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|| News Item: Posted 2007-01-30

How To: Five Angles of One Play on a Single Set of Strobes
By Robert Beck, Sports Illustrated

Photo by Don Liebig

Photo by Don Liebig

Sports Illustrated's Robert Beck and The King of the K (Kojo Kinno) pack up their gear after shooting a recent UCLA basketball game.
OBJECTIVE: Fire 2-5 cameras simultaneously AND have each one syncing up with one set of strobes.

RESULT: Each camera records a beautifully lit image at exactly the same instant giving you/your editors 2-5 different angles of the same stupendous play.

This season I have had many requests about how I get the Multi Max radios to fire multiple cameras synched into one set of strobes. Here is how and why. I/we (the fabulous Double K) use this set-up when we shoot basketball games. It is a much thriftier way of shooting than with the Flash Wizard system. It may not have all of the bells and whistles BUT it achieves the same objective at nearly (sometimes better according to my editors) success rate. I CANNOT GUARANTEE HOW THIS WILL WORK FOR YOU. There are a lot of little things you need to do when setting this system up. Forget to do one of the little things and it will in all likelihood, fulksdhjvferhchkck your entire shoot.

The King of the K and I usually set up three to five remote cameras on this system. They are set up for action at the other end of the court. Something like an overhead, a floor, a glass, a post and some wildcard position depending on the arena. The arena, by the way, is always a wildcard in how the system works. Some are better than others. Sacramento has been our worst. The system works in there but there are gremlins that hamper its effectiveness. Most other places are pretty darn kind to us.

Okay…Here we go! Each camera will need a radio. The lights will need a radio. I use another radio hooked up to a Radio Shack Special (a $2.99 sewing machine footswitch that is no longer sold by them but CAN be found at some stores) to fire the system. Lenses play an important part to the system. Some work better than others. I have found that "slower" lenses are better for some reason … i.e. f/2.8. You will have to experiment with your lenses to see how compatible they are. By the way, I use this system with the Canon 1D, 1Ds, Mark II and Mark IIN bodies. I DO NOT KNOW HOW THEY WORK WITH OTHER CAMERAS.

So, you've got a radio on the hotshoe of each body with the lens attached and an LPA pre-release motor drive cord plugged into the body and the #2 (flash) port on the top of the radio. Set the MD cord to pre release. You are now going to lag the camera. It best to lag a camera with the lens on it that will be on it during the game and set to the aperture that you will be shooting that lens.

The cameras do not all need to be set to the same aperture. Orientate the lens in the same game situation orientation (i.e. vertical or horizontal or facing straight down etc) and set the shutter speed to 250. Set the autofocus function to 0/zero (that is custom function #4 that sets the autofocus to the front/shutter button) and turn the autofocus off on the lens. If the success rate of this system is 80%, you can raise it to 90% by fabricating a widget to keep the depth of field preview button pushed in while you are lagging the camera AND during the game. In essence, this means the camera does not have to spend precious time stopping down the lens. It is already open to what it will be shooting at.

If the camera is going to be running off of AC (plugged into some outlet for its power supple…and this, again, is recommended as it is a much more reliant and consistent power draw) plug it in to lag. If you are using a regular battery, make sure it is fresh and keep checking it during the game as the camera will be "on" at all times, therefore drawing power all of the time.

Okay…Got all of that done? Now let's lag.

(Footnote: Your radio at the lights should not be turned on at this point. You do not need the lights to fire to lag the camera.)

The camera is on. While holding down the "C" key, turn the radio on to receive. At this point, it does not matter what channel the radio is set to. BUT…Make sure that ALL RADIOS ARE SET TO THE SAME CHANNEL FOR THE GAME. When the main screen comes up, press MENU>A>A>C. You are now at the screen where you set the delay/lag for that specific camera. It should say ".1500" at this point. Push the "L" button and the camera will fire and that number will change. If it does not, run through your set-up checklist. Press the "L" button 5-10 times. Read that number each time the camera fires. It should be very consistent if not the same every time you fire it. Again, if it is not, run through your checklist. If you have set everything up correctly, it might be an incompatible lens. Consistency is the key. Read-outs should look something like this:

You do not want them to look like this:

Photo by Don Liebig

Photo by Don Liebig

Sports Illustrated's Robert Beck packs up his gear after shooting a recent UCLA basketball game.
After 5-10 button pushes, your lag will be looking pretty good. At this point, hit menu and you will see your lag /delay time in the window. You can now turn the radio and the camera off if you wish. When you turn the radio back on, make sure you do not reset it. It will memorize your lag time. (Another footnote…I have sometimes found that if a lens has not been used for a while, it needs to be fired off a few times to "loosen" up. Keep that in mind before you lag it.) LAG EACH CAMERA IN THIS MANNER.

Now set the cameras in their positions. The radio does not need to be on the hotshoe at this point. You can purchase MD cord extensions at Radio Shack to place the radios in optimum locations if you so desire. Extension cords come in various lengths and are good to keep in your bag. Turn the radios and the cameras on. Place a radio (set to receive) at the lights. Manually set the delay on the radio to .1480 (Menu>A>A>C and use the up/down arrows to set the number). Turn your trigger radio on to transmit and make sure ALL RADIOS ARE ON THE SAME CHANNEL.

When you fire the trigger radio, all of the cameras and the lights should fire. If you want to check a camera you must turn the pre-release off and remove the widget holding the depth of field button in. After you marvel at the images you are getting, make sure you turn the pre-release back on and replace the widget that holds the depth of field button in.

YOU WILL FORGET BITS AND PIECES OF THIS WHEN WORKING. Being thorough in preparation is the best way to make this work. Good luck.

(Robert Beck is a staff photographer with Sports Illustrated based in Southern California. He and his trusty sidekick Double K can been seen covering a variety of sports throughout the west and stopping at Original Tommy's along the way. You can view his work at his personal website: and at his member page:

Related Links:
Beck's member page
Beck's personal website

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