About Multi-cam vs Single cam Sitcom

I don’t want all of you to think that I only talk about movies. I can’t help that they are a large part of my life, but so is television. Today I want to talk about multi-cam vs single-cam television. Most multi-cam television comes in the form of sitcoms, thus I will focus on comedies. Comparing dramas and comedies just isn’t fair.

The Single Camera Approach
You’re probably most familiar with viewing single camera productions. The movies you watch are single camera, most TV dramas are single cameras, and now more and more sitcoms are using this format. Single camera pretty much indicates the way in which a production is filmed. As the title suggests, there is only one camera filming the action. Many actors say that his approach can be draining. You are doing take after take to make sure you capture everything and it starts t feel like a movie shoot. The schedule is much more hectic as they are filming the equivalent of three or four movies in the same time span. When it comes to single camera comedies, the same long grind applies.

The Multi Camera Approach
When you think of old TV comedies, you are likely thinking of a multi-cam show. These are shows filmed with a designated set piece and the characters move within that set piece. Multiple cameras are used to catch the action, switching between multiple cameras possible of a single take to get what they need. It reduces the number of takes that you need because multiple cameras are capturing multiple things. So one actor on one camera may have sown a strange facial expression, but another actor had a perfect take, while the broad shot also looked good. The editors then have an easier job cobbling together a scene with fewer necessary takes. Few enough takes that studio audiences used to be common for the taping of an episode. Lately, we’ve moved away from the studio audience, which I don’t mind.

Over time, I noticed a trend in single camera comedies. They tend to be a bit more niche or quirky. Obviously, when I say niche, I’m not talking about a true niche, but a giant population who find these shows amusing. These comedies tend to be a bit more targeted in their content than open. One other big plus, is most single camera comedies don’t have a laugh track. Oh how I hate the laugh track. I hate laugh tracks so much that I once wrote an essay on how awful they were and received an A; thank you very much. The gist of my essay focused on the idea that a laugh track in today’s world often does not elicit the laughter from the viewing audience as it hopes, but sometimes hampers laughter and overshadows better jokes. We live in an age of choice. Laugh tracks take that away. It is why I suspect there is a trend away from them.

Re-emergence of the Multi-cam
The past decade or so had seen a huge trend toward single-cam comedies. I loved it. Some wonderful shows emerged such as The Office, Modern Family, and 30 Rock. There were many more, some who didn’t last very long while some that grabbed a following. However, with so many successful single camera shows, people tried to follow that trend and not everything worked. I think we have finally hit a point where the big TV studios want to migrate back toward multi-cam productions. This upcoming year, there are a few new shows premiering with the multi-cam format, including Will Arnett’s The Millers and Sean Saves the World.

Personal Preference
I can’t knock multi-cam TV. It has had decades of success for a reason. There will continue to be great shows that come out of it. I’ll admit I like How I Met Your Mother and The Big Bang Theory. They manage to keep me entertained, but they are far from my favorite shows. I think I know why. There is a lack of location that occurs in Multi-cam TV, It is part of the nature of the beast. But I want to see my characters in different places, in different set ups. This is more easily achieved with single camera set ups. I’ll let you in on a secret, one of my favorite sitcoms to come back is The League.

Do you have a preference between single-cam and multi-cam TV?

One thought on “About Multi-cam vs Single cam Sitcom

  1. Pingback: August Roundup | So, I pondered...

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