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


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Old July 13th, 2006, 10:42 PM   #1
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Shooting a childrens play, have questions

Hi
I have some questions. This is the first event I've done other than shooting a friend's band. Fortunately tomorrow I have the rehearsal to practice just a bit.
1. How would I handle the audio?
2. Does anyone have any suggestions on how I would best shoot this?
3. If it turns out do you have any business suggestions re: the parents?

I only have one camera, for starters. Looks like the theater is set up so that the only options for me to be would be waaaay left or waaay right in front, or far back near the entrance doors shooting straight on, but zoomed way in. It will also be tricky moving from one side to the other since the theater's not very set up for mobility. Or I could maybe sit in the seat in the front row and shoot up (it's nearly level) but it's only about two feet from the stage and I am also concerned it might block the audience view in the seats.
Seems like it will be a hassle to set up a tripod but I'm afraid if I handheld it the video would be shaky.
Also re: the audio, the kids voices are not very consistent. Some are low, some are louder, and the piano is even louder than that.
Appreciate any guidance.
Thanks
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Old July 14th, 2006, 12:35 AM   #2
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Sound is a real problem in your situation. If the soundman has the stage miked get a feed from him. If that fails you will have to set mikes close to the stage to do the best you can to get the voices and adjust levels in post and or use the best shotgun mike you can get your hands on.


If I had a clear view from the rear and a decent tripod and head I would shoot from there but only if I was above the crowd and my view would not be blocked if someone took their child to the bathroom and I had the sound covered.


If you shoot from the side and the show is not sold out tape off the seats around you so you will have a clean line of site and that you will not disturb the crowd.

Get lots of shots at the dress to use on the dvd during titles etc. I've cut many a rehersal shot with a performance. I guess that is cheating a little but it does work.

If you plan on marketing this you should have already started and had an order form that needed to be droped off at the show. You should have order forms at the show and have the MC tell the crowd that DVDs of the show will be availabe. It can be a hard sell if you start too late. After the show the bird has pretty much flown as far as selling dvds of an event. You will get a few but not many.

good luck,

mike
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Old July 14th, 2006, 12:42 AM   #3
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Hi Kell,

You need to tell us what Cam and Mic systems you have.

Just did a big local variety show for charity. Could not use the House Audio out-put, as they did not have everything mic'ed properly, so would have lost a bunch. Had to use Cam mics.

Had to go with TriPod in the rear center of the Theater, about 3 rows down, straddling the seats. This was a large school theater and 12x was plenty.

They had a wide variety of lighting, so had to use "Indoor" white balance setting, and "SpotLight" mode for exposure. As it went on for 2hrs and 30 mins., had to change tapes X3. Once at Intermission. Doubt your's will last that long.

You ought to check with the folks putting this on, about if they have permissions to Video it and possibly selling any DVDs.

You don't say why you're doing this. (like if someone asked you?)

Harold
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Old July 14th, 2006, 01:58 AM   #4
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Thanks you guys

I have two wireless mics and also the camera mic to work with.
The camera is a PD-170.

So for the variety show you simply stuck to the tripod, no moving around? That sounds like the simplest solution. Because I noticed from both sides far left and right, it would be difficult to shoot everything since they are using all parts of the stage. So I'd have to move around in a theater not really set up for that.

I don't know about setting up in the middle and shooting to the stage because it does seem like it would block the views. I'll have to check it out. I could stand back in the aisle, slightly to the left or right and shoot from there. Also, these are little kids, not tall adults so I do have a concern I will be shooting way down onto them. And it does seem that if I was in the front row, shooting up, I'd have to have a wide angle and it would distort things, wouldn't it? might not be all that flattering. =)

I'm actually doing this for my voice teacher, who I trade out with. I'm going to do some family photo montages for her at some point and maybe some graphic design. She called at the last minute (yesterday) and asked if I would like to do the play. I said yes because it would be good experience since I need to learn to do events. They were hoping they could sell the DVD to raise some money and she said they could tack on a fee for my time in duplicating them. Which I could use. I thought maybe I could market to the parents as well and get brochures out to them after the fact so they might order some other services. So that's the story.

There are two performances, so maybe I'll go and tape both. I dont' really know where to start so I guess I'll jsut, well, wing it. But I do want to know how to get good sound, and also good quality video.
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Old July 14th, 2006, 01:12 PM   #5
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Hi Kell,

Same time issue happened to me, called on Tue, met on Wed, did a poorly done rehersal on Thu, and then the Event on Friday. Theater was dark most of time with primary lighting done by Spot Lites. OUCH

This auditorium had slanted seating, like most theaters. Again, I was 3 rows down from the back of theater. So my cam was above everybody, standing or setting anyway. My TriPod can put my Cam (a Sony 950) close to 7" in the air if needed. I use either a 5" or 8" LCD monitor to see what cam sees, an extendable (2' to 4') control handle, and wired and IR to Cam remote controls. I end up setting in the seat while doing all zooming and panning.

Can send you Pics of this equipment I've made if you're interested.

If you can set up the wireless Mic's in equal-distance positions from the stage, (that will not get clobered by audience) then that might work, otherwise you may need to go with Cam Mics. Use your best head phones to check out what you get from both set-ups, if you have a chanch to practice.

If you tried to be as close to front as you mentioned, you'd never get everything in, aside from blocking some folk's views.

I would definately do both performances. Aside from practice, you'll get to put together the best of both performances for the final product.

Harold

Last edited by Harold Schreiber; July 14th, 2006 at 02:08 PM.
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Old July 14th, 2006, 01:17 PM   #6
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Hey Kell! Take a look at the list of threads in the "sticky" here for some more ideas: http://www.dvinfo.net/conf/showthread.php?t=60275

I'm also adding this one to the list since it gets into some new issues.
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Old July 14th, 2006, 02:45 PM   #7
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Yes, I've been reading those threads, working my way down the list. Time has been really limited. I am glad though that there was the chance to tape rehearsals and several shows.

This morning was the first try (rehearsal) and I got a sense of little things I hadn't thought of, like having a flashlight in my pack, knowing where camera buttons are in the dark, the slanted floor, having to constantly chat with parents when I'm trying to set up, what a pain it is to fumble for a new tape in the dark then try to unwrap it, having my pack at arm's length so I don't have to climb over the tripod to get to it, having a pen to make notes, etc.

So I put my one lav down by the stage and taped the setup to the side of the set. Then had the director make an announcement to show all the little kids EXACTLY where it was so that nobody kicks it by mistake. I put it over and to the center right because the piano is to the left and it's LOUD. There are a few scenes shot far left at a different part of the stage. I went home to get my other lav, to put one left also. Then, I realized I only have two inputs and one of them was the camera mic. I suspect the camera mic sound is going to be pretty yucky but I haven't had a chance to listen yet. I hesitate to replace it with a mic far left because as a backup it might be worse. Well I'll have to simply listen to them all and try to tell. And I really don't have a good pair of speakers or headphones to listen to it in - just the headphones that come with my walkman -- really need to take care of that.

The slanted floor was kind of difficult to deal with, also. I ended up going to the back row, and shooting down (fortunately though the angle's not too bad). And when you are shooting down and zoomed, and someone is standing next to a vertical line such as the side of the door, it slants a bit so I'll have to figure out how to handle that. Then there are the little logistical things, like being a bit zoomed in on two central characters and then someone walks onto the stage when you didn't expect it, and you miss it unless you're quick.

I"m going to view the footage and make some notes, before going back tonight for their first performance. I'm also going to sit down and really review where things are on the camera with my eyes closed, since there wasn't time last night. It's been awhile since i've even used the camera because I"ve been concentrating on learning my NLE and some other things. So it's been months and the camera's been sitting in the closet. Now i"m ready to pull it out and start using it, to start really learning how to do events and really training myself to be a good photographer.

It's all experience, it's all good. And I"m not really much of a kid person but I have to say, these kids are really, really cute and funny so at least the play is fun to sit through.
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Old July 14th, 2006, 05:55 PM   #8
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Hi Kell,

Forgot to tell you about small flashlite, sorry. A small LED unit is perfect.

You must level the TriPod as you do elsewhere. Then verify by zooming to stage floor edge and fine tune to get edge straight ( level ) in the monitor.

Your WalkMan head phones are better than nothing, monitor audio while you're shooting, and changing Mics. They should give you enough of an idea what works best.

If you run power cable from the wall to Cam set-up, be sure to Duct Tape it down, don't want any one tripping or pulling out the power plug.

Harold
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Old July 14th, 2006, 09:23 PM   #9
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Yeah I was reading something in the manual by my camera light which I threw in the pack at the last minute. lol and as for the tripod, it was much better this time!
Just got home from taping the first performance. I know the taping sucked but since it's practice there will be more chances, so that's okay. But even so I'm really energized and excited because this is the beginning of shooting events for me, camera school if you will. I'm just really psyched. I can't wait to master videography - it's the first step toward photojournalism, which is where I'm heading once the business is built and the skills are cemented. 3-5 year window for that goal.
I can tell from the fact that I went in tired and not in a great mood, and came out totally energized and excited even over taping a kids' play, that this is definitely where I should be.
Weill I'm going to sit down and review what I did. The biggest challenge here is that to get a good shot, you have to be zoomed in somewhat, but the kids are moving a lot, and other kids are coming in from the sides, etc. So it's knowing what to expect and following it without a delay, or being ready. And the audio and the lighting is all over the place so it's probably a good thing to learn on.
edit - also - people have given me really good advice before on this board about getting started, getting out, shooting events etc and I just wanted to say that even though that was awhile ago it hasn 't been forgotten! I've been wrapped up in some basic stuff learning software, getting marketing materials together, etc, and so am getting a late start on events.

Last edited by Kell Smith; July 14th, 2006 at 10:34 PM.
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Old July 16th, 2006, 12:38 AM   #10
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update

I'm getting very frustrated with this shoot. I've hardly even had time to go over the threads - I"ve been able to work my way down about half of them and will get the rest tonight, hopefully.
It seems like it should be easy. But my inexperience is clearly showing. So much is happening on the stage at once and my reactions and follows are slow. My zooms and pan/zooms aren't smooth enough. I'm not used to my camera and feel like a klutz. Little things are tripping me up also. Like when the left stage darkens after a scene, and I have to get right away to the center stage but I can't set my shot because it's dark and I can't see it in the viewfinder. I can barely tell how far I'm zoomed out.

Or you are zoomed in a bit for a sort of medium shot - the kids walk in the scene - you zoom out to accomodate it - or the kids jump out of the shot before you can get it. Also there's a lot of interplay between the kids on the stage and it's hard to get them all in so I'm trying to follow the action of what's happening, on a medium shot, then moving them over for interplay between two different kids. But every so often I miss because a kid who's not in the shot says something, or something happens over to the left when the camera is over toward the right following what just happened. The only other alternative is to just have a big wide shot which really doens't let you see the kids' faces - and gets the audience heads all in the shot. maybe I should have used 16x9? Oh well it's too late now.

I sat down this morning and looked at the tapes - and tried to draw up a little kind of storyboard --'ok, then this happens, so Ill go over here." That helped a little but hasn't helped with the scene beginnings because I"m still setting the shot in the dark.
Then there's the issues around focus. I did use auto becase I haven't practiced using manual yet - I was going to do that a little tonight. But I"m afraid to use it tomorrow because it's the last performance, and what if I do it wrong and everything's out of focus? Even for the very first shot, a girl walks into the scene from a dark stage, with a spotlight on her, to sing. I"ve got to do something becasue autofocus can't handle that.

I'm not happy with a lot of what I've shot so far. There was an audio problem the first day so that won't be much help.

I wish I had a backup camera wide shot so I could have something to fall back on but I don't - I'm trying to do both with one camera and really don't know how.

There are parents in the audience with their camcorders shooting - much closer to the stage than I am - and there is the added pressure of feeling embarrassed that their footage might be way better than mine if when I try to put together a DVD. Several parents have asked if there will be a DVD for sale and I have said 'yes we'll contact you' but really I wish I could fade into the woodwork because I"m not happy with what I"ve got.

I might move up to center middle tomorrow and see if that helps. I could go to the sides but it seems like wide shots should be more centered than that. It would also be hard to move around once I'm set up in one area.

Maybe it will all work out alright but it feels like a mess right now. I guess I'll learn a lot though so nothing here is wasted. Tomorrow is the last performance and after tonight I wish I could muster even a bit of last night's good mood.

Last edited by Kell Smith; July 16th, 2006 at 01:26 AM.
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Old July 16th, 2006, 01:35 AM   #11
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Kell,

Don't get discouraged. There is a lot of craft and a lot of art and it takes time to get any good at it. If on your camera you can have a readout of zoom you will be able to set the zoom by numbers in the dark. It's unlikely the parents will have decent sound so if you have good sound, titles, nice packageing, and fix sound in post your dvds will be far better than their recordings. It sounds like you are trying to do a lot of croping in camera. That is pretty hard on a fast moving play unless you know it very, very well. You are doing the right thing by makeing notes/storyboard to plan your zooms and pans. I don't think it is reasonabe of you to expect yourself to use a camera you just started using with great skill right out of the box. Shooting a live event with one camera in a dark theater is much more difficult than what most inexperienced shooters are used to. I'm satisfied that you are going back to each show in an attempt to get the best product you can. To me that sets you on the road to being a professional more than what you produce at this particuar event.

Just keep shooting man.

Best,

Mike

Last edited by Mike F Smith; July 16th, 2006 at 02:06 AM.
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Old July 16th, 2006, 02:09 AM   #12
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Thanks Mike =)
Yes I see there is a little bar that shows the zoom from wide to tight. So maybe I can map roughly where each zoom lives for each stage and a medium and wide shot and then go by that.

I'm just sitting here trying to figure out what to do about the focus, and realizing that I'm running up against the same questions that I never resolved with the still camera: not really fuly understanding focal length, depth of field, etc beyond the very basics.

It's probably explained here and I'll do a search, but I'm not clear on exactly what Infinity focus does. If I say, focus on the front end of the stage with that, would everything behind it be in focus? Is there a foolproof way to handle the focus issue?

Also I'm using a wide angle lens - is there any reason I shouldn't?

I"m not going to let myself get discouraged overall. This project may look like a disaster in the making, but underneath it I think the ability is there.

I did make no promises, and the person who asked me to do it knew I was just starting out with it, but I want to have something to show for it and want everyone to be happy, especially the parents who now believe there will be a DVD for sale.

edit - found a link to some tutorials here on the site on some of these camera issues so will check that out as soon as I am able. i just wish I had some more time to prepare but it's been very crunched. I've got to review the footage this morning and leave in two hours.

Last edited by Kell Smith; July 16th, 2006 at 10:20 AM.
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Old July 16th, 2006, 11:40 AM   #13
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Hi Kell,

If you can see all or most of the stage, with out the wide angle lens, then leave it off. Even 3/4 th.

Put Cam in manual focus mode, and then do a full out zoom to the far right or left stage, set the focus on some object or person. Then leave it alone. Most stuff will then be in focus and you won't get the "auto-focus hunt". Your auto focus may not work correctly with the major lighting and zoom changes.

Harold
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Old July 16th, 2006, 12:04 PM   #14
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Ok
So I've got he center stage, and the far right and left of that. Then, there's a left stage also. I'm not clear where exactly in there I should set the focus so everything on both stages will be in focus. And should I set the focus near the front edge of the stage, to get everything behind it in focus? Or further back? And will that focus hold up when kids are moving and jumping all over the stage?
Thanks
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Old July 16th, 2006, 12:08 PM   #15
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shooting with a single camera leave you very little room for errors. Do you have another camera? even a simple domestic DV would do - use this for a permanent, locked off wide shot that you can use to cover and major errors in the main camera. One thing with theatre shows - make sure you white balance properly, or else you won't be able to match the shots. It doesn't work like normal white balancing. The lighting will shift colours from scene top scene and you just need to make sure the two cameras match, even match wrongly - if you know what I mean?

Sound wise, if your main camera is in close, then the room sound might be ok, but this depends on if the show has 'proper' sound and a skilled person mixing. I see some video crews here in the uk put a standard handheld on a small stand, sit it in the corner of the stage with a sennheiser plug in transmitter working to an on camera receiver if they can't get in close. A bit crude, but it works.

I'd resist the temptation to zoom in too tight. Working at the far end of the zoom range reveals all the deficiencies of your head. A really good one is needed for steady zoomed in shooting.
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