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Old June 21st, 2007, 01:27 PM   #1
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Filming theatre play with the HD100

Hi folks,
I am currently assigned to film a series of arts coucil school plays, slightly different project than I've done in the past.
I went along for a 'reccy' last night but cross wires between the arts council/schools and the client I'm doing the work for meant I would end up filming the first night (having never done this kind of thing before). Fortunately I had my camera, tape batteries etc!

What I need to deliver is a finished set of DVD's - authored...again having usually delivered only edited footage to clients I've yet to get my hands into compressing and DVD authoring I presume I my workflow will be FCP - Compressor - DVD studio Pro (no soundtrack is required). Alternatively I may jump onto iDVD if Studio Pro is too much to quickly absorb given a fairly tight deadline...(the client will design and produce the artwork/covers etc)

Couple of things I noticed last night (and I've been told not to worry to much about this being perfect - it's for the parents to see their kids perform on stage...but still, I'd like to do the best I can):

*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).

*The same client filmed this himself last year (I think he may have used the Canon XL1) and advised me to film this handheld rather than static tripod. I had to film at the back of the theatre rather than up at the front (there was just no room) so unfortunately this meant a slight zoom for a full stage shot or extreme zoom for the one or two close ups.
Now this HD100 with the V lock batteries isn't a light camera!! I was fighting this throughout the performance and I found it pretty tough to hold. move around then adjust the zoom occasionally whilst it was balancing on one arm! :(
So...I may either use a fluid head tripod for the next performances (given a type of facsimile handheld look) or have it on my shoulder.
In the ideal world I'd already own a steadicam....but that just isn't possible at the moment (the budget for this wouldn't run to hiring one either).

Perhaps this should've been posted in a different section of the boards but I was interested in how people may have dealt with this situation using the HD100/200 camera's - which are'nt necessarily a handheld camera.

I'd really appreciate any feedback before my next shoot.
Cheers.
David Scattergood is offline   Reply With Quote
Old June 21st, 2007, 02:07 PM   #2
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Hello David.

I shoot some things in theaters my self, too, and I definitely need a tripod. Some shows last for a couple of hours and holding the camera steady for such a long time, can be a hassle.
One thing you can do, if it's possible, in order to change the point of view, is to pick up the camera and move the tripod onto a slightly different location.
I don't know which head you've got on the tripod, but at least a manfrotto/bogen 501, I think you should get.

About the white balance, you've got three positions on the WB switch: A,B,PRESET. If I were you I would assign 5600K to PRESET, and then assign to one of the "user assignable buttons", White balance preset.
Then, when your switch is on PRESET, if you click that "user assignable button" you picked, it will alternate from 5600K to 3200K.....You can use this as a sort of a "panic" solution...whenever you don't have enough time, or an object to do white balance, go to PRESET and choose the one which matches your scenario best, be it either 5600K or 3200K.

About the DVD encoding, the best solution is FCP>compressor>dvd studio pro, but if there's no enough time, you can export your sequence from final cut on to a Quicktime movie (doesn't need to be "self-contained") and then import it to iDVD, which gives great results most of time.

Don't know if I've helped you, but I tried!
Cheers.
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Old June 21st, 2007, 02:40 PM   #3
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Yes - that's really helpful Sergio.
I took a WB a few times and it averaged around 2500k mark...quite a darkly lit stage, though the colours seemed fairly representative on the lcd.
I have a Libec LS38 tripod - the fluid head seems pretty good (pans are very smooth on this but not relevant to this project). It would be a pain trying to get the tripod level as I'm on a slant at the back of the room. I think somebody on this forum mentioned a couple of US shows use a fluid tripod head to convey a type of handheld look (NYPD blue et al). My arm nearly went dead towards the end of the hour and how I didn't drop the camera I'll never know!

Quote:
About the DVD encoding, the best solution is FCP>compressor>dvd studio pro, but if there's no enough time, you can export your sequence from final cut on to a Quicktime movie (doesn't need to be "self-contained") and then import it to iDVD, which gives great results most of time.
Will iDVD create the necessary codec for viewing on standard DVD players?
I've had a quick look at exporting from FCP to Compressor - seems relatively straightforward if I were to use Best Settings 16:9 90 mins (the show and extra bits is no more than an hour) rather than Advanced 8 bit uncompressed or DV Pal Anamorphic (which is the settings in FCP).

DVD studio pro looks like it requires some head scratching, first off at least.
For these DVD's there will be no menu's - just 'play the movie' (I can't help thinking of that German Pig from Shrek everytime I see that) and a looped segment from the play itself.

Thanks Sergio.
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Old June 21st, 2007, 03:52 PM   #4
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Wait, did he *advise* you to shoot it handheld, or *tell* you "I want a handheld look"? If the latter I can understand, but if he was just advising you I would have said "Uh huh, okay" and brought in a tripod anyway. No way am I doing an "always-on" handheld shot for 2-3 hours if I can help it.
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Old June 21st, 2007, 04:43 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by David Scattergood View Post
DVD studio pro looks like it requires some head scratching, first off at least.
For these DVD's there will be no menu's - just 'play the movie'
Hi David.

Tim Dashwood made two good posts in this thread which is sort of a "DVD Studio Pro for beginners" for making a DVD with no menu:

http://www.dvinfo.net/conf/showthread.php?t=62577

If you have any further questions when you actually go to use this, just start a new thread over in the Mac forum.
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Old June 21st, 2007, 09:09 PM   #6
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I have shot a number of dance recitals, though not with the HD100.

However, I don't see how you could do a play without a tripod. I have seen many theater shows videotaped professionally. the only time I've seen handheld cameras is for roving cameras. These shows have used 4 to 9 cameras.

I think anything that is shot handheld would have to be edited. I can't imagine how you could get 20 minutes, let alone an hour of decent video shooting hand held.

For white balance in a theater I always use an indoor preset. This is the only way to get the lighting effects the way they are intended. (In very rare situations with certain lights, a different white balance would be needed.)

The only time I found hand held was best for a show was in a small room and I was using a small Sony handycam. I also used a wide angle adapter and the steadyshot. It looked okay, but it was tiring, too.

I think shooting this kind of stuff is generally a no-win situation. It's impossible to make it look really good. Exposure is a big problem as lights change, as are hot reflections everywhere... especially on faces... and red lights.

One thing that can help a lot is to setup a camera b, a one-chip camera is fine, and get a wide-angle shot of the entire stage. The camera can be clamped at the apron or perhaps on the front of a balcony. This gives a cutaway for the whole show which gives you a little latitude in getting some good shots with the main camera without having to worry about every second of continuous video. (Depending on the kind of show, the cutaway also can work in the wings, looking onto the stage. In this case, the very different lighting and flares disguise the different camera.)

The one time I saw an excellent video of a dance school recital (The Nutcracker) it turned out that they used three experienced camera operators and all had done the show several times in past years. The camera work was as choreographed... or maybe more so... than the show itself.
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Old June 21st, 2007, 10:57 PM   #7
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On the handheld vs. tripod issue, it really depends on the material. For a regular theatrical production like a musical or play it's alllll tripods, I put 4-5 cameras as close together as possible at the back of the house with long enough lenses to get at least a bust shot on someone onstage. The reason I want them close together is because if you're sitting in the audience watching a play or musical, your point of view is from the same place the whole show, and the whole thing is blocked and choreographed for an audience that's looking at the show straight on, so it really doesn't benefit from a variety of camera angles.

My camera assignments would be a full wide lockdown and a "dynamic wide" sharing the middle, the dynamic wide is getting just tight enough that it's cutting off any dead space, it's the primary wide shot, the lockdown is just in case of "suprises". One camera is an iso tight of whoever is the current "lead" character onstage, and the other 1-2 cameras are chasing dialog and/or being creative.

Dance studios and band concerts benefit a lot more from a variety of camera angles, for those I'll do no more than 2 cameras in the back, both manned, one getting creative wides and the other creative tights, and a couple handhelds up front working different shots. If I can get a jib I'll use that as my wide and the two cameras on tripods will both be getting tights instead.

Quote:
The camera work was as choreographed... or maybe more so... than the show itself.
Nah, it's just a matter of knowing what's coming up next and getting the shot, not necessarily making up shot sheets for the whole show. I worked on a DVD of a theatrical show where we shot a lot of different nights and by the end of the run my line cut was pretty much perfect, very little editing necessary. Didn't plan it that way, it just happened because we all just knew the show so well by the end of the run.
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Old June 22nd, 2007, 02:56 AM   #8
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Thanks everybody. This is a lot tougher than I thought it might be.
Planning and experience would've been really helpful but I was literally thrown in to it.
David - thanks for the link I shall view them this morning (and post any further queries in the relevant section of the boards)...however that's the least of my worries this morning...my camera is not initialising on FCP and am about to start editing!! I went white and thought I may have blown those ever so fragile firewire ports (since blowing one last year I'm extra careful and have added a FW isolator). When the camera is on however FCP loads up without the missing external firewire device, so it may not be that...I'll head over to the mac threads :(

Quote:
However, I don't see how you could do a play without a tripod. I have seen many theater shows videotaped professionally. the only time I've seen handheld cameras is for roving cameras. These shows have used 4 to 9 cameras.

I think anything that is shot handheld would have to be edited. I can't imagine how you could get 20 minutes, let alone an hour of decent video shooting hand held.
Absolutely...glad this has been confirmed to me. I can see someone getting away with a camcorder right on the edge of the stage but at the back with a camera the size of the HD100 - not wise.

Quote:
One thing that can help a lot is to setup a camera b, a one-chip camera is fine, and get a wide-angle shot of the entire stage. The camera can be clamped at the apron or perhaps on the front of a balcony. This gives a cutaway for the whole show which gives you a little latitude in getting some good shots with the main camera without having to worry about every second of continuous video. (Depending on the kind of show, the cutaway also can work in the wings, looking onto the stage. In this case, the very different lighting and flares disguise the different camera.
I do have a small pannasonic (NV***?) 3 CCD camcorder which I could mount on a stationary tripod next to me at the back - never having edited two camera's I'd be a little anxious over synching the footage up, timecode not one of my strong points at the moment.

Quote:
On the handheld vs. tripod issue, it really depends on the material. For a regular theatrical production like a musical or play it's alllll tripods, I put 4-5 cameras as close together as possible at the back of the house with long enough lenses to get at least a bust shot on someone onstage. The reason I want them close together is because if you're sitting in the audience watching a play or musical, your point of view is from the same place the whole show, and the whole thing is blocked and choreographed for an audience that's looking at the show straight on, so it really doesn't benefit from a variety of camera angles.
Is this for a safety net Stephen - if these 4/5 camera's (you have a slightly larger budget than I!!) are sat together is there going to be any noticeable difference in the shots or are they pointed at different locations on the stage (rather than all wide shots)?

Quote:
Nah, it's just a matter of knowing what's coming up next and getting the shot, not necessarily making up shot sheets for the whole show. I worked on a DVD of a theatrical show where we shot a lot of different nights and by the end of the run my line cut was pretty much perfect, very little editing necessary. Didn't plan it that way, it just happened because we all just knew the show so well by the end of the run.
Unfortunately these are all seperate performances by different schools (although they share 2 plays so I'll get at least one viewing before the next one...I have rehearsals I can go to also).
I know there are a couple of 'shakes' as I cradled the HD100 in one hand whilst reaching out to zoom in/out. I'm thinking of a few 'creative' transitions within the process.
Yes - I was recommended to leave the tripod at home and go for handheld...of course in retrospect I could've achieved a similar but more disciplined effect using a fluid tripod.

It's all experience I guess - hopefully (if I fix the fw issue) I can try my best in the editing process, but it hasn't been easy!

Many thanks for the help - sorry about the delay in replying but I guess we're on opposite sides of this planet!
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Old June 22nd, 2007, 03:42 AM   #9
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David ...

Don't worry about synchronising footage from multiple cameras - I do it all the time. You just match the soundtracks of the two (or more) clips on the timeline by listening for the delay or echo between them and nudging one or the other until they 'snap' together - you can hear the difference, its quite obvious when it happens. You'll find that the clips will stay in sync for the duration of an act, unless of course you are shooting HDV and you get a tape dropout, in which case you have to re-synchronise after the dropout.
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Old June 22nd, 2007, 03:52 AM   #10
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Yes, synching is not hard. You can also look at the waveform. Often the beginning of a word or sound is easy to match up.

If there are pictures being taken, usually the flashes can be matched up.

Movements are easy to synch also. It could be a raised arm, a step, a jump.

If the cameras are near each other, you can get synch as someone passes an object, enters out of a door, etc.

After you do it a few times, it's easy. Though sometimes it takes a few minutes to find the place to synch if there isn't an immediately obvious point.

As far as the taping, you will get better and better fairly quickly. Then, stay focused, because once you get comfortable it's easy for the mind to wander and lose the concentration that is necessary to stay on top of the action.
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Old June 22nd, 2007, 04:48 AM   #11
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Thanks Tony and Jack...I initially thought I might perhaps synch it that way but the method may have been dismissed by the more professional and experienced on these boards (though obviously not in a condescending manner :) )

I've sampled audio for years and that requires micro fine tuning with the ear so I don't expect any problems with this.
Glad this was suggested - I can take the smaller camcorder along tomorrow evening...but that then brings up another issue - the main footage will be shot progressively whilst the camcorder is [horrible!] interlaced. I guess I could try my hand at deinterlacing...and I will also have to letterbox the 4:3 footage. Is this sounding like a not so good idea now!?!?

Cheers.
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Old June 22nd, 2007, 04:51 AM   #12
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Originally Posted by David Scattergood View Post
Is this for a safety net Stephen - if these 4/5 camera's (you have a slightly larger budget than I!!) are sat together is there going to be any noticeable difference in the shots or are they pointed at different locations on the stage (rather than all wide shots)?
Each camera has different assignments, so each one has a different shot. More cameras, even in the same location, gives you more flexibility to get different "levels" of wide, as well as having several tight shots. One camera might be on a bust shot of one character, another camera tight on another character, another on a 2-shot showing both, another showing everyone onstage in case someone talks who isn't in a tight shot, and a lockdown showing the entire stage in case someone enters the scene. The trick to avoiding jump cuts is being able to get tight enough with your tight shots. If you're doing it with HD100s you can try using 2/3" lenses on your tight shots, since 2/3" lenses use longer focal lengths than lenses made for the JVC. Most 2/3" lenses will also have a zoom extender that will let you get even tighter at the expense of two stops of aperture. An excellent tripod and studio-style controls are *essential* when you're working that tight, however.

My event coverage philosophy mostly evolved from working on sports coverage, if you watch sporting events on TV you've probably seen many cases where there are several cameras in the same location that will be cut together. For baseball, you'll have two cameras in centerfield, a pitcher-batter shot and a tight shot of the batter. For sports like basketball and hockey you'll have a game cam (the main wide shot of the play) and a high-tight that is following the action tight for replay and gets tight shots of players during stoppages.

5 cameras would be the minimum I would prefer to work with when doing something taped for editing, since each camera operator is working "blind," basically freelancing, then I have to piece together the whole mess in post and hope I have all the shots I need. More cameras just makes it more likely I'll have a shot and not need to cut to the lockdown camera. I can get away with fewer cameras when I'm switching live to tape, since my camera operators have tallies and returns and I'm talking to them. Even being able to do a basic line cut for editing later helps enormously.
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Old June 22nd, 2007, 05:10 AM   #13
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5 cameras would be the minimum I would prefer to work with when doing something taped for editing, since each camera operator is working "blind," basically freelancing, then I have to piece together the whole mess in post and hope I have all the shots I need. More cameras just makes it more likely I'll have a shot and not need to cut to the lockdown camera. I can get away with fewer cameras when I'm switching live to tape, since my camera operators have tallies and returns and I'm talking to them. Even being able to do a basic line cut for editing later helps enormously.
(lockdown = static main wide angle shot??)

I have nowhere near that type of set up at the moment Stephen. And I guess you'd require at least one or two assistants for that set up?
I believe FCP handles multicam editing fairly well, though having never used it I couldn't comment.
Looking into the possibility of adding a wide angle adaptor (rather than a very expensive 35mm lens!) which would help a little on these shoots.
Sorry Stephen - not sure in what context you mean by 'switching live to tape' and 'basic line cut'?

So, bearing in mind I'm more than likely using the one camera (placing the camcorder to one side for a moment) do you think it best to have the tripod on fluid head movement so I can achieve the handheld look but also minimising shake (as I'm towards the back any zooms as I'm sure you are all aware are exacerbated).
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Old June 22nd, 2007, 05:19 AM   #14
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A vital topic that has not been mentioned so far - audio !

I find that even with multiple cameras, the video is the easiest part of recording a stage show. Getting good audio so that you can clearly hear all of the lines spoken/sung and all of the sound effects and music is not so easy. A good video where you can't clearly hear the performers is worse than useless.

A camera or three at the back of the hall is never going to give you good sound and plugging into the PA mixer, assuming they are using one and you get a good feed, means you have to accept the sound mans mix and level, and you may end up with just a recording of the radio mics and a few sound effects (its happened to me !)

At minimum you need a stereo pair of mics in front of the stage with balanced XLR mic cables to your camera, which obviously have to be laid in, gaffered down and tested before the audience arrives. Forget radio mikes - they are less reliable than hardwired mikes and you might conflict with radio mike channels already in use for the show.

This is OK for small stages. For larger ones you need more mics across the front of the stage to get decent coverage, so then you need a mixer to handle the extra mikes, more cables or maybe a single 4 or 8 way snake (multicore) cable, and perhaps a multichannel digital recorder so you can do a proper mix-down in post and then ... etc. etc. - it soon gets out of hand and more than a one-man-band can handle without help.

I recently recorded the musical Oklahoma! in a fairly large theatre using 2 HDV camcorders, 4 mikes, mixer, 15m snake and every balanced mike cable I could lay my hands on. Just setting up was tiring enough even before the recording started. But the resulting DVD looked and sounded great and the customer was delighted and ordered load of copies so it was worth all the effort. I was very pleased with myself but it did leave me wondering if I would want to tackle something so ambitious on my own in the future.

Good luck with the show

Tony
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Old June 22nd, 2007, 05:43 AM   #15
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^^ Indeed Tony. My stomach's doing cartwheels just thinking of all that (though from past experience it sometimes best not to think too much and just go ahead and do it).
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.

I have one Sennheiser ME66/K6 and one Shure SM58 - I could use the ME66 but I won't be able to lay this down and placed in front of the stage unfortunately - recommend using this anyway (in place of the on board mic....though I don't expect that much difference at that distance).
For future, slightly more pro gigs I will try this mic out (perhaps purchasing another?) - I have a couple of Spirit Folio FX desks (8 channel and a 16 channel) which could be utilised. A Digital Mixer is also on my [ever expanding] wish list (one which I could facilitate making music via Logic et al). I even offered to add a short soundtrack to this but it really isn't required (school budgets just don't extend).
Do you have two HD100's Tony? It's bugging me that I haven't a backup/secondary camera and actually thought about the Z1 (some jobs require that look) although a second HD*** would be preferable.
Not sure if I've come across a multi-core snake though??

With all that's said above and considering where I'm placed; what equipment I'm using; lack of experience and very quick turnaround, you folks best wish me all the luck!!

On a more positive note I've trashed a Quicktime receipt file and hey presto FCP us again seeing my camera...a blown firewire/FCP acting up at this stage would've probably made me throw in the towel in this game!

Cheers.
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