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Old August 8th, 2006, 03:33 PM   #1
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Live Video for Education/High School

I teach high school video and am in charge of buying our equipment for the year. I have a very limited budget, and spend much of it on the aquisition of computers and software for editing (with Final Cut).

We are going to try live video this year, hopefully mixing as we go along. I have a Focus Mixer with four analog inputs. I also have one VX2000 and a VX2100 that is only capable of capturing video to a secondary source (record head is broken). What I need to find out is if there are others like me, that work off a small budget and mix live video for events.

What cameras should I buy? How many should I work off of? What is a useful setup? How can I communicate with my videographers? Are there any good "wireless" video options. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

Thank you.
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Old August 8th, 2006, 06:27 PM   #2
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We use 2 GL2s, and usually the only live broadcasting is done in the studio. Segments are pre-taped and edited, and are played off a dvd player and fed into the mixer. Walkie talkies are useful for communicating with students inside the recording booth. We had a live broadcast set up in another classroom that had a guest speaker once, but I can't recall off the top of my head how that was done. So I'd say having 2 cameras is a fair amount to work with. You could use the broken VX2100 as an in-studio camera, and the VX2000 for a secondary in-studio camera as well as for whatever on-location segments need to be shot. Don't forget tripods as well. If you do have the budget and you want to go out and purchase some new cameras, I recommend the GL2. It has plenty of controls for the students to learn with, and it's not too expensive. Also, we record all episodes to a standalone DVD recorder.
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Old August 8th, 2006, 07:52 PM   #3
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1- Getting all the same camera means that the video won't look different between cameras (metamerism). You could probably get away with 1 camera that looks different, and use that for audience/reaction shots.

On big budget productions, they'll either use all the same cameras or they will "paint" the cameras to look more alike. You can't do this on the VXs since they don't have the controls for that.

They also have a person controlling the iris remotely, to get consistent looking exposure. At a high school level, I wouldn't care too much about this stuff... although getting consistent colors (and having only to learn 1 camera) is sort of nice.
*You might be able to control iris through the LANC port, although I'd have no idea about this.

How many should I work off of?
You'll need 3-4 cameras. You could work with 2 also, although that tends to look 'unbalanced' depending where you put your cameras.
An example positioning:

Place a camera at the rear of the room, leave this on a shot of the stage. This is the safety shot.

Place cameras on the side + closer to the stage for closer shots.

You can use the fourth camera for audience/reaction shots, or you can set it up centered in the room to get close ups.

How can I communicate with my videographers?
Walkie talkies would be the cheapest options. The vox headsets allow you to talk both ways, but that doesn't work well since they can't block sound. The camerapersons won't be able to hear the director. I'd use sound-blocking headphones... i.e. the kinds that go over the whole ear should give enough sound isolation.

2- One problem with live video is that it has a (relatively) large learning curve to do reasonably well. You might need to figure out how to edit multicam efficiently in post to cover mistakes.
find sync points easily. A camera flash is super-easy to sync to, you might want to intentionally introduce them.
Learn multicam tool in FCP5.

3- Audio:
For a microphone, a well placed hypercardioid microphone would be the best place to start. Closer = better. Usually you want the microphone somewhat above the stage.

You'll want an audio mixer to handle the audio... one taking a feed from the microphone, the other a feed from the PA system.

There are different ways to handle the audio.

Method A for handling audio:
From the mixer, feed that mix into a limiter/compressor. This is to even out the audio levels before the audio is recorded, avoiding clipping. Clapping/applause has lots of spikes in them, which can easily clip your audio.

The setup of this on an audio mixer can be complicated.

Method B:
Record microphone and PA mix onto seperate tracks.
In post, apply compression in Soundtrack. And bump both tracks to mix into a mono mix. Do check for mono compatibility- that the mono tracks don't go out of phase (otherwise the audience hears nothing); this is probably difficult to do in an all-digital workflow.
This is less complicated I would think.

4- Example workflow to cover slip-ups:

On all your cameras, try to record onto tape so you can edit in post. If you record in LP mode, be aware that you'll need the camera that recorded the tape to capture well with few/no dropouts. I'd avoid it. Stagger the tape changes. If there's a tape in the camera and it isn't recording, the camera will turn itself off in like 5 minutes to protect the heads+tape.

Bring a flash to make syncing cameras easy.

Audio: Record onto video if the video tape/whatever can handle the entire event. Otherwise you might want to record onto a seperate audio recorder. Pay attention to sync... on cheaper equipment, sync will slip over time. Use a clapper before and after.
A mini-DV deck like the DSR11 and Panasonic equivalent should take the large DV tapes, which do like 2 hours.

Live to tape edit: Do this with the mixer and the director talking to the camerapersons. Cut to the safety shot in case stuff goes wrong. You need to work out a communication system of course. Monitor the video feeds with monitors or TVs. Use cheap co-axial cabling for RCA + S-video feeds... you should be able to get a S-video-->coaxial adapter cable (or a bunch of adapters that do that). By running both RCA + S-video, you shouldn't need monitors with loop-through... just use small, cheap monitors.

In post:
Ideally, you wouldn't have to fix stuff in post. But you might have to.

During production, you could have a person (i.e. audio) take down notes about places where something screwed up, indicating time + timecode where this happened.

If you had a fourth camera, you can cut in random b-roll to cover mistakes.

Digitize the camera tapes, and sync them all up in FCP. Figure out how to use the multicam tool in FCP5... that should make your life easy and use it to cover the mistakes you make.

Apply compression to help even out the audio levels. You might need to use volume envelopes to manually adjust levels. Mix to mono, and bump finished audio back into FCP.
Hopefully you don't need noise reduction.

Add titles, make your DVD or other deliverables.

5- You can let the students run a quasi-business, where they are responsible for the club or production and try to recoup its costs by selling DVDs of the events to parents. In a small school, this won't work that well unless it's the graduation ceremonies.

6- And most importantly... have fun with it!!! It's high school after all.
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Old August 8th, 2006, 08:56 PM   #4
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Being a high school student, ENG Camera op, and also complete geek, I believe I might be able to help out here.

In terms of cameras, 2 will usually do. 3 will be the best possible setup, and 4 is overkill. Get a few decent tripods too. Quality isn't probably of huge importance, so maybe something along the lines of a Velbon. Studio shoots rarely have too much panning and tilting. If you can, giving both camera operators on-camera LCDs makes for a very Studio-like setup.

In terms of the actual setup, run Video cords out of both cameras, and into the Video Mixer. Then, grab yourself a cheap audio mixer, and plug in as many lapel mics as you need. Don't bother going for wireless, as it'll cause major hassles down the road. Also, run a cheap $30 DVD player into a third video input on the mixer. Split the output to go to a dedicated TV too, so you can change scenes and disks while "on the air". Use that to run titles and pre-prepared video. Then, run the final ouput into at least 2 monitors in the "control room", one for switcher, one for mixer, and then a single monitor between the 2 cameras, and then run the video out to also a DVD recorder, for capturing the show. Make sure everybody in the control room has headphones if you're in the same room, and if not (which is what I'd recommend), make sure there are speakers that everybody can hear easily (Everybody needs good audio). Lighting is also a big deal in Studio setups. Simple clamp-on lights placed above, to the sides at 45 degree angles, and in front of talent help greatly. Also, have a half-decent backdrop. Nothing kills a studio shoot like a plain white wall, or a logo printed on a computer and taped to the wall.

For communication, simple 2-Way Radios work very well, but get headsets. Earbuds do you no good in a setup like this. Also, be prepared to get headsets and headphones for everybody in the crew. Nobody likes dirty, sweaty headphones that just got finished being used.

Wireless video is a pain and a half. Stay away from it at all costs.

For field reports, I'd recommend getting a consumer camera (or just using one that's on-hand). Sure, it'll be limiting, but it'll teach the students a lot about real-world production. Plus, if somebody breaks it, and surely somebody will, it can be replaced. Remember, video quality is not of the essence here. Make sure to get the kids a decent tripod for field work though, and a good camera case which you mandate they use, and have them use their headphones and either handheld mics or lapels (depending on the setup). Make sure to have the "field kits" set up and ready to go, and separate from the studio gear. The studio and the field equipment should both be self-contained. And, that way, if you need a 3rd camera somewhere else during the live shoot, grab some long video and audio cables, and wire it up, and once you're done, re-wrap up the cables, and the camera can go right back out on a shoot.

One of the real things I need to stress here is the idea of it being a LIVE production. You'll never live it down if you teach the kids that they can "Fix it in post". Let them learn what's acceptable, and what's not, with gentile comments, and having them all sit down and watch their videos.

In terms of computers and editing, don't spend all your budget on that. Have 1 or 2 editing setups. Have a "field kit" (camera) for each of these setups. That way, kids can edit projects, make productions, and have a sense of how editing video goes, but they will also get a feeling for the idea that not everything can be fixed in post, and shooting and lighting and recording the sound of something properly can save you a lot of headaches. Sure, the kids will want to put a billion filters on in Final Cut, and make completely unnecessary edits, but that's alright, they can learn. Just don't let one project bog down a single computer for too long, and don't let anybody get set in their ways of doing one job. Everybody edits, everybody shoots in the field, everybody shoots in the studio, everybody switches, et cetera. That helps a ton.

I hope this helps, I know I would have killed for a setup like this back in middle school. (My highschool has a setup which is quite nice, but the people who run it aren't, and heck, it's not like I'm in desperate need of teaching, considering they're thinking of having me teach a video production club)

EDIT: I just read that you're thinking of trying to mix live for events. The same setup comes into play there, only instead of in a studio, you move the entire setup to wherever the event is. Make sure to have tons of cables, and at least 2 good mics up-close to the item you're recording.
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Old August 9th, 2006, 10:53 AM   #5
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great help

Wow. Thanks for the help. This is more than enough to run with for a day or so. I will reply with more questions, but again, I appreciate it greatly.
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