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Old November 26th, 2002, 06:23 PM   #1
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Filming a Stage Play

I was discussing filming a stage play with someone today and she pointed out the difficulties in doing so that I began to wonder if I'd be able to do it with the GL2.

What does everyone thing? Any particular issues in filming a play that you've encountered? I'm talking about a typical play with a largely dark stage save spotlights.

I figured the exposure on the camera definitely has to be set to the max or near - 1/30 shutter and 1.6 aperture.

Do you think that the spotlight auto mode on the camera will work well instead? I don't like that it uses the gain so much though, because that creates a lot of background noise.
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Old November 26th, 2002, 07:38 PM   #2
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If you are only using one cam I would be more worried about sound; since it is a play the actors really need to be very audible. You need to be sure what lighting will be used or if you can bring your own. The cheapest solution is to purchase some halogen lights on stands from your local hardware store. It may surprise you how inexpensive they can be at you Home Depot hardware store. I would also consider hooking the cam to a small TV monitor so there would be little doubt about whether the GL2 is getting enough light. A good fluid head tripod with the incredible 20x zoom may enable you to position your cam in the back where you can get a full stage shot and zoom in for closeups if necessary. A wide angle adapter will enable you to position yourself even closer for better sound and you will still be able to get that full stage shot. But like I say, you need to make a decision on the audio, be it wireless or shotgun or just the GL2 mike. I wouldn't be so quick to say the GL2 is not good enough for spot light illumination. In fact those spotlights may have you cutting the exposure setting DOWN instead of up on the cam. Don't under estimate your GL2. Try to get permission for a dry run at the stage, let the spotlights be run and you may see what I mean.
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Old November 26th, 2002, 07:47 PM   #3
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Shooting a stage play

The link below is a demo from a 1 hour stage play that I shot with XL's. I think the GL will perform just as well. The settings were on Auto, NOT FULL AUTO, and white balance was manually performed only once for the whole show. There were no second chances, only a short intermission. The only lighting was from a couple of light trees with gels, including reds, much to my dislike. But as you will see, the Canons came through. Just make sure that you have a good audio feed.


"All Rise"

High Speed

http://198.65.158.133/fellowshipbapt...LLRISE300K.asx

Dial Up

http://198.65.158.133/fellowshipbapt...ALLRISE56K.asx
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Old November 26th, 2002, 07:58 PM   #4
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Good to have a feel for the length of acts, and when to change tape if it runs more than an hour, to ensure you do not miss any of the show.

And as noted by others, getting audio can be a major issue..
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Old November 26th, 2002, 08:38 PM   #5
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Thanks everyone!

I'm the executive director of the production, so I can do whatever I want. :) This is for the DVD of the show. It's a musical comedy show for my grad school.

Re: the halogen ligths - are you suggesting to use these instead of spotlights?

Sound is not a problem because the output of the mixing board will go into a separate DAT recorder. I'd just as soon have the camera further away.

I'm most curious to know about how best to set the GL2, and specifically the automatic exposure controls. Should I use these or will I have to adjust manually for every act?

I also like the idea of a monitor - fortunately I have an old computer monitor that accepts composite input that I can use.

I will be able to test everything ahead of time with all the tech equipment.
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Old November 26th, 2002, 11:02 PM   #6
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James,
Wow am I impressed! Now I'm really looking forward to what we'll be able to do. :)
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Old November 27th, 2002, 05:30 AM   #7
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Spotlights are good in that they can concentrate the viewers attention on the players and not the backround, unless you have a scenic backround or at least curtains in the backround. Being able to view building doors, walls, etc, naturally kills the atmosphere of the play. So it depends on what setting you have and what atmosphere you wish to convey to the audience. Also it depends on who is operating the spotlight; how smoothly it is worked. The wrong person can turn a professional looking play into Uncle Bob's home video, no matter how good the sound or video is, if the spotlights have to be adjusted or moved during the play.
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Old November 27th, 2002, 06:03 AM   #8
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Ditto, James...impressive! Were you mixing on site...or is that all post? Also, what kind of crane were you using?
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Old November 27th, 2002, 12:05 PM   #9
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Peter,

I am a beginning videographer taping dance and operas, so here are some of my thoughts:

Assuming you are doing a single camera shoot from the back of the house:

- Plan out in detail what you want in each scene: when a two-shot, when wide on the full stage, when and from what sides are the entrances made. Since you are the director, you are intimately familiar with the material, but anticipation is the key, so you can start that slow zoom to catch the character entering from the right, etc.

- You should be able to manually focus for the center of the stage and have everything in focus.

- Set your zoom control to SLOW. I have a Varizoom, and I usually use it at it's slowest setting.

- 4:3 is tall vertically, the stage is wide horizontally. Decide where you want to position you characters, so that you maintain a consistent visual floor. I want to try 16:9 soon.

- A big exposure problem under theatrical lighting is over-exposure. When the highlights are gone, they are gone - too bad if it is the actors face..... Auto exposure with bias (run tests!) may work well, or else you are going to have to expose manually.

- Since you are the director: avoid very light, or very dark costumes. Rich medium or pastel tones video well, and shiny fabrics really pop.

- I have been doing operas in a house with black painted stage and black fabric backdrops. With my cam (an Optura Pi) the lack of shadow detail takes the background to a deep, velvety, black. Sweet! The GL-2 gamma settings may help here.

- You are going to want to capture on-camera sound as well as house sound on DAT: applause, crowd murmuring to run under the titles (capture several minutes of this and don't stop recording until after the applause is done), backup. I am a big fan of the Canon DM-50 microphone (but I haven't compared it to other ones).

- If possible, put a second camera down low and to the side to capture closeups to edit in.

- I have been using progressive scan with slow shutter speeds (see the film look threads), but your mileage may vary. Test it and see if you like the look.
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Old November 27th, 2002, 12:52 PM   #10
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Good call about the extra mic to pick up applause and laughter.

Has anyone successfully used the "Spotlight" auto setting with the GL2 to do a stageplay or other spotlight situation? What's your experience with it?
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Old November 27th, 2002, 01:24 PM   #11
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I have used the spotlight setting on my Optura Pi, but I still have to adjust the exposure manually. On a true spotlight it over-exposes, but not as badly as on the regular, auto, setting, and under more even lighting it underexposes.

If you have constantly changing light, you will be busy.

This situation calls for a really intelligent, multi-point matrix metering kind of a scheme.
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Old November 28th, 2002, 07:36 AM   #12
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I've shot some concert footage using these settings. I can email you a small piece if you want.
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Old November 28th, 2002, 05:13 PM   #13
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Remember that the iris in the XM/Gl2 closes down a bit as you zoom in so don't have it opened all up and do a nice big zoom in or you'll lose a stop or so.
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Old November 30th, 2002, 09:32 AM   #14
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Here's a thought.

Since you are the director, and have access and intimate knowledge of the production, why not shoot on stage close-ups?

By this I mean, shoot on stage during a run-through. Doesn't have to be dress rehearsal, doesn't have to have an audience.

The show is choreographed and blocked, so when you cut to close-ups during the live shots, the angles and movements should match fairly well.

Cut to close up for the solo, or dramatic line, cut back for applause and big action.

Voila- a multi cam shoot.

Works for me.

Bill
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Old November 30th, 2002, 01:39 PM   #15
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That's a real good idea! Thanks. This would work especially well for the dress rehearsal.
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