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

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Old February 19th, 2006, 02:34 PM   #1
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3-cam stage shoot - input on live video mixing please!

Hope I'm in the right forum here... Every other month or so we shoot theater plays for the theaters' own internal viewing/documentation. The setup is usually two FX-1 for close-ups and a Sony 500/570 for a master shot of the entire stage. All in SD. We deliver a DVD with all three angles in frame using picure-in-picture. The close-up cams lined up in upper part of frame and the master shot sort of widescreened below.

As of now we shoot on tape, capture into Premiere pro, apply PiP and render to MPEG2. Thing is, the plays are usually over two hours so it's a mere 6 hour capture procedure + syncing + rendering that we'd like to skip.

My idea is to hook up all three cameras to a mixer and down to tape as we shoot. Do you guys have any recommendation on video mixers that will do PiP? As I mentioned it has to be able to scale, position and crop the input video signals independent of each other. Or is there any other solution?

And should I go wired or wireless with the video and audio? I estimate that the longest cable has to be at least 25 meters.

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Old February 19th, 2006, 03:18 PM   #2
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Well, it has been a long time since I have done a live mix, but here is the way I used to do them:

You will need a video switcher with at least three video inputs, preferably four. A direct video cable connection from the cameras is the most reliable. This can be a composite video signal, a Y/C (S-video) signal, or a IEEE 1394. It will depend upon the features of the mixer you acquire to use on the project. Choose a switcher that has internal Time Base Correction circuitry in the event your cameras cannot be gen-locked. A Gen-lock is a separate video cable feed from the switcher to each camera, insuring that all cameras are scanning images identically. You should also have a waveform monitor and vectorscope in your equipment array to compensate for subtle color differences between cameras.

Switchers function by allowing the director to choose the incoming feed before sending it to the main video out via a manual "T" bar or a pre-programmed effect. Finding a switcher that will allow two PIP images to layer over the primary background image may be difficult. I've only worked with switchers that allow one PIP image.

Most switchers will manage audio as well. Some allow independent audio selection while others do not. I've always preferred a separate audio mixing board.

You must have excellent head set communication with all of your camera operators. You should have a video monitor for each camera and one for the record out at the director's station.

Your video record out must go to a separate video recorder. The audio main out will terminate there as well.

How you manage audio will largely depend upon the microphone needs of the performance. I've always had to work with a mix of wired and wireless.

I'm sorry I can't go into more detail. It has been too long since i was regularly associated with documenting live events with several cameras. I'm not that familiar withnew products.
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Old February 19th, 2006, 08:03 PM   #3
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You might look into the "TriCaster" system offered by Newtek. It is a portable, turn-key video switching system. I can't give it a review myself because I've never used it.
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Old February 20th, 2006, 01:42 AM   #4
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Thanks for all the input. We will probably use Y/C cables for the video and route some audio from the existing mixing console in the theatre.

Right! I saw the TriCaster in a magazine a while ago, seems to be a modded Shuttle chassis. Have to check out that one. Thanks.
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Old February 20th, 2006, 10:07 AM   #5
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Way back when I used to shoot fashion shows with several cameras, we used a Videonics mixer. You only need one monitor and they have been greatly improved, I was using the MX-1, now they are up to the MX-4.

Check out their site here: http://www.videonics.com/solutions/catalog.asp?id=10
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Old February 20th, 2006, 10:28 AM   #6
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If it's something that you do on a semi-regular basis you would be best served to talk it over with the theater owners/managers and try to make the cable runs a permanent install. Probably not all the way from the switcher location to the camera, but the bulk of the cabling along the walls should be permanent. That way you just show up, run 5-8 meters of cable to the joint of the permanent cable and your ready to go. Running cable every time is time consuming and over the long run the time you spend making the cable runs solid and permanent will save you a lot of time.

For live production work don't use wireless if you have the option of wired.

I prefer RG-59 cable over s-vhs cable for several reasons but the biggest one is that it's much easier to repair. If a coax cable gets clipped it's a whole lot easier to put new ends on it than svhs cable.

Videonics makes entry level mixers that are not adequate for production on a regular basis. Look to the Panasonic line for a mixer that is more responsive and more robust. Ebay has the older versions for sale quite a bit. The newer versions have a robust field unit that's 4 inputs and is very solid. Sony's new Anycast system looks like a great option if you can justify the price tag that comes with it. The newtek systems are also solid and robust and would work great.

PIP throughout the video? Once you get the mixer you'll want to start cutting between the cameras and using one shot at a time. Your first couple shows may be "rough", but given time you'll develop a sense for which camera has the best angle in any given situation. The result will be a much more watchable production than what you're doing now. It will also give you what you really want, a great cut with no post production time. More than adequate for the purpose of the theater group.

You'll also want to invest in some headsets to communicate with your camera operators. If they're wired then you could run that cable alongside the video cable and make both of them permenant and save yourself that much more time whenever you show up to do a show.

If you're working with 3 people for each play right now, you'll need to add two more to your crew if you put a switcher in the mix. The fourth person is there to direct and run the switcher and the fifth person needs to be the helper and assist where needed. Or, you put the fourth person on the mixer and make the fifth person the director. In that setting you'll reach the potential of the production because everyone has a specific job to focus on and therefore the overall quality will be at the highest.

Best of luck. If you go through on that plan it will be a very tiring but very rewarding experience for you.

Ben Lynn
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Old February 20th, 2006, 12:02 PM   #7
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Thanks. Good point about permanent cabling, I'll look into that. Now for the PiP-thing: the people at the theater actually WANT three pictures in frame, don't ask me why. Guess it's been that way since forever...

I checked out the Videonics product line and their latest mixer seem to support the exact multi-PiP thingy I'm after. However it seems impossible to get it anywhere near here. I'll check and see if the Panasonic or Sony Anycast is available to rent somewhere close.

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