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


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Old February 2nd, 2015, 11:47 AM   #1
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Auto settings for stage shows

Hi all - Not wedding related but you folks are the best to ask about this! - As well as a busy wedding film maker I play in a band and after many years trying to juggle both I am having my last gig at the weekend. I want to record it for me and the boys for posterity.

I am planning to set up 3 handycams (2 Sony CX730 and 1 Sony PJ780) and maybe my Gopro. I'm leaving my good stuff at home as it's a packed venue and I don't want to risk anything getting damaged. Audio I have covered with a line out from the mixer and a H1 recording ambient.

The Issue I have is with exposure and the fact that I cannot monitor anything (as I'm also playing). I tested 2 of these cams at my last gig and bright spots were blowing out badly. I had the cameras on AE and set the AE shift to half a stop under but is was still blowing out - the maximum it will go to is a stop but I fear even that may not stop it.

As the light constantly changes there's no way I can set to manual unless I get the spots up full and expose for that, but then moments where they are used more subtly will be under exposed.

Your wisdom would be gratefully appreciated

Pete
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Old February 2nd, 2015, 02:01 PM   #2
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Re: Auto settings for stage shows

I don't know, Peter. First thought is: if you underexpose, maybe you'll at least be able to adjust a little in post.

Other thought is: different cameras with different exposure levels, so you've always got something to cut to.

What sort of band is it, by the way?
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Old February 2nd, 2015, 02:09 PM   #3
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Re: Auto settings for stage shows

Sadly, some cameras just do this really badly. The traditional video cameras that actually had a spot mode do it much better, but if you have to point and walk away, it's pot luck. Some stages with poorly designed lighting are nowhere remotely even in their lighting so the difference between the dark areas and the well lit areas is extreme.
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Old February 2nd, 2015, 02:20 PM   #4
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Re: Auto settings for stage shows

It's a rock band and the lights can go from moody to pretty mental - I rarely use auto for exposure but in this case I don't have much option - my old Sony Z1 had a 'spotlight' setting that I never used but I think is more of a white balance adjustment than an exposure adjustment.

The lights are pretty high so I'm going to try a couple of camera with a low POV which may help - the Gopro is filming from the back so should get a nice silhouette of the back of the band a little of the crowd - it's just a bit of fun but wish me luck.

Pete
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Old February 2nd, 2015, 04:53 PM   #5
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Re: Auto settings for stage shows

Hi Pete, I also play in a function duo and often film our shows and I do a lot of school productions with multi cameras, where there are a lot of light changes. I use several Panasonic SD 700/750 cams on auto and they handle the light changes extremely well. I would think that your Sony CX730s would also be able to handle it pretty well.

I have experimented with manual settings and a fixed setting off the brighter lights works quite well on cameras that don't respond on auto well, but even with an operator, sudden changes of lighting are not likely to be handled any quicker than an auto system in many cases.

Roger
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Old February 2nd, 2015, 06:09 PM   #6
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Re: Auto settings for stage shows

In situations like those on my Canon G20 I will turn the Auto Gain Control down to zero and that tends to keep the footage from being blown out. With my HMC150s I've had to turn the AGC down to zero and turn the ND filter on to 1/4. I'm not familiar with the CX730, but if there is a way to turn off or turn down the auto gain (and then if necessary use a screw on ND) that might work. If you underexpose a bit, then you can brighten a bit in post.
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Old February 2nd, 2015, 06:43 PM   #7
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Re: Auto settings for stage shows

Have an amazing time at the weekend, Pete!!!

Would love to see your finished film or at least a few highlights!
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Old February 3rd, 2015, 01:54 AM   #8
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Re: Auto settings for stage shows

Shooting stageperformances can be very hard to get right if you set a camera to automode, not sure if the cx series have a spot mode as I know that helps, I have these camera's but always try to control them manually when shooting a stage performance, especially when they start using spotlights and everything else is dark the automode will certainly overexpose a lot.

I would set the EV to it lowest, it's always possible to correct underexposure but not the other way round.
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Old February 3rd, 2015, 03:55 PM   #9
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Re: Auto settings for stage shows

Hi Peter -
The cameras exposure algorithms may be fighting the contrast between the (spot)lit stage and the surrounding dark areas - you may want to try to frame the stage as tight as possible so that the camera adjusts primarily for that area

Hope that made sense, I like to frame wide, but when in auto you don't want the extraneous areas affecting the calculation. Think of it as the cameras "AI" trying to expose the entire scene, including the "shadows", and erring because the darker areas are a large(r) areas of the total scene - skewing the average as it were. Tighter framing gives the camera a more accurate idea of what it is exposing to...

If you're blowing out, it would be better to go an extra notch or two lower on the AE shift - again, you're just instructing the camera to adjust for the overall scene exposure - and Sony's tend to expose "hot", always have, probably always will... if I'm not in manual, I'll set 3-4 clicks to the "left" on the AE shift.

I'd guess that the stuff in the dark is mostly the backs of heads in the crowd, you really don't care if that is "lost", comparatively to blown highs... so take that into any exposure "compensation" adjustments!

Can you recruit a couple "camera minders" and give them brief instructions... I know this is a gamble/risk, unless you tell them explicitly what to adjust and what to NOT TOUCH, and even then... but you might get better results if you have more monkeys and more video cameras, even if it's not "Shakespeare"!

If you weren't such a long swim, I'd prolly show up for a couple bananas...
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Old February 4th, 2015, 06:10 PM   #10
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Re: Auto settings for stage shows

I shoot two dance recitals a year. The only way I've been able to reliably do it is with my two panny GH2 DSLR's in full manual. When the lights come up I QUICKLY expose to the highlights by stopping up or down. Unfortunately my lenses are not parafocal so I try and keep a large DOF. I have one cam as a wideshot typically encompassing the entire stage in the frame. Then my second cam is the tighter shot for solos and small grps.

This is a royal pain, especially since the shows 4 hours long and my batteries are only good for a little over an hour a piece =/

Only way I can get good reliable stuff though for now.
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Old February 5th, 2015, 12:40 AM   #11
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Re: Auto settings for stage shows

Quote:
Originally Posted by James Palanza View Post
I shoot two dance recitals a year. The only way I've been able to reliably do it is with my two panny GH2 DSLR's in full manual. When the lights come up I QUICKLY expose to the highlights by stopping up or down. Unfortunately my lenses are not parafocal so I try and keep a large DOF. I have one cam as a wideshot typically encompassing the entire stage in the frame. Then my second cam is the tighter shot for solos and small grps.

This is a royal pain, especially since the shows 4 hours long and my batteries are only good for a little over an hour a piece =/

Only way I can get good reliable stuff though for now.
That sounds like it would be very difficult to operate two cameras in full manual mode for 4 hours. I still use my older Panasonic HMC150s when filming recitals because the cameras have power zoom, a parfocal lens, auto-iris, autofocus, and internal NDs. My typical setup will be one HMC150 zoomed out so that it's very wide and is set on manual focus and auto iris. I will then use the other HMC150 for pans, tilts, zooms, etc. with the autofocus turned on. I've found that since the lights get so bright I will turn on the 1/4 ND filter to ensure the footage doesn't get blown out and then brighten it in post if needed. It's a system that has worked well for several years since I don't have to worry about focus or exposure and I can just do whatever camera movements I need to do.
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