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Old May 20th, 2009, 03:00 PM   #31
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Originally Posted by Tony Neal View Post
...And what do you do when the show doesn't have an overture but the performers really want to see a montage of the show - picking suitable music can be really tough...
Interesting question Tony, I guess in this case i would go back to the master tracks and isolate the orchestra and create my own interlude mash-up of the key songs but i haven't had to cross that bridge yet. I will keep that in mind as this is a market I am really trying to build... Thanks for the thought provoking question!
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Old July 3rd, 2009, 06:01 PM   #32
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Hey Bryan--

Sorry to be so ridiculously late to the party, but I just stumbled across this thread (thought the forum was only about weddings and as I don't do those, never thought to look here).

But in my case, it's been made quite clear to me that we are there to "document" the production, not to make it "better." I got quite a talking to when I decided to "enhance" some lightning strikes on stage with those of my own creation. Ouch.

So for me, I'm just trying to replicate the experience of someone sitting there with really good seats, so I'd never consider showing anything except the curtain during the Overture and Entr'acte. I'm with Frank all the way on this. And with all due respect to Tony, I would never, ever do that. Maybe as an extra, but not during the Overture. But your clients are the bosses, and if they like it, hey, that's what you're paid for.

I think the idea of a chapter marker is a good one, though, and I do use the opportunity to put a few titles at the beginning -- basically whatever is on the front cover of the program -- so and so presents, show title and authors, that sort of thing. (I do the credit roll during the bows at the end.)

And I remember exactly what Garrett was talking about in West Side Story; I remember thinking it was a player piano roll when I first saw it, as it was all vertical dots and lines, and gasping when the graphic pulls back and morphs into the still shot of lower Manhattan. Ironically, this piece of music wasn't in the original stage musical -- it was added for the movie. The stage musical had no overture -- it went straight into the "Prologue" which, for the movie, was where the moving aerial shots began. Just a bit of trivia.
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Old July 5th, 2009, 02:36 PM   #33
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Adam -
Thanks for the reply and never too late to share experiences and opinions. In my case, the client loved the piece I created. i understand what you are saying about "documenting" the performance and while I agree 100% when it comes to lighting correction and other aspects which set the tone, I will disagree with you on the whole watching the curtain idea. Of course every client is different, so it is best to work with your client and find what works for you. In your experience it seems that works well for you. To bring back the notion from the beginning...
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...I have seen many discs that cut this out and just jump in when the first scene starts, but the orchestra did a spectacular job and i would really like to include the overture...
I really cannot believe how common it is (in this region) for the videographer to leave it out. To me, it seems pretty brazen to edit part of the performance out without consulting the client. They were pleasantly surprised that I left it in and blown away by the opening piece I created. I spent some time talking to them about the next production I am working with them on and have arranged to get a special dress rehearsal with the orchestra so I can be in the pit and over the pit to film them for the Overture and Entr'acte. I will still generate a short piece for titling and then transition to the orchestra shots followed by the live performance and they thought this was the best idea they ever heard.

I am also hoping that i may convince them to allow me to do a cast and crew credit roll at the end. They were quite adamant that they did not want it this time around so I will see what headway I can make on this issue. Several cast members have inquired about it's absence and I have referred them to the theatre company for reply.

I really do love this kind of work and appreciate you taking the time to share your experience whenever. Thanks.
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Old July 5th, 2009, 04:48 PM   #34
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I'm also late to the party and, though not a video professional, I was a professional actor for 15 years and have a couple of advanced degrees in theater.

The overture is not "preliminary music." As another poster mentioned, it serves a number of purposes, including introducing musical themes that will occur later. The nature of music is such that the structure is better appreciated after having been heard before. The overture also serves to set the mood for the production, so the overture (and the entr'acte before Act II) are critical components of a performance.

The sequence of events for a traditional musical are as follows. While the audience enters and is seated there are "curtain warmers" on the curtain or set. When the overture begins, house lights are brought to half. At the end of the overture, during audience applause, house lights are taken down completely along with the curtain warmers and either the curtain is raised or, if there is no act curtain, the actors take their place on the set, the stage lights brought up for the first cue.

There are a limited number of professionally-produced videos of professional Broadway productions (though not necessarily produced on Broadway). These frequently include an initial wide shot taken from the back of the house showing the audience assembling and dissolve to a curtain shot when the overture begins. Frequently, credits are run over the overture. Though this does not completely reproduce the feeling of the opening of the show (it's too dim to read the program during the overture), it comes the closest in my opinion.

And a couple of my pet peeves about videos of stage productions, from the standpoint of a one-time theater professional (actor and director):

1. When theater is done correctly, the entire audience experience, from entrance into the auditorium to exit after the bows, is considered. This means that the anticipatory buzz of audience conversation before the house lights dim is relevant and part of the theater experience. I don't like videos that try to treat a stage performance like a film by, for example, using the overture as an underscore for shots of actors getting made up, people buying tickets, stagehands moving set pieces, etc.

2. Theater is a bit like always having to shoot with a wide-angle lens. Stage directors use a combination of composition and lighting to direct audience attention, sometimes to multiple areas at once, in a way that is very different from film. I absolutely hate it when a video of a stage production is directed and edited like a film, with lots of close-ups, pick-ups and POV shots. Theater simply doesn't flow that way, and the result is always choppy and feels, to me, like looking through a keyhole at the stage.

3. As a general rule, stage acting is broader than film acting. This isn't quite as simple as it sounds, but a stage actor includes the audience in his/her interactions with other characters, whereas in film, the interaction between characters is kept to the characters themselves and expressly excludes the camera. I've seen too many videos of stage productions in which the video director seems unaware of the extent to which the audience is included in the actor's communication (and it is actually bi-direction communication, i.e. what the audience does influences the actor's performance which, in turn, influences the audience's response, etc.). I would strongly recommend that a film/video director who hasn't much experience of live theater attend several performance before even beginning to think about things like camera placement and shot lists.

4. In a traditional musical, though the music itself is a "performer" and part of the story, the musicians are not. I hate it when video/film directors cut away from the actors to shots of the pit musicians. There are exceptions, of course, particularly for those shows in which the musicians are on-stage and part of the performance. As a general rule, however, such cuts are distracting and introduce an element of commentary that is completely alien and antithetical to the directorial intent of the stage director.

5. The same is true of cuts to actors waiting to go on stage, the view from the wings, etc. Unless the video is about producing the show, as opposed to recreating the experience of the show, these kinds of shots add nothing to the experience of the productions.

These are just my views from the standpoint of someone who spent nearly 20 years in the theater, but may be helpful.
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Old July 6th, 2009, 12:15 PM   #35
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Paul, I think you are right on the money.

The only thing I'd add is to point 2, and it's this: while this is technically and theoretically correct, there's a difference between being there and watching on video, just as there is a difference between live and recorded music. The director does in deed "direct" our attention thorough his use of staging and lighting, and our POV in the theatre is indeed fixed, but our minds actually do the panning, zooming, cropping, etc for us (just as it changes white balance instantaneously and unobtrusively) while sitting in the theatre. But we can't do this in our minds, at least not very well, when watching video, so as shooters we have to physically do those close-ups, pans, zooms (only as necessary and not to excess) for the viewer... just as the white balance on the video must be physically adjusted to make it look "right."

So my goal is to always try to do as you said, which is to re-create the theatrical experience as closely as possible without adding anything that wouldn't really have been there and available to an audience member sitting there live. Of course, all this other stuff could be added as extras, but the main video itself is always just the show as presented, as close as I can get to it.

But the client is the boss, and I'll generally do whatever they want.
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Old July 6th, 2009, 12:34 PM   #36
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Adam, I agree with you completely re: reproducing "mental" pans, zooms and closeups with the equivalent camera move. That has to be done -- otherwise you might as well just set a camera in the middle of the house with a wide angle lens on it, turn it on and go home. The trick, I think, is thinking like a stage director, rather than a film director -- I find the "rhythm" to be different, if that makes any sense. I do find that there is seldom, if ever, a need for extreme close-ups, and two shots tend to work well when bringing in focus from the entire stage to a "small" scene.

One thing I forgot to mention is makeup and costume (and, for that matter, sets). Because theater is designed to be viewed at a distance, stage makeup is much, much broader than film. Similarly, costumes and sets are constructed to "read" from the middle of the house and, when viewed closeup, look cheap or fake. From my perspective, that's another reason to avoid extreme closeups.
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Old July 6th, 2009, 01:04 PM   #37
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Originally Posted by Paul Tauger View Post
...otherwise you might as well just set a camera in the middle of the house with a wide angle lens on it, turn it on and go home.
And the shocking thing is many people do just this and still get paid for it.
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Old July 6th, 2009, 02:43 PM   #38
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If everyone posessed Blu-ray players with 42" TVs then perhaps it would be possible to simulate the 'theatre' experience with a fairly static camera, relying on the resolution of HD to display enough detail to replicate what an audience member would see from the auditorium.

However, my customers are not members of the audience, they are the amateur performers and production team who have put heart and soul and several months of their lives into the production with no reward other than the applause, hopefully a good review, and the chance to see the show and their own efforts on DVD.

I would be lynched if I gave them several minutes of curtain instead of a carefully crafted memento of the show and their performances in the form of a montage, set to the overture, that they can show off to friends and family. A good montage actually enhances the overall quality of the product and if done properly can be a piece of art in itself.

They would also not be pleased with an 'audiences' view of the show. They want to see every gesture, expression and movement that they have so lovingly crafted over the months, and they want to see it in as much detail as possible.

So it is my job to portray the performers in as much detail as I can, while still capturing all of the essential onstage action in a smooth and professional manner with whatever cameras I have at my disposal.

As Adam pointed out, the client is the boss - do whatever they want.
But don't miss the chance to add some of your own art to the product.
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Old July 6th, 2009, 03:24 PM   #39
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Tony, I wasn't suggesting that any video of a stage event be done with the sole aim of reproducing the theater experience. Particularly, when you're doing a commercial video that gets sold to the participants, you do what will sell the most DVDs. The context in which I made my comments was the "archival" video done pursuant to license, where the stated purpose is preserve the production for future viewing and study.
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Old July 7th, 2009, 12:02 AM   #40
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I love it when an older thread gets resurrected...

Thank you to everyone for continuing the discussion on this subject. Paul, Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts from the other side of the lens. This is valuable information to all of us on the production side. I agree with you on many of your points and actually have several years of experience as a musical actor too so I see where you are coming from. To address some of your points...
Quote:
Originally Posted by Paul Tauger View Post
...The overture...serves a number of purposes, including introducing musical themes that will occur later...I would strongly recommend that a film/video director who hasn't much experience of live theater attend several performance before even beginning to think about things like camera placement and shot lists.
Excellent points here. Going in blind and just shooting will always produce inferior results and not having a grasp of the concepts in general can really hinder your ability to produce a quality product. The overture to a musical is there to introduce the themes and draw focus to the music you should expect to hear later just as the Entr'acte music bridges (and often reinforces) the musical themes and introduces the elements of the next act. Thank you for addressing this Paul.
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Originally Posted by Paul Tauger View Post
...And a couple of my pet peeves about videos of stage productions, from the standpoint of a one-time theater professional (actor and director):

1. When theater is done correctly, the entire audience experience, from entrance into the auditorium to exit after the bows, is considered...
...and good video of a stage performance should address this but in a manner that is intriguing to the video audience as well. As an audience member the grand curtain builds anticipation but on video we are accustomed to more action and staring at a blank curtain for many, I believe would conjure boredom, not anticipation. Some have used the behind the scenes shots to build that anticipation, but in my opinion that detracts from the performance too. Some shots of the orchestra performing, I feel, add to the live feeling and draw you in to remembering that this is live. No CDs or mixing booths, this is real.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Paul Tauger View Post
...2. Theater is a bit like always having to shoot with a wide-angle lens. Stage directors use a combination of composition and lighting to direct audience attention, sometimes to multiple areas at once, in a way that is very different from film. I absolutely hate it when a video of a stage production is directed and edited like a film, with lots of close-ups, pick-ups and POV shots. Theater simply doesn't flow that way, and the result is always choppy and feels, to me, like looking through a keyhole at the stage...
This style bothers me too. I agree that the POV and ECU shots have little to no value in theatre. I have found (in working with stage choreographers and directors) that the terminology of close-up, ECU, wide and extreme wide have very different interpretations than those used in video. In my experience, most stage people consider a head to toe shot to be a close-up and an extreme close-up is one actor torso only. These interpretations of terminology can really muddy the water if you block shots with the director, assistant director, or choreographer.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Paul Tauger View Post
...3. As a general rule, stage acting is broader than film acting. This isn't quite as simple as it sounds, but a stage actor includes the audience in his/her interactions with other characters, whereas in film, the interaction between characters is kept to the characters themselves and expressly excludes the camera. I've seen too many videos of stage productions in which the video director seems unaware of the extent to which the audience is included in the actor's communication (and it is actually bi-direction communication, i.e. what the audience does influences the actor's performance which, in turn, influences the audience's response, etc.)...
another excellent point but there is a limit too how much the audience can be involved in the performance. In my opinion, the audience should be heard but not seen. This is an area where surround sound is your friend. I always try to frame (full) shots to the edge of the stage so that you feel you are in the front row, but include the audience in final shots of the first act and the curtain call to get a larger participatory feel (my daughter actually stood up in our living room clapping with the audience when we screened the DVD together.)
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Originally Posted by Paul Tauger View Post
4. In a traditional musical, though the music itself is a "performer" and part of the story, the musicians are not. I hate it when video/film directors cut away from the actors to shots of the pit musicians. There are exceptions, of course, particularly for those shows in which the musicians are on-stage and part of the performance. As a general rule, however, such cuts are distracting and introduce an element of commentary that is completely alien and antithetical to the directorial intent of the stage director.
Interesting points. I both agree and disagree with you here. Shots of the musicians during the performance are anti-climatic, but I think during the overture/entr'acte can be a good tie in. Also, in my case, the orchestra is a potential source of revenue and their inclusion opens up additional sales options...
Quote:
Originally Posted by Paul Tauger View Post
5. The same is true of cuts to actors waiting to go on stage, the view from the wings, etc. Unless the video is about producing the show, as opposed to recreating the experience of the show, these kinds of shots add nothing to the experience of the productions.
With you 100% here. IMHO, these shots are great for bonus material but in the main piece are distracting and break the suspension of disbelief.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Paul Tauger View Post
..The trick, I think, is thinking like a stage director, rather than a film director -- I find the "rhythm" to be different, if that makes any sense. I do find that there is seldom, if ever, a need for extreme close-ups, and two shots tend to work well when bringing in focus from the entire stage to a "small" scene...One thing I forgot to mention is makeup and costume (and, for that matter, sets). Because theater is designed to be viewed at a distance, stage makeup is much, much broader than film. Similarly, costumes and sets are constructed to "read" from the middle of the house and, when viewed closeup, look cheap or fake. From my perspective, that's another reason to avoid extreme closeups.
Again more wonderful points. It is not just the shot type but also the rhythm, costume, and props that differ from stage to film...
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tony Neal View Post
If everyone posessed Blu-ray players with 42" TVs then perhaps it would be possible to simulate the 'theatre' experience with a fairly static camera, relying on the resolution of HD to display enough detail to replicate what an audience member would see from the auditorium.

However, my customers are not members of the audience, they are the amateur performers and production team who have put heart and soul and several months of their lives into the production with no reward other than the applause, hopefully a good review, and the chance to see the show and their own efforts on DVD.

I would be lynched if I gave them several minutes of curtain instead of a carefully crafted memento of the show...So it is my job to portray the performers in as much detail as I can, while still capturing all of the essential onstage action in a smooth and professional manner with whatever cameras I have at my disposal.

As Adam pointed out, the client is the boss - do whatever they want.
But don't miss the chance to add some of your own art to the product.
Tony, welcome back and thank you for your many counterpoints. For those of you who don't already know Tony, he is very accomplished in theatrical filming and has a lot of experience shooting these type of events. In talking to my clientele on this event I found that most of the actors wanted both a piece that captured every detail of their performance while preserving the original stage feel to show off to their friends. My goal was to find balance...

Thank you to everyone for continuing the discussion and adding to the scope.
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Old July 7th, 2009, 06:24 PM   #41
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Bryan, I agree with everything you've said, and would offer a clarification:

Musicals get video taped in a variety of situations. Sometimes, it's for the purposes of making DVDs available to cast, crew, parents, friends, etc. Sometimes it's to make an archival record for the producing entity. Sometimes it's for later broadcast and/or distribution.

Each is going to result in a different approach to the shoot.

My posts in this thread addressed only archival recording and/or subsequent broadcast and distribution and relate, primarily, to professional stage productions. For videos of amateur and school productions, where the intent is to create a saleable keepsake for those involved, all bets are off and I have no opinion whatsoever -- as with wedding videos, the event videographer knows what works. I certainly don't. I consider myself an expert on musical theater. I do not, in the least, consider myself even remotely competent when it comes to professional videography.
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Old July 7th, 2009, 06:40 PM   #42
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I'm just finishing up editing a small ballet production of The Sleeping Beauty. Since many people only think of the Disney movie when they here the title the director was nice enough to outline the story and summarize what happened in each act in the program. During the overture I have the story showing in front of the curtain so that the music coincides with the words for each act. That way the viewer will have an idea of what is going on and can associate each act with the music they are listening to.

Doesn't work for every situation but it worked out for this one.
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Old July 7th, 2009, 09:47 PM   #43
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Garrett,
I have always wanted to shoot "Sleeping Beauty" and Swan Lake," two of my favorites. Kudos on getting to shoot that and I am glad it worked out for you. I am looking forward to some additional theater shoots but in my area there is not much demand for it these days...but I do what I can to change that.

Paul, you are so spot on about the audience determines the finished piece but I think you really brought up some great points that are universal regardless of output. Thanks for taking time to share your experience with us.
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