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Shooting non-repeatable events: weddings, recitals, plays, performances...


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Old March 9th, 2008, 11:40 PM   #1
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3 Cam Setup for School Recital

I have my first recital coming up this weekend.

I have 3 camcorders: Canon Xh-A1, Canon HV20 & Sony HVR-HD1000U.

Can you tell me the most efficient set up for these three camcorders?

I will have two operators and one cam will be unmanned, covering the whole stage. Im thinking this one will be in the rear center of the theater.

The other cams will be on each side of the theater. Should I have the hv20 in the back and use the other two cams for all the close ups?

PS. I understand I will have to do a lot of color correction in post.
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Old March 10th, 2008, 10:10 AM   #2
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The HV20 WILL struggle more than the XH-A1 in low light. I'd maybe use that for the wide shot set back centre as you suggest. Can't speak for the other cam.
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Old March 10th, 2008, 10:11 AM   #3
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I think I would go with my best camera as the wide safety shot. That way you know that you are going to your best video as the main video. I've done recitals for going on 9 years, and normally you have the main shot up most of the time to show most or all of the dancers. You might want to think about putting someone on the main camera to follow the action and zoom in when it's appropriate, etc. then have someone on your Sony getting your close-ups, then the HV20 locked down for safety shot opposite from the Sony. With many recitals, the lighting will change with the dances. I find myself adjusting exposure often. Also in recitals the dancers want to see usually from head to toe, so proper exposure and color rendition would be key in order to see the dancers faces. I think that is key, it's very easy to over expose the faces. Don't expect even lighting. Setting up the HV20 for a locked down wide shot could work, but I would be a little cautious about doing it that way. Have fun.
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Old March 10th, 2008, 11:17 AM   #4
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It's been awhile since I shot my last dance recital. As mentioned, lighting will be uneven (and that's being kind!). If I had those three cameras I would have them all at the back (is there a balcony?). I don't think I would mind the HV20 as the wide (safe) shot since I will try not to use it much. The 2nd Canon would be the closer pan and zoom; again, keeping the whole body of the dancer(s) in the frame. And I would put the Sony on a tall tripod or balcony to get above the front row of dancers and see the whole stage/choreography. This would be my preferred shot. You may need a stepladder or LANC control. I wouldn't fret too much about color consistency. Meaning do what you can but in the end, the parents just want their DVD yesterday.

Mike
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Old March 11th, 2008, 01:24 AM   #5
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thank you all for responding. I currently don't know if the theater has a balcony but will check out the place mid this week.

I had one more question, how should I get the audio? The most obvious choice is from the board but I have never done this. Should i capture it to the cam from the board or capture it to an iRiver? The show should last 2+ hours so I would have to change tapes and loose a couple sec of audio if i captured to tape.

In addition, I will be talking to the sound guy this week as well, but just to get an idea, what type of connection does the output of a board have, typically?
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Old March 11th, 2008, 01:55 AM   #6
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Audio is critical!

Good video + bad audio = bad video
Bad video + good audio = passable video

Get as many audio sources as you can. Iriver 890's can record up to 3hr 40 mins at 128kbps so you can get the whole lot on them no trouble. Make sure you use fresh batteries!

Don't rely on audio from the sound desk. If they can take a digital recording for you, fine, but don't count on it...
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Old March 11th, 2008, 06:13 AM   #7
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I use an HV20 and an XHA1. I had the cameras for only 2 days when I shot a dance performance. I had so many problems, I'm still editing many months later...

The most difficult part will be working with the HV20's limited dynamic range compared to the other cams. It looks fabulous in good light but gets worse in lower light. The first mistake I made was using the spotlight mode to keep the HV20 from using any digital gain. The results are better using the Cine mode and locking exposure so as not to over expose.

I used AWB as per a suggestion. The HV20 and XHA1 are different. They see color differently. I now set the white balance on the cams so they have the same reference point, which makes color correcting easier. This may be a problem if the lighting designer likes to get creative and use red gels one moment and blue the next.

I used the HV20 for my wide shots. Because it doesn't have the dynamic range of the XHA1, most of the details were lost, especially when the lights went dim. When I had a wide shot with the A1, the detail was much cleaner and very usable. Because the final distribution was DVD, I could scale the video from the A1 to 150% in FCP without any loss of detail on the SD DVD. In a later stage show, I cheated and just shot wide on my XHA1. Then during editing, I would cut to a mid shot or close-up using scaled video from the wide shots. Worked great for SD DVDs. The HV20 doesn't work so well when a wide shot is scaled later in post. Use it on the side as previously suggested.

If possible, shoot a dress rehearsal. What works for you may be different than what I've done. I always forget to use a camera flash to sync the cameras. I find 80 minute tape works well for long performances. If there is an intermission, great. If not, I stagger changing tape in each cam to avoid losing part of the performance.

Audio- Get a copy of the CD's if there aren't live musicians. I resample it to 48kHz and add the music to the timeline. There is a problem if the CD player has a variable speed feature that is used for the performance. But is still doable with a good audio editor. Also get any feed from the board, even if it is poor. It is still useful for reference. Nothing is funnier than watching dancers out of sync with the music. Without a direct feed, the music coming from the P.A. system will arrive 2-6 frames after the video, which will make the dancers look out of sync. Also get a mic on the house, so you can mix in the audience applause or the dancers' stage noise. A little foot tapping keeps the performance sounding real. If there is tap dancing, a mic close to the stage is essential.

If the theatre has a mic above the stage for monitoring, try to get a feed from it. I use my XHA1 to get a board feed on one channel and the stage mic on the other channel. However, make sure that both signals are line level or mic level or you will get distortion. Also, use manual gain on the audio controls or the music will control the AGC level and you won't get anything from the mic.

I think this covers most of the mistakes I made using the HV20 and XHA1 together for stage performances.
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Old March 11th, 2008, 06:30 AM   #8
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Board feeds

Most boards have extra line level main outputs to use. These are usually 1/4 inch TRS phone jacks. You can easily get 1/4 inch to XLR cables to plug into your XHA1. Some boards have extra XLR mic level outputs. If you are lucky, you may have access to a patch bay. Worse case is using a 1/4 inch or a little 1/8 inch splitter and using the headphone monitor jack to feed into your 1/8 inch external mic input on the handle of the A1. You will need to keep the levels low and it may still only be good enough for reference. You might even get your favorite radio station as a bonus;-)
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Old March 11th, 2008, 09:06 AM   #9
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For audio I always get a feed from the board. I then have that go into a mixer before my camera that way I can monitor it and adjust as needed. I have an external shotgun that mixes in ambient audio, clapping/tapping etc. Then always record audio from the other cameras as backups. The more audio the better. You can always choose not to use it, but you can't use it if you don't have it.

As for white balance, there are two things I have done in the past, depending on time and venue.

1. The best way would be to take all three cameras on stage, have full lights put on and white balance dead center. That way when reds come up they are red, blue blue, etc.
2. If you don't have time or have other troubles with the venue, you can set all the cameras to preset indoor lighting. Usually this is a preset level of 3200K, which will be pretty darn close on most cameras. Depending on the stage lighting, it should look decent. The problems you'll have is red. Dancers love red. Red lights on shiny red outfits. And they want to know why the video looks bad :) Anyway, if the red is too much, usually you can't adjust it in post by either taking the chroma down a little or just targeting the red in the color spectrum.
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Old March 11th, 2008, 12:34 PM   #10
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I have used a Roland R4 to capture audio from a board, a Sennheiser 416 (and ME 67) but the best and easiest to edit audio comes from using wireless lavs near the stage. Set up small light stands with the lavs on them if needed. Easy to monitor, easy for left/right balance, and virtually no post-production required (again, for dance recital videos, this is a must: the parents want the video yesterday): Close enough to the stage emphasizes the stage and de-emphasizes someone coughing in the background. Which is perfect. The pick up pattern of most lavs gives you a better sound than a shotgun. A shotgun is designed for close placement to an audio source with high off axis rejection. Unfortunately, your source for dance recitals are some terrible sounding PA speakers! In my experience, lavs give you the best all-around sound. When we jacked into the sound board for a feed to the R4 (and have an in-line transformer handy) we would get a clean feed but that isn't what the parents wanted, they wanted to hear the applause and nuances of the live performance. Syncing the R4 feed to the video isn't terribly time consuming, but the mixing can be. And for no real (in terms of income or potential income) benefit. But anything that slows you down will effect your income. As far as switching tapes go, I haven't been to a recital yet where there wasn't a free moment to switch tapes out!

Mike
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Old March 12th, 2008, 01:39 PM   #11
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ok just talked to the audio guy for the school and he said I could use the 1/4 inch TRS phone jack, like previously mentioned here.

Now audio is my weakness, so here is my dilemma:

I could use a 1/4 to xlr cable but the distance between the board and the camera is very long so that wont work.

I have an azden wireless mic and wanted to use that. Instead of using the lapel mic i could get a cable with a 1/4 jack that will fit the in the transmitter and then monitor the audio straight from the camera (i dont have a mixer).

how does this sound? will i be able to find a 1/4 jack cable that will fit into my transmitter?

thank you
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Old March 12th, 2008, 01:50 PM   #12
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I put a recorder - Zoom H2 - on a light stand but overlooked people kicking or jiggling the stand - over and over! A shock mount would have helped.
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Old March 12th, 2008, 02:51 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Andre Tira View Post
...:

I could use a 1/4 to xlr cable but the distance between the board and the camera is very long so that wont work.

I...
Why not? Is it the distance that worries you or is it what the cable has to go through (audience feet, etc <g>)? If it's distance, a balanced cable run of 50 ft, 100 ft, or even more is usually perfectly fine. If you're worried about dragging it behind the camera or someone tripping over it, that's another matter.
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Old March 12th, 2008, 09:58 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Andre Tira View Post
I have my first recital coming up this weekend.

I have 3 camcorders: Canon Xh-A1, Canon HV20 & Sony HVR-HD1000U.

Can you tell me the most efficient set up for these three camcorders?

I will have two operators and one cam will be unmanned, covering the whole stage. Im thinking this one will be in the rear center of the theater.

The other cams will be on each side of the theater. Should I have the hv20 in the back and use the other two cams for all the close ups?

PS. I understand I will have to do a lot of color correction in post.
In the past, I've used two Canon XL1s and one GL1 to record recitals. Previous to this camera group, I've used SONY and Panasonic cameras in place of one of the XL1s cameras.
The theatre had a wide traffic aisle separating orchestra seating from mezzanine. Cameras were placed in this aisle. One Center. One House Left. One House Right. All cameras were about 40' from stage.
My set-up was as follows:
GL1: Center. No audio feed from house sound. Recorded audio from camera mic. Locked into place. No operator. Manual focus set to object about 5' upstage of curtain line.
XL1s Cameras: House Left and House Right. Operators on both cameras. Audio feed from house sound via Sub Master sends at +4db. Camera audio input set to LINE. Intercom headsets provided by venue (allowed communication with lighting tech., sound tech., and stage manager, as well as other camera.). Video out of each camera connected to 13" CRT monitor (much easier to follow action and focus).
NO manual white balance on any cameras! All cameras set to incandescent WB.
Center camera lens set to cover 70-80% of stage width. This allows for better identification of performers and removes non-action area of stage above and below performers.
All cameras set to same manual exposure +/- 1 aperture stop.
During performance, camera operators were in constant communication regarding camera focal length and coverage. Primary goal was to keep all three cameras at different focal lengths and avoid footage where both L & R cameras were zooming to new settings at same time.

I discovered that similar exposures significantly simplified color correction in post. This turned out to be true regardless of manufacture, but having cameras of same manufacture was easier to color correct.

A CD copy of the soundtrack is absolutely essential to have for editing.
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Old March 12th, 2008, 11:20 PM   #15
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Another thought...it is nice to get cameras are above peoples heads so you don't get surprised by people wandering in front of cameras and ruining your shot. Obviously with two cameras your can cut to a clear shot but it is best not to have to be forced to do that.
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