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

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Old August 23rd, 2014, 03:11 PM   #1
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Shooting modes for stage events

Even though I've been at this for a while, I don't have the comprehension to wrap my head around all the technical jargon when it comes to shooting modes, so I'm just going to throw this out and see if you can point me the right direction.

I shoot mainly stage productions for theatre groups and high schools with a few dance recitals thrown in. 100% of everything I shoot goes to DVD and that will not change.

I have mainly been using the Canon XA10 (along with my Sony AX-2000) and have been very happy with that camera. This week I took delivery of a Canon XF-200 and it will replace my Sony. I like the the fact that I no longer have to deal with the Canon menus and touch screens and the manual controls are at my fingertips.

I'm now faced with what mode to be shooting my shows. I really do not see a benefit to shooting in the highest mode when it's going to DVD. Right now I'm considering shooting 35 Mbps 1020 x 1080. And yes ... I pretty much just plucked that out of the air. If I can shoot even lower for DVD then that's fine as well. Does that work?

Also ... I have no idea what MP4 recording is (that records to an SD card). Is that a quality that works for this purpose.

Since the cards are hot swappable I'm guessing that I'm going to be OK on time, but I'm used to just shooting directly to the internal memory of the XA 10 or the two SD cards on the Sony and never having to worry about storage. That's going to take some getting used to.

Suggestions would be very welcome at this point.
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Old August 23rd, 2014, 07:47 PM   #2
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Re: Shooting modes for stage events

Hi Scott, someone who's actually familiar with that camera will better be able to answer you. But, two quick for-what-it's-worth thoughts:

1. I think the definition of "acceptable" is really subjective. It's up to you! Eg, if you shot at mpeg-2 at 25 Mbps rather than 35 Mbps, is that "good enough"? Up to your own taste. Unfortunately, to really know, you'd have to go to the trouble of doing a test for the whole workflow from capture to DVD burn.

2. In my personal opinion, the raw stats you're currently at (Mpeg-2 at 35Mbps 4:2:0, and MP4 at 35 Mbps 4:2:0) look like they're good enough for DVD. So, I'd advise you to go with what you're currently at, and test out the lower bit rates if you want to see whether they're acceptable as well.

But the numbers, the stats on paper, don't tell the full story. 35 Mbps is pretty standard for DSLR footage I think, but DSLR footage looks better than some older cameras that shoot 50 Mbps and have better codecs!
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Old August 25th, 2014, 01:51 PM   #3
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Re: Shooting modes for stage events

Thank you for your response.

I'm fortunate that I have a show coming up where I can get in before the performance date and shoot some test footage. I do think I'm going to start with a lower setting and see how it works out. Usually my lighting is fairly decent, so I'm not too concerned about that part of it. It's just at my age, all these numbers and technical stuff have gotten harder to follow. When I was shooting HI 8 this was never a problem. LOL
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Old August 25th, 2014, 03:03 PM   #4
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Re: Shooting modes for stage events

I have a variety of cameras. Some are SD in 4:3, others are 720p in 16:9 and one 1080 16:9 and I've standardised on editing in 720p format, because most projects have a mix of camera sources and archive material. Your confusion over the file formats is understandable, especially when we mix camera sources. I just had a quick look in my project folders and there are currently .mov .mp4, .avi .mpg and .mts files in there. It is confusing because there are a number of file formats, and then inside these sit other formats too - different codecs take the material and squash it to fit it into the different formats. Some do this transparently (nearly) while others are perhaps a bit more potent at crunching the numbers but introduce other problems. Some people have certain bits of software to process their video which work better with certain file types and codecs. As most of my end product goes onto DVD at standard def, my system of working lets me enlarge the old material, shrink the 1080 down to 720 and pan and scan a bit without any issues in the end DVD.

With my kit, I'm not really a format guru, wishing to squeeze the maximum out of a particular type. So I think your idea to do the test is a good one.

I work primarily in theatres and my kit works in the native formats of my JVC cameras, my Gopros and the small Panasonic. The only thing that isn't quite so good is setting my HD JVC cameras to record SD. It seems the internal conversion the camera does loses a bit of quality compared to Adobe Premiere doing it in software. For stage work, being able to take a bigger image and crop it without dropping quality too much is very handy. So 1080p can be scaled down quite well I find.

Have a good test!
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Old August 25th, 2014, 04:30 PM   #5
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Re: Shooting modes for stage events

Thank you Paul. I agree that having the availability to crop has been very handy ... especially when I have one un-manned camera set to wide. It's almost like shooting with three cameras at times.

I'm sure I'll figure it out. I just wish that the xf-200 had internal storage. That would have been great. I'll probably be looking at a 128 GB card, but I know that's going to cost more than $300. Still ... I'd rather spend it there than on tape. ;-)
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Old August 26th, 2014, 02:52 AM   #6
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Re: Shooting modes for stage events

I have three XF100 cameras that we use for stage shows and Dance recitals, plus an XA10 that we have as a spare. These are close enough to be considered the same thing to what you're shooting with. I've never used the internal space on any camera and always preferred to use cards.

Why are you so worried about the XF200 not having internal storage? Load up the CF cards, close the doors and they are effectively internal storage at that point! If the show is short (with a good margin to the capacity of the cards) I shoot in dual card mode for safety (I've never lost a card yet - but there is always a first time), otherwise shoot so that it over flows from one card to the next. That way you can leave it unattended for long periods.

If there is an interval then I'll typically swap cards over in the interval so if anything happened in the second half I'd still have at least half the show from that camera.

I typically use 32GB Transcend 400x cards in the XF100 but also have some 64GB 1000x cards that work well too. The 32GB cards give me 88 minutes each @ 50mbps.

I also use the larger Canon batteries so that I can leave a camera running for 2-3 hours without having to worry about the battery.

I typically shoot all of these shows in 1080p and edit to a widescreen SD timeline. This gives me the option to zoom in post and I don't have to worry about being too wide or getting in close enough but still following them perfectly around stage when they are moving around too quickly. It can all be done in post.

I've typically shot everything at 50mbps because I'm not worried about using an extra few gigs of space during editing, but if you really want to save space then by all means shoot 35mbps. I'm not sure the savings are really worth it.
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Old August 26th, 2014, 02:46 PM   #7
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Re: Shooting modes for stage events

Hi Dave ... I'm not really worried about the lack of internal drive, just that it is very convenient in the spring of the year. There are times when I'm shooting 4 different shows in a 5 day period and it comes in handy. I also have two - three hour events on a Saturday night / Sunday afternoon. It was just nice not to have to worry about cards for them.

I'm glad you mentioned the cards you're using because I've been wondering what to purchase. I have two, Transcend CF cards that are 133x. Both are 32 GB cards. It looks like maybe they're not considered to be up to speed and need to be retired and replaced. I've always been happy with the Transcend cards so I'll take a look and see what B&H has in stock.

Based on info from another thread, I did purchase the larger battery. If it can make it at least three hours then I'm probably good to go.

I have about 4 or 5 more shows to go this fall. All the real work won't start till April.

Thank you for your thoughts.
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