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Old February 12th, 2003, 11:41 PM   #1
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Location: New Lebanon, New York
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What are your tricks for editing DV footage of theater productions?

I'm finishing up my first DV editing job that I was asked to do for a local community theater production. It looks and sounds great!(Well. . . except for the out of tune flute/clarinet player. . . .)

I used the GL2 for the shooting with two external microphones which did a great job picking up the sound (including that damned out of tune flute/clarinet player). Then everything was mixed using Sonic Foundry's new Vegas 4.0.

Lighting was an issue, of course. Theatrical lighting looks great for the audience, but offers great challenges for videography. However, I set the GL2 to the settings as suggested here on this board. I then did a little fine tuning using the Vegas program which helped lighten things up nicely. I judiciously utilized the brighten and contrast plug-ins. It seemed to help a lot for some of the more darkened moments of the musical . . . at least my eyes were pleased.

I know that it's important to have good footage to begin with. About 80 to 85 % of the footage that I shot were just fine. It's that 15 to 20 % that needed more attention.

Just curious. What are your editing tricks in dealing with low-light footage? More specifically, how do you deal with editing footage of theatrical productions. . . crazy light levels and all????

Please don't think that this was a paying gig. Nope. Just a wonderful learning opportunity for me. The "powers that be" were quite pleased with the results. So, I will offer my services to this community theater for future projects. (Next time, I will recommend that they do a dedicated dress rehearsal using lighting that more suited to shooting video. )

I'm psyched!

Ted Fiebke
Mac Pro (12-core 3.33GHz): OS X 10.11.6; 32 GBs RAM; NVIDIA Quadro K5000; 8 internal SSDs; 2 external Raid set-ups via eSATA; MOTU 2408 MK3; various audio/video programs
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Old February 13th, 2003, 12:44 AM   #2
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The XL1 has this "spotlight" setting that- I'll be dadblammed- works. I was able to do a 2 cam shoot for a one woman show using the spotlight setting on the far, still, wide cam and manual settings on the close, moving stage l to stage r cam (in front of the first row of seats. ) I white balanced under with "lights up full" stage lighting before the audience got there.
Came out beautifully. Since then I did one in a smaller theatre with both cams on auto and had great lighting results- who knew! The focus is the bummer there tho- I wouldn't do it that way again.
The kicker for this, and my subsequent theatre shoots, was to do a switcher edit (using our Trinity box) in 'post.' Synching the XL1s was easy with a visual clap (tho someone mentioned a camera flash to create a solid white frame and i will definitely use that idea next time) and the excitement of directing it 'live' was a creative bonus. The output of the Trinity ran into a Sony dsr40 dv recorder.
Sound I don't mess with. Coming from a very professional b.g. hiring sound editors, I called in a pro to record the deal on dat, turned over the finished switched vid with a two pop, and got it back on dv with the beautifully mixed sound synched up.
When I absolutely have no budget for that, I do what you did. Two external mics. I put 'em up at the front of the stage and run them into the far, wide, tripod cam. My roving close cam sound used only for backup.

Being that theatre pieces are usually 1 hour plus, I'd rather not do a digital edit in Premiere. Too much... well- everything.
i've seen evil and it's name is pc
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Old February 13th, 2003, 09:12 AM   #3
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Well I started shooting our operas about 2 years ago and it's been a learning experience for me. I'm using a Sony VX-2000 and Final Cut Pro on the Mac, so the specifics may be a bit different, but I guess the overall approach is similar.

I've done theatrical scenery lighting design for over 30 years, so video/film is a new world for me. Especially the lighting. I think that extreme contrast is one of the things I like best in theatrical lighting, and that's what creates the biggest problems for video. Either you expose for the faces and everything else if pitch black, or you set it for the scenery and the people end up as white blobs. If followspots are being used for the principals then you have an even bigger problem to deal with. Another problem is that you need to change exposure for long shots vs closeups. In a full stage shot it's OK to overexpose the people since they're too small to show the detail anyway. You will want to expose for the scenery with a long shot. But if you zoom in and don't stop down at the same time then you'll be overexposed for the people.

I've tried different things, but there doesn't seem to be any easy fix. If you are taking the time to color correct and adjust contrast in your editing then it's probably best to underexpose when you shoot. You can always try to pull detail out of the shadows in post, but once you've burned something in by overexposing it then the detail is lost forever. Sometimes I don't want to take the time capture and edit a whole 3 hour production and just want to make a tape, so then I strive for a middle of the road exposure. Tried this about a week ago (with an opera that I lit myself!) and the resulting tape was just too underexposed. I was able to get it into the computer and fix it, but really didn't want to take the time to do that for the whole show. So I went back and shot again on another night, this time kicking everything up a few f-stops.

I wouldn't even try shooting in any of the auto modes. I lock shutter speed at 1/60, manually adjust the iris and gain, set tungsten (or custom) white balance. I do generally go with autofocus on the VX-2000 because it's pretty good. I always use the manual zoom because I don't like the mechanical feeling of the motorized zoom.

One of the biggest problems I find is the "harsh" look that the high contrast lighting creates. Just the other day I experimented with some clips. First I used the 3 way color corrector in FCP to get the colors the way I wanted. Then I used a filter plug-in called "silk stocking". This did wonders to reduce the harshness. Maybe there's something similar for Premiere? It softens the edges and reduces the contrast, but not like a blur effect. I really liked the results. I guess you could use a real filter on the camera, but that would a problem if you didn't like it later.

I think camera location is also really important. I prefer to be as close as possible, not above eye level of the subjects. This allows me to get some intimate close shots. If you get too far away the telephoto effect flattens everything out too much, and tripod vibration becomes a problem. I also dislike shooting from a balcony since you see mostly floor as a background in close shots.

Now of course all my remarks are in the context of shooting operas in a 3000 seat theatre. More intimate settings may have different requirements. And of course all this has a lot to do with your personal style and preference. Just be prepared to experiment around and come back several times after watching your footage on a monitor.
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Old February 13th, 2003, 08:41 PM   #4
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I've found it easy to "wild sync" two cam shoots of musical performances using the music.

For dance performances that use CD music, I have done a pseudo multi-cam shoot by syncing different camera angles from two different performances using the music.

Vegas Video has a great way to simulate live switiching in post. Sync up two to four camera angles using the sound track. Then composite half size images of each video track in the preview window. Play the preview while recording a new audio track of you yelling "Camera One, Camera Three" while putting marks in the time line. See this link: http://www.martyhedler.com/homepage/Vegas_Tutorials.html?Welcome_Visitor=1045190135
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