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Old January 10th, 2012, 07:26 AM   #1
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How Many Use a Spilt Screen Technique for Recitals?

I've read a couple of small debates on here about the use of split screen for dance recitals, utilizing the top half of the screen for closeups of the dancers, while putting the wide shot at the bottom half to keep the choreography intact. I'm curious to see how here many provide this in their work.

I am meeting with a studio tomorrow that could lead to our first large dance recital recording. I've always despised the look of the split screen, not to mention the logistics of getting it into my multicam workflow (I use Vegas Pro and haven't done research on how to do it effectively), but it looks like it's something that the studios in my area have come to expect. If it's a dealbreaker, of course I will give them what they want. However, I've always felt that I'm able to maintain the choreogaphy and still provide tight shots of the dancers - especially the younger ones where that seems to be the most important thing to the parents. The older ones, I keep to a head to toe shot.

I should also mention that the director does not want the cameras any place where they will interfere with providing maximum seating capacity. Meaning I will most likely be stuck with using the control room of a very large high school auditorium to place at least two of the cams. They are newer and have limited zoom capabilities, which also does not lend itself well to this split screen thing.

Thoughts or advice?
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Old January 10th, 2012, 09:03 AM   #2
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Re: How Many Use a Spilt Screen Technique for Recitals?

Hi Rey

I did a dance recital a few weeks ago and also was told that "due to fire regulations' I had to be in front of the control room...WAY back and VERY high with the dancers looking like midgets!!
My intention was to have one cam up the top so I could get the audio feed and one nice and close to the stage. My HMC's has 12X zoom and I needed a 3X just to frame the stage!!! Closeups were mostly at 12X so focus was really tricky!! I used a lot of the wide footage to keep the dance teachers happy and just used minimal cut ins from the closeup camera to add variety!!

I don't think they would like a split screen ..are you thinking horizonal or vertical??? Either way you will get a much smaller frame on both the wide and CU's .... If you have any previous footage I would give serious thought to doing a small sample and show them what you are intending otherwise they might just freak out when they see the actual footage.

Sometimes, as already mentioned, people are happy with just a tight shot as possible without missing any action which means you only need one camera (or use the other as a backup)

It's a tough gig to do as you are at the mercy of the theatre organiser about where you can setup and the lighting guy isn't going to do you any favours either!! At best the lighting is high contrast resulting in low ambient lighting but totally blown out faces and skin tones!!!

Chris
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Old January 10th, 2012, 09:33 AM   #3
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Re: How Many Use a Spilt Screen Technique for Recitals?

Hi Rey,

I've been doing the split screen / PIP for recitals for many years and have got nothing but very positive feedback from parents and studio owners. I agree that in general, split screens are not cool, but for this unique application they can be a necessary evil that customers LOVE. I learned this pretty quick after getting chewed out because mom didn't see enough of Little Sally on the video.

Note that it is not applied to all acts - rather, it is mainly for the little ones that are lined up straight across the stage and remain in place for the duration. Frame up ALL the kids to fill the lower part of the screen on one camera, and then the close-up camera will slowly pan across all kids head to toe. There are two options - shoot the CU full-frame and do a PIP, or keep them in top two-thirds of CU frame and do a split-screen.

The latter option is more difficult of course because alignment becomes critical when shooting. I place both cameras side by side, rear center of auditorium. With the cameras side by side, I can see both LCD screens and by using some of the on-screen data overlays as guides, I can frame both cameras properly for an easy edit without having to move or scale things (still need to adjust in software sometimes).

Now for the disclaimer - this was MUCH MUCH easier when shooting 4:3 video. Now with widescreen, there is less "empty space" in the top of the frame. Basically, PIP is no longer a decent option and split is the only way it fits good.

I just remembered that I had done a blog about this, hope it's ok to post here - http://www.sharbor.com/tutorials/1681.html

As mentioned, the split techniques are mainly for little kids, or Irish / tap dances, anything where kids are lined up and NOT moving around. For the rest of the dances, I try to stay with the action and keep everyone in frame, but NEVER go any closer than head to toe. I have seen many videographers get in trouble with the studio for shooting tight shots, that's not what they want. We have to put aside our creative ideas and give the customers what they want. I had a friend that did recitals and he was trying to add slow-motion and stuff to the ballet and boy did he get in trouble!

For older kid dances where they move around a lot, one camera keeps ALL performers in the shot at all times, while the other camera can do closer head-to-toe shots. For instance, the performers may split into 2 or 3 groups on stage for part of the number, and only one group moves at a time while the others remain stationary, then you can cut to the close up shot of the group that is moving. Dissolves? Use sparingly, maybe on a slow solo. Transitions draw attention to themselves and are generally annoying for this type of work, use cuts 99% of the time and they are invisible when timed right (the PIP or split does use a quick dissolve in/out like 15 frames, I'm talking about full-screen shots being cuts).

I don't use MultiCam to edit these - simply overlay the WIDE shot over the CU, then scrub through the CU clip and cut out the parts you are not using, to reveal the wide shot beneath. Same way I do wedding ceremonies. The wide shot is assumed to always be good to use when the CU is not.

Hope this is helpful

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Old January 10th, 2012, 11:32 AM   #4
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Re: How Many Use a Spilt Screen Technique for Recitals?

Thanks for the tips, guys.

I primarily shoot choral concerts and showchoirs & have done a few smaller recitals, so I'm very familiar with what I'm up against. I do have an interview with the owner/director, so I can get a better idea of what she is looking for and what I can do to find some common ground (if possible). At some point, I'll just have to suck it up and set aside the habits I have from shooting so many choral shows.

Thanks for mentioning the dissolves too. That's something else that I see in EVERY recital video. I only use them for instances such as a singer performing a slow song.

On the good side, I have recorded many shows at the venue they use.
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Old January 10th, 2012, 05:55 PM   #5
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Re: How Many Use a Spilt Screen Technique for Recitals?

For dance recitals, I generally shoot a wide shot showing all the dancers, but tight enough so there's no dead space top, bottom, left or right. Dancers want to see everything head to toe, with everybody included in it. It's tight enough so they can see individual performances as well as the entire ensemble. I think the only appropriate time for closeups would be in a "break" of the action when nothing is artistically happening, though these may be far and few between for dance.

One of the biggest mistakes I see for dancing is when the cameraperson is too tight and allows the dancer to leap out of frame (heads and/or hands get cut off.) The position of the hands and feet are very important when looking at the "lines" of the dancer. No part of the dancer should ever be cut off.

In my opinion, a split screen is a distraction to the dance because it forces you to watch 2 poorly composed images at the same time.
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Old January 10th, 2012, 09:46 PM   #6
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Re: How Many Use a Spilt Screen Technique for Recitals?

I author the DVD such that two versions can be seen:

1. A track with cuts between the wide cam and the close cam as I deem to be the best balance of the two.

2. A track that is ONLY the wide cam with all dancers in frame that has identical chapters and sound as #1

Their DVD plays both ways. Everyone wins! I get to showcase what I think is the better artistic (from video standpoint) version and yet they can be sure to watch the track that doesn't miss a single hand or foot if they choose. Otherwise, there's really no way to please everyone. Any close-ups at all and someone's not happy.
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Old January 23rd, 2012, 07:11 PM   #7
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Re: How Many Use a Spilt Screen Technique for Recitals?

Interesting idea. I have used split screens only when dealing with duets, trios, and quartets and the dancers are on the sides of the stage. The split screens are employed for a very short time, then it is back to full screen for one of the three cameras. I'm going to think about longer use of split screens for some pieces.
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Old January 24th, 2012, 05:43 PM   #8
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Re: How Many Use a Spilt Screen Technique for Recitals?

Hi Tim

You are Oh so right!!! I did a recital just before Christmas and the dance teachers are now worried that some mother's will feel that I favoured another's child!!! I'm considering actually scrapping the two cam shoot and just giving them wide angle thru each song so there is no favoritism!!!

My problem is that I have each recital running for 2 hours so one fills a DVD so I would have to have a dual set for each show as I already had to drop the bitrate to squeeze the clips onto one DVD!!!

It sounds like you really HAVE to provide footage throughout that doesn't favour (or seem to favour) any one child.

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Old January 24th, 2012, 07:00 PM   #9
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Re: How Many Use a Spilt Screen Technique for Recitals?

I shot these events with three cameras. All cameras are placed in the center access aisle of the local performing arts theatre space, about 60 feet (about 18.5 meters) from the stage. Center cam is locked in place and not manned. Framing is to the first set of masking leg curtains. This allows the size of the dancers a similar scale between the other two cameras, which have operators. The theatre allows us to use the house intercom (double-muff clear-com system). Left and Right cameras can coordinate shots while being able to communicate with stage manager, sound board operator, and lighting operator. Left and right cameras are always at different focal lengths, but can adjust more closely when conditions allow.

Our biggest issue is we, like the dancers, have about four hours rehearsal to get familiar with the space. We are at the biggest disadvantage because rehearsal is the first time we get to see the choreography. This forces us to "shoot from the hip" most of the time, all the time hoping we are following dancers the way the choreographer intended.

I offer two versions for purchase. My cut, which involves all three cameras, and the "choreographers cut" which is center cam only.

Performances are usually delivered on two discs, each involving about one hour, 45 min.

Wish I could offer both versions on one disc, but I don't think that is possible.

Anyone have any good suggestions regarding online delivery?
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Old January 24th, 2012, 08:50 PM   #10
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Re: How Many Use a Spilt Screen Technique for Recitals?

Has anyone mastered a DVD with multiple angles for this? The advantage would be the viewer could switch angles as desired during the dance.
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Old January 24th, 2012, 09:00 PM   #11
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Re: How Many Use a Spilt Screen Technique for Recitals?

Hi Waldemar

I really like that idea!!! A multi-camera clip and then a choregraphers clip. My end result was a two camera shoot with one locked down. The only person so far to show some anguish was the dance teacher..and it seems reasonable that she isn't interested in how pretty Penelope's costume was!! She wants to see the choreography wide screen from start to end.

Do you offer each shoot on a separate DVD ????? I think this might be the answer to my problem..it was be a simply task to edit the two video track render to a single track simply by just eliminating the second cam which was the closeups, and according to the teacher might be seen as "favouring" various dancers (which didn't happen but some were in shot more than others)

I think I might email the teacher and offer parents the choice or either DVD !!

Chris
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Old January 25th, 2012, 07:37 AM   #12
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Re: How Many Use a Spilt Screen Technique for Recitals?

I've found that the larger companies in our area provide each recital with both a "choreographer's angle" and an edited version on two separate discs. Unfortunately, those same people also squeeze 2.5+ hours onto a single DVD - something that I am not willing to do.
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Old January 25th, 2012, 08:21 AM   #13
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Re: How Many Use a Spilt Screen Technique for Recitals?

Each of my recitals were pretty close to 2hours so I would just have to either give them a 2 disk set which means an extra disk to burn and print (assuming you use a double case) OR would it be feasible to offer either version at the order stage??? You could maybe even give a small discount if they take the 2 disk set otherwise they decide whether they want version one or two.

Chris
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Old January 25th, 2012, 12:29 PM   #14
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Re: How Many Use a Spilt Screen Technique for Recitals?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Chris Harding View Post
Hi Waldemar

I really like that idea!!! A multi-camera clip and then a choregraphers clip. ....

Chris
I've long known choreographers prefer to see the entire stage when watching dance. This is because dance is a linear art form. It is the progressive accumulation of movements that gives the performance depth and presence. The spatial relationships between individual dancers are key compositional elements of the art form.

Once dance schools lock onto the idea that the "choreographers cut" can be part of a portfolio, the teachers and a few of the better students want a copy. The bulk of my orders are my edit from three camera angles which tend to have tighter focal lengths and allow individual dancers to be recognized.

I offer a choice. I like it when some parents order both. Like another post here, I don't like over compressing the video just to get 7 gigs of video onto a 4.3 G disc, so offering a choice of two different camera angles isn't an option for me. Besides, I've never made a DVD that way. Not sure how to begin the process. I also offer to make portfolio discs (mp4) and audition discs of specific pieces for an additional fee. Not too many takers there. Not that many students actually pursue a professional dance career.

To make editing easier I place the center cam on video track 1. That way I can export only it for the choreographers cut.
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Last edited by Waldemar Winkler; January 25th, 2012 at 12:38 PM. Reason: typo corrections
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Old January 25th, 2012, 01:41 PM   #15
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Re: How Many Use a Spilt Screen Technique for Recitals?

I do not do split screens. Not that I'm necessarily opposed, but it has never seemed useful.

As others have suggested, it is not uncommon for me to provide two or three versions of a video for my clients.
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