Any suggestions for filming a play? at
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Old October 26th, 2004, 12:09 PM   #1
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Any suggestions for filming a play?

I'm filming a stage play at one of the local high schools next week, and I'm just wondering if anyone has any suggestions that might help out. I think I have a good handle on it, but this is my first "real" project with my XL1 (non-s).

Unfortunately, nobody will be wearing mics (it's for a theater competition, so they won't have them), so I can't just jack into their sound board for audio. I'm thinking really hard of running a second microphone closer to the stage using my (rather inexpensive) shotgun mike, to get it closer to the stage and off the camera, but recording both mics and using the best channel on a line-by-line basis during editing. Any thoughts on what else I can do to get better audio?

Also, I will be recording the same play over three performances in two different auditoriums and editing them together into one video. I figured I'd shoot the first night as one long, wide shot and get a reference for what everybody's actually going to be doing and concentrate on closeups the third performance to hide the fact that it's at a different auditorium than the first two. What I haven't decided yet is what to do on the second night. I've considered filming wide again from another angle, trying for more "medium" shots, by which I mean not the whole stage anymore but zoomed in around whichever group of actors happens to be talking at the time, or trying for general closeups on that night too. I'm leaning more toward the "medium" shots, but wondering if anybody else has thoughts on this.

Finally, does anybody have any suggestions for white balance? Leave the camera on auto? White balance under house lights? I want to get footage that matches color as closely as possible. I realize I can do that in post, but I'm not making any money off of this, so I want to save myself as much effort as I can, and I'd like to get them as close as possible just from the shoot.

Thanks in advance for any thoughts!
Russell Newquist
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Old October 26th, 2004, 12:21 PM   #2
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Do a search, there are many posts on this topic. Basically you have a solid plan which is good. IF you can't be at a dress rehearsal to learn the play and shoot inset shots before hand, then your plan to start wide and go tight over the three nights is good enough for what you want. You might try alternating sides on the second and third nites. By this, I mean you have your Master Wide on Night one, from basically the center of the house. And by wide, I would establish the auditorium and stage setting at the start, but then work as "Wide" shot that includes the entire scene, but not necesarilly the entire stage.

On the second night, shoot from stage left. Here, go for medium shots, two shots, over the shoulders and follow the action.

On the third night, shoot from stage right, (Assuming you have access to these angles, check the stages before hand). Again, cover the same action as on the second night, but from the reverse angle. All told, you should have the standard Master and Two reverses needed for basic cutting.

Without knowing the play or lighting grid, the color balance will be all over the place. But I would suggest balancing with a white card on stage prior to shooting, with the stage lights on.

Count on adusting color anyway in post, as there is no guaranteed the lights are going to match from scene to scene and stage to stage over the course of the run.

Good luck, have fun.
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Old October 26th, 2004, 03:21 PM   #3
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Here are a few threads to peruse...
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Old November 4th, 2004, 09:11 AM   #4
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Here is another link that may answer some of your questions.
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Old November 5th, 2004, 05:18 AM   #5
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For sound, consider a wireless cardoid pattern mic at the stage in front of the audience. it will provide better sound than a mic at the camcorder in the back and help suppress audience noise. A shotgun at the stage might be too tight a pattarn is there is action at the sides of the stage.

Alternatively try a minidisc recorder and mic at the stage, and sync the sound in post. (Change disc's at intermissions.)

If recorded sound ends up bad, you could try get the cast together for pizza and rerecord the dialog in a"studio" environment
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Old November 22nd, 2004, 06:08 AM   #6
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I did a small play a few months ago and stuck a minidisk player down near the front of the stage. Do not put ON the stage as the walking around will probably be picked up. Check the sound level as well, I was tempted to turn the level up a bit at the rehersal and it sounded distorted, remember, they will be talking very loudly during the play. I Synched the player to the video at editing stage, worked a treat. Make sure you batteries are new, or try and plug into the mains.
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Old November 22nd, 2004, 09:37 AM   #7
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Thanks to everybody who offered advice. Sorry it's taken so long to respond. I've been busy.

The shoot went pretty well, all things considered. I had a brief moment of panic when I arrived and discovered that the entire cast was wearing white shirts and very light (almost-white) tan pants! Fortunately, this was balanced out by another drastic stage decision that really helped the filming - there were only two lighting setups used during the whole play. The main key light with blue backlights and the main key light with red backlights. That really helped the exposure setting tremendously - and one other thing really helped as well. The show was very abstract, with a very minimalist set, so even though exposing for all the white left the background extremely dark, it worked well for the show.

I'm also lucky in that they've added an extra show next week because they won their competition, so I'm going to be able to go back and get another night's worth of footage. I haven't really started editing anything yet, but it all came out pretty well.

Thanks again for all the advice and help!
Russell Newquist
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