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Old May 3rd, 2009, 02:47 AM   #1
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Anyone have symphonic concert experiences?

I'll be shooting a set of Symphonic concerts over the next week. Both are going to be in relatively small halls. Anyone have experience shooting such situations that has any tips?

I'll be recording a 2 seperate clean audio tracks (just to be safe) from mounted mics/digital recorders away from any potential voices and have 2-3 cameramen to work with, including myself. Any suggestions other than a standard 2 fixed / 1 rover for the camera work?

Thanks,
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Old May 3rd, 2009, 06:19 AM   #2
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It really helps a lot if you can read music, and you're familiar with the performed pieces. Get a copy of the conductor's score beforehand. You'll need to create a shot list that matches the music. For example, when the string section has a powerful passage, you cut to a wide shot of the string section. When the oboe has a solo, you show a closeup of the oboist. Then when the timpani has a rolling crescendo you show a closeup of the timpani. When the entire orchestra is screaming fortissimo you show the entire orchestra, etc. WHAT YOU HEAR MUST MATCH WITH WHAT YOU SEE on the screen. The key to editing/live switching is anticipating the next musical phrase and cutting to it exactly on cue or just before the cue.

If you don't have the score or aren't familiar with the music, the cameramen will often end up with "reactive" shots (whip panning to the soloist a few seconds AFTER the solo starts because he hears it) but by then it's already too late. Cutting to the shot at this point will look like an annoying mistake because the shot is late.
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Old May 3rd, 2009, 07:45 AM   #3
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It's absolutely critical that the audio is perfect, and getting this right must be your first call. In my dim and distant past I was involved with this kind of thing, and although maybe these techniques are a bit complex, they do make a different to the enjoyment. A recording for radio or CD release attempts to maintain the balance the conductor sets working with the orchestra, but for TV, those closeups as Warren says, are the critical ones - BUT very often, you cannot hear what they are playing. So for many TV recordings, the mixer will make subtle alterations to the mix at the same time as the director favours the close up. This isn't correct from an audio only perspective, but works for video and audio. To record an orchestra in an acoustically good venue may only require a stereo pair - but A/B, X/Y, M/S, or any of the other cleverer ones. Proper microphones and then the decision to use or not use spot mics. If you want to boost the oboe for that solo, then where will the sound come from?

If you are stuck for the audio with no rehearsal or planning time, then a pair of crossed cardioids above the conductors head is a good place to start. As Warren said, you need to pick up the critical shots in advance. If you can arrange proper comms to the cameras, one person can direct the cameramen and follow the score. The conductor can mark up the score with the important solos or ensemble pickups for the 'director' to then prompt the cameras.

You need to check lighting - sometimes front light (where it's been planned) is minimal, so it doesn't shine in the muso's eyes - and heavy backlight and low front light is a bit tricky.
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Old May 3rd, 2009, 09:44 AM   #4
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Great advice, and it reassures me to see that it echos some of the priorities I had in mind already. I can read music (barely), and have been given the score and already did a prelim shot list. I've also already planned on placing some additional 250W backlights as fillers, but would like to keep away from the 1000W lights, though available if needed, as to not cook the symphony - I'll be perfecting that as much as possible during dress rehearsal with them fully setup. Also, like I said, I'm recording to field recorders at two seperate locations, one from the 'audience', but sans people around, and one from center stage (actually, almost above the conductor's head) - if you have alternate suggestions, definitely open to them.

I also have the director making out detailed notes for me as to what type of shots are most important to them, what are the more powerful solo pieces, etc.

The upside of this is that we're doing it for free (well, they can pay for expenses, but I'll probably just eat them as well) so it takes some of the stress away, not to say that I'm not taking it completely seriously and handling it with the care and professionalism of any other such event. I'm a long time supporter (on the board of directors) of a symphony here in San Diego and there just isn't any money in the coffers to pay for production, but it could aid greatly in fundraising, both in giving to potential donors as well as selling to patrons and while it will only be local Cox public access, whichever performance comes out the best, I will be editing for and it will be playing on TV. For what it's worth, we're retaining/getting full rights, including performance rights to everything we produce; I've just agreed to license license reproduction rights to the final DVD back to them for fundraising purposes only and also am granting them rights gratis for the broadcast edit I'll be doing - this was even their idea (shocker) - so if it comes out as a good example, I'll be happy to post it online for other videographers to reference to give them some expectations before they go into a shoot like this, as it is a bit out of the norm (at least for me).

As I've never shot something like this before, I think it's a great opportunity for me and my production team to get some experience doing so while helping out a good cause. Also, they are two identical concerts, one being today and one being the 9th, and we have full cooperation (and undying love) from the symphony due to the situation, so we'll have full access to both dress rehearsals and plan on using it to get everything right and do run throughs each time. Basically, tonight will be a 'live' run through during the actual performance and I'm hoping it turns out well enough for a great production, but if it doesn't, we get a do-over of the whole thing on the 9th being able to correct any mistakes we make tonight, which we'll be taking either way for additional experience shooting such situation. Pretty much the most ideal situation a videography crew can get put in (more or less).

More comments, suggestions, tips are definitely welcome as even if the shoot goes great tonight, I'd love to make the shoot on the 9th even better.
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Old May 3rd, 2009, 09:52 AM   #5
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Nice project. I've a few 'get out of jail' tips. Don't worry - you don't have to read the score, just follow it - and that's much easier. If there is a crucial section where a soloist is going to play and you think it will be lost, then a radio oack can work wonders. clipped to the music stand it can produce just the kind of fill you need - and you can edit in in afterwards! Record it on anything - maybe even just one channel on one of your cameras. for audio recordings, I probably am in the NO SPOT MICS camp, but for video, they can save the day.
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Old May 3rd, 2009, 09:58 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Paul R Johnson View Post
Nice project. I've a few 'get out of jail' tips. Don't worry - you don't have to read the score, just follow it - and that's much easier. If there is a crucial section where a soloist is going to play and you think it will be lost, then a radio oack can work wonders. clipped to the music stand it can produce just the kind of fill you need - and you can edit in in afterwards! Record it on anything - maybe even just one channel on one of your cameras. for audio recordings, I probably am in the NO SPOT MICS camp, but for video, they can save the day.
Thanks for that, the solo mic situation was something I was considering. I have a bevy of $60 digital recorders from a previous production that will do two hours or so of uncompressed 16/48 from a mic-in jack. Was thinking of taping them to the music stands with some gaffe tape out of sight and wiring up a discreet mic of some sort on the music stand for some of the soloists. I'll probably do it on one of the 'stand out' violen solosts tonight to test out it out, but certainly not relying on it (yet).
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Old May 3rd, 2009, 10:14 PM   #7
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The shoot today went pretty well. We went in with 2 camera men. Learned some things that'll make the shoot on the 9th much better. Going to use 3 camera men on the 9th as well. Will post that one online once all is said and done.
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Old May 4th, 2009, 07:42 PM   #8
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I've only done a couple of symphonic concerts, but the second went much better than the first. You know what's been said in the past "Wisdom comes from experience, experience comes from screwing up."

The second concert, both cameras were identical. No problem color matching. One camera located 45 degrees right, other 45 degrees left. Both were high definition, with external 22 inch widescreen lcd monitors to make sure focus was dead on. After focusing on a performers eyes, both cameras were backed out to a wide shot.

All closeups were done in post. All pans were done in post. There was no camera shake. I used the multicam edit feature in Avid Liquid. Sometimes the right camera had the best view, sometimes the left one. All cuts from one camera to the other were synchronized to the music. To the beat. This is extremely important.

THE AUDIO ABSOLUTELY HAS TO BE IN SYNCH! Even a couple of frames off will be noticeable to the conductor when he views the video, and to the musicians too if they are good. THE AUDIO has to be top notch. The video has to be good enough not to detract from the audio.
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Old May 4th, 2009, 08:50 PM   #9
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Though certainly hints of your personal style in there, very solid advice based on what I observed from the first shoot, thanks.
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Old May 5th, 2009, 10:22 AM   #10
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Another upside of focusing on the audio so much; we got some amazing recordings. Good enough to master a great sounding CD and sell at the next concert on the 9th (and beyond) for fund raising. Already finalized the CD master yesterday (with the direct help of the conductor and as a result their full approval on the audio quality throughout the entire thing, and you can't get much pickier than her, so I must have done something right when it came to the audio recording) and it's being replicated all nice-like as I type this. Haven't had a chance to touch the video yet other than to scan through all the footage quickly, looks good though. I think I'll wait until after the 9th to start any of the video editing on either. Even though it's live, outside of the clapping between pieces, it sounds amazingly studio like, so on the 9th I'm just going to repeat what I did for the audio on the 3rd and add a 3rd camera man and focus on the video aspect, detailed shot lists for each camera man in hand this time.
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Old May 6th, 2009, 04:06 AM   #11
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Most of this thread is very good advice and sense. All I'd add is to remember that if the orchestra's any good it will create its own balance. The ensemble will quieten during solos or exposed sections. Thus unless you can afford to do a complete mic rig and multi-track recording at least section by section (and avoid bleed from adjacent sections) the best alternative is to mount a stereo pair above the orchestra and equidistant from each section and simply record the orchestra's natural balance.

It isn't ideal because (depending on the room) there might be too much echo but in terms of balance it's old fashioned standard practice.

The suggestion about using a conductor's score is sound but, unless you are a director with live communication with the cameras, perhaps a little impractical. Best if the camera ops know the music and have tasks/soloists pre-assigned.

Finally, know your audience. If it's the musicians themselves they'll know if their fingering is right or not to resist dropping in out of sync cutaways. Best in those circumstances to multicam the edit - and certainly faster. Others won't notice. If they do a dress rehearsal be sure to shoot that - they may not hold sync with the actual performance but usually they'll give you ome reliable cutaways.
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Old May 10th, 2009, 08:48 AM   #12
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Just did the second concert in the series and it went nice and smooth this time, definitely glad we opted to shoot two of them instead of stumble through learning on one and stick with that. Would be completely confident taking paying symphonic clients in the future now. Thanks a ton to everyone who contributed their knowledge, it really did help me a lot with this, a lot of those little tricks went a long way to give the production polish. Once I get around to editing the final version of this concert, I'll go ahead and encode it and post it up online on our web site (we have the performance rights to it) in full so hopefully it can be a small resource for others in similar situations to reference.
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