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


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Old May 11th, 2011, 03:12 PM   #31
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Re: Amateur Recital Video Production

For five hours of show with various acts who may be bringing various disks and such, might be easier to get all the wave files on a single drive and not have to worry about returning everybody's disks. Also, if the audio is being played from an iPod, I've found that format to cumbersome to convert into wave files I can bring into the NLE.
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Old May 11th, 2011, 03:15 PM   #32
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Re: Amateur Recital Video Production

Excellent points. My experience it they usually have everything on one or two disks, but the scenario above is certainly possible. And if that's the case, Garrett's dub-to-USB-drive solution is ideal.
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Old May 11th, 2011, 05:31 PM   #33
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Re: Amateur Recital Video Production

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But, um, er, isn't that just a more complicated way to just borrow the original files? He can just hand you the original source. Why take ten steps when one would do?
In addition to the reasons Jay already mentioned, which I've run into all of them, especially the iPod issue, I like to have a clean feed of the announcements that often occur at the beginning and end of shows, and as I mentioned earlier, a lot of the shows I've done have some kind of technical glitch. Wrong song starting and restarts, etc. I just did one where the sound tech put the wrong disc in and fired it up. The dancers, little 9 and 10 year old's, had been taught to just go with it no matter what, it was great see them improvise for the 20 seconds it took for the dance instructor to run to the sound desk and have them start the right music. That was one of the scenes I left in because everyone at the performance was raving about how well the kids just went with it.

On another one, I got the disc from the school and four of the 25 numbers they had the wrong cut of the music. The instructor thought she burned the correct versions but it was about 20 bpm too fast. turns out the girls needed the music slowed down to keep up with the steps. This particular school takes forever to get me the sound track so it would have delayed the production of the video. Having the board feed saved tons.

As a side note, a lot of people think I go overboard with redundancies and the amount of equipment I bring to a shoot, but there's one thing I've learned unfortunately through experience, if I bring it, I have about a 20% chance of using it, if I don't bring it, I have a 100% chance that I'll need it.

-Garrett
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Old May 11th, 2011, 07:04 PM   #34
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Re: Amateur Recital Video Production

Garrett, you're absolutely right. The belt-and-suspenders approach is always best.

We should just pile into my truck and go out there and help Brad. We can pick up Jay on the way. Oh, damn, I have a show in the 21st. D'oh!
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Old May 11th, 2011, 08:42 PM   #35
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Re: Amateur Recital Video Production

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Again, I concur with Adam on getting a used 500/520/550 series camera - you'll be happier with the results, although your wallet will be less happy... you can pick up a used CX500 for around $500 (I may be selling one of mine if you're interested), and it's got the bigger CMOS and most of the menu options/adjustments.
Dave... If you are selling one I might be interested. PM Sent.
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Old May 11th, 2011, 09:16 PM   #36
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Re: Amateur Recital Video Production

I had typed a nice response and lost it.

So now cliff notes - Shooting a dance recital can be very intense. I've been doing them for almost 10 years. My biggest one is this coming weekend with some 350 dancers. 3 shows on Sat starting at 10:00 AM and ending at 10:00 PM and then 1 on Sunday at 2:00 PM.

Use to do multi cam shoots back when we started, but the studios began requesting single cam shoots so they can just view the performance/spacing of the dancers on stage. Also, parents were getting upset because "their kid" didn't get a close up shot, when another kid did. Doing a one cam shoot puts an end to that.

You've got to be able to handle lighting changes not only from dance to dance, but within the same dance. There is no such thing as a "dull moment" because at just that time, the lights will go hot and then blow out your shot. You gotta always be on your toes and ready to adjust exposure.

One thing that definately will not work in a dance rectial is auto exposure of any kind on a video camera. The lighting is just too dramatic.

For audio, we've always just used the ambient audio via on cam mic. You definately want to hear the crowd. A direct board feed is too sterile imo.

It would be a good idea to find out what the studio wants.. if all they want is the wide shot (as many do), no need to set up a bunch of extra stuff.
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Old May 11th, 2011, 09:34 PM   #37
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Re: Amateur Recital Video Production

It's definitely the dance show season. All the studios are trying to get them in before school lets out and summer camps/programs begin. I don't do very many anymore and I've got three coming up.

Brad, a word of warning. Dance shows are how I started out down this black hole of the production business. I started much like you doing a local dance studio show that my nieces were in because the previous videos looked pretty awful. I got some family and friends and we did a 5 cam shoot. How hard could it be to edit and color balance 5 different cameras, right?

I really intended to only do if for myself and my family but other people saw it and wanted to buy it. That was it, after that I was hooked. And then what my wife now calls "a hobby gone bad" started. My other equipment junky friends and I have what we've dubbed EAD (equipment addiction disorder). I've lived through some very hard times of withdraw when I've been between cameras but I've learned to control my addiction.

With the questions you're asking and the enthusiasm that you're showing to capture this show I see all the signs. But just know that there is a support group and another EAD victim is always welcome to the club.

-Garrett
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Old May 11th, 2011, 11:15 PM   #38
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Re: Amateur Recital Video Production

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One thing that definitely will not work in a dance recital is auto exposure of any kind on a video camera. The lighting is just too dramatic.
Here's the problem with that statement: It will get you into trouble if you take it seriously. Without Zebras and histograms, which very few consumer cams have (the cx700 is an exception) you cannot judge exposure from looking at the LCD screen, and it isn't designed for that. And with the limited manual exposure controls on most consumer cams and certainly the cam in question here, it is virtually impossible to expose manually. So you must work within the limitations of the various auto-exposure modes the cam actually does have to let it get your exposure right. The methods detailed above in the other posts should work well. Trying to do it manually will unquestionably fail. If you're riding the EXPOSURE slider on your LCD, all you are doing is adjusting the iris (and sometimes gain, and rarely shutter speed) based on a non-calibrated picture which doesn't reflect what the camera is actually recording -- and you're doing it more slowly and less accurately than the cam would be if you just let it.

It's all about percentages and odds. Working the auto modes properly will get you a higher percentage of properly exposed footage than trying to do it manually will. Auto will do it quicker and more accurately than you can, provided you can tweak it properly.

On a larger scale, you have to understand the differences between the human eye/brain and how a camcorder works. We can deal with massive dynamic ranges in brightness. A cam can't. It must shift exposure constantly to keep the light levels within a fairly narrow range. Auto exposure does this, and quite well, as long as you can find a way to tell it to kick everything down a couple of notches to avoid blowing out the bright faces and not try to pull up all the black on the stage to a middling grey.

The rest of the post has some really great advice, but this one sentence can and should be taken with a grain of salt.

We've been doing all kinds of shows for four years now and have gotten to the point where they look gorgeous. The only time they look crappy is when we try to use manual exposure or focus -- it's guaranteed to result in more crappy unusable footage than when we let the cam do it all. Of course, there is massive tweaking going on before we shoot, using the tools Sony makes available to us, like the above-mentioned AE SHIFT, SPOTLIGHT mode, AGC LIMIT and about a dozen other things, all of which make little icons in our LCDs so we can confirm all our cams are on the same page. I know this will elicit howls of disapproval from the purists, but we never have anything out of focus when using AF on our Z5s, and exposure is always close to perfect, exactly capturing the feeling of what's onstage.
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Old May 12th, 2011, 10:19 AM   #39
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Re: Amateur Recital Video Production

Got to differ here - big time. Auto exposure for lighting states that vary so much always lag behind - so the lights go bright, the lens starts to stop down, then half a second later, the lights go dim, it tries to open up again. If you're unlucky enough to have the lighting changes in sync with the speed of the auto iris - you are stuffed! Much depends on the camera and how it deals with lighting changes. If you are lucky and your camera responds slowly, you may get away with it - but if your camera is a fast responder, the results are up and down like a yo-yo. For dance, the critical bit with fast moving lighting is to adjust to a setting that works for the entire piece if you don't have a racks man doing it for you. You can't frame, zoom, focus and be accurate with exposure. I tend to find in these situations that if you find the darker moody pieces need f4, and the bright ones are f8, then you can ramp from one to the other reasonably quickly - assuming your camera has a rotary control rather than daft up and down buttons.

The biggest problem for me when working with two separate cameras is that each op, as has been said, will adjust exposure to what their viewfinder suggests is ok, with no thought to how they will match. If you had a racks man in a truck, you could see that because of the composition in the shot, it is too dark or light and match face tones. Your camera on auto, on a wide angle, even with spot metering will expose the whole thing - the other camera on a tight shot will expose for that one person - and if they are wearing bright colours, they probably won't match with the wide shot. Exposure is really tricky with dance shot single cam, or separate multicam.
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Old May 12th, 2011, 10:31 AM   #40
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Re: Amateur Recital Video Production

Brad, if you're still out there and haven't been scared off by all this arguing, as you can see there are plenty of opinions on this and we will all likely never agree. Each of us has our own methods and we all think ours is the best. Fortunately you have some rehearsal time when you can try various things and see which is best for you -- that's really the only way to go.

Hope it goes well and please let us know what happens.
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Old May 12th, 2011, 11:12 AM   #41
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Re: Amateur Recital Video Production

Totally agree with Adam. I don't think we're arguing - I think we're discussing techniques that can work - and I happily agree manual or auto can both work fine, but equally both can fail miserably. Dance shows are a bugger to predict - there's so many variables. I know for certain, that mine are always so close to the clock as to be unpredictable - very often you just get set up, the bright lights vanish and lots of moody gloomy states appear that wreck everything you planned!
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Old May 12th, 2011, 11:34 AM   #42
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Re: Amateur Recital Video Production

I'm in the no auto camp on this one, well really I'm in the full manual camp on just about any shoot except maybe if I came upon an emergency and happened to have my cam with me and just needed to get some news coverage.

As for auto focus, I have never seen an auto focus that works correctly. Especially for stage numbers where the changes in lighting fool the camera's focusing. Most small consumer cameras have sensors that are small enough and irises that don't open up to very wide that their DOF will cover the stage from front to back. So setting your manual focus at mid stage will cover you. Between numbers if the lights go down, it's been my experience that cameras set to autofocus will hunt when the light come back up.

If your camera doesn't have full manual controls, the trick is how to fool your camera into giving you the most control over it. And that's a particular function of each camera.

As Adam said, there a many ways to do any one task. He has been able to get his cameras to respond how he wants using the built in auto features, and I and apparently Paul, have gotten better results using manual controls. But one thing that is a running theme is the need for preparation and planning. Adam spends time setting up his cameras auto feature controls and limiters so that he can get what he wants. I approach it much more like I do when filming a movie. During test shots and setups we record all camera data so when we actually shoot the scene we have everything planned out. That's essentially what I 'm doing when setting up for a live show. I spend planning and prep time getting all of the settings for the various numbers so that I make the adjustments manually.
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Old May 12th, 2011, 12:51 PM   #43
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Re: Amateur Recital Video Production

Please keep the advise and tips coming, I'm taking it all in!

As an update, I am working on getting a used Sony CX500V or XR500V to use as my main cam with the intention of setting up the CX160 as a backup and returning it when done.

Now I am looking for advice on a decent affordable tripod. I already bought a cheap Sony, but as soon as I set it up, I quickly found that it's not going to be sturdy enough - maybe for a fixed cam, but not for panning and tilting.

I am now looking at the following Sony tripod which may work well with one of the above mentioned used cams, but I'm still not confident of it sturdiness.

http://www.amazon.com/Sony-VCT-60AV-Control-Compatible-Camcorders/dp/B0012G991W/ref=cm_cr_pr_product_top

Does anyone have any experience with this specific tripod? Any suggestion for a good, sturdy, fluid tripod that might fit into my tight budget?
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Old May 12th, 2011, 01:10 PM   #44
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Re: Amateur Recital Video Production

The 80 will be better than the 60, but both are very lightweight. But they're not bad for this price range and they both have the proprietary remote in the handle that you need with the Sony cams, which will help. Don't extend the center column for extra height; they will be a bit more stable this way. If you can keep the legs compacted they will be more stable still.

I have a couple of small Sonys similar to these that I use for sports with my minicams but I keep them close to the ground and don't extend the legs at all. Always extend the thickest portions of the legs first.

The heads on these are actually remarkably smooth for the price.

There's a whole 'nother Tripod subforum here where there's a great deal of discussion about cheap sturdy tripods; there might be some other good ideas there.

Another side note that may make your head spin: Although it is logical to use the lesser camera for the wide shot, you may find that the smaller chip will struggle with the relatively finer detail in the wide shot. We certainly found this to be true. So this is something else you should experiment with during rehearsal. I would take wide and close shots, in auto and manual exposure and focus modes, every way imaginable, and then when you get home play them all directly to a good large HDTV and take copious notes about which does best in each situation. If there is a way to display all the camera data during playback (hang on... checking manuals) you should do this during playback so you can see exactly what you did. [Edit: Yes, both the 160 and 500 series have the DATA CODE > CAMERA DATA function on playback.]
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Old May 12th, 2011, 01:49 PM   #45
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Re: Amateur Recital Video Production

Brad:

there is a forum here that is devoted to tripods and such. Scanning through those posts may help educate you faster than we can here. Unless somebody has a good fluid head tripod they want to sell or loan Brad?

A CX500 or XR 500 sounds like the best choice for you main cam. I believe that, unlike the 550 and 700 models , the "500"models (and the new 560) only have a viewscreen (no viewfinder). Some people really want a viewfinder and some would only use the viewscreen, anyway, and could care less. Personal preference.

Garret, Kyle and Paul: I think we are getting off topic here in talking about manual operation. There have been plenty of other threads where folks have debated the merits and demerits of full manual and full auto for a variety of cameras including EX1, XHA1, NX5, etc.

Those discussions are academic for working with a CX160 and XR/CX500 as Brad will be. These cameras are tiny. They are ergonomically unsuitable for full manual operation even if they were capable of it. Which they are not.

I also want to draw a distinction between a manual focus and manual focusING. The first is something done before the show starts, and was part of the recommendations above. Both Adam and I have recommended this. Set a fixed focus with maximum depth of field. Leave it there. That avoids focus hunting created by lighting, intervening dancers, blackouts, patterned backdrops, etc. Manual focusING --- constantly adjusting focus as you shoot --- would be an exercise in frustration with these little cams

I have to ask if you ever used any of the CX cams? If your frame of reference is older model small cameras, such as the Sony HC1-9/AU1 line or the Canon HV20/30/40 line, I think you will be surprised at how good the CX cams are.

As for color differences between the cameras, Brad is doing two things that largely obviate the problem. Number one, he is using similar cameras with matching settings. Number two, Brad will be placing them so that they get entirely different angles of view which tends to mask color differences, anyway. If there are problems, they will be minor and, if they bother him, they can be fixed with minor tweaking in editing.

He is not shooting for PBS or the BBC, here, either. The video only needs to be better than what the parents could do for themselves and better than the what the previous sets of videographers did.
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