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Old September 6th, 2002, 05:45 AM   #1
Parkingtigers
 
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Shooting a seminar

Hello all.

I have my first 3 camera gigs coming up soon, and I could benefit from any advice you have to offer. The one that worries me the most is covering a seminar in a couple of weeks. The guy that is hosting it understands that it is really just a practise session for me, (him too) but I'd really like to make the best job of it that I can.

Basically it will consist of one man giving a presentation of ideas to an audience. I have no idea at this point of available lighting, but naturally I am assuming the worst at this point.

I have an XL1-s with standard 16x zoom, and I have a tripod, sennheiser ew112p radio mike set, and ma200 on order from optex that should arrive any day. I obviously have no experience with this equipment and any tips on using these for this specific situation would also be apprechiated.

I should be getting more info about the where and how of the seminar soon, but I wanted to pick the brains of the members of this excellent site as soon as I could.

Any and all comments are welcomed.

Adrian
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Old September 6th, 2002, 10:30 AM   #2
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PRACTICE, PRACTiCE,practice. Try to create every possible scenario you can, that might be similar to what you might encounter. view it , study it , do it over , look and listen for mistakes or areas where there is a need for improvemnt. If some one else can be honest and critique it, ask for observations, do they understand what the video is showing, is there continuity? Check your audio, great video is no good if the audio stinks, lighting ditto.

good video= in focus + good composition (angles, establishing shot, WS's, MS's, CU's, etc.) + good audio + good lighting + pre-planning

AND PRACTICE

THESE ARE THE BASICS, FOR ANYTHING TO BE GOOD, YOU MUST PRACTICE!

Don't forget to bring extra batteries, and ac cords. Good head phones to check audio, don't be afraid to make mistakes, sometimes they give better results and you do learn from them.
When I took video production classes, I was so happy with the results, but as each week went by, and I looked at previous work, I realized that the early ones were horrible and how I was improving. In fact, the ones I had been so proud of were now an embarrisment. Practice, review, practice.

Not trying to preach, just talking from experience.

Bruce
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Old September 6th, 2002, 11:18 AM   #3
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Remember the rule of thirds when framing the speaker.
Keep your headphones on.
If it is not a 'live' gig in front of an audience, change your camera positions often. Practice.
If it is in front of an audience, get b-roll shots of the audience to cut in after the speaker is done talking. Remember sight lines so when you shoot them, they should be looking towards the speaker, not away from him.
Even if it is "live" but the number of people there is very small, you can get him to take a 1 minute break every little while so you can reposition the camera. Just make sure to maintain line of sight.
Manualy white balance.
Bring an extension cord to plug into a wall, and tape to tape it down so no one trips over it. Or bring extra batteries.
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Old September 6th, 2002, 01:20 PM   #4
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Excellant points Dylan

Bruce
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Old September 8th, 2002, 02:06 PM   #5
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<<<-- Originally posted by B. Moore : Excellant points Dylan

Bruce -->>>

Thanks, I must have been sober that day. j/k ;)
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Old September 22nd, 2002, 01:56 AM   #6
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Did you say three cam? I only saw the mention of the xl1. Is this a live switched event or one done in post?
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Old September 22nd, 2002, 10:28 AM   #7
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<<<-- Originally posted by 1 JoPhoto : Did you say three cam? I only saw the mention of the xl1. Is this a live switched event or one done in post? -->>>

I think he meant three jobs doing camera work, not three cameras on one job.
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Old September 22nd, 2002, 04:25 PM   #8
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Thanks for the replies

Just wanted to say thanks for the advice and comments. All helpful and all duly noted.

I have just come back from filming it today (it went great) and in a couple of days I will write up a full report in this thread to let you know what happened.

Adrian
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Old September 23rd, 2002, 05:29 PM   #9
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post a couple of clips too....you know for the real newbies like me.
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Old September 24th, 2002, 12:31 PM   #10
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How I did it

Ok, I'm back. After all the great help I've had so far from the members on this site I'm now going to give as full account as possible of the seminar shoot. Hopefully someone out there will find some of it useful, even if its just as an example of what not to do.

Anyway, the event was held on a sunday in central london. Firstly I had to negotiate the crowds on the underground as I toted along my camera bag and tripod, all on a day that 400,000 people were also travelling in to london for a protest march. Arriving at 9.30, I had 30 minutes to get set up and I was already pretty tired after that journey.

The room was a long thin affair, with rows of seats on a series of steps up to the back of the room. This did mean that my tripod got a clear view over the heads of the attendees, but when I had to go handheld, the steps, and lack of space to manuever mad it rather tricky. The room was flourescent lit, and had windows all along one edge that let in the mid september sunshine.

I had been up late the night before, as I was trying to find out how best to hook up my microphones, but in the end I went with the following. I had the speaker hooked up with a Sennheiser 112p lavelier, and the sound quality was great. I did notice a couple of moments of interference through the headphones, but haven't yet had a chance to check that section of the footage to see whether it registered. Again, the sheer number of people in the capital that day did mean a lot of police helicopters overhead, and I did wonder at the time if that was a problem, or if simply the cable to the transmitter wasn't properly arranged. Anyway the sound was extremely sharp through this mic, and I would reccommend it highly. I did want to have a second mic hooked up for the audience questions/ambient noise, but I did not have a mono onboard mic, so I would have had to use 12 bit stereo to get both sound sources. I did not want to compromise the quality, so stuck with the lav for most of the work, and when walking between the attendees while they conducted exercises I flipped back to the onboard mic to cover that section.

The event kicked off at 10am, and would run until 5pm, with a break at 1 for lunch. I found my hahnel canon compatible batteries were holding up well, and I changed the 945 for a spare at lunchtime only as a safety precaution, not as a necessity. I also got a friend (who was attending) to run out at lunchtime to get me a fresh set of batteries for the radio mikes. I know they probably werent needed, and yes I should have had a second set anyway, buy as it was my main sound source it seemed a sensible precaution.

I was using the camera in full manual mode, as I wanted to shoot in frame mode. I really like the different look that frame mode has, and want to get into the habit of using it as much as possible. The sound I left switched to automatic, as even though it was peaking a bit, I felt that I had to trust at least something up to the camera, and as I was switching between 2 mics I couldnt afford to be spending time fiddling with the level dial continually. I think I should perhaps have gone with some kind of auto exposure though, as I did have to fiddle with the aperture a fair bit to try and keep up with the changing sunlight. Once I had closed a couple of blinds at lunchtime, the speaker was at least covered from the changing light. I think the room would have been a bit gloomy for my liking without any natural light getting in though, so I'm glad in a way that most blinds stayed up.

I wasn't shooting LP, as I have read that most people dont, and I figured that if there is any reduction in quality or reliablity then its not something I want to go near. I warned the speaker in advance that we had a 60 minute maximum, and to work in a short break accordingly.

I started with my tripod on the back of the room, and shot the speaker talking and demonstrating, and then he would say, "ok, now get into groups and try it." At that point, I'd have to hit the quick release, shove the camera on my shoulder, force my way round the tripod, flip to the onboard mic and get in amongst them and get as much footage as possible. I would try to get each of the groups from several angles so that I could cut it together to fake up a 2 camera shoot, and I also had to keep an eye on the speaker. Sometimes he would sit and watch, leaving the attendees to get on with it, and in this situation I would stick with the camera mic for (hopefully) some clean local sound. Other times he would wander over to a group and start giving more specific advice and instructions. If this happened, or looked likely to happen I'd flip back to his lav mic, and follow him around to get some footage of him in action.

During these group sessions I'd usually have a chance to warn him if I was getting low of tape and he'd give me time to changeover before starting the next part of the lecture. The pace was pretty quick and I didn't have time to do a fresh white balance too often, just at the start of the day, after lunch, and before the final interviews.

I thought it would be a good idea to get some off the cuff reactions from some of the guests at the end of the gig. I figured that the speaker would have some free advertising to use on his website, and it would be a nice way to round off the tape having the guests say how much they got out of attending. The host agreed with me, and said hed get a couple of volunteers to stay in their seats at the end. What he suggested looked far too staged for my liking, so I mentioned later that I'd like to get some informal interviews outside the room "as well" just in case the others looked like paid actors. He gave a knowing smile and said ok and we did it my way only in the end. The 4 volunteers we got were great, and really enthused about what they had seen and done on the day. I would say that footage like this should be and essential part of your seminar shooting. Its like when you leave a film that you really enjoyed, you turn to the person next to you and ask them what they think. When they say that they like it too, it reinforces your own opinion of it, and makes you feel less uncertain about whether it was good or not. Its the same with a seminar tape. If you have a tape of a few hours length, and you have the guests of the seminar reinforcing the speakers message then that adds to the validity of his message.

After a couple of the exercises, I stayed near the front with the camera handheld. Two reasons, firstly to get some footage of the speaker from a different angle (far too small a room to move the tripod even once) and secondly so that I could get as much crowd footage as possible to paper over the joins.

After filling up nearly 6 hours of tape, I was absolutely exhausted. It was nonstop concentration all day, and was very hard work. I was rushing around a lot, making sure that I got as much varied coverage as possible. The client has expressed a wish to produce it as a four tape set, each being an hour long. The focus will be on him, with the exercise footage being interwoven between and under his words as appropriate. We will record some introductions and interviews with him to tie it all together and should hope to introduce some creative touches to the whole thing.

In the after seminar visit to the pub, I put forward various ideas of how to cut it all together and the client was very enthusiastic about it all. Now bearing in mind I was working for free (but I should get back my production costs at least) and that he hadn't any idea of whether the sound or picture would even come out ok, he was already talking about hiring me for future projects based on my attitude and passion for the job. He was so relieved that it wasn't just someone sitting there with a camera on a tripod for 6 hours that even some of the more basic ideas I came up with were recieved really well.

Another thing to remember if you do one of these is to take some business cards along. I had some printed up from one of the machines that you find in train stations and the like, and had several people express an interest in the equipment and my company. I found one of the guests was a university student studying drama that had a whole group of actors to put me in contact with, and a couple of others discussed possible projects with me on the day too. Nice.

Sorry this is a bit of a ramble, but I am just trying to get it all down before I forget, and before I run out of time before I start editing.

One other thing, at the start of the day, we had to find out if anyone didn't want to be filmed. I suggested that the speaker get anyone that didn't want to appear to sit in the section right at the back next to the camera. That way I could wander around and pan at will and not have to worry about such things.

My tripod was a manfrotto 520 with a 501 video head. I made some silly mistakes like trying to fiddle endlessly with the legs to get it level instead of simply adjusting the head (doh) and I did find that trying to get a small adjustment pan was very hard to do smoothly. A long smooth pan is fine, but when you want to just gently nudge the speaker back into view it could be jerky sometimes. Another blinding mistake I made was to keep forgetting the optical stabiliser. Some tripod sections were filmed with it on, and some hand held sections with it off. Still, lessons learned, and by the end anytime the camera went onto or off of the tripod that switch was always checked.

continued:
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Old September 24th, 2002, 12:33 PM   #11
Parkingtigers
 
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How I did it (part 2)

(Wow, I must have been waffling as I discovered that the maximum message length here is 10,000 characters, and I had it up to nearly 12k. Anyway, heres the rest.)


One last thing about the tripod. I got back to it after having filmed the final endorcement interviews to find my friends had dismantled it for me and put it back into the carry bag. Of course, they had removed the head and the whole thing was rattling around loose in there. I'll be adding a small sticker on top stating NOT to touch it in future in case anyone else tries to help. No real harm done though (this time).

I have a website being built as we speak, so hopefully soon there will be some clips to show you. I have been given plenty of time to produce this tape, so I am taking advantage of this to make it as good as possible. This "freebie" that I'm doing will be the showreel to show to others, so I will make it as good as I can for both out benefits. I should have the guest interviews captured soon, so that the client can put them on his new website as a trailer for the video, and as a reccomendation for his seminars. I'll post details in this thread when they are up.

Right, sorry for the ramble, and I hope some part of this helps someone else out there. I'll try and get back here every so often to answer any questions that you have. Its a great site here, and I hope that in the future I can share more of my experiences with other newbies.

Thanks again to all those who have helped me in the past.

Adrian

Distant Sun Productions
DistantSunProductions.com (coming soon.)
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Old September 24th, 2002, 06:18 PM   #12
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Glad it worked out well for you, Adrian.
Thanks for sharing it with us!
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Old September 24th, 2002, 08:23 PM   #13
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On the tripod, the correct thing is not to use the "steadyshot." I know you'd like to avoid the tripod jitter, but it (the lens) has a mind of it's own when doing those pans if you're on a tripod and on steadyshot.
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