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General HD (720 / 1080) Acquisition
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Old December 1st, 2009, 10:32 PM   #1
Join Date: Nov 2009
Location: Washington, DC
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workflow and gear for multi-cam concert video

background: my full-time gig is doing audio for a classical music organization. For our "major" concerts (2 or 3 per year), the folks in charge usually ask that the concert be videotaped, and I change hats from audio recording engineer to video production coordinator.

What we've been doing for the past several years is setting up three manned Canon XL1s's in the house and a static GL2 on stage focused on the conductor. We do our best to match the color on all 4 cameras, then tell the operators to record without stopping and to follow the action as best they can. All the tapes are then captured into Final Cut, made into multiclips, and edited from there.

As you can probably imagine, this yields watchable, but not quite professional results. Indoor concert lighting provides just barely enough light for the Canon miniDV cameras to function and more contrast than they can handle. Sync is never quite right and often the cameras have just enough time drift over the course of an hour long concert segment to cause problems. Having the camera operators each on their own also means that sometimes they all follow the action to the same place or are moving at the same and the cover shot has to be used for awkwardly long periods of time. On a slightly related note, currently none of the cameras use external viewfinders or zoom/focus controls - I'm hoping to change that too.

For our upcoming concerts, I'm hoping to make the jump up to the next level on several different fronts. I plan on renting gear so that I can switch the concert live, with all cameras rolling tape, so that transitions can be tweaked in post. All the cameras would be linked with respect to timecode and genlock, and all the operators would be on clearcom. Since our current cameras don't have this capability, I think it's also time for us to make the jump to HD on the acquisition side.

For cameras, I was thinking the Canon XH-G1s and the JVC HD250U look like good options, because they do timecode, genlock, and HD-SDI Does anyone have experience with both of these? Does one have superior optics/low light performance to the other? I don't have a preference for either 1080i or 720p - should I? Should I be looking at a different price range for a project like this?

For a switcher, the Panasonic HS400A looks like a good option, especially because of its multiviewer tools. However, I only need 4 HD-SDI inputs, and I don't need to do any keying during the concert, so maybe there's a better option out there?

For recording the program output of the switcher, I was thinking an AJA ioHD hooked up to our Mac Pro running Final Cut would be a painless way to get the almost finished project into the computer with minimal compression. Am I being foolish to not want to go straight to a deck? I would see this as the primary recording device, and the tapes in the cameras as being the backups.

I know I also need something to generate and distribute time code and genlock. Here I'm pretty much lost. I don't think I'll need to coordinate the blackburst signal with the audio clock, because all the audio equipment will be running at 44.1; the audio guy would simply give me an analog 2 mix during the show and I'd give him a time code feed to go to one of the channels of his multitrack recorder, in case anything needed to get changed in post. Do you guys have any favorite tools for accomplishing this?

Sorry, this post got way longer than I had intended. I would have split up the components into separate threads, but with workflow questions, I think it's always better to have everything in context. The budget is significant, but not unlimited. Renting all the gear listed in this post is feasible, but purchasing it or hiring an outside company to do the entire production is not.

Thank you in advance for any advice or suggestions about how to tackle this problem or if I'm on the right/wrong track.

Evan Sonderegger
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Old December 2nd, 2009, 12:12 PM   #2
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Join Date: Feb 2009
Location: Woking UK
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Hi Evan,

Have you thought about using a robotic camera system, such as the Sony BRC range?

You can achieve some fantastic shooting angles using robotic cameras. They can be situated right in the middle of the musicians, mounted on the lighting truss etc..... One person could operate multiple cameras remotely from a single position situated by the vision mixer, no need for talkback then!

I've been using robotic cameras to film classical music with excellent results. You may get better on shot moves with your handheld cameras, but due to the cost savings associated with robotic camera systems you can greatly multiply you coverage to compensate. The BRC-H700 cameras are excellent in low light and there is now the BRC-Z330 camera available at half the price of the BRC-H700

You could look at using something like the Ki Pro's to record the main mix and ISO records of individual cameras.

The Panasonic HS400A is a great little mixer. It can take non-synchronous sources so you wouldn't need to worry about genlocking the cameras (although the do have an external reference input as standard.) The mixer may induce a few frames of delay (not sure exactly), but you can compensate by using an audio delay or possibly fix it in post..others may well be able to better inform you on the audio!!
Robotic cameras, minicams, specialist camera systems: check out my blog
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