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Old September 15th, 2014, 01:20 AM   #1
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Filming a conference

Hi all,

I've been asked to shoot several conferences recently, and I thought that it was an interesting topic of conversation. I'm not experienced with this type of work, so any thoughts/ideas/opinions would be helpful.

I'm not talking huge events like Apple Keynote or TedTalk here... but smaller business conferences with ~100 people, and speakers using a PowerPoint presentation to aid them.

1) What is the best way to set up the cameras? I have 3 cameras, so I'm thinking that 1 roaming camera and 2 static cameras at varying angles would be the best bet.

2) My 3 cameras are all different types and brands, so what is the best way to get them to match as closely as possible? Obviously beyond the basics of white balance, shutter speed, etc.

3) What is the best way to capture audio? One conference has a Q&A at the end, so audio would need to be captured from the audience.

Any other thoughts/ideas would be great.

Thanks in advance.
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Old September 15th, 2014, 01:38 AM   #2
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Re: Filming a conference

I use two cameras, one close-up and one wide. My pet hate is very short speakers as I have to zoom in even more to get the correct framing ... and have run out of zoom at times.

The wide cam with the PowerPoint screen in the field of view is great for quickly timing the overlays of speaker slides in the timeline (if you are doing that).

if possible, steal audio from the PA system and make sure that they have organised a roving mike when it comes to Q&A time.

This should be a good start.

Andrew

PS. Audio feed always goes in to the close-up camera so you have perfect lip-sync at all times. I learnt this one the hard way.
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Old September 15th, 2014, 01:49 AM   #3
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Re: Filming a conference

Thanks Andrew. What's the best way to steal audio from the PA system? Do most systems have an XLR output or something similar?
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Old September 15th, 2014, 02:06 AM   #4
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Re: Filming a conference

The best way is to run a line from the console to your camera, but if that is impractical then use a wireless link via the line-in feature of a wireless mic kit (with the receiver feeling in to your camera).

The key thing is to visit the venue before, and to talk to whomever will be running the audio on the day.

Andrew
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Old September 15th, 2014, 07:15 AM   #5
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Re: Filming a conference

Thanks Andrew. I'll have to find out about their PA system. And thanks for your e-mail, I'll give you a buzz if I have any queries :)
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Old September 15th, 2014, 11:49 AM   #6
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Re: Filming a conference

I also use two cameras and capture audio from the console. Camera 1 is a camcorder and captures the wide view, unattended, on a fixed tripod. It's wide enough to show the speaker, the screen, and a bit of the audience. It records the audio. The second camera is a DSLR with a long lens. This is a semi-closeup of the speaker. I strategically pan the user to the side so I can key in the slides on the empty side of the screen. For examples, watch the over-the-shoulder graphic inserts on The Daily Show or The Colbert Report. The DSLR records audio with auto-gain ON from the internal mic for syncing. The DSLR needs only captures up to 12-minute segments, so I use the wide shot to fill the gaps.

If I had a 3rd camera, I would use it with a zoom to capture the audience. Sometimes a speaker will say, "I want to recognize John Doe and his wife Jane, who are in the audience." If so, it's important to show them without doing a whip pan from the DSLR to see the backs of their heads and only get focus after they've sat back down. On the other hand, if there is a moderator and panel, having one camera on the full panel and a tight shot of the speaker would be the way to go.

If cable runs are an issue, you can capture audio from all of the cameras with the internal mics and use an audio recorder at the console or even in front of a PA speaker, if all else fails.

My final edits include:
* Title slide
* Wide shots for establishing the setting, audience reaction, and filling the DSLR gaps.
* Tight shots for most of the work, especially when there is a personal moment. Frame for over-the-shoulder when the speaker is talking to slides.
* Full frame slides when there is fine detail or when the slide is really compelling.
* Wide shot, end slide, fade to black.

And don't forget to cut on motion, say, when the speaker is moving an arm or turning their head. This really links the wide and tight shots together. Cut to the slide when the speaker turns their head or motions to the slide. And feel free to stay on the tight shot for long periods. Don't cut for the sake of a lively production. Cut when the focus moves between the personal and the group. For instance, "(tight) I have a personal story... I think we (cut wide) have all had that experience. (applause - stay wide; speaker tears up - cut tight)"
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Old September 15th, 2014, 03:03 PM   #7
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Re: Filming a conference

In my experience, given the dynamic range and color balance, it would be hard to capture speaker and power point (if projected) with the same camera. Depending on the lighting, if the speaker is OK, the slides will be blown out.

If you need to grab the power point live for editing, it's best to have a separate camera for that so you can set aperture and white balance for that.

You don't mention but I assume these aren't panel discussions. You have to hope the stage is lit evenly if the speaker walks around otherwise you'll have to face some aperture decisions as they walk into/out of lights.

Generally I'd take PA/Console sound and shotgun ambient sound. I've had some experiences where PA/Console has screwed up on the feed. If it's just a single speaker you can use a wireless lav. Make sure the frequency doesn't conflict if the speaker happens to be using a wireless handheld.

Audience is tough. A roaming camera has to move quickly from one point to the other without falling over chairs. People may need to be instructed to wait until the camera gets there to speak or you going to be losing the open parts of questions. Otherwise you may want to set up a single mic that people have to walk up to.

Keep in mind that there's a good chance if you're shooting the speaker and have a roaming camera that's not a single person crew job.
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Old September 15th, 2014, 04:23 PM   #8
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Re: Filming a conference

About a year ago, there was a link on this site posted by one of the members. I think it was Noa Put. He filmed some sort of conference (something about a chain supply company), it was very good and it changed the way I film these types of events. He did an awsome job. Seach his name on the site and then check out his website to see if its still there. He contributes frequelty to this fourm, so he and/or the link should be easy to find. Its well worth the effort. Good Luck!
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Old September 15th, 2014, 05:27 PM   #9
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Re: Filming a conference

With regards to the overblown PPT slides, this is the case for myself as well.

When I am doing to the timings of the slide changes in post, in order to place images of the slides on V3, I temporarily apply an adjustment curve to the wide video such that it's now dark enough for me to see which slide is displaying. Once I've done that, it's pretty quick to be applying the slides along the timeline.

From this point, I then have three cameras (as such) for the multi-cam edit. Main cam, wide cam and the PowerPoint graphics.

Andrew
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Old September 15th, 2014, 06:12 PM   #10
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Re: Filming a conference

Yeah, filming the screen within the wide shot isn't without problems. At our facility, I use a couple of tightly flagged ellipsoidal lights on the lectern (one key, one back light). The fill is from the ambient lights. This lets me set the exposure to keep the screen from being overly blown. Yes, the S-curve flattens things a bit and fine dark lines will be lost. And yes, the screen is too blue. The ambient light is about 4K, the ellipsoidal lights about 3K and the projector probably 6K. We set the camera at 3,800 or so. The area looks natural, the speaker is nice and warm, and, yeah, the screen is too blue. But then again, this looks realistic. Given that the wide camera is locked down, I could mask and color correct separately, but that level of quality isn't required for my application. We do this just to send to our remote sites. I want it to look professional and to communicate the content effectively, but we don't require national broadcast quality. (Hey, this is is the Single Person Crew. Broadcasters have bigger budgets and more people.)

Of course, the over-the-shoulder and full-screen views of the slides have proper balance and exposure. It's just the wide that sees the blue, slightly over-exposed screen. And I only use that about 5-10% of the time and never when the focus is on the slide content. While it's not ideal, and I know about the technical issues, it doesn't look wrong. It looks authentic. Nobody who has seen it has commented on it to me.

The main reason for including the screen in my wide shot is that it's my reference track for syncing the slide images. However you handle it, make sure that you know the timing of the slides.
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Old September 15th, 2014, 09:25 PM   #11
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Re: Filming a conference

Just to note that in my finished product, you mainly have the shots alternating between the main CU cam and the PowerPoint slide overlays.

The wide shot is only used for audience reaction (applause etc) or in a "Hail Mary" moment such as if I accidentally bump the main camera.

Andrew
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Old September 16th, 2014, 07:38 AM   #12
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Re: Filming a conference

I do some large and small conference work at times here in Miami.

Some of your questions involve your work flow.

What is your turn-around time for delivery to the client?

Same day?

If not...what we do is get a downloaded copy of the power point presentation on a flash drive, then insert it the images at the proper time in post during editing. This can be done pretty quickly and the power point images look a thousand times better than anything you could get shooting it off of the screen. Not to mention you now are able to free up the second camera for a better angle of events rather than a flat-on view of the screen.

Audio is always an issue because every hotel or conference room has a different set up. Often we simply put a wireless mic on the speakers. Not the person, the equipment. This saves time by not having to mic up each individual who is talking and, even though not perfect audio quality as a lapel mic, is still acceptable to most clients. If they want better, they have to understand their desires mean the job is not a single person crew assignment.

We will also mount a stick mic on the podium with a wireless cube transmitter. Better audio...but not perfect because sometimes speakers like to wander around as they speak...plus if they take questions from the audience, your audio will suffer.

We hate leaving the audio up to the in-house staff to run. Too often they do not understand they need to ride the audio levels throughout the presentation. Usually just doing a quick mic check before things begin...then walking off to do something else. That drives us crazy. Again, it comes down to the client understanding if they want to save money and only hire a single person crew...there are some things which will not be perfect.

Often a venue will have a hand mic for people to use when they ask questions but, as people will do, often not wait until they have that microphone in hand before they begin asking a question. Yes, frustrating.

Hard wiring audio to a camera is always the best. Having some adapter cables going from phone plug or mini plug to XLR is best when possible.

Each even is different so there is no one correct answer which will always work for every assignment.
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Old September 16th, 2014, 07:38 PM   #13
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Re: Filming a conference

Just to add to what John said about powerpoints. Try to get them before the conference. While I do also bring a flash drive, if you don't get them on the day, they can be very difficult to get afterwards. Also, use even just a smart phone to capture a wide shot with the screen. It'll save you time in finding the right place to insert a given slide. Presenters don't always show them in the order they are placed in the PowerPoint. Sometimes it can be a real pita figuring it out if they don't.
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Old September 16th, 2014, 07:53 PM   #14
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Re: Filming a conference

And sometimes out of 85 slides in the PowerPoint file, you're applying the converted slide images to the timeline ... only to discover that they only used the first 42.

I so hate that.

Andrew
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Old September 16th, 2014, 09:25 PM   #15
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Re: Filming a conference

Am I the only guy here who splits the VGA with a DA and then captures the presentation full motion using a VGA to SDI scaler and recorder?

I used to do a lot of work with engineers and "gesturing" and full motion video in PowerPoint is a HUGE part of their presentations. If I'm switching multicam, I use an aux send to record the VGA capture outside of the "talking head" as some venues have 4 screens and then I split them - the two closest to the presenter get the Powerpoint and the outliers get the talking head. Sometimes I switch the slides into the "main" feed, sometimes I don't, depending on the event.
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