’t cut together, or both. Instead of getting more great footage to play with, you’ll miss things in both cameras.

Traditional Hollywood single-cam coverage is an important skill to have in your shooting arsenal. All professional directors understand it, use it, or riff on it to plan their coverage. It’s the easiest way to keep track of what you’re shooting, and get something that can be edited into a great scene. Once you internalize how this coverage works, it’s easier to break the rules and develop your own style.

Cover your scene with your single camera by shooting the whole thing multiple times. Start with a couple of wide angles, then few two-shots (both people in the frame), and finally singles (just one person in frame) for each actor. Make sure you get each bit of dialogue “clean”– that is, without anyone talking over anyone else– in your two-shots and singles. This doesn’t mean you can’t let them overlap in some takes, just make sure you ALSO get good performances that are clean.

What you’ll end up with is “traditional” Hollywood scene coverage. Films and television have been doing it every day since talkies started. It’s not super-arty, but it works.

Finally, about your dialogue question: That organic feel and comedy timing? In the real world that’s accomplished in the edit. If you shoot your scene right, with great coverage and great performances, the editor can change a frame here and a frame there to make the timing perfect, give you the overlaps and speed you want, and find organic humor where you may not have thought there was any in the first place.

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