Newbie Question: Spotlight vs Manual - Stage performance at

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Old February 27th, 2012, 11:04 AM   #1
Join Date: Feb 2012
Location: Sioux Falls, SD
Posts: 2
Newbie Question: Spotlight vs Manual - Stage performance

I'm fairly new to video. This is my first post in these forums with several questions:

I have the original XHA1 from Canon. I shoot about 4 bodybuilding/fitness shows per year. Thus far I've generally used the spotlight setting. This usually works okay (kind of), but I'm wondering if the Manual control would work better? Usually when I zoom to an individual on stage, the spotlight works fairly well. But when I zoom out and the contestants are lined up on stage, they are often blown out. If I would find the proper manual setting, would that help with this problem?

For focusing, I've often just set it on auto, but I'm finding that sometimes the individual is out of focus. I suppose the camera for some reason focuses on the background? If I set it to manual using the "zoom procedure" then the person remains in focus as long as they stand in the position where I set the manual focus. But if they move all over the stage during their posing routine, then I'm concerned that they will not remain in focus if they move closer (or further) from my main focus point. I can adjust the aperture, but I'm not sure how much. I suppose I just need to go and test all of this out. But it's difficult to test when I'm actually videoing the contest.

During the prejudging, the contestants are lit with spotlights against a dark or black curtain. The spotlight setting on individuals works very well for this. But the entire group lineup is somewhat blown out on the spotlight setting.

During the evening performance, the background is often lit up with background and props, creating the difficult problem of trying to get good video of the individual(s), without a creating a "silhouette" against the background.

A final problem I've had to deal with a couple times. During the evening show, the promotor has color-changing spotlight on the competitors----every color of the rainbow. How should one set the white balance for such a situation? Normally I just use tungsten or set the white-balance with neutral card. But for those evenings with constantly changing lights and colors, I'm not sure what is best---tungsten or auto WB?

If anyone could give me some good tips regarding the spotlight, manual, focusing, and color balance controls with the information provided, I would greatly appreciate it. My next contest is in 3 weeks, and I want to improve on what I've done in the past. Thank you so much.

Dan Mueller
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Old February 28th, 2012, 06:52 AM   #2
Join Date: Sep 2001
Location: Northern VA
Posts: 4,357
Re: Newbie Question: Spotlight vs Manual - Stage performance

Manual exposure settings using a good monitor will normally give better results than automatic settings in problematic lighting environments. But the camcorder operator needs to be skilled, alert and attentive to the program to keep the exposure right. Zebra keyed to skin highlight levels you want to maintain can help. And of course practice, practice, practice!

Automatic exposure (including special program modes) works according to a program for nominally average conditions and is good only if your shooting environment matches the "average" against which the automatic program was baselined.

For shiting color lights, your best bet may be to try spend some time before the show with the lighting guy to see what will give the best results for light mix he plans to use. Maybe have a preset or two to cover the most important setting for the evening, and trust to color correction in post.
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