B Camera or Not to B an Editor's Best Friend

All B Camera operators should be editors and vice versa. Everybody focuses on the main camera aka A camera. Director, script supervisor, producers, the list is longer but nobody is too concerned with the roaming maverick. 

Why do I know this... I have B camera operated on many a shoots in my career and when I approach the Key people, the only one who is concerned with what I have shot is the camera man/DOP. 

It is treated as a bonus camera, but in this day an age of digital media storage, DSLRs and GoPros, it has become a standard to multicam shoot. I can't remember a production that I have worked on that didn't have 2 cameras rolling at all times. Most smaller productions are even more prone to use 2 to 3 cameras to increase their shooting efficiency. 

I have recently worked on 2 small projects with the new FCPX (which has improved leaps and bounds from it's release by the way but I should tackle this in another post). Both projects have been multicam and when I look at both angles simultaneously in the viewer, I find myself talking to the screen like a TV director "move out of the shot", "closer", "farther"...  Hmm "everyone goes a little crazy sometimes"

On one of the projects, I was B camera and the other was with a more traditional small documentary crew. I saw the difference in ease and of editing and the end result with my operating vs. the other. My operating felt like there was 3 cameras and the other was filled with editing tricks to mask the less than stellar operating. Let me say the operating wasn't poor from a film production side but from an editor's perspective it didn't maximize the use of a second camera.

B camera operating is always a little bit of a dance with the A camera, even more so in a documentary situation. 

So, I thought I would outline some simple concepts to follow that will hopefully help some future B camera operators from making some crucial mistakes that make "saving it in post" not necessary.

1. Look at your dance partner: Be aware of what A cam is shooting. You might not need 2 sizes of a talking head.

2. Talk with your dance partner: I always coordinate with A. You shoot Medium and wide shots. And I will stick to close ups and extreme wide shots. You get more options. 

3. A-B-M: Always, Be, Moving. Especially in a documentary situation. A talking head is great info to shoot but if A is locked in on the subject, you want to get everything else.

4. A-B-S: Always, Be Static. Yeah, I know. But seriously, hold the shot for a few seconds before moving on to the next great angle. Also, if A cam is moving position. Freeze! You just became "A cam" and the only useable angle. Be a Hero. 

5. Arms length to you dance partner: If your close to A cam you making it hard to cut. If your worried about 180 rule/jumping the axis. Don't. Priority would be the jarring jump forward angle or even worst the identical wide shot as A Cam. Dowt.

That's my 2 cents on that subject now back to dark edit room.