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Old May 12th, 2011, 01:51 PM   #46
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Re: Amateur Recital Video Production

My original intention has always been to only use a single cam but I'm also really nervous about something going wrong and losing some (or all) of the footage. Since I am considering a "better" camera, I though that I could possibly still use the "lesser" cam for backup purposes only before returning it to the store. I would prefer to use all the shots from one cam because I'm not so confident in my editing skills with multiple shots and I'm not going to have an abundance of free time for editing either. A majority of my shots with the "better" cam will probably also be wide with some occasional close-ups.

I did just find out too that the rehearsal next Thursay will not have any stage lighting and not all the performances will be rehearsed. I was told that we may be able to turn on some stage lighting after the rehearsal is over, but that not going to help a whole lot.
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Old May 12th, 2011, 01:56 PM   #47
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Re: Amateur Recital Video Production

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As for auto focus, I have never seen an auto focus that works correctly.
I know we're continuing to veer horrendously off-topic with this, but it's a subject that deserves continuing exploration as equipment evolves. The common thread that I think Garrett, Paul and I can all agree on is that there is no substitute for preparation and knowing your equipment. I'm a little surprised that Garrett's EX3, which I'd consider to be one of the finest pieces of equipment ever made, doesn't have an auto focus that pleases him, but then he has one and I don't so he knows better than I possibly could.

Years ago when I was shooting Baseball with a VX2000, the AF was dead solid and without fail locked razor tight ... on the fence behind the outfielders. Nothing I did could shake it from its relentless grip on that fence.

As we moved to other cams, including FX1s, 7s and 1000s, as well as HC3s, 7s and 9s, and HD1000s and MC2000s and my beloved crop of Z5s, it became scary how well they did, especially with fast moving sports like soccer (that's Football to you, Paul). The Z5s are positively frightening... how does it know what I want to focus on? There must be some kind of brain control mind-reading chip in there. Plus it can virtually see in the dark. But I digress.

Thirty-five years ago, when I first learned how to do all of this on film, there was no Auto anything. You had to do everything manually. You wore a light meter around your neck. Even if your camera had an internal light meter, you still had to set the iris and shutter manually for each shot by lining up the needles. (Gain? What's that?) When Auto functions began to creep in they sucked so you still had to do everything manually. As they became better, you still did everything manually because, come on, no machine could ever be as smart as a person. Then you had to go manual because only rookies did things with auto; Pros Used Manual.

But now my ego is no longer involved. I only care about how much good footage I get. With my gear I know my odds are better when I don't try to outsmart the cam. But Garret, Paul and the others are smarter than I am and have figured out how to get better footage on manual. But until you've seen those little boxes appear around people's faces and watched the focus and exposure snap into exact precision, you can't begin to appreciate how brilliant these little devices have become.

Know your gear. Prepare. And Practice. And Prepare some more.
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Old May 12th, 2011, 02:15 PM   #48
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Re: Amateur Recital Video Production

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I would prefer to use all the shots from one cam
Then realistically you should just invest in a good 500 series, lock it down on a wide shot with fixed focus and shoot without moving it for the entire show. Kyle has a very good point about the politics of closeups. We do most of our shows in closeup and use the wide shots only to cover the moves, because all the whip pans and zooms as we choose the next CU are unwatchable and should not be in your final video. But the editing on a five-hour show will be daunting and if a locked down wide shot is acceptable you should take the lesser-stress route and just get a good wide shot of the stage.

I think we all have to be careful about turning a simple project into an Elephant. I know I am certainly guilty of this. Sorry about that.
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Old May 12th, 2011, 02:19 PM   #49
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Re: Amateur Recital Video Production

Did not see Adam's post before I replied. All good advice. I would have suggested that your primary camera be the one with the larger viewscreen, but I suspect that both of these cams have 3 inch view screens.

If you do not use a locked down, fixed frame approach, editing with two cams is pretty easy. (With five hours of show, the hard part is disk storage and feeding it all into the computer.) All you have to do for each segment is find the flash and line up the two tracks in your editor. Follow your primary camera --- you can scroll through with a mouse --- and find the parts of the main camera track that you want to cut out. Make the same cuts on the second track and drop that bit over the part you do not like in you main cam's shot. It is quick and simple. Only complicated when you go to more cameras. For a bit better timing, look at the wave-form display for the audio track and make the cuts where you see a sharp line (usually that will be a musical beat).

As for turning on the stage lighting after the rehearsals, you want to do that. This will tell you quickly whether on not you are going to have any low-light issues with your cams. Actually, this may be good news. If they were going to do much with the lighting, they would be having tech rehearsals with the lighting crew or the guy who is programing the computer that controls the setup.
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Old May 12th, 2011, 02:33 PM   #50
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Re: Amateur Recital Video Production

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Then realistically you should just invest in a good 500 series, lock it down on a wide shot with fixed focus and shoot without moving it for the entire show. Kyle has a very good point about the politics of closeups. We do most of our shows in closeup and use the wide shots only to cover the moves, because all the whip pans and zooms as we choose the next CU are unwatchable and should not be in your final video. But the editing on a five-hour show will be daunting and if a locked down wide shot is acceptable you should take the lesser-stress route and just get a good wide shot of the stage.

I think we all have to be careful about turning a simple project into an Elephant. I know I am certainly guilty of this. Sorry about that.
No problem! This really isn't a simple project for me personally because it's a first time experience. I am taking in all the advice and will format it to suit my particular needs. Most all advice is good advice for me whether it be for this project or a possible future project.

In this case, the studio director has specifically asked that I capture most of the performance wide and occasionally zoom in on the "younger" performers and during award recognitions. I believe someone has already mentioned something similar to this in this thread that is becoming rather lengthy (sorry I didn't go back to quote who this was). I'm going have a lot of re-reading to do as I get closer to actually shooting!
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Old May 12th, 2011, 02:38 PM   #51
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Re: Amateur Recital Video Production

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As for turning on the stage lighting after the rehearsals, you want to do that. This will tell you quickly whether on not you are going to have any low-light issues with your cams. Actually, this may be good news. If they were going to do much with the lighting, they would be having tech rehearsals with the lighting crew.
I did attend last year's recital and I have scanned through the last several year's DVDs and to me it doesn't appear that the lighting changes will be that dramatic. Some years used a spot light, but I have been told they won't be using one this year. The biggest lighting issue I saw from past is a row of bright lights right across the front of the stage floor, but I was also told that those will be fewer and smaller this year.
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Old May 12th, 2011, 02:53 PM   #52
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Re: Amateur Recital Video Production

Brad: two more simple point about using two cameras together rather than having one strictly for backup..

First, even if you shoot wide with both cameras, having two angles can provide some visual relief. Viewers are conditioned to expect to see multiple angles, and it is something most parents cannot readily do for themselves.

Second, when you have small groups of dancers, or duos and soloists, it is nice to be able frame the dancer. If you guess wrong about a move and the dancer(s) move out of frame or suddenly jump high, you've got the second cam's wide frame to cover until you have caught up with the dancer(s).

It may seem intimidatingly complicated, but you will actually find this pretty easy once you've started.
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Old May 12th, 2011, 02:54 PM   #53
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Re: Amateur Recital Video Production

Just be careful with your zooms. Nothing looks more amateurish than overuse of zooms. Usually you should just do a straight cut between wide and close, which is why you'd want more than one cam.

I always teach my kid shooters (my shooters are all kids): You are not a fireman putting out a fire -- no waving the cam around wildly trying to find something interesting. Always have a destination in mind when you pan or zoom. When you find your shot, stay there. There are two ways to zoom: quickly, to get to the next shot, or slowly and smoothly for effect. The former is never seen in the final show; the latter can be. Same for pans. No shots less than 30 seconds. Ever. Unless someone's head explodes onstage.

You are shooting this for parents, and parents of parents. They have never heard of MTV.

I know we're getting into stylistic issues here, but always remember your audience.

Jay's point about visual relief is an extremely sophisticated one that people in the live performance world frequently just don't understand. When we view something live, our brains act as editors and switchers and we zoom and pan in our brains. You can experiment with this next time you see a live show -- your peripheral vision becomes less evident to you, but it's still there and you can see it if you concentrate on it. But merely taking a wide shot and viewing it on TV, this no longer happens -- it's like you are viewing a bank security cam. Using multiple cams is necessary to emulate the live experience, which is the opposite of what live theatre people think -- they think that a fixed shot by a camera is the same as you sitting in one seat for the whole show, which you obviously do.
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Old May 12th, 2011, 03:23 PM   #54
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Re: Amateur Recital Video Production

You've chosen a remarkably difficult project for your first one. We've covered the focus, exposure and sound elements, but as just explained - you have to cope with needing closeups, and wide angle shots. With dance, and especially with dance you've never seen before, with just a single camera, you'll need to also be aware of what is happening outside the frame in the viewfinder. You'll perhaps be concentrating on a soloist, and not notice the stage is filling up with new dancers , who you don't spot until they move downstage and blot out the image, meaning a hasty zoom out, which always looks cack. So for single camera dance, you need to consider the viewfinder and use the other eye to watch out for action out of the frame. It's a very difficult skill to develop. You'll also need to practice diagonal movements - pans and tilts from corner to corner, sometimes with a zoom at the same time. You have to consider if you wish to keep the dancers framed in a consistent manner, so you zoom in as they go up stage, and out as they travel downstage - but do it slowly and sympathetically. If I were you, I'd try to find a dance class somewhere near you where they might let you practice during a class?
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Old May 12th, 2011, 04:07 PM   #55
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Re: Amateur Recital Video Production

All true and all the more reason to have a second cam set full stage from a different angle.

You may think of it as a back-up or safety net (which it certainly can be), but the audience for the DVD sees it all as part of the show you are making for them. They will think all of your cuts are intentional and will appreciate the changing views.They will not know or care whether you made the cut intentionally or if instead you are covering up a mistake or a zoom or a wobbly pan or whatever. (The term of art for this is a "cut-away" shot.)

Even with a basic video editor like Adobe Premiere Elements or Vegas Studio, this"two track" editing is so easy to do that I think there is no reason not to do it.

If the dance school/studio wants its own private version with no closer and no change in views, just burn them their own dvd from the second camera's footage.

And, for what you've planned, you won't need to do a lot of close shots. Mostly, just enough to frame the dancers. (Everything changes with small kids but that is true generally as well as here.) Think about it this way: with the camera framed wide enough to hold a a large group of dancers or wide enough to encompass the whole range of a dancer's movement, a soloist or duo or trio are going to look awfully small and alone in all that space. Bringing the frame in a bit closer is much more interesting to watch. Plus, when a dancer flubs a move, you can always to cut to the wide view where it usually looks a lot less serious. Having that second camera track available is great stress reducer, especially for as long a performance session as you are facing.
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Old May 12th, 2011, 04:44 PM   #56
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Re: Amateur Recital Video Production

A couple points about the smaller Sony cameras from a 5xx series shooter - they have a surprising amount of lattitude, which helps a lot with exposure - you mainly run into focus trouble when there's just "nothing" to focus on, be it black or nearly black screen, that's when the camera will go on the hunt for "anything", and likely not be where you want it when lights come back up... it will also likely re-lock fairly quickly if in auto. Better though to set the focus distance and leave it for the wide camera.

I'm generally with Adam in relying on the auto intelligence of the camera, they aren't perfect, but they are pretty darn good, and will be better than someone just learning and trying to use the small fiddly controls on a handycam. As Adam noted, you still have to watch out for situations where the camera will pick out an object in the foreground (OR background), and decide THAT is what you wanted to focus on, rather than your actual subject. Nothings "perfect"!


Framing:
Having a wide/safety shot gives you the full experience shot - the tighter shots are for smaller groups or soloists who will appear dwarfed if left in a "wide" frame. BUT, as duly noted, you don't want pans and zooms all over your footage, so one cam is wide and steady, you point and frame the other while trying to track the action... if the tripod head is not the greatest, if you whip pan or crash zoom, it goes in the bit bucket while the "safety" covers. You're the only one who has to cringe! The fixed cam can be lashed to a post or rail if needed, just has to stay locked down, sometimes you may need to adjust framing a tad with zoom, avoid it if you can...

It does sound as though the lighting won't be nearly as difficult as some of us have experienced, and you've gotten lots of good advice! Just remember to remain calm, have a water bottle handy, and on a five hour shoot, a snack... wear comfy shoes, and don't "double punch" the record buttons!
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Old May 12th, 2011, 06:16 PM   #57
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Re: Amateur Recital Video Production

For framing with the intention of a one camera shoot I use the follow general guidelines. If there are 5 or less dancers on stage and they are not spread out very far, I leave about 1 to 1 1/2 person nose room on either side. I follow the group using as smooth a pan as possible. If someone goes out of frame don't worry and don't do a whip pan to try to catch up with them. Just keep panning to catch up with them or if you have a good controller slowly zoom out a bit pull them back into frame.

Larger group of kids usually have dances that are not as complex and involve as many formation changes. They tend to be more of a line-em up and have them all do the same techniques. So I shoot most of those dances framing the entire group and once or twice during the number I zoom in to about three of them in the frame and do a pan over the group so that each dancer get's some face time. This seems to satisfy those parents that want to see a close up of little johnny but also doesn't show any favoritism to one dancer or another.

As far as thinking in terms of a two camera edit. A basic rule is you don't want to have a jump cut. In other words cutting between two cameras that have roughly the same framing and angle. It creates a very jarring affect on your audience.

-Garrett


Side note to Adam, the EX3 and EX1/R are really great cameras. The 1/2" sensor helps in low light situations and the resolving power of even the stock lens and sensor is really incredible. The focusing is an issue for a couple of reasons. I does a decent job of auto focusing but becuase the image is very sharp from the cameras and that makes something that is out of focus much more noticeable. HD is already a killer for critical focus but coupled with rapidly changing lighting environments, dark uniform backdrops that have no edges for the focusing to rely on make thing difficult for any camera. I've found that having a follow focus is a great investment and I use it more on live stage shoots than I thought I would.
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Old May 12th, 2011, 07:00 PM   #58
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Re: Amateur Recital Video Production

I just purchased a used Sony HDR-XR500V. Let's hope it arrives in good working condition early next week to give myself some time to familiarize myself with it. I feel much less nervous now knowing I will have something a little better than the CX160 to work with. You guys played a big role in my decision to make this purchase! Thanks!
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Old May 12th, 2011, 07:43 PM   #59
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Re: Amateur Recital Video Production

Thanks. Don't forget to check back in and let us know how things go.
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Old May 12th, 2011, 09:35 PM   #60
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Re: Amateur Recital Video Production

Regarding my previous comment on -not using auto- for recitals due to dramatic lighting: That was based on my experience when we first started shooting them with a 2GL1s, an XL1s, and a VX2000. At the time, we thought it would be safer to use the auto settings due to all the dramatic lighting, but what ended up happening more often than not was massive overexposure. When we started controlling the iris manually it really really improved the picture quality dramatically.

Today's cameras may very well have much better auto settings the 5-10 years ago. I have not really used any auto stuff on my NX5 yet. Tomorrow night is the dress rehearsal for the one I'm filming Sat and Sun. When I go set up tomorrow night, I may very well turn it on auto and see what happens!

One thing for sure, with a 3+ hour recital, I'll have plenty of chances to try stuff out tomorrow night.

This will be my first time using the NX5U on such a long form event... total of about 10 hours film time.
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