We normal folk without access to a whole bunch of money and resources and people who have time have to deal with what we have. But is there anything we can do to at least give the semblance of something professional, or at least cool, or something worth talking about? Do we have to just deal with static camera shots and frames filled with only a minimum amount of people because we can't find any extras? The good people at the Vimeo Video School, along with Neko Neko Films, have some nifty solutions for a small crew that are easy to implement and with some imagination, can make it seem like you had a lot more people working on your video than is readily apparent.
3 Tricks For Your Impossibly Small Film Crew
Here's the video. We'll talk about it after:
In the video, they show someone throwing a blade at another guy, with the blade barely missing his head. This isn't done in one take, as the danger factor is too much to do this for real. So they take advantage of the fact that people can't normally see a quick cut in the middle of a fast camera motion by first, shooting the dangerous part where no one is in harm's way, and quickly "swiping" (panning) the camera left-to-right or vice-versa as the blade falls harmlessly into something they don't mind the blade hitting.
Then, on the second take, they already have the blade lodged into the wall next to the guy's head, but swipe the camera in the same motion, so that when they go to their editor, they can cut in the middle of the quick motion on the first take, which will be undetectable on a quick glance, and go right into the second take fairly seamlessly. With a sound effect "selling" it, it looks like someone has thrown a blade at another person in one take.
They also show a cool trick where two actors take turns playing the camera operator, where it looks like there's one person going back and forth between the actors, when it's the actors themselves operating the camera. So each actor performs his bit on camera and the second actor swipes the camera back his way and gets in position. Then the original actor moves the camera back, and does the swipe again, with the second actor ready to perform his bit. With the same editing as the above trick, it looks like a dedicated camera operator is in the middle of the shot, panning back and forth.
There are plenty of other uses for that of course. It's all up to the imagination.
By keeping your camera in the same spot, you can shoot multiple things in parts of the frame and then use your editor's split screen capabilities to make it look like all of the things you shot were in one take, populating your frame with actors, even if you might only have two total. In this trick, they show one actor standing in the middle of the frame, with nothing on both sides. Then they shoot two actors in the background on the left side of the frame, and they do what they have to do. Then, two actors on the right side of the frame do their thing. By entering these three clips into a video editor and splitting the screen with a "crop" tool, it makes it look like all the action is happening in one take.
Smart Phone Audio
If you want someone to be in the far background of a shot, it may not appear that you'll be able to get their audio properly. But you can use a smart phone's recording capabilities (hopefully with a recording app, with the smart phone in a coat pocket) to record the actor in the background and then overlap the camera audio and the smart phone audio for a proper synching. Although, in this example, I'm not sure you want to have the guy in the far background sounding like he's right next to the guy in the foreground. Selling "distance" also means making the audio sound more distant than usual. So maybe that smart phone is farther away than a coat pocket, but you may not have a choice.
There's also the matter of people being unable to actually see the background actor's lips move, so synching sound to that person shouldn't be a terribly big deal. But whatever it takes to sell the effect, if you have a smart phone at your disposal, you can record a person who is farther away than normal.
We'd like to thank Vimeo and Neko Neko for the time they put into this!