Newbie question: Spotlight vs Manual - Stage performance at

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Old February 27th, 2012, 11:10 AM   #1
Join Date: Feb 2012
Location: Sioux Falls, SD
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Newbie question: Spotlight vs Manual - Stage performance

I'm fairly new to video. This is my first post in these forums with several questions:

I have the original XHA1 from Canon. I shoot about 4 bodybuilding/fitness shows per year. Thus far I've generally used the spotlight setting. This usually works okay (kind of), but I'm wondering if the Manual control would work better? Usually when I zoom to an individual on stage, the spotlight works fairly well. But when I zoom out and the contestants are lined up on stage, they are often blown out. If I would find the proper manual setting, would that help with this problem?

For focusing, I've often just set it on auto, but I'm finding that sometimes the individual is out of focus. I suppose the camera for some reason focuses on the background? If I set it to manual using the "zoom procedure" then the person remains in focus as long as they stand in the position where I set the manual focus. But if they move all over the stage during their posing routine, then I'm concerned that they will not remain in focus if they move closer (or further) from my main focus point. I can adjust the aperture, but I'm not sure how much. I suppose I just need to go and test all of this out. But it's difficult to test when I'm actually videoing the contest.

During the prejudging, the contestants are lit with spotlights against a dark or black curtain. The spotlight setting on individuals works very well for this. But the entire group lineup is somewhat blown out on the spotlight setting.

During the evening performance, the background is often lit up with background and props, creating the difficult problem of trying to get good video of the individual(s), without a creating a "silhouette" against the background.

A final problem I've had to deal with a couple times. During the evening show, the promotor has color-changing spotlight on the competitors----every color of the rainbow. How should one set the white balance for such a situation? Normally I just use tungsten or set the white-balance with neutral card. But for those evenings with constantly changing lights and colors, I'm not sure what is best---tungsten or auto WB?

If anyone could give me some good tips regarding the spotlight, manual, focusing, and color balance controls with the information provided, I would greatly appreciate it. My next contest is in 3 weeks, and I want to improve on what I've done in the past. Thank you so much.

Dan Mueller
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Old February 27th, 2012, 01:09 PM   #2
Join Date: Jul 2007
Location: Novato, CA
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Re: Newbie question: Spotlight vs Manual - Stage performance

I no longer have an XH-A1 but used to shoot a lot of stage shows with one along with an XL-H1. My advice would be to use full manual settings. The XH-A1 has a very good iris ring and so adjusting exposure on the fly is fairly easy. Never use auto focus for stage shows. The constant changing of lighting will cause the camera to hunt for focus throughout the performance. The XH-A1 has a pretty deep DOF even with the lens wide open so you should be able to break the stage up into at most three zones of focus distance.

Set the WB to 3200 or 3400 for most stage shows and let the lights change color. You'll want to capture the change in colors for the lighting as that's part of the show.

Garrett Low
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Old February 28th, 2012, 10:03 PM   #3
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Location: Reno, NV
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Re: Newbie question: Spotlight vs Manual - Stage performance

Since zebras and peaking don't work at the same time, I figure out focus before the show begins and then switch to zebras. I set the focus-position preset for center stage to use in case of an emergency. When the action moves out of the zone for center stage I correct with the ring, or if I'm feeling lucky, the push-af button. During the show I use the zebras to keep the spotlight under control.
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