Friday, January 29, 2010


For a new challenge I wanted to try shooting a scene with two cameras running simultaneously to lend added perspective to what's going on. Ultimately my goal is to shoot and produce nature documentaries, but to do so effectively I believe it's important to show the wildlife subject up close coupled to wider shots in its natural environment. Certainly this can be done with consecutive video shots using just one camera and switching between 2 (or more) lenses...... certainly this is the most portable means when tramping the hinterlands. That said, if two cameras can be brought to bear on a single subject at the same time, a certain continuity can be achieved when watching a wildlife subject close & personal and simultaneously from further away as it interacts with its surroundings.

To that end, I needed to hone a skill set in both the physical setup and actual running of two cameras together, then tying the two video clips later on the computer. Just to add some extra fun to the mix, I introduced a third parameter -- remote audio recording to be sync'd in as well.

I'm doing everything the hard way on a number of fronts:

1. Video dslr's.....the bad: everything is manual, ergonomics ain't the greatest, h.264 codec is efficient for recording but overloads a PC, recorded sound is not the best using the built in mono-microphone and really puts a need for an external microphone. Also, Canon has seen fit to mandate Auto Gain Control in its built in audio recording, resulting in a low hiss when recording quiet subjects as the camera "strains" to hear something.

.......the good: FANTASTIC 1080p video quality, lots of lens choices, ability to isolate subject from background with thin Depth of Field, the cameras themselves are relatively inexpensive (my wife may not agree) to purchase compared to pro vid cameras (but the needed accessories will kill ya! Karen would agree to that, I KNOW).

2. Adobe Premiere Pro CS4......the bad: PC version won't scrub the .mov vidclip files smoothly for editing; you need 3rd party software to transcode into more PC-friendly format. (I use Cineform's Neoscene, others use Streamclip). Also PP CS4 is expensive and a bugger to learn -- it's NOT intuitive at all. Anyone gonna produce a "Premiere Pro CS4 for Dummies"? I'll buy a copy.

.........the good: very powerful editing suite, can do lots of stuff with it. Easy when you know how (I just haven't figured out "how" yet....). Get lots of respect when you tell people you "post process in CS4" (because no one else on this planet knows "how" either. We all just pretend we do to impress each other).

3. Using outside audio - Zoom H4N audio recorder......the bad: a real pain to sync with video in post processing in CS4 (see '2' above), it's another set of controls to fuss with -- 'record' button requires TWO pushes to activate - how dumb is that?, use of clapboard not the best technique when filming nervous subjects like whitetail deer, songbirds, armed Brinks guards.

......the good: excellent sound (when you actually DO remember to push the 'record' button TWO FRICKEN' TIMES), small size, light weight, and fairly robust design.

4. DVD burning/uploading to Vimeo.......the bad: relates to '2' above (no surprise there, eh?) -- how to burn a disk that will actually PLAY on a DVD player without some stupid "disk error" message scrolling across the screen, how to find a way to upload a video clip to Vimeo that will actually look good.

........the good: after wasting 50 or so blank DVD's and the same number of hours I finally figured things out. (Well, blank disks ARE cheap and everyone has a DVD player to watch your creative masterpiece). Again, it's easy when you know how (I use Nero 9 to burn AVDHD format to DVD - works like a charm and looks great on my 1080p LCD bigscreen TV). With Vimeo I just transcode to 720p .mov first, then upload -- looks good on the Vimeo website.

And so it goes. I learned how to use PP CS4 to sync the video and cut back and forth from one camera to the next: Next time I hope to have jumpy whitetail deer or songbirds (I'll pass on the Brinks guys). Here is the multicam setup I used with a Canon 5Dmk2 (24-70L wideangle) and 7D (100-400L telephoto):

How to fill a birdfeeder from David Rilstone on Vimeo.

I haven't gone into the step-by-step of camera settings (get Phil Bloom's DVD in my Jan 5th blog!), nor the Premiere Pro CS4 steps, etc. etc. for sake of brevity. If there's any further specific info you would like, post your email in the comment section below with your question(s) or email me directly at

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