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Old February 9th, 2006, 01:52 AM   #1
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Questions in regards of shooting a stage performances

Hello, fellow comrades.

There's an upcoming ballet recital which I'm shooting There are few areas I'm shaky on, though... which are: Is it best to set the white balance on stage? Also, The lighting will be switching back and forth to different colors through out the performace. Would it be best to set the white balance to the changing colors on the stage? For example, if it changed to green, should I set it while on the stage to the green with a white piece of paper? And so on for any other times in the performance when it changes colors? By the way, I'm gonna be shooting from far away, up above. Virtually, what I'm asking is this: would it be best to set the white balance on the stage, or where I'm shooting from? Or... would it just be best to audio white balance 3200 kelvin indoor for the entire performance?

-Should I set the gain at -3db for the lowest amount of noise if there's an adequate amount of light?
-Should I set the NR to high?
-Should the exposure be ajusted by the aperture, or the shutter speed?
-60i, 30p, or 24p? Which is best. I'm assuming 60i...

Thanks so much in advance...
D.C Joseph

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Old February 9th, 2006, 09:16 AM   #2
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Hi Douglas,

I think you should white balance for tungsten light (assuming they use tungsten lighting) and not change it during the performance. Otherwise, if you white balance on the green or blue or whatever color, you would completely loose the effect of the colored light. After all, you want the green light to look green, right?
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Old February 9th, 2006, 09:53 AM   #3
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After shooting lots of performances here at the Opera Company I've come the the conclusion that it's best to set white balance for tungsten (indoors) and just forget about it. You could custom white balance to an ungelled stage light if you want, but it doesn't seem to be much advantage. I often find that I want to tweak the colors in post regardless. And there are white balance issues which simply can't be resolved... if they have a Xenon or HMI followspot and tungsten stage light then you can't really make both of them right. Moving lights with HMI sources are another issue, as are video projections.

Personally I would not change shutter speeds while shooting, it can give the video a strange look, especially with fast motion like ballet. But be prepared to "ride the iris."

Read up on shooting stage shows here:

http://www.dvinfo.net/conf/showthread.php?t=18431
http://www.dvinfo.net/conf/showthread.php?t=45450
http://www.dvinfo.net/conf/showthread.php?t=5156
http://www.dvinfo.net/conf/showthread.php?t=8525
http://www.dvinfo.net/conf/showthread.php?t=55819
http://www.dvinfo.net/conf/showthread.php?t=38448
http://www.dvinfo.net/conf/showthread.php?t=6866
http://www.dvinfo.net/conf/showthread.php?t=34639
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Old February 9th, 2006, 10:20 AM   #4
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I agree, for most instances, white balance can be set to indoor, BUT, some places actually colour balance their lights to 5600k with gels, so if your video looks too blue, try the outdoor setting. If you can get a manual white balance on some of their non-coloured lights, go for it.

Once white balanced, don't change it - you WANT the different colours to appear because these are part of the performance and you shouldn't try to phase them out. If for some reason your white balance is perfect, you can fix it in post, which will be much easier if it stays the same through the whole production. HMI and Xenon lights can usually be balanced towards the outdoor setting.

you need to keep the gain as low as possible - I don't think -3 will be possible in the type of environment you speak of, but there are always possibilities. Don't be afraid to raise the gain if there isn't enough light.

I would keep the noise reduction at the default setting, unless you end up shooting at +12 gain, in which case you may not need NR, but in all honesty, I've never used it so I don't know how else it effects the image - may be a better idea to just leave it at the default setting.

Exposure should definitly be adjusted by iris, leave the shutter speed at 1/60 if you're shooting at 60i (which is probably the easiest to work with for this situation). You may want to go slightly higher on shutter speed (1/100) if you intend to do any slow motion work.

Hope this helps - as mentioned, there are a lot of other posts about shooting stage productions, so be sure to go through those as well
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Old February 9th, 2006, 10:40 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Andrew Khalil
I agree, for most instances, white balance can be set to indoor, BUT, some places actually colour balance their lights to 5600k with gels
Really? Where have you seen that? As a lighting designer for stage shows since the 1960's, I have never once run into this situation. When we use a blue gel it means that we want blue light! Although, as you know, when you dim a light the color temperature gets much warmer. Sometimes we'll use a pale blue gel to help offset this on lights that aren't running full intensity. It often surprises people to learn that a light they thought was amber actually has a blue gel in it and is running at 50% intensity.
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Old February 9th, 2006, 10:53 AM   #6
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A couple of the places I shoot for on a regular basis have done it, a good example is at a church I was doing a stage production for this past Christmas - they asked if I wanted all the lights blanaced to 5600k and they actually have very slightly blue gels in all of them so they still look white, just a cooler white. Since we do a lot of video stuff there, we decided to keep the lights balanced that way since it made things a lot easier and the lighting guys likeld the look better anyway.
I'm not a lighting designer, so I thought it was more common to have lights colour balanced for video, but I guess it isn't as common as I thought.
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Old February 9th, 2006, 11:00 AM   #7
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I just got through shooting an opera performance and about 20 hours of
in-theatre rehersals with an XL2.

I have come to the conclusion that one just has to more or less ignore the meter, white balance, and the viewfinder. I use a production monitor (Ikegami) to make choices about the image. The XL2 viewfinder has been consistently misleading for exposure in low light, suggesting the image is much darker that it is. The meter shows shots that look great on the monitor to be underexposed. The monitor also helps a great deal with focusing. If you are shooting from the back of the house and want a whole-stage view, it can be very difficult to see what's happening with focus with the viewfinder. I just can't think of doing this kind of work without the monitor.

Be careful with auto focus because it will hunt in low light and you will not see it in the viewfinder.

The best way to answer the questions you are asking is to get in the theatre and test test test various settings under the lights that will be used. I got the "best" image (that is, what was closest to what I saw with my eyes) with a floating WB.
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Old February 9th, 2006, 11:28 AM   #8
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yeah, in camera light meter will always tell you it's too dim. Best thing to use is zebra stripes if you don't already use them.
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Old February 9th, 2006, 12:28 PM   #9
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You never want to correct stage lighting. It's there for effect. The advice
that others have given about doing a pure tungston white balance is good
advice.

I've shots hundreds of stage productions for TV news, all the way from small
productions to massive concerts, and that's the way I always handled stage lighting.
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Old February 11th, 2006, 07:51 AM   #10
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White balance issues

So glad to be reading this discussion.

After many years of toiling away with weddings and other things in video I have recently launched into filming live stage shows and are pretty happy with the results so far.

Biggest challenge of course has been dealing with low light and changes of lighting scenes.

Using two Panasonic DC30's myself and partner have had great results with doing manual white balances as the performance unfolds. This camera allows you to re white balance whilst still recording so avoiding syncing issues in post.

I am a little confused as to why you guys are saying "SET the white balance IT AND LEAVE IT".

My eyes tell me to white balance as soon as a scene changes noticably.

Q. Do you guys just set your cameras on the indoor setting and leave it at that?
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Old February 11th, 2006, 11:12 AM   #11
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Martin asks a partly technical question and a partly artistic one.

The reason to do white balance is to reproduce colors accurately under light of some average color temprature. This is important if you are shooting a scene in which the colors need to look "real."

Stage lighting, ineed the theatre, is not real. A lighting designer works hard to create an environment that suits the emotional and dramatic tone of the performance (at least professional designers work at this goal). The lighting design is part of the art of the performance as much as any other part.

In the opera I just shot, Street Scene by Kurt Weil and Langston Hughes (based on the play by Elmer Rice), the scene is a city street on a very hot day and night. The lighting design expresses the heat by being bright and using very "warm" colors. Over the course of the first act the day turns to evening and the colors change to less intense cools. That change is part of the performance. Whites move from an orange cast to blue ones as part of the emotional atmosphere.

If I mess with my white balance over the course of the show I am, in effect, editing the lighting design. If the goal of taping a performance is to show what the audience saw in the theatre, including the lighting as intended by the designer, then I am not going to change the white balance. So this is mostly an artistic decision that aims to be respectful of the contributions of other professionals involved in the production. The savvy ones know and ask about these issues because they want their work to be represented properly.

Done at a high professional standard, properly taping a stage performance is complex. Boyd has an excellent post (in http://www.dvinfo.net/conf/showthread.php?t=18431) about working with PBS when taping an opera that suggests what's involved.

Of course little of this applies to the average high school production . . .

One other note. The contracts offered to most groups putting on stage plays and musicals for which license is required specifically prohibit the recording, videotaping etc. of the performances for any purpose.

Last edited by Peter Wiley; February 11th, 2006 at 01:45 PM.
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