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Old May 28th, 2016, 04:43 PM   #1
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Focusing strategies for Dance Recital

This is the second year I will be recording a Dance recital using a Canon Vixia HF G20
The stage lights dim between dance routines.

I used Autofocus last year, and when the lights dimmed, the camera would lose focus.
When the lights came back up, it would take a good 4 seconds for it to find focus as it went from close-up to near infinity.

I'm considering 2 strategies this year
1. Pre-set focus at the beginning of the recital. When the lights go down, I activate the pre-set distance, and the camera manually focuses at my pre-set distance.
Once the lights come back up, and the dancers move, switch back to Autofocus

2. I am set-up about 40-50 feet from the stage.
I notice that as I turn the focus ring, the focus distance (in feet) goes from 1, 2,...,20, 50, Infinity.
What if I set manual focus at 50 feet, or Infinity, and leave it there?

Any suggestions?
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Old May 28th, 2016, 07:06 PM   #2
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Re: Focusing strategies for Dance Recital

Use touch focus on the LCD and touch a point subject mid stage and leave it there. I run my small Sony cameras this way and in AE shift for exposure at about -0.7. Not sure of the scale on the G20 but negative to allow for stage lights. If you are going to zoom in and out you may have to use touch focus a few times as I am not sure if the G20 has a farfocal lens. I also set a gain limit too to stop the camera opening up too much when it gets dark on stage. Looks like you have lots of focus assist and exposure assist on the G20.

Ron Evans
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Old May 28th, 2016, 07:50 PM   #3
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Re: Focusing strategies for Dance Recital

My suggestion is to manually focus at the middle of the stage. The depth of field from 50' should more than sufficient to keep everything in focus.
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Old May 28th, 2016, 10:00 PM   #4
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Re: Focusing strategies for Dance Recital

I agree with Pete. I've been shooting dance for two years this way. The DoF on a small sensor with a moderate aperture is deep enough that the whole stage will be in focus (unless it's 300 ft deep for some reason.)
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Old June 6th, 2016, 07:59 AM   #5
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Re: Focusing strategies for Dance Recital

Later this week will be the 4th annual recital for the dance studio that my wife and I own.

I agree with the others on using manual preset focus with smaller cameras, especially if they are locked down on medium or wide shots. I usually have the XA10 and XA20 mounted statically. They are prefocused at about 40% of the depth of the stage.

I also use manual focus with the XF300, sometimes static with no operator and sometimes with an operator.

To aid in prefocusing, I carry a small folding lightstand and a sparkly Christmas bow from a gift box.

I set the stand at the point on the stage I want, attach the sparkly bow at the top and elevate to average head height.

This makes it easier to see when you have the best manual focus without changing the zoom from what you have set as your desired framing.
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Old June 6th, 2016, 08:54 AM   #6
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Re: Focusing strategies for Dance Recital

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jay Massengill View Post

To aid in prefocusing, I carry a small folding lightstand and a sparkly Christmas bow from a gift box.
I set the stand at the point on the stage I want, attach the sparkly bow at the top and elevate to average head height.
I might try that. At my last recital, there was nothing I could aim-at to ensure the camera/tripod was level.
I used my tripod bubble level, but it is not that precise.

At an upcoming recital, I am considering placing a 2-foot level on-stage during setup, and then zooming in on the level level and using the on-screen grid-lines to make sure I am dead-nuts level.
Thoughts?
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Old June 6th, 2016, 10:42 AM   #7
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Re: Focusing strategies for Dance Recital

Unless your camera is mounted in a location perfectly square, level and centered with the stage, you need to rely on whether the verticals are vertical. And simply, "does it look right", especially if doing small pans to follow the action.

One of my camera locations is just inside one of the side aisles where the front-of-house audio desk is located. The curved front of the stage will never be "level" for that camera, but the curtains and vertical walls of the proscenium opening must appear vertical, so that's what I adjust for.

The high cameras at the top of the stadium seating are kept as level as possible from right to left, but they are so much higher than the stage that using the verticals isn't as reliable due to tilting down.

So I adjust the head leveling to lean forward a little, so that panning while tilting down doesn't also cause the camera to roll left or right in relation to the horizon of the stage itself.

Basically if it looks correct to you, then go with it.

And get there as early as possible or even shoot the dress rehearsal. But you'd have to exactly duplicate your location and tripod leg setup for it to match for the show, so again you just have to get it to look "correct" and not be unsettling when watching the video later.
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Old June 6th, 2016, 06:56 PM   #8
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Re: Focusing strategies for Dance Recital

You simply adjust the tripod until your tripod bubble is level. You may also use the framing of the stage.
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