Filming in a theatre? at

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Old June 17th, 2004, 10:40 PM   #1
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Filming in a theatre?

Hi, my wife recently filmed our daughters ballet recital which was at a theatre. The first half of the recital she filmed in manual mode. In this mode we noticed the dancers faced to be washed out most of the time. During the second half my wife changed the setting to spot light mode which improved things quite a bit, but we still noticed the faces washed out on certain parts of the stage. To complicate things, the lighting would switch from a spot light stream to full stage lights.

Could someone please give us some advise as to what settings to use while filming during these conditions. And, if someone could please explain what the "spot light" mode settings would be if you were to set them up in manual mode.

Please have patience, were newbees. We are using a Canon XL1S.
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Old June 17th, 2004, 11:12 PM   #2
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Spot Light mode is a metering mode. I don't think you can duplicate it in Manual mode. When I used to shoot recitals and theater, I kept the zebras on in Shutter Priority mode (at 1/60 sec.) and constantly rode the exposure level to deal with fluctuations in lighting. It's not easy; your hands are always full. You just have to get lots of practice. Hope this helps,

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Old June 18th, 2004, 02:33 AM   #3
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Hi Rick,

I've shot a number of theatre productions with my XL1. The thing about them is that they are lit for the audience rather than for the camera. So 1 minute it could be nice and bright the next minute it can be pretty dark. The only way to compensate for this to adjust the exposure manually, if you leave it in auto it will tend to use the gain a bit to much and the picture will not look good in the end. I tend to leave the shutter on 1/60th - 1/90th and adjust the aperture when needed, and if Iím in dyer need I'll crack the gain up to compensate when in really dark conditions.

The good thing about adjusting the aperture is that it looks like the lighting guys are bringing the lights up and turning it down, so in the end the audience does not notice that it is actually you adjusting the exposure for the camera - As long as you don't do it in to many obvious places!

I used zebra patterns to help to begin with but found that they obstructed my view. Because theatre tends to have harsh light in 1 corner and dark bits in others, there will always be point where overexposure or under exposure will occur. I tend to use my eye, and adjust for exposure when needed. And make sure that the actors faces are correctly exposed.

Ed Smith
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Old June 18th, 2004, 02:27 PM   #5
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Video taping theatrical performances is not an easy thing.
Television audiences are used to seeing amazing productions with
the best of everything that all combines to make a
good show (and that's whether you liked it or not).
The lighting can go from very good to incredible!

The main thing about those productions is that they are lighted
for video and the audience be damned. The LD and directors live
by the video monitor and adjust each cue until it is right. That alone
can take days.

Then you go try it yourself and find that the lighting is horrible for video and
there's really nothing you can do. Sure, thumb the iris all day long,
but with the XL1 you see each change as you click through them.
Not the best thing when trying to keep up with the big boys.

Pro cameras have an iris which does not have steps so the changes
can be much smoother and less noticeable.

i hope that's one feature of the new XL2 when it finally appears.
Jacques Mersereau
University of Michigan-Video Studio Manager
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Old June 21st, 2004, 07:47 PM   #6
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Thanks alot for the advice and the related links I'll try to prepare more for the next one. It would be great to have a guide for settings for certain situations( such as weddings, plays, etc) that could be a starting point and then fine tune from there??
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Old June 21st, 2004, 08:27 PM   #7
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I find Spotlight mode best because it always uses zero-gain and merely adjusts aperture. I'm really surprised you got any washed out faces with it. I've had great success with spotlight mode in both the Canon and Sony cameras.
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Old June 23rd, 2004, 04:50 AM   #8
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Also, get as close to your subject as possible

Although a little tougher, use a good tripod and get in close to your talent. If you can "Fill" the screen with a brightly lite face, the results will be more pleasing. (This is how I shoot my music videos)
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