How to do a three camera shoot with one camera

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The headline is correct. There is a way to combine the capabilities of some video switchers with a single HD video camera to create the impression of a three or four camera shoot. We did it yesterday for a live broadcast. The results are quite impressive…

How do you make a single camera look like four different cameras? You a need only two things using mature existing technology to make this happen: an HD video camera with an SDI output, and a switcher that can create independent previews from the same source using wipes and zoom inherent in the switcher. Let’s start with the camera stuff first. The camera needs to be mounted in a central/centered location that allows a clear and unobstructed view of a podium or stage. With today’s HD cameras a distance of 40-60 feet straight back from the stage will work perfectly. Set the camera to full HD resolution and center a single wide shot in the finder. The camera is now setup. Everything else will be done in the switcher.

Let’s say on the stage you have four people sitting in chairs having a conversation. You are going to want to have at your disposal the following shots: the moderator, individual people and everyone. Prior to the start of an event or live broadcast as was the case with us we used the capabilities in the switcher to zoom in and set up each of these particular shots using only portions of the entire wide shot that the camera had been set up for. Each one of these shots, or subsets of the total available image is then loaded as a preset in the switcher and assigned a preview window on the switcher. Voila’ you now have a selection of inputs similar to having three or four HD cameras plugged into the switcher.

The only limitation that we have found with this technique is the amount of zoom you can apply to obtain each shot via the switcher. The more that zoom is applied by the switcher, the more that pixilation will be visible. This is a pretty easy issue to manage. In our case we are capturing images for live broadcast over the Internet so some pixilation is already inherent in what we do, even though we broadcast at a relatively high bit rate to preserve quality. We will be posting some of this HD archival footage using this technique in the coming days so that you can see for yourself how good it looks.

Now imagine doing the same thing using a 4K video camera.


About the Author:

George Hall Founder/President of VideoSSC. He has over 30 years’ experience as a high technology engineering executive. With significant experience in high performance computing, Military electronics, IP networks and Video Broadcasting. Board member Public Television. An author and frequent guest on technology programs and panels. He holds a BA in mathematics from Hillsdale College.
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