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Old June 22nd, 2007, 06:18 AM   #16
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David ...

I use an Alesis firewire mixer which I sometimes plug into an old VAIO laptop to check levels and record multiple channels if I think there might be problems getting a good live mix, but its just another box to carry in and set up.

A snake is just 4 or 8 (or more) balanced mike cables bundled up into one cable with a stagebox with XLR sockets at one end for your stage mikes and XLR plugs at the other end for your mixer. Much easier to set up than a load of single cables. I got mine from Thomann in Germany.

However, I'm beginning to think it might be easier just to buy one or two Zoom H4 portable digital recorders and set them up near the stage using either their internal mikes or my existing mikes - simpler to set up but a little trickier in post.

My main camcorder is a Sony FX1 and I've just bought a little Sony HC7 palmcorder that looks totally ridiculous on a tripod next to the FX1 but the HD images it delivers are as near identical to the FX1s as to allow me to freely intercut the footage without conflict, as I have just done with Oklahoma!

I use the HC7 to do the wide shot covering the whole stage, and re-frame it occasionally to centre on the current action on stage allowing leeway for unexepcted (forgotten!) entrances. The quality from the HC7 is extraordinary, and, at 712 a go I can see myself running a third camera in the very near future.

Tony
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Old June 22nd, 2007, 06:35 AM   #17
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Is the FC7 an interlaced camera? Sounds like something worth looking into for a second camera perhaps (and for jobs that may require a different look).

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I use the HC7 to do the wide shot covering the whole stage, and re-frame it occasionally to centre on the current action on stage allowing leeway for unexepcted (forgotten!) entrances.
Tell me about unexpected entrances....you can't go into this blindly (as I did the other night)...just hope it comes across creative...I will say it was done in the dogma style!

Would the H4 portable digital internal mic do a decent job? I'll have a quick google of those later.
Cheers tony.
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Old June 22nd, 2007, 07:27 AM   #18
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David ...

Theres a very interesting thread about the Zoom H4 here -

http://www.dvinfo.net/conf/showthread.php?t=76850

- seems like the internal mikes are pretty good for its size and price.

All Sony HDV camcorders are 1080 interlaced but most of the 'pro' and 'prosumer' models have some sort of 24/25p mode that simulate a movie look. The little HC7, being a 'consumer' palmcorder does not have a progressive mode, which is OK by me because its not a feature I'd ever use. I can't see the point in downgrading the cams ability to resolve motion by trying to emulate a movie camera. I much prefer the fluid motion you get from interlaced recordings and find progressive very juddery and distracting - its just me !
Oddly, I recently watched a demo recording from one of the new JVC HD200 camcorders running at 720 50p and despite the higher frame rate it stil looked juddery too me - not sure what was going on there !

As for unexpected entrances, its always best to get to at least one rehearsal before you shoot a stage show so that you have a chance of catching all of the important action with at least one camera. But you'll find with experience that you can busk your way through a show you haven't seen before just by keeping the zoom a bit wider and keeping one eye on the stage. If something unexpected happens out of frame, a quick camera movement is a dead giveaway. Just smoothly zoom or pan to include the action as if that was the way you'd intended to do it ! What really feels great is when you know an actor is just about to enter, you zoom out or pan very smoothly, and the actor walks straight into the frame in exactly the right place - looks very professional.

Of course if you've got 2 cameras and 4 audio channels to deal with its not always possible to be so slick, but at least its good to know you've got a static wide shot to fall back on.
As with everyting its all down to practice and experience.

Tony
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Old June 22nd, 2007, 08:39 AM   #19
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Thanks Tony - the way you feel about the 25p look is the way I feel about interlaced look - but it's down to what you prefer I guess. You certainly can't go for fast pans on this format but you get used to learing how to deal with it I guess....but all those arguement for and against are for other threads I guess :)

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If something unexpected happens out of frame, a quick camera movement is a dead giveaway. Just smoothly zoom or pan to include the action as if that was the way you'd intended to do it !
Ha ha! I inadvertantly did a few of these the other evening, knowing full well a quick pan/zoom out would look obvious. Hope I get away with it.
Thanks for the link - I've bookmarked it.
Cheers.
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Old June 22nd, 2007, 09:25 AM   #20
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*Really hard to white balance (I was literally told as the audience were pouring into the theatre) given the darkness of the room and atmospheric lighting....out of desperation I even zoomed in on ladies white head scarf sitting on the front row. I went for a general average (WB'ing against white card and items of clothing in the room...there literally was nothing else).

Hi David,
Most of my work is filming stage events.
Make sure to bring a white card & Siemens Chart. Ask the lighting guy then to run through the Cuelist and to call up the brightest white lighting Cue he has programmed.
Zoom in on the white card and set white balance and Iris.
Use that moment also to focus different area's on stage and remember your values you are balancing in min/max. This is done in 15 minutes. Make sure to ask and schedule this preparation time to the stage manager/producer.
This turned out to be a job-saver, because while the stage is dark and you see a performer coming up you can already set the focus pretty right, without being off completly when the light goes up to correct just a little to have it perfect. It are these moments which are crucial, were you have no room to focus and Iris your shot, because it will be always too late otherwise.

Regards, Marc.
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Old June 22nd, 2007, 09:27 AM   #21
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And yes Tripod is crucial for professional shots. Handheld is nice for some inbetween shots on stage itself when action happens.
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Old June 22nd, 2007, 10:06 AM   #22
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Originally Posted by Marc Colemont View Post
*Really hard to white balance (I was literally told as the audience were pouring into the theatre) given the darkness of the room and atmospheric lighting....out of desperation I even zoomed in on ladies white head scarf sitting on the front row. I went for a general average (WB'ing against white card and items of clothing in the room...there literally was nothing else).

Hi David,
Most of my work is filming stage events.
Make sure to bring a white card & Siemens Chart. Ask the lighting guy then to run through the Cuelist and to call up the brightest white lighting Cue he has programmed.
Zoom in on the white card and set white balance and Iris.
Use that moment also to focus different area's on stage and remember your values you are balancing in min/max. This is done in 15 minutes. Make sure to ask and schedule this preparation time to the stage manager/producer.
This turned out to be a job-saver, because while the stage is dark and you see a performer coming up you can already set the focus pretty right, without being off completly when the light goes up to correct just a little to have it perfect. It are these moments which are crucial, were you have no room to focus and Iris your shot, because it will be always too late otherwise.

Regards, Marc.
I will tomorrow - but I was merely shaking the hands before the performance started the other evening, there really to get my bearings etc. It was as the theatre doors opened I was told cross wires meant I should be filming then (having never done this before).
Fortunately I had a few minutes to a very quick WB and zoom on a object on stage to set my focus. There was also somebody giving a talk at the beginning under bright lights so I could set my focus here.

Still, lots of things learned very quickly - and viewing the shots back there is a lot of shaky stuff unfortunately...the tripod will be with me tomorrow - I will keep the camera pretty static with only zooms and light pans...possibly take the locks off the pan and tilts - the tripod has very nice fluid motion.
I guess there is no real way of hiding these shakes (mainly on the zooms).
A focus ring and remote zoom (are these available??) would also have been helpful. Also a shame there wasn't anywhere closer to the stage to set up...the audio isn't good.
Thanks Marc.
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Old June 22nd, 2007, 01:02 PM   #23
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Originally Posted by David Scattergood View Post
I asked about feeds from the mixing desk (right next to me in a booth as it happens) but this just isn't required for these smallish projects. Initially thought I would be at the front filming but as I'm about 15/20 metres back from the stage the audio isn't 'dynamic' to say the least.

...

Also a shame there wasn't anywhere closer to the stage to set up...the audio isn't good.
Hi David.

I had a thought concerning your audio problem. From your info, I take it that they are not using the mixing desk at all (?). Are they still using some sort of microphone set-up which is connected to speakers?

At a recent event I couldn't get any sort of XLR connection from their mixing desk (all taken), but I checked the speakers and they each had an XLR output, so I connected to one of those (and totally secured my cable so that nobody would trip).

It could be worth checking out. Consistently good audio can definitely help the viewer to "ride over" the occasional visual glitch.
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Old June 22nd, 2007, 01:49 PM   #24
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Hi David - I'm right next to the 'tech' booth (I know they have a light mixing desk but I cannot confirm about a mixing desk...there are no mic's on stage just the odd bit of soundtrack/effects) and I'm at rehearsals tomorrow. I'll ask...the audio is very lame on the playbacks today...really lame.
Aside from the shakes though the footage (colours match fine) is pretty good for SD. Bit of trouble with DVD studio Pro (posted in the mac forum) but it's another day's learning curve.
Thanks David.
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Old June 22nd, 2007, 04:08 PM   #25
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A note about audio.

Even if they are not using microphones, there are probably built-in mic lines running from the stage area to the console.

You could put a couple of mic at the apron of the stage (on stands in front of the stage to prevent vibrations) and plug these into the built-in lines. Then you plug lines out from the console into the camera.

These may not be available, but it's worth asking.

If the show is mic'd, you can sometimes get improved audio by putting a mic in front of or pointing a shotgun at a speaker.

Also, a shotgun on the camera will be better than an omni or built-in camera mic.

Also, a small mixer before the camera can help getting good levels when using not-the-best sound.

If nothing else is possible, a small wireless at the front of the apron will give you better audio than from the back of the house.

In some theater there are already mics hanging over the stage (used for glee club performances or whatever) that only have to be turned on. (Or there may not be mics, but there will be cables hanging to plug mics into, and the mics are in a cabinet somewhere.)

If you do a lot of this, a couple of audio technica boundary mics you could put on the front of the stage might be worth getting.

Just by considering all the possibilities, you will find something that works in the kinds of places you tape.
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Old June 23rd, 2007, 12:16 AM   #26
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Originally Posted by David Scattergood View Post
And I guess you'd require at least one or two assistants for that set up?
I'm not sure about your definition of "assistant." Crew consists of 3-4 camera ops and a director.

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Sorry Stephen - not sure in what context you mean by 'switching live to tape' and 'basic line cut'?
Most of the work I do is out of a live production truck, so I'll be sitting at a switcher and cutting shots live. I do very little editing, and prefer to keep it that way. Cutting it live cuts your time commitment to a quarter or even less of what editing in post would take. Doing multicam out of a production truck also lets you match the colors on your cameras precisely and takes the burden of riding iris off the camera operators so they can focus on getting shots. I can record isos of individual cameras if I want, but unless I blatantly screw something up it's not necessary.


If you have to set your own audio for a theater thing, a PZM at each side of the stage works pretty well.
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Old June 23rd, 2007, 02:38 AM   #27
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Hi David,

Now that you mention, yes indeed I use a remote zoom unit on my tripod. You simply can't do the same shots without it. I also flip open the LCD and leave the Focus assist most of the time. On my remote unit I configured the RET button to switch the Focus Assist, so I can check colors very quicly without messing around to search for the knobs in the dark on the camera, which introduces small shakes on the camera during shooting otherwise.

Marc
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Old June 23rd, 2007, 05:01 AM   #28
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If the show is mic'd, you can sometimes get improved audio by putting a mic in front of or pointing a shotgun at a speaker.

Also, a shotgun on the camera will be better than an omni or built-in camera mic.
Thanks Jack. Not sure how well the HD100 on board mic performs (the jobs I've done in the past never really required audio...all going to soundtrack at a later date), though fortunately the HD100 has 2 XLR inputs.. I'm going to take along my ME66/K6 shotgun this evening and see if I can locate it centrally - I'll speak to the sound guys at the theatre but I feel I'll be limited with my options. I'm pretty sure I'm the only person documenting this performance in any way but it's an established theatre so I'd hope there were facilities for audio.
Anything which pointed over the audience (or was as close to the stage as possible) will help. The audience mainly consisted of parents the performing children who also had much younger siblings sat 'watching'...I've this baby crying every 10 or so minutes!
I've taken all these tips in - cheers.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Stephan Ahonen View Post
I'm not sure about your definition of "assistant." Crew consists of 3-4 camera ops and a director.


Most of the work I do is out of a live production truck, so I'll be sitting at a switcher and cutting shots live. I do very little editing, and prefer to keep it that way. Cutting it live cuts your time commitment to a quarter or even less of what editing in post would take. Doing multicam out of a production truck also lets you match the colors on your cameras precisely and takes the burden of riding iris off the camera operators so they can focus on getting shots. I can record isos of individual cameras if I want, but unless I blatantly screw something up it's not necessary.


If you have to set your own audio for a theater thing, a PZM at each side of the stage works pretty well.
I was thinking at one stage you were a one man band Stephen - and you were somehow operating all those camera's not unlike those plate spinners you see on variety shows! I thought perhaps you had somebody there with you to assist you....but of course you have a full crew!

I used PZM's at college years ago and almost forgotten about them. It might be wise to jump on ebay for some second hand kits (the aforementioned PZM's and other mics).
Understand what you mean about switching live to tape - phew what a set up - I currently have a heavy bag or two and aching arms! Hopefully though I can widen my reach over the coming year/years. I can see it making absolute sense to do it that way given the right equipment.

Quote:
I can record isos of individual cameras if I want, but unless I blatantly screw something up it's not necessary.
Forgive me if I'm incorrect but would this relate to shutter speed on the camera's eg a particularly fast moving sequence might follow a slow, melodramatic portion of a production?

Quote:
Now that you mention, yes indeed I use a remote zoom unit on my tripod. You simply can't do the same shots without it. I also flip open the LCD and leave the Focus assist most of the time. On my remote unit I configured the RET button to switch the Focus Assist, so I can check colors very quicly without messing around to search for the knobs in the dark on the camera, which introduces small shakes on the camera during shooting otherwise.

Marc
I'm going to look into these also. It's night on impossible to see what you're doing in these dark theatres and every slight nudge is a bl**dy big shake on the picture...and when you're using one camera it isn't so hot.
I've had to get by through focusing on a performer in the rehearsal just before the play starts then not touching the focus again. Auto focus is not even worthing mentioning - I saw last years performace filmed by somebody else using this function and the camera never gets it right.
Focus ring would be ideal, but that means purchasing a mattebox et al and there's so many other things on my ever expanding shopping list!

Thanks everybody.
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Old June 24th, 2007, 12:28 AM   #29
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Forgive me if I'm incorrect but would this relate to shutter speed on the camera's eg a particularly fast moving sequence might follow a slow, melodramatic portion of a production?
Not sure what you mean, but I leave shutter at 1/60. It's so dang dark in those theaters that I need every bit of light gathering capability I can get. The exception is when there's a projector onstage. One production I shot used a projector to create a stained glass window for a scene and it wasn't quite in sync with the cameras so I had to turn on clearscan for just that scene.


I recommend is getting yourself some studio-style zoom and focus handles and a decent LCD you can strap on top of the camera as a viewfinder. Cine-style follow focus isn't the only way, or really even the best way to do it. Studio-style controls put the focus handle on an arm of your tripod so you're operating the camera from behind it instead of to the side. A lot more ergonomic for long shoots.
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Old June 24th, 2007, 06:28 AM   #30
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Not sure what you mean, but I leave shutter at 1/60. It's so dang dark in those theaters that I need every bit of light gathering capability I can get. The exception is when there's a projector onstage. One production I shot used a projector to create a stained glass window for a scene and it wasn't quite in sync with the cameras so I had to turn on clearscan for just that scene.
Stephen - it was me not quite understanding what you meant by 'isos' in your set up - guessed it might be related to shutter speed (you may have required different shutter speeds for certain style of shot or the movement changes on stage...might be going off an a tangent but for example a battle scene theatre production a la Saving Private Ryan/Gladiator).

Quote:
I recommend is getting yourself some studio-style zoom and focus handles and a decent LCD you can strap on top of the camera as a viewfinder. Cine-style follow focus isn't the only way, or really even the best way to do it. Studio-style controls put the focus handle on an arm of your tripod so you're operating the camera from behind it instead of to the side. A lot more ergonomic for long shoots.
To be honest I didn't realise there was another option for focus handles - I'll look into those studio style focus pullers Stephen (do they fit most tripod?).

I'm guessing though for a top quality LCD field screen it could probably run into the thousands of pounds? The cam LCD and focus assist has been good to me for most jobs but for more critical work (and when I start to use the HDV function) then I'd have to look into one of these. Just very conscious of the budget at the moment - I simply cannot afford to increase substantially my set up. Matte box is close to the top of the list (hence the cine focus puller), but then so is a lighting set up; g-raid hard drive (for HDV back ups)....and so on.

I shot another performance last night and it went much, much bettter.
I used the fluid head tripod to convey the handheld look and it was far more succesful than holding the camera in your hands for over an hour (I guess my only option for ridding that first attempt of shakes is fade out/ins?)
I occasionally locked the tilt and shot the performance wide angle, or zoomed in slightly and carried out very slow pans across the cast - this worked well also. Not to keen on the tilt lock button though - you really have to be firm with this when unlocking (and kind of squeeze it) so you don't 'jump' the camera...few sweats but I managed to control this.
I took along a ME66/K6 mic and added this to the second XLR input on the camera (sat it on a boom stand right next to the sound booth pointing centrally - much sharper, cleared sound than the on board) - little bit unsure as to how this camera records sound though:

I presumed with 2 inputs you would have 4 channels of audio (2 Left and Rights?). I had quick capture to FCP before the rehearsals but FCP is just showing 2 channels (L and R). I've got this wrong....right?
Perhaps I shoud've used the ME66 instead of the onboard and not both of them (the on board picking up the audience more so than the ME66 due to it's location).

Must say overall this isn't easy...especially as a one man band. It's almost like shooting a movie (albeit very low budget!) in one take (did anyone here see Russian Ark!!!).
Concentration is the key. The slow pan outs when somebody unexpectedly appears on stage left (when you're zoomed in on right) creatively rescues you.

Thanks for all the help - it's been a very rewarding (and highly enjoyable) experience so far.
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