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


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Old July 29th, 2010, 01:34 PM   #1
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High cam solutions for dance floor coverage?

I had a thought today when I was deciding how to film a reception by myself and also get some good lighting on the dance floor.

Why not kill two birds with one stone and set a B-cam on a tall tripod with a light on top to not only throw light on the floor but to get a high angle for when I need a cover shot.

Now my question is, what's the best way to get a camera up there and stable? No need for a video head if I'm going to be locked down on a wide cover shot. Maybe a ball head for positioning?

I thought about finding long tripod legs but that would increase the footprint and I'm not comfortable leaving that unattended. Would a C-stand work with a sandbag on it? I'd assume 1/4" 20 threads are available and you can get some 8-10' c-stands easily.

Anyone here have a solution they use? Just looking for suggestions.
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Old July 29th, 2010, 02:50 PM   #2
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Aerial Mast

Have a look at this link
Aerial Mast Photography Accessories

Something like this without the expensive pan and tillt controller would be ideal.
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Old July 29th, 2010, 02:58 PM   #3
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oh wow, that's high enough for sure but WAYYY too expensive. Good thought.
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Old July 29th, 2010, 04:35 PM   #4
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I've done it in the past to see if it would be worth the extra time to set up and lugging the extra gear in and out of receptions. I decided it wasn't but to answer your question directly I simply used my 2nd tripod which is a Bogen 3246 and with the legs extended all the way and the center column up all the way the camera is just about 8 feet off the ground. I used a short ladder, step stool actually, set the shot and used the remote to fire it off when I needed it to run.

Basically I just used it for the first dance, father daughter and mother son dance, after that I shut it down. I placed it by the DJs booth (table) to one side and for the most part it was out of the way but again for me it just wasn't worth the extra lugging and time.

YMMV.
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Old July 29th, 2010, 06:30 PM   #5
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We currently use a pair of 13' Cheetah light stands; one for the wide cam and one for the light. We've considered going with a single stand, but sometimes we want the light and wide cam in different spots (either for effect or because of space limitations).

I don't know how large your wide cam is, but these little mini-heads work pretty well for small cameras:

Giottos MH-1104 Pro Series II Mini Ballhead with MH1104-330C -
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Old July 29th, 2010, 07:07 PM   #6
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Manfrotto 3246, I have a pair of them and use them for exactly this reason, the potential of height.
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Old July 29th, 2010, 09:51 PM   #7
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If expense is your main concern then the Bogen/Manfroto tripods with telescoping middle posts are the solution you're looking for. If you decide to go that route on a crowded dance floor I'd be sure to man them at all times due to the 'drunk person running into tripod' factor.
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Old July 30th, 2010, 01:18 AM   #8
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A Manfrotto/Bogen lighting stand will do the job for you. We use the
Manfrotto 269HDBU Super High Aluminum Stand with 269HDBU - B&H
for some nice low level aerial shots as it is 24'/7m in height but unless you have a vast ballroom a smaller version would suffice. They are good value too. Incidentally there is a version sold as a Super High Camera stand that is over twice the price even though it looks identical
Manfrotto Super High Camera Stand - 24' (7.3m) 269HDB-3U - B&H
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Old July 30th, 2010, 01:52 AM   #9
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Brad, IMHO you're going exactly the right way to get different shots to the next 20 video production people who'll be stuck at the same level through the first dance and everything else.

But such a privilege doesn't come cheap.

We use three cameras throughout. The third is mounted on a modified lighting stand so goes up to about 14ft, though above 10ft it's not stable enough in our judgment. But that gives you no control over your camera - you could easily end up with an hour of lopsided, almost unusable material. We had a 3/8th inch BSW tripod thread rod embedded in plastic metal in the top of the stand which has a leveling head on top of that. The levelling's done before the lift. On top of that is a motorised pan and tilt head, not the very modest Bogen/Hague which has very limited strength and only +/-15degrees tilt but a professional Panasonic head. The Z1 (along with radio mic receiver, MRC1K and AT897) is on top of that on a Manfrotto QR plate.

The whole thing, head and camera, is radio controlled and the control box which is suspended on a static arm below the head, has just three cables coming out of it, power (12v SLA), LANC connector and video/sound connector - the latter because the control box has a video/audio transmitter sending images and sound of what we're getting back to the control box.

It's stuck on a corner of the reception room away from traffic (and at the rear of the church at the wedding ceremony) and gives us a very useful third camera, not cheap but much less expensive than a third cameraman on a tower.

Have a look at our site - the still on the About Us page was taken from the third camera, zoomed in from the rear of the church. Unless there's a balcony you simply can't get that shot any other way. And because it's all radio controlled and battery powered it's quick to dismantle and avoids any trailing cables.

The operational controls are built into a small 14x10x3 attache case complete with SLA, video/audio receiver, 7inch screen, and control circuitry transmitter. The only external is the actual transmitter head is in a tiny box which, because it needs good line of sight, is stuck on the end of a black mic stand and cabled to the control case. The control transmissions are all digital and include a code which means it's virtually free of interference.

Altogether probably more than you're considering but, in my view, the way to go.
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Old July 30th, 2010, 03:31 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Philip Howells View Post
On top of that is a motorised pan and tilt head, not the very modest Bogen/Hague which has very limited strength and only +/-15degrees tilt but a professional Panasonic head.
Do you have a link to this Panasonic model? I have one of the cheap MPH models as sold by Hague & others which is OK as far as it goes but I would like one that was a bit more robust & wireless control could be really neat.
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Old July 30th, 2010, 04:52 AM   #11
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Nigel, they're model WV-PH10E - almost certainly discontinued now but well made internally. My technical colleague had to modify them quite substantially because the electronics were a bit odd, the direction and rate varying according to the control DC voltage. It meant isolating part of two ICs inside.

The radio controls were also custom built with the exception of the LANC control which was taken out of a Manfrotto control and "radio'd" - cheaper to use their chip and circuitry rather than replicating the LANC protocol.

Incidentally the biggest need is for a variable gearing which will allow the speed of pan and tilt adjustment to depend on the focal length of the lens. There's a knack to getting the framing right - making adjustments when zoom in tight is well nigh impossible - the movement is simply too great. But set that right and the wide angle speeds are much too slow. The solution isn't simple, not least because the camera zoom is a separate function to the head pan and tilt. The original electronics in the heads were very elegant and may well point to the direction of the solution.
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Old July 30th, 2010, 08:02 AM   #12
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Wow, thanks everyone for your suggestions. Absolutely love this board. Can't ask for better people to learn from.
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Old July 30th, 2010, 10:30 AM   #13
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Hi Brad, what I do from time to time is simply slide the telescoping column out of one of my Manfrotto tri-pods, aim the video camera down, adjust the screen so I can see it clearly, raise my arms and walk around the dance floor and hall. You have to be careful where you walk, and of course you need to pay attention to low-hanging objects, but you would be surprised at the reaction I get from guests. They really perform for the "fly over", looking up, waving, and just having fun. You would be surprised how stable the results are as well, especially if you use a heavier camera (for this I use a Sony EX1) and keep the stabilizer on.
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Old August 3rd, 2010, 10:20 PM   #14
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I think the C-stand is the way to go. I just picked up a 10' Avenger and am impressed with how much more solid it feels compated to a regular light stand. Throw on a sandbag and it should be fine. I wouldn't use the boom though so you'd need find a grip to hold both the cam and a light

One of my best overhead shot techniques is now in question based on an experience I had on Sunday. I was shooting a music video and was using my Manfrotto 561B monopod (fully exended) to get some overheads of the drummer. As I was lowering it down over the drums the bottom leg of the monopod snapped. It didn't completely break off but my heart almost stopped as I saw my 5D taking a dive. No damage done but I was thinking afterwards how disasterous that could have been on a crowded dance floor at a wedding - yikes!
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Old August 4th, 2010, 12:14 AM   #15
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A caution from my experience trying this with a lightweight light stand and an inexpensive lightweight still camera tripod. I had problems with the loudspeakers being very loud (one event with a live band and the other with a hyperthyroid DJ). If you do not have a very sturdy set-up that is mostly immune to vibration, the sound pulses from the speakers can vibrate your cameras to the point that that video is unsuable. My solution has been to have somebody (say, a young and weighty relative to whom the bride's mother needs to give a job) hold onto the stand and dampen the effects of the vibration. Tried this recently with Sony's active ois "steady shot" in a CX550 b-roll cam and seemed to get better results than in the past.
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