Sunday I headed downtown to crew on a friend's film project. It was pretty last-minute because a couple of crew members weren't available. Seeing as it was Easter Sunday, I wasn't too surprised. We were shooting at a tourist bar on the riverwalk. Even though we had two hours on premises before they opened for business, the place was a lively echo chamber of raw noise. Coolers, compressors, ice machines, the screech of stacked metal chairs being dragged across the cement floor, and employees double-checking with one another the daily specials from opposite side of the place. Blacken tilapia. But the manager, Mimi, was very accommodating. We had the upper bar all to ourselves until three, and she kept the music off for us. There were two shop lights on a single stand. I bounced them off the ceiling, and then checked it out in my camera's monitor. There was some pleasing shadows. But later, I noticed that the other camera had not only not been white balanced, but was cranked opened so the light was flat and unvariegated. In the interest of civility, I kept my mouth shut. And in the interest of delivering a better chance of matching these two cameras (of different manufactures), I shifted my settings a bit brighter.
I've mixed feelings about running a two camera shoot. I've only done it twice. The first time I was producing and directing a recruitment film for a university's graduate department. I kept my GL2 on a tripod for all the interviews, and another camera operator used a PD150, keeping it handheld and constantly in motion. The idea was to be able to generate perfected synched jump cuts. We fed the audio into the stationary camera. I did an intriguing and dynamic edit where I desaturated the footage from the moving camera and bled out the edges with a Gaussian blur. It was funky, but the client chose the more sedate edit which only used the interview footage from the stationary footage.
The second time I used a second camera was in the restaurant scene in my short, “I Do Adore Cream Corn.” Alston had recently bought a GL2, so I knew the footage would match. And I plugged both cameras into my field monitor, which takes two feeds. I could toggled back and forth between cameras A and B, and make sure we were getting visual parity. I decided on a second camera because I only had the location for two hours, and I needed to shoot about three pages. The two hours were for set-up, tear-down, and the orchestrating of about a dozen extras and five featured performers. I planned it out in advance. Light for wide shots. Decide which couplets of set-ups would best facilitate in the editing process. It's a technique that provides certain solutions, while at the same time introducing new problems. But we moved through without any significant snags. And, man, we got that stuff done fast, with time to spare.
So, my advice on multiple camera work is to either do it all the time so that you become adept at it, or plan it out damn tight in advance. Half-assing with two cameras in a run-and-gun approach is guaranteed to bite you when you get around to editing. Mismatched cameras, different shooters with different aesthetics, compromised lighting, and the occasional redundant angle (“I told you to go wide!” “oh no, you told me to go tight!”).
After the shoot, I headed to Pete and Lisa's for Easter dinner. When I rang the bell, Cooper flung open the door. “Uncle Erik, Uncle Erik,” he shouted, as Ripley and Hazel barked and snapped and danced across the foyer. “Uncle Erik, I'm five years old and I've lost two teeth.” Clearly he knew that I was well aware how old he was. Pete cleared it up later. “He's the only one in his class who's lost two teeth.” So that was it. He meant he was only five, yet had ALREADY lost two teeth. Clearly well ahead of the tyke pack.
Earlier, Jean had called. I told her I'd call her back. When I got home I climbed under the covers — because it was still freezing — and had a nice long chat about what we've both been up to and what I'm missing out on in Dallas.
Not a bad Easter. I succeeding in avoiding almost any exposure to Jesus or bunnies.