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Framing in Multiple-Camera Mode of Production

by Jeremy Butler

The differences between multiple-camera and single-camera editing are very subtle and may not be immediately noticeable to viewers. But these differences do occur, and they do inform our experience of television. The main difference between the two modes is how action is represented. Although multiple-camera shooting arranges space similarly to the space of single-camera productions, the action within that space—the physical movement of the actors—is presented somewhat differently. In multiplecamera shooting, some action may be missed by the camera and wind-up occurring out-of-sight, off-frame, because the camera cannot control the action to the degree that it does in single-camera shooting. For example, in one scene from the multiple-camera production All My Children the following two shots occur (see tvcrit.com/find/amc): 

1. Medium close-up of Erica (Susan Lucci), over Adam’s (David Canary) shoulder. She pushes him down and is left standing alone in the frame at the end of the shot. 

2. Medium close-up of Adam, seated, stationary at the very beginning of the shot. Here, the camera operators had trouble keeping up with actor David Canary’s movement and consequently his fall happens off-screen. 

Not only is action missing from multiple-camera programs, but the framing of action is also less well controlled and somewhat haphazard. For instance, in a scene from As the World Turns, Brad (Austin Peck) has hidden a diamond ring next to a piece of cheesecake that Katie (Terri Colombino) is about to eat (see tvcrit.com/find/atwt). The camera cuts to a tight close-up of the cheesecake as she puts her fork into it. The framing is unusually tight for a soap opera and a distracting glass is in the foreground. Then, as she moves the fork toward her mouth, the camera operator has trouble keeping up with her gesture and loses the action for a moment. In addition, Brad’s shoulder partially blocks the shot. Finally, Katie takes a bite of the cheesecake and the camera reframes her in close-up. 

If these two multiple-camera, soap-opera scenes had been shot in single-camera mode, these actions would have been carefully staged and tightly controlled so that all the significant action was on-screen and “properly” framed—with no distracting or obscuring foreground objects. Thus, multiple-camera editing frequently leaves out “significant” action that single-camera editing would include. Single-camera continuity editing might have used a match-on-action cut in the All My Children scene— editing these shots in the middle of Canary’s fall, showing his action fully, and establishing his new position in the chair. And it would have perfectly framed Katie’s fork as it traveled to her mouth in As the World Turns.

Multicamera Editing in "As the World Turns"

Multicamera editing and its appearance on-screen.

from As the World Turns (2008)
Creator: CBS
Distributor: CBS
Posted by Jeremy Butler
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