What is the best way to do multi-camera shoots?

What is the best way to do multi-camera shoots?

I have shot multicam concerts locking up timecode by beaming wireless audio SMPTE timecode to all cameras and recording it on Ch 2, but I can tell you it was a big hassle and a waste of time.

My recommendation for multi-camera shoots is to either:

1. Use TOD (Free Run) Timecode

TOD (Time of Day) timecode is a switchable option on some recent camcorders. With this option, you can synchronize multiple cameras, then each camera can start or stop at will, and the timecode always reflects the current time, not the tape position, so the shot can always be matched to the other cameras.

The TOD timecode option on the Canon XL2 is shown near the end of the XL2 Feature Tour video on this page:

Here is a clever article by Chris Hurd on using Free Run Time Code for multicam shoots:

2. Use Sync Point and Rewrite Timecode in post

If your camcorders do not have the TOD timecode option, the next best thing is to use a "sync frame".

Each time the cameras roll, shoot a sync frame, which could be a slate with clapper, someone clapping their hands once, or some other visual or sound cue that you can identify in all camera shots as the same frame. You’ll need to do this again each time you stop, then restart the cameras. It’s best if this sync point is visual and sound, since you can scrub picture to get close, then zero in on the spike in the audio waveform which is far more accurate (48,000 samples per second) than picture (24 – 29.97 frames per second).

Sometimes the sync frame is natural, like when shooting a live musical event, the beginning of each song could serve as a sync point.

In this case, it’s important to have wild sound (built-in camera mic) live for all cameras, since you’ll be able to easily fine-tune sync between the different cameras by emilinating the echo on the audio tracks.

Then, in your editing software, you can match the sync frames and all else should be hunky-dory. In some software, you can actually rewrite auxillary timecode for some clips so the timecode matches the A camera exactly. If you do this, don’t rewrite the primary timecode track, just the auxillary, or else you lose the ability to media manage, batch capture, etc.


  1. Rob Mize 16 years ago

    Once my cams are running, I point them at a Production Tech who then fires a camera flash, which they all record. Now I have a frame on each tape that I can quickly find and get a really close sync.

    Regards… Ro

  2. Robin Grant 16 years ago

    Audio slates are only accurate if the microphone is relatively close to the source. Open mike cameras at FrontOfHouse will hear a time-lag since light moves faster than sound.

    My Assistant Editors always make the mistake of synching by sound and the FOH camera is usually way off (‘but it sounds right’, they say).

    Personally I like the flash trick ONLY if a real slate is not possible.

  3. kruzer 13 years ago

    I found a way to sync cams if you don’t have TOD or any other way to sync.

    Turn all cameras on with a remote control, at the same time…. if you don’t have one, the a flash to start the timecode.

    Let it run until out of media space.
    I use 60 min tape and it’s not a big deal to let it run even if not recording anything you want. Once in the editor, line up all cams at 00:00:00 time code and you’re done. All cams are in perfect sync. Then just cut in the usable parts and that’s it.
    It may need a bit of adjusting to the flash timing.

    Another way to do this without time code sync.
    Consumer cams, shoot it in larger format then you need: 1440X1080 and then set the editor to 1280X720 as an output video.
    The trick is to let the TOD time and date be imprinted on the entire tape. This will fall out during the 1280X720 output and don’t see it.
    All cams TOD has to be set excatly the same time before you start for a good ref. If you use a flash and let all cams run, you really don’t care about TOD because it’s the flash dictates where to begin.

  4. kruzer 13 years ago

    I forgot one more cam sync method that’s good as any.
    In fact this is what I use the most and it’s more accurate and less hassle.
    Assuming you want to stop and start the cams?

    Here’s how you do it.

    Buy a digital stopwatch with a large display!
    – Start timer and sound track recording… as in my case music video recording.
    – Then start one cam as a reference cam.
    – Show the stopwatch to this cam lens and start to record.
    There is your time-sync!
    – Take another cam and show the stopwatch, press record.
    Repeat with all cams.
    If you stop the cams, to reload the tape or battery.. then re-start the same way from your stopwatch as it just keeps on ticking with the timecode:)

    Is it too dark to see an LCD stopwatch?
    Use a small flash light.
    You don’t have to sync anything, but have a few seconds of view of the stopwatch on video.

    In edit you can find all the time codes based on the ‘audio recorder’ or the first (ref) camera that you started or the stop watch start. Aligh all other according to TOD and you’re all set.

    Hope this helped 🙂

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