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Old June 10th, 2021, 10:30 AM   #1
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Paranormal Investigation group producing a webseries

Hello my name is Christopher but normally go by my middle name Scott, I came to this forum to learn how to better master the craft, I am an amateur videographer and am part of a paranormal group called West Virginia Paranormal Investigations we produce a web series on YouTube called Forgotten Relics. The members of the team all have our strengths. I'm learning to be a halfway passable camera man and am our tech guy, JJ is the lead investigator in the group and more comfortable being filmed and takes the reigns with the video editing and post production. Vanessa is our case manager and she finds us places to film and does research on the locations. We use a variety of cameras and techniques on an investigation we generally start by doing interviews of clients or of witnesses of paranormal occurrences of the location. We try to stage the interview in a visually interesting backdrop using multiple cameras such as our Canon XF100, Canon XA30, Canon XA10, Sony HDR-CX900 Sony FDR-AX53 and maybe try to find a creeper angle with a one of our Sony PJ cameras. We have a ring light and a couple older Sony camera lights to try to get the best lighting and do our best with a Rode shotgun mic. Then JJ will usually go out and fly his DGI Mini maverick drone to get aerial footage of the location while Vanessa and any guest investigators go around with a GoPro Hero 7 Black and get shots of things we can convert to slow motion, elevator doors closing, light pull cords being pulled etc. and then set it up for a time lapse shot of the location going dark. While they get their B-Roll shots I normally stage the location with a half dozen or so Sony Handycams in Nightshot mode with IR illuminators all the while snapping photos with my Google Pixel 3. The Sony Nightshot cameras are on tripods in the hopes of capturing shadowy figures or light anomalies and are left to roll for the duration of the of the investigation or until the 5 hour batteries run out whichever comes first. From there we usually will grab our Canons and film in a run and gun style. I film JJ he films Vanessa she films me if we have a guest which we normally do we just figure who films who so everyone is filmed and we record in multiple settings someone using a Sony FDR-AX33 in Nightshot mode or our flir thermal camera.. We also will try to always have a wide angle shot with the Sony HDR-CX900 on a tripod as its one of our best low light video cameras. We film at night in dark dank places so we have Sony HVL lights mounted to our cameras for the color shots and normally carry around a florescent lantern that helps a lot. We will work our way around the location to the areas where paranormal claims have been documented and where I have the Sony Nightshot Handycams staged and do various experiments with ITC and with various gadgets that measure EMF, humidity, vibration and temperature spikes etc. After the investigation is over the work begins all of the footage which is a ton has to be reviewed and I look for evidence of paranormal activity and make note of any interesting things and its timestamp to develop a storyline of the case and hand my notes over to JJ I actually use Facebook Messenger group chat for evidence review as its easier than hand writing it all out. He takes it from there further developing the storyboard and piecing it together using Powerdirector 18 and Vegas Pro 17 picking all the best shots adding voiceovers, creepy music, segway's with B-roll etc. until we are happy with the episode which takes weeks. We really need a production crew or a B-crew but we aren't backed by a Network. All of our budget comes out of our own pockets and most of that goes toward our gear and to pay entrance fees to the haunted locations. It all started as as few friends exploring creepy places and has turned into a production. We make mistakes along the way but are getting better as we go, have fun and have a growing audience. Anyway look forward to learning from the members here and contributing where I can.

www.youtube.com/wvpara

open to criticism any advice appreciated..

Last edited by Christopher McCoy; June 10th, 2021 at 11:45 AM.
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Old June 10th, 2021, 11:42 AM   #2
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Re: Paranormal Investigation group producing a webseries

It's nice to have a new member who has put so much effort into the planning and people management side of production. You seem to have a handle on what you need in your productions and how to do it.

My only question is to do with the lighting. Ring lights are sort of get out of trouble, deadly dull light sources. Light from them always is soft and a bit boring - especially if you do what some people do with them - shoot through the centre. For your sort of subject, the older fashioned 3 point lighting often produces the most interesting results - maybe even adding projected gobos - like slatts and grids - these can add interest and texture. A key to create shadows - especially the nose and eye sockets, then a soft light from the other side to partially fill them - and some back light to separate people from the background. These old techniques are very different from the current blast it with loads of soft panels style. I'm seeing what you're doing and thinking mystery and imagination. I also suspect that what happens means some shots will be lower quality, low light and monochromatic sometimes - so you need shots that contrast with it. Feel free to ask for opinions, we usually have lots, but you appear to be somebody who can sift out the nuggets and dump the rubbish we sprout!

Do tell us more. Paul
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Old June 10th, 2021, 12:28 PM   #3
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Re: Paranormal Investigation group producing a webseries

Thanks Paul, honestly lighting particularly for the interviews has been a more recent addition to the production. One problem is we don't have a lot of space in our vehicles to tote around all of our equipment plus adding large light fixtures it's really not an option for us at this point the combination of the adjustable ring light along with a two hvl lights honestly not sure what kind of bulb they are they are not LEDs all I know is that they are blindingly bright and they give a pretty hard shadow which looks good to my eye. As far as the monochromatic shots absolutely getting the manual settings with gain in particular correct is a work in progress and each camera is different. Recently grabbed a licence for Neat video to help cleanup in post but yeah it's a total hodgepodge of different quality of video and is a challenge to synced it up and still look good.
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Old June 10th, 2021, 01:09 PM   #4
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Re: Paranormal Investigation group producing a webseries

On a professional cameraman's organisation members only forum I always sigh when I hear them bang on about colour rendition index accuracy and the terrible cheap LED fixtures yet - they're perfectly happy with the concept of colourists taking the impeccably lit shots and then changing everything. They often slap me down for using cheaper LED kit - especially my theatrical RGBW lights. You can pic up the cheap Chinese RGBW par type units for the price of a trip to McDonalds and use them for moody lighting - and they're great for experimenting with. They're mains power of course, but you can pick up 13.8 to mains power units quite cheaply.

If you do interviews with foliage or bricks - they can might those amazingly.
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Old June 10th, 2021, 03:25 PM   #5
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Re: Paranormal Investigation group producing a webseries

Thanks again Paul I appreciate the tips and I'll look into the lights you recommended.
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Old June 10th, 2021, 05:14 PM   #6
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Re: Paranormal Investigation group producing a webseries

My only advice is to use more paragraph breaks. :-)

Andrew
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Old June 10th, 2021, 07:40 PM   #7
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Re: Paranormal Investigation group producing a webseries

Lol never claimed to be a good writer but I try to be a good story teller.
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Old June 11th, 2021, 04:33 AM   #8
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Re: Paranormal Investigation group producing a webseries

Have you considered the frequency response, self-noise, and sampling rate of your audio chain in terms of your subject matter? Seems like audio would be an important aspect of your project.
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Old June 11th, 2021, 06:30 AM   #9
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Re: Paranormal Investigation group producing a webseries

JJ and I were just talking about that yesterday and actually went out into a large woodshop building to do some tests in a similar environment to what we normally shoot in. An issue that we have incountered is with as many cameras we have running at the same time and all of them being different models is the sound is kind of all over the place. What we typically do is when placing four clips on power director project JJ will sync all the clips and pick the best audio from one camera it's not a perfect method by any means sometimes we aren't able to use the same sound source to throughout the project so then he has to try to adjust volume of the different clips to try to get them to match up. If anyone knows of a good free plugin for Vegas Pro or Powerdirector that automatically does that that would awesome. I was also telling JJ that we need to try to sync the cameras audio levels best we can before recording so he will have less legwork in post with the audio just need to figure out how. I have not delved to deeply into some of the areas I know I need to such as lighting and sound we have just kind of winged it with what we have but that's why I joined the forum to learn how to make the best films with what we have and to see what we need that can be purchased within our budget.
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Old June 11th, 2021, 01:20 PM   #10
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Re: Paranormal Investigation group producing a webseries

Christopher, if you would learn from YouTube demonstrations about lighting and audio specifically for interviews I would really suggest watching some by Curtis Judd - that's also the name of his channel.
Interviews are his bread and butter.

He does often use expensive equipment but put that aside and follow what he says about positioning the talent, face angles, camera height, lighting distance, microphone usage. Usually I can get through his demonstrations without hearing "cinematic" in the same sentence as "interview."

He doesn't touch post production in episodes about recording sessions and vice versa.
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Old June 11th, 2021, 02:19 PM   #11
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Re: Paranormal Investigation group producing a webseries

Yes, the reason I asked is I saw reference to cameras and a single R0de mic. I sympathize with the budget constraint, perhaps rental would be an option. For multiple cameras in a single house perhaps run mic cables from each location to a central mixer. I would be recording at a high sampling rate like 96 kHz just in case there was some high frequency audio that could be detected - you couldn't hear it but it would be visible on a spectrograph and post processed to audible. Similarly for the low end. The mics need to have the frequency response in those regions.
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Old June 11th, 2021, 04:21 PM   #12
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Re: Paranormal Investigation group producing a webseries

I was referring to what we use for the interviews we actually have three Rode mics, a Sony, a Moukey and a Zoom Hn4 Pro recorder. We have a ton of various Olympus and Sony digital recorders we also have the much sought after Panasonic RR DR60 to capture EVP (electric voice phenomenon). The spectrum of our audio is all over the place as far as running that audio through a program to measure it that is something I have dabbled with in Audacity. JJ mixes and adjusts the audio in post. I honestly think we have adequate equipment for our modest production we just need to better learn how to use it properly, thanks for the tip on the sampling rate of 96 kHz I'll give it a go.
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Old June 12th, 2021, 03:31 AM   #13
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Re: Paranormal Investigation group producing a webseries

Interesting program Christopher👍
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Old June 12th, 2021, 02:43 PM   #14
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Re: Paranormal Investigation group producing a webseries

I just watched Haunted Liberty Theater, and I've got to say that the biggest stand out to me is the interviews. This is going to be a bit critical, so apologies if it comes across as harsh. The interviews are poorly staged and badly lit. Throwing more angles will not fix the problem. I know you have limitations with gear and what you can carry and buy, but it sounds like you'd benefit from even a cheap 1x1 panel light and a pop-up diffuser. Your cameras are not well suited to low light (discounting their infrared performance). A well lit, well staged and clear audio interview will bring up production value greatly. Avoid putting people against a flat wall, you'll be dealing with hard shadows right behind them, and a noticeable lack of depth.If you have to bring a folding chair or stool with you, do what it takes. Even if it's only going to be a minute of screen time, it should not bring down the quality of the rest of the visuals.

Worst case scenario, have a black backdrop or fabric available to hide an ugly background or create a different look (it's also great as negative fill, or for covering windows. If you can't control the light, you won't get consistent results. If you want to have a unified look to your videos...you need to control the light.Aim to shoot into the corners whenever possible, and do the best you can to stage in larger rooms that don't have echo.

Which brings me to point #2. You need to invest in lav mics if you don't plan on using a boom. The cheap ones are likely to give you trouble or add to the EMF noise, so I recommend recorders like the Tascam DR-10L. And get one for every person who will be talking. You'll have to sync in post, which is a pain, but wireless options are bound to either cost more, or add unwanted spectrum noise. There are cheap 2.4Ghz wireless mics, and some are actually decent in environments such as the ones you're visiting. But you'll need to make that determination for yourself. Watch the non-sponsored YouTube reviews of any gear you're considering.

And if you're trying to hedge against complaints from skeptics, don't handhold ANY audio gear. Get them up on light stands or tripods, about ear height to approximate what a listener in the environment would hear. Study up a bit about self-noise,and signal-to-noise ratios for each piece of audio equipment. People like myself will out-of-hand dismiss any "suspicious" audio that is recorded while handling a mic. Record in the highest quality settings, 96Khz if possible, and learn to use audio tools like spectrum analyzers if you want a truly 'forensic' approach to evaluating audio phenomena.

Personally, I loved shows like this growing up, even though they've never proven the existence of the supernatural. If you manage to do so, a Nobel Prize awaits you, so I'll be rooting for your success.
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Old June 13th, 2021, 05:38 AM   #15
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Re: Paranormal Investigation group producing a webseries

Quote:
Originally Posted by Oren Arieli View Post
I just watched Haunted Liberty Theater, and I've got to say that the biggest stand out to me is the interviews. This is going to be a bit critical, so apologies if it comes across as harsh. The interviews are poorly staged and badly lit. Throwing more angles will not fix the problem. I know you have limitations with gear and what you can carry and buy, but it sounds like you'd benefit from even a cheap 1x1 panel light and a pop-up diffuser. Your cameras are not well suited to low light (discounting their infrared performance). A well lit, well staged and clear audio interview will bring up production value greatly. Avoid putting people against a flat wall, you'll be dealing with hard shadows right behind them, and a noticeable lack of depth.If you have to bring a folding chair or stool with you, do what it takes. Even if it's only going to be a minute of screen time, it should not bring down the quality of the rest of the visuals.

Worst case scenario, have a black backdrop or fabric available to hide an ugly background or create a different look (it's also great as negative fill, or for covering windows. If you can't control the light, you won't get consistent results. If you want to have a unified look to your videos...you need to control the light.Aim to shoot into the corners whenever possible, and do the best you can to stage in larger rooms that don't have echo.

Which brings me to point #2. You need to invest in lav mics if you don't plan on using a boom. The cheap ones are likely to give you trouble or add to the EMF noise, so I recommend recorders like the Tascam DR-10L. And get one for every person who will be talking. You'll have to sync in post, which is a pain, but wireless options are bound to either cost more, or add unwanted spectrum noise. There are cheap 2.4Ghz wireless mics, and some are actually decent in environments such as the ones you're visiting. But you'll need to make that determination for yourself. Watch the non-sponsored YouTube reviews of any gear you're considering.

And if you're trying to hedge against complaints from skeptics, don't handhold ANY audio gear. Get them up on light stands or tripods, about ear height to approximate what a listener in the environment would hear. Study up a bit about self-noise,and signal-to-noise ratios for each piece of audio equipment. People like myself will out-of-hand dismiss any "suspicious" audio that is recorded while handling a mic. Record in the highest quality settings, 96Khz if possible, and learn to use audio tools like spectrum analyzers if you want a truly 'forensic' approach to evaluating audio phenomena.

Personally, I loved shows like this growing up, even though they've never proven the existence of the supernatural. If you manage to do so, a Nobel Prize awaits you, so I'll be rooting for your success.
Oren your criticism doesn't sound harsh I know we need to make improvements in some areas that's why I am here I appreciate the advice. As far as the Liberty interview yeah it looks really bad we recorded it and what looked good to our untrained eye in the moment looked horrible once we watched it we have three subsequent unaired Investigations where we did better with the lighting however I see a light specifically for interviews will likely be our next purchase. JJ already has a few Rode Lav mics we have just never used them. We put together a checklist of all the things we need to do to prepare and conduct an investigation looks like we need to do the same for the filming side of things. Thanks again for the advice all is welcome.
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