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Shooting Video Assignments with Sony (ATEM Switching with multiple cameras)


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I guess a lot of us figured out how to learn new tricks during Covid.  I was no different, having to quickly make up for lost assignments by teaching one-on-one's from my home.  I bought the early ATEM mini and started with that.  Now, I've grown up a little since 2020.  I was thinking the other day that when you shoot just stills with Sony, there is much to be happy excited about, but when you move over to the video side of things, it gets more amazing.

This photo shows a simple setup from last week where I shot video of a podcast that has always been audio only until now.  In the photo, you will see a lot of variety of Sony products, if you look closely.  I'll start with the cameras and work my way through the rest:

At the left is the little AX700 which is a camcorder that punches way above it's weight.  Most people don't know that this little guy uses a 1" sensor unlike most video cameras twice its size but with much smaller sensors.  The AX700 has Phase Detect AF so it's great to take to the Indy 500, or to shoot pro tennis.  The AF is super quick and snappy and is not easily fooled.  The AX700 also has the ability to shoot in Cinetone-S adn S-log 2/3, so even though in the lineup, it appears to be an entry level camera, you can easily throw it in any mix with other Sony cameras and lenses and match up all the various looks with ease.  I used it primarily as the "wide shot," that I would go to when I needed to use the other camera to re-frame and zoom in and out on one person speaking or a smaller group than the wide shot.

At right, is a FX6 with the FE28-135mm PZ (power zoom) lens attached.  This is a full-frame sensor right from the a7SIII so it's low light capabilities are well-known.  This is a tiny, compact, but feature filled camera with the ability to shoot 4K-120P, and it can use every lens I own from 12mm-600mm without a hitch.  I got a feed from the nice audio guy and plugged the XLR cable coming from his board (thanks Henry!).  I simply set audio to channel 1 on both 1 and 2 and set it to line from Mic and got an easy level for all five people that were mic'd up.  Audio done!  The FX6 can also shoot in APS-C mode which allows you to change the focal length of the lens from 28-135mm to 42-202mm, but because I was so close to the people in the interview, I just left it in full frame.

Both cameras feed into the ATEM mini Extreme which is an 8 channel switcher that is awesome to behold and really easy to figure out.  The FX6 was primary so it plugged into camera 1 on the switcher.  The AX700 was Camera 2.  Next I plugged by Sony MR1000XIV headphones into the ATEM so I could monitor the audio coming off the board and into the ATEM (which has it's own level controls).  Having the killer noise cancelling tech in the headphones really helps reject all the room noise as well as the PA speakers so I can hear just what I need to.

You can also use one of the other channels on the ATEM to add more cameras, or plug a laptop in to show docs or play videos (I use Apple's Keynote for this as it looks snazzy without much thought or skill on my end.

You will see a tiny external drive on the table behind the ATEM--that's a little Sony SSD drive that was a gift at Kando last year.  It's just a USB-C connection to the back of the ATEM that allows me to just hit the record button on the ATEM.  This allows me to record as I switch.  if I wanted to, I could have also put cards in the cameras and recorded 4K from each but it wasn't needed for the client this time as they only required 1080P for this project.

Once you get all the cables taped down and connect everything up, I just hit record and began switching.  Honestly, there is not much difference between switching two cameras and four, as you might think.  The more camera angles you have, the easier it is to make quick, good decisions, as you switch from one camera to another.  The 45 minute show went by fast so that once it ended, I was able to stop recording to the Sony hard drive, disconnect it, and walk the 15' to the client so she could suck the video file into her Mac.  Job done!

That I get to intermix all my glass between the a1's, FX9, FX6, a7C, and a7RV makes everything so simple and easy.  Once mount, tons of glass, and the ultimate in flexibility is always at my fingertips.  This beats the old days when I shot Nikon or Canon for stills and then had two Panasonic cameras with built-in zoom and crappy tiny sensors.  Life is so much better now!!!!  let me know if you have any questions about this setup 🙂. pm-r 

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This is such an insightful post! I love seeing behind the scenes shots like this. Thank you so much for sharing and taking the time to explain your process.

I also like the look of that switcher! I have absolutely zero need for one right now, but I really like the look of it and will be putting it on my wishlist. 

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