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Old March 30th, 2004, 12:53 AM   #1
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(One camera, one mic) How to record "cutaways" but keep sound?

I am using a GL2 for documentary recording. I do not have an external recording device (DAT or MD) and I am recording all audio directly to camera (via shotgun mic on a boom pole).

Much of what I am recording are singers and performances. I don't want 1/2 hour of boring tripod shots just so I can capture all the audio. Much of what happens, occurs spontaniously so I need to get that dynamic "cutaway" at that exact moment. However, if I do a quick pan (planning on editing out the camera movement in post) I'll lose about 5 minutes of the footage do to cutting out the camera movement to get to the cutaway shot. The problem is, when the song is over, thats it...no more footage to capture to fill that 5 minutes with.

Any suggestions? What do you folks do in this situation when shooting on a shoestring budget?

I hope this made sense...its 3:30am and I'm beyond tired.
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Old March 30th, 2004, 06:37 AM   #2
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First off, I shoot one camera all the time in exactly the situation you describe. I produce an arts oriented half hour show for public access TV in my hometown. I don't pretend to be professional, but I strive for professional results in each episode.

Whether it's a musical performance, a dramatic literary reading, or an onstage dance performance, you've got to talk with the talent in advance and have a script of their performance. You've got to know when opportunities to grab B-roll will occur and in most cases you have to decide when you'll foreit shots of the talent to capture the cutaway B-roll.

An example may help. Once a month, I shoot a poetry reading in a local coffee house. Two poets each read about 25 minutes of their work with a 10 minute intermission between readings. I shoot crowd scenes before the reading, I shoot the moderator's introductory remarks, and I shoot the first readers opening poem for continuity. After that, I look for a poem that I plan to forfeit. During that poem, I scan the audience and capture 10 - 15 second clips of small groups, single intent listeners, and the applause shot. In the course of 25 minutes, I know I'll forfeit about 12 minutes for each reader (remember my edited program is only 30 minutes long). I always try to anticipate the last poem and plan a wide shot for the finish. This requires a quick zoom that I'll cover later with a B-roll cutaway.

The camera runs continuously to capture all audio. I strip B-roll video from its audio and ditch the audio. In post-production, I make transitions as soon as the applause dies down after a poem, but before the forfeited poem begins. I cover the transition with a B-roll cutaway (sans synched audio) and then return to the next poem for score. B-roll applause cutaway shots are synched to the continuous audio for a realistic transition even though the video and audio were captured minutes apart. I can intersperse the other B-roll shots for dramatic effect over the talent video any place I care.

There may be better ways, but this has worked many times for me. If I have room to move the camera/tripod during the performance, I'll edit in a few cutaway shots in series to cover the
time required to move the camera. In a small room, a few feet displacement can add a whole new perspective. I never use a mic on-camera so the audio can remain consistent. I either get a direct feed from the talent sound board or I use a shotgun mounted on a separate stand.

I have used this arrangement for over 15 projects with great success. The downside is that you can't get the entire performance with one camera, so you have to be creative in post-production.

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Old March 30th, 2004, 08:31 AM   #3
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Thanks Joseph for that detailed reply. This at least lets me know that it can be done with one camera.

Other than getting a second camera to remain steady on the performers or a separate DAT recorder, does anybody use any other techniques other than the ones described to capture audio when filming with one camera? Can a MD recorder be used? I'd prefer to NOT have to sync my audio if I could find a way around it.

I also shoot other situations for documentary films that are not staged performances, therefore scenes unfold naturally and cannot be scripted. In this case (which is usually the circumstance) I cannot know when I will be able to cut away in advance. It simply happens spontaniously. Any suggestions for a situation like this? What has happened is I get to the editing and find that I want to piece several shots together, but find that none of the audio in the clips I have taken is long enough to spread over the entire sequence.

I'm beginning to think that I may not be able to accomplish what I need with one camera, yet I have seen so many one camera crews be successful. Is it simply that they are NOT recording directly to camera or is there some trick I have not yet learned?
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