Going DSLR for Show/event filming at DVinfo.net
DV Info Net

Go Back   DV Info Net > Special Interest Areas > Wedding / Event Videography Techniques

Wedding / Event Videography Techniques
Shooting non-repeatable events: weddings, recitals, plays, performances...

Thread Tools Search this Thread
Old April 24th, 2013, 05:56 AM   #1
Regular Crew
Join Date: Dec 2006
Location: Portsmouth, UK
Posts: 118
Going DSLR for Show/event filming

So, excuse me for the rambling, but I have been looking around the forums and online in general for others looking to make the move I am about to make and I have not found much info....

This worries me a bit, as I may be the first to try this (and there maybe a good reason why not to!) and hence also the last, but let me explain my reasons for thinking about going over to DSLR for event filming....

But anyway, I thought I would post initially what I am planning to do and then post back with updates throughout the transition so anyone else considering doing the same can see the concerns, over come the problems and hopefully enter a new world of event filming!

Where do I start? Well, I have been filming dance shows, theatre events etc for a few years after moving out of the hectic and stressed world of weddings. I always film with a minimum of 2 cameras and unto 4 cameras dependant on the type of event/need. I current use 2 x Sony FX1s and 2 x Sony FX1000s. Been happy with the reliability of them, the general ease of use and pretty much the quality. We always film with the camera set fully manually, and a good example of the type of quality I have been getting is

However, up until I filmed a show a few weeks back I have been happy to a degree with the footage... and then the photographer that was photographing the event had kindly as a favour to the dance school put together a montage of the rehearsal as a film. This was given to me as a file so I could include it in the opening of the film. Oh my god...his footage was amazing, the quality was breathtaking...I was understandably jealous.... After some discussion with him he confirmed what I was thinking that he had filmed it using his DSLR Canon 7D.

When I had completed the edit and rendered all down to DVD and I played it back on my TV I could not believe how the quality of his film had stayed and how noticable the depreciation of my footage from HD down to DVD SD looked. It was like night and day (ok, so in fact he had filmed in the day and me at night, but you get my point....)

So now I wanted that quality, I wanted to be able to use the good skills we have in filming and editing but with that unmistakable 'broadcast quality' look. But how? After a little investigation into DSLRs the following doubts/potential problems were running through my mind:

12 mins filming limitation, What lens, how to handle the depth of field, how to focus, how to change white balance gradually (as DSLRs jump in steps rather than allow gentle changes), how to change aperture/iris gradually (same problem changing ISO as white balance), audio, viewing screen, the list seemed to be endless and the more I thought the more I was concerned...

Even with such a list of concerns I really wanted to get the quality of footage I had seen from the DSLR…

After a few weeks of investigation I have discovered the following:

I have a Zoom 4n that I use for capturing from sound desk and also ambient sound so no issue there, I can continue with this. In addition, I have 4 x Rode Mics that I used during wedding days so I can attach one of them to each camera (I am planning initially to work with just 3 DSLRs…)

Depth of field:
Seems using a wide angle lens on the safety camera (set full stage at all times, just like with current workflow) will ensure nice focus set across the whole depth of the stage.
For the two tracking cameras (following small groups, or individuals) using a mid range lens such as 28-135mm will enable me to keep a reasonable depth of field that will allow stages of max 7m depth will allow focus to be set on the front of the stage and what goes on 7m back from that will stay in focus

As discussed above, I should be fine to use manual focus set on front of stage, but in addition I intend to by a base plate for the tracking cameras and attach a follow focus wheel that will allow for easy change of focus on-the-fly if needed

White Balance:
Seems using auto setting on this should be ok, but testing will answer that fully…. Really don't want to be handling that in post edit.

Again, seems auto setting may do the job, testing needed again

12minute recording time:
No real answer to this problem. Seems that the memory cards are Fat32 formatted (and cannot be changed) so 4GB is max file size and that is roughly 12 minutes. Just means I will need to stagger the changing between the cameras but I was really worried about forgetting to stop/start the safety cam. Turns out there is a patch you can make to the 7D called Magic Lantern that gives some nice features for Video on DSLRs… it has an auto start function that will start recording a new file when the camera stops at the 12 min mark so that gives me a bit more reassurance for the safety camera. Also, there are some nice Focus and Zebra on screen views so that is just a bonus really.

Small viewing screen:
I really didn't fancy using the tiny screen on the camera to view during filming, so I looked at a couple of options. First is a purpose built 7" monitor. About £200 from feedback I found on this forum for an acceptable quality model. Simply plugs into the HDMI socket of the camera and replicates the viewfinder. The second option brought out the techy in me, I have an iPad mini and thought that would be great to use, but there is only 1 good solution I came across. The Cam Ranger. A Wifi device that plugs into the USB of the camera and then you join the WIFI network it creates using your iPad and then a dedicated app allows you to have live view and even some cool point to focus functionality. However, I have concerns that maybe there will be a second or two lag or maybe the frame rate will not be high enough to use as a permanent solution. Fortunately, a photographer friend has just ordered one so I can test that and see if any good before making a decision.

So with a rode mic on each camera I will get sound so even though I have small 12 min clips lining up in post should not be too much of an issue, and with the use of digital media to record rather than tapes I will save hours in capturing footage so a bit longer to line things up is not a worry.

What next? Well I have a show coming up next weekend so I am going to have my usual camera buddy working the standard Sony FX cameras recording as usual and then I am going to borrow a couple of 7Ds from my photographer friend (thanks buddy…) and I will attempt to film the show using two of them and the wifi monitor I mentioned above. Should give me time to play with a few of his different lenses and also to see how easy it will be….

Scared, yes…worried, not so much now I have investigated things…. excited, definitely! the thought of having the type of output a DSLR gives for a theatre event is something I didn't think would be possible.

Finally, the cost… well if all goes well I will sell 2 of my FX cams and purchase 2 DSLRs with all required accessories and it really should not cost me much at all… I will then film in parallel for a few shows knowing the trusty Sonys will ensure I have footage I need. Then sell the last 2 and buy another 7D. I think I may even be a few hundred up on the deal (but I am sure I will find toys to add on that will use that up nicely ;))

Interested to know if anyone has done anything similar, has any advice, wants to wish me luck or tell me I am insane to try…..

I will post back after the event to let you know what happened and also hopefully with some nice shiny footage of what I managed to take. Either that, or I will be posting back I am an idiot, and wasted a few weeks of my time and also 5 minutes of your time reading this….

Fingers crossed.
capture it as it happens...with motion and sound.
Vince Baker is offline   Reply With Quote
Old April 24th, 2013, 06:21 AM   #2
Join Date: Dec 2012
Location: Crookston, MN
Posts: 1,353
Re: Going DSLR for Show/event filming


the 12 minute time limit has been worked around on the newer Canons - they create multiple files, up to 4(?). I believe this is on the T5i (same sensor as the 7D), 6D, and Mark iii, but someone smarter than me can confirm that, or you can Google it.

If you can, you'll need a good lens, not the $250 18/28-135mm. Or primes, to get the quality you want on the Rebel and 7D series. You'll be fighting lighting a lot, I imagine.

We've been using the T3i and a Mark ii. When the conditions keep changing (for us, different parts of a building, for you, lighting), auto white balance is actually OK, then some modest color correction in post, usually, but with the kind of stage lighting you'll be seeing, I think you'll see nice colors anyway. We use manual settings on everything else.

For video work, you may want to consider the noticeably cheaper T5i ($1000 with lens) which has the same sensor. It has a flip out touch screen, and (I believe) fixed the 12 minute issue. The 7D ($1500 with lens) has better battery life and auto focusing.
Robert Benda is offline   Reply With Quote
Old April 24th, 2013, 10:11 AM   #3
Regular Crew
Join Date: Dec 2006
Location: Portsmouth, UK
Posts: 118
Re: Going DSLR for Show/event filming

Hi Robert,

Thanks for the info. Interesting to investigate another cameras, and especially if they are cheaper and offer longer recording times...

I take onboard your point about the lenses... My photographer friend has a few different lenses so I hope to get chance next week to try them out and see what looks/works best to film and also from a final product point of view.

Glad that auto white balance is an option.

capture it as it happens...with motion and sound.
Vince Baker is offline   Reply With Quote
Old April 24th, 2013, 10:22 AM   #4
Inner Circle
Join Date: Nov 2008
Location: UK/Yorkshire
Posts: 2,069
Re: Going DSLR for Show/event filming

Vince - the newer Canon DSLR cameras (certainly the 5D3) have a 29 minute video recording limit - this is due to EU regulations - over this time and it would be classified as a video camera and be in a different tax bracket!

I believe the magic lantern firmware mod will allow for recording longer by automatically restarting after the 29 minute point but I've never used it - still in beta mode for the 5D3
Peter Rush is offline   Reply With Quote
Old April 24th, 2013, 10:28 AM   #5
Major Player
Join Date: Jun 2010
Location: Aberdeen Scotland
Posts: 815
Re: Going DSLR for Show/event filming

T3i can record up to 30 minutes with this.
Donald McPherson is offline   Reply With Quote
Old April 24th, 2013, 11:15 AM   #6
Inner Circle
Join Date: Jun 2005
Location: Cincinnati, OH
Posts: 8,425
Re: Going DSLR for Show/event filming

I would suggest you start with 1 DSLR and shoot a few jobs with it first before jumping in all at once.

You are getting into a more complicated situation than you realize. Yes what you want to do can be done, but you might try learning how to use the equipment first. I don't agree with auto white balance, rarely comes close for me, especially trying to match cameras, as they will all often be different, even in auto.

The GH3 has no recording limit and a great selection of lenses.

I did what you are about to do, but I did it with weddings and it was the worst year of my life. I went all DSLRs at once and it was a nightmare. Good luck with whatever route you go.
Jeff Harper is offline   Reply With Quote
Old April 24th, 2013, 02:41 PM   #7
Major Player
Join Date: Jun 2003
Location: Orlando, FL
Posts: 493
Re: Going DSLR for Show/event filming

I've shot dance events for the last 14 years and I just tried to shoot one as a test, with my Nikon D5100. All I can say is I got 1 out of 6 dances in the quality that I was happy with. Obviously I need more time with my DSLR. To echo Jeff, I would be careful doing a full switch over at once. Here is an idea, what about going with something like a Black Magic decklink card in to a computer. I may be wrong, but I thought that if you take the HDMI out of a camera like the FX1000, you bypass all the format compression and get uncompressed. That should look extremely good. Maybe use that for a main camera (just in case). As for white balance, I always had very good luck setting my camera to standard preset tungston for stage lighting, especially when you have multiple cameras.
David Stoneburner is offline   Reply With Quote
Old April 24th, 2013, 04:00 PM   #8
Inner Circle
Join Date: Jun 2007
Location: Belgium
Posts: 9,510
Re: Going DSLR for Show/event filming

I do have small sensor handicams, large sensor dslr's and a large sensor videocamera, I do film a few dance performances on a stage every year and I wouldn't even think of using a dslr for that purpose. You will loose all smooth zoom capability, you will constant struggle to keep focus, I would also never trust auto whitebalance on a dslr and you will have recording limits, the footage from a 7d has less resolution then my handicams, sound really sucks on these camera's, you can't adjust your exposure smoothly unless you get a cinelens from Samyang, most dslr's don't have peaking or a magnifying option to check on focus while recording, quite some shortcomings that makes a dslr far from usable to record a performance on stage.

Do you have a framegrab you can show from the 7d footage that looked so great?
Noa Put is offline   Reply With Quote
Old April 24th, 2013, 05:29 PM   #9
Join Date: Oct 2012
Location: Sydney, Australia
Posts: 1,149
Re: Going DSLR for Show/event filming

Ok, for comparison's sake, here's some samples of videos I did for a burlesque group on DSLR. Most are just 30 seconds long. Videos aren't optimised for Vimeo, but I doubt the image quality is better than your sample -- so there you go; DSLRs aren't necessarily the answer...

Auto iris -- I didn't use it, but I don't much like the idea. Click, click, click up and down every time the lights go up and down. But I guess it depends whether you're shooting for highlights or for coverage.

Auto white balance -- for the sorts of things I've shot so far, it's done OK... But it also depends on picture profile. I tend to shoot very flat, and this seems to be OK colour-wise, but, then again, I never quite get as saturated an image as I'd like in post. Most of the samples below were shot with Cinestyle. The second and third examples (with blown out red colour channels), I think was shot with Faithful... So, yes, that was my stuff up in not balancing the colour properly for each act, but I've personally found auto is usually OK (your mileage will vary...).

Focus -- the fifth sample below doesn't have very good focus, but I ran with it anyway because it was just for online and I couldn't resist the content, So, yes, I've found focus can drive you nuts. But it depends what you're shooting and how. If you've just got a stationary wide shot... should be fine.

Equipment: most of the following was shot with 24-105 and 70-200 (low light wasn't so much a problem for this sort of stage show). Images could be much sharper if I used prime and didn't use Cinestyle.

Edit: By the way, I don't know if that Cam Ranger is reliable. It's a really nifty tool, but I've had some problems using it at weddings... I'll need to do more testing on mine. Maybe it's operator, not tool. One tip: don't try it with an iPhone -- I think you disconnect from the WiFi whenever the iPhone goes into sleep mode. iPad seems to work better so far. It also is a little annoying that some manual controls of the camera are disconnected when you plug the Cam Ranger in. For instance, I don't think you can activate record start/stop from the camera.

Last edited by Adrian Tan; April 24th, 2013 at 07:14 PM.
Adrian Tan is offline   Reply With Quote
Old April 24th, 2013, 07:03 PM   #10
Regular Crew
Join Date: Jan 2013
Location: Clearwater, FL
Posts: 72
Re: Going DSLR for Show/event filming

I've shot several plays and performances with mainly DSLRs.

Typically I'll have 3-5 DSLRs and 1 or 2 video cameras, so 4-7 total cameras.

I find if you have enough cameras, it eliminates most of the problems of DSLRs. 12 minute record time won't affect things because with 5 cameras you'll always have a shot (they aren't all going to stop by coincidence at the exact same time), it can be tough to always maintain focus, but again, you have 5 cameras so one is bound to have a shot (especially if you have a wide shot). I find the resolution and color of the DSLR LCDs to be better than most video cameras, so despite the smaller size, I actually find them easier to focus from and don't really need an external monitor (not that a good one wouldn't help some). Though, I've used more Canon and Panasonic video cameras; the Sony's tend to have better LCDs. Just keep your eyes close to the small LCD and move in closer if you have doubts and you'll generally be fine. I do think it takes practice, though, because a lot of people newer to DSLRs tend to not notice as much when something isn't fully in focus.

For audio I'll use a few audio recorders. A few configurations I'll use them in depending on the setup are, plugged into the house's sound system, on a boom-pole and light stand up high as close to the performance as possible with a shotgun plugged into an audio recorder, positioned in front of a sound speaker, lavs on people who are talking, an audio recorder by the piano or musical group, etc.

The last play I filmed we had 6 audio recorders, two Tascam DR-40's, two Zoom H4n's, a Roland R-05, and a Sony PCM-10. Two were on boom-poles with shotgun mics plugged into them (for each side of the stage), two had lavs for podiums, one recorded the board, and the other recorded ambient/music. As far as XLR recorders go, I much prefer the Tascam DR-40 over the Zoom H4n, and it's cheaper.

As far as camera settings, ISO was set to about 640 given the lighting they had, aperture between f/2.8 and f/5.6, and shutter at 1/50. I'd adjust mainly aperture since it is quicker to adjust than ISO on DSLRs. White balance was set to 3200, which is what most stage lights I've dealt with are typically at. Unless if the color temperature of the stage is constantly changing, I can't see the benefit of using auto white balance.

Regarding auto vs manual exposure, all of the manned cameras are always on manual exposure, and the unmanned cameras tend to look better with manual exposure (when properly set), but since the lighting sometimes changes a lot, I like to have some cameras with manual exposure and some with automatic. I've found automatic exposure on DSLRs to be fiddly for video (though I've only used it once, actually); it will sometimes put the shutter at 1/1000 for example, pushing the ISO up to 12,800, when you really want the shutter at say 1/50. I'm not sure if you can do aperture priority in movie mode; I didn't find a way when I tried automatic exposure.

For cameras I'll typically use two manned DSLRs with telephoto lenses such as the 70-200 f/2.8. Then I'll have perhaps one DSLR as a wide shot with manual exposure, and a video camera as a wide shot with automatic exposure. Then perhaps an unmanned medium shot on another DSLR, perhaps from the side, depending on the setup. I agree with Robert that you should avoid using cheap zoom lenses, because they'll tend to lower the quality such that it kind of defeats the purpose of using DSLRs in the first place. As far as cameras, cropped cameras for the telephoto ones tend to work better than full frame because most of the time there's enough light on stage so it's important to have that extra zoom range unless if you happen to have a 300mm f/2.8 lens (which I've used as well with full frame, but then you can't zoom at all). Of course, that also depends on how close you can get to the performance.
Eric Coughlin is offline   Reply With Quote
Old April 24th, 2013, 10:35 PM   #11
Inner Circle
Join Date: Dec 2004
Location: Arlington, TX
Posts: 2,231
Re: Going DSLR for Show/event filming

I think this really depends upon the type of end product you are producing. If it is a walk around live concert style shoot imho DSLRs can be a good choice because of the SDOF and its subject separation.

If this is a tripod only situation shooting the stage from a distance, DSLRs are the wrong choice outside of budget contraints. The SDOF will work against you and the lack of servo zoom will be limiting.

As far as quality goes, there are a lot of cameras (video & DSLR) that will look better than a 7D.

Vince, I think the whole "going DSLR" thing is kind of tired. These things are great tools for certain types of work. In my opinion, you should be "going to the best tool for the job". But only you can know what your work needs. So my vote is to tread carefully with paid work.
Tim Polster is offline   Reply With Quote
Old April 25th, 2013, 05:19 AM   #12
Inner Circle
Join Date: Feb 2009
Location: Norwich, Norfolk, UK
Posts: 3,531
Re: Going DSLR for Show/event filming

Auto-ISO on the 5D2 & 5D3 can work well if for example you are on a Steadcam & can't change manually. Auto anything else on a DSLR is rubbish. You don't want the shutter speed changing from 1/50 or 1/60 & even aside from the stepwise jumps in aperture you don't want your DoF to be changing throughout the shot. The nice thing about Auto-ISO is that the way it operates is slow & smooth as though it's damped. It doesn't wildly fluctuate. On the 5D3 you can set up & lower limits for ISO but even 12800 is noise free if the exposure is correct.
Nigel Barker is offline   Reply With Quote
Old April 25th, 2013, 11:53 AM   #13
Major Player
Join Date: Jun 2003
Location: Orlando, FL
Posts: 493
Re: Going DSLR for Show/event filming

Good point Tim. Personally I'm excited for learning to shoot well with my DSLR so I can take just one camera with me. My son is hip hop street dancer, and I like to go out and shoot stills of him. Until recently I had just a D100, which with the right light takes great stills. But I would have to tell myself, do I want to take stills or video. Which camera should I carry all night in a crowded venue. I just recently bought a D5100. Now I can take one camera. I just need to train myself on how to shoot video with it.
David Stoneburner is offline   Reply With Quote
Old May 14th, 2013, 02:43 PM   #14
Regular Crew
Join Date: Dec 2006
Location: Portsmouth, UK
Posts: 118
Re: Going DSLR for Show/event filming

So, I have now done my test shoot and since have made some purchases and done a full shoot with DSLR... so here is my feedback and experiences to date...

Test shoot

I took along 2 Canon 7Ds (borrowed) and one had a Canon 28-135 F3.5 and the other various lens that we were testing with (none turned out suitable, so wont mention which).

Just in case anyone was worrying I was doing this test with a paying customer, I had my usual setup with 3 x Sony FX1000e filming as normal, this was just an addition to perform some tests...

The 28-135 worked perfectly as planned as a safety camera lens. Covered the whole stage perfectly and was easy to setup.

I decided to replicate pretty much what I do with the current Sony FX1000Es, all manually set, focus on the middle of the stage, set the gain (ok, no gain but ISO and aperture to play with) based on rehearsal and then not change too much as I filmed. Footage was breathtaking.... blacks were amazingly black (that is what really stood out) so happy with the quality. Stopping and starting after 12 mins was not a problem, if I got close to 8mins and a new dance track started I simply stopped and started the cam (took about 2 secs to do) and away we go....

I used a 32GB card which was enough to do 1h 30mins (this was actually a very long show, but 2 x 32GB cards handled it)

After, got back to my mac and took a look at the footage....all came out very well. So I was sold....time to do some shopping! What I had realised from playing with the other camera and the wrong lenses was what lens I needed and also that tracking the action wiht the zoom was tough using the ring on the lens. So this is what I ended up buying:

2 x Canon 7D bodies
1 x 28-135 Canon lens (safety camera lens, covering complete stage)
1 x 70-200 Canon F4 USM L Series Zoom lens (tracking camera, able to go close on small groups and solo performances)
1 x Sachtler Pro M tripod
4 x 32GB x600 CF Cards
1 x 15mm Base plate + tripod mount rig
1 x follow focus (which is actually going to be used on the zoom ring)

So this weekend I went along and filmed another show, however I still had my standard FX1000Es recording in case something went wrong.

Before the actual show I attended the rehearsal and spent ages going through the different ISO settings to see how high I could go without any grain appearing.... turned out I could go to 1000 ISO on both without any noticable degradation of the quality.

I also tried to let the camera run on fully auto and actually tried each of the semi-auto functions that the 7D offers. They coped suprissingly well, however the big problem was the changing from dark to light scenes. The camera was very slow to adjust, but once adjusted the image was superb, but I had a few seconds of grainy footage as it tried to handle the black outs...

So, after trying all settings I reverted back to manual setting and after focusing on the center of stage and setting to F4 on both, whitebalancing using a white card (well 15% grey) on center stage and then setting ISO to 600 (roughly) I was ready to go....

The footage was amazing, crisp, blacks were black, colours popped and the focus on both cameras even when zooming with the tracker (70-200mm) was great.

I am 100% sold on this,.... anyone that wants to make the move should do so, but beware....if you currently film using anything other than fully manual on your current cameras you have a step learning curve.. but if you already film fully manual you will be suprised how easy it is to make the change.

Follow focus set to zoom fixed the smoothness required, and applying magic lantern auto start means you dont have to worry about starting and stopping (however, manual start stop of record takes about a second, auto takes about 5, but nice to know if you forget 5 secs is all you miss)

Lastly, I also discovered a superb program called Plurial Eyes 3... it allows you to sync all sound and camera feeds automatically..and then import direct to Premiere. add that to the removal of tape capture and I am saving about 8-10 hours of capture and syncing from my workflow!

I hope this will help anyone else thinking of making the move I have, I could not find much online about the subject so I really hope this helps someone else.

Last thing for me is to get a 3rd camera and a 28-200 lens that will ensure I have a back up to safery if I need it (70-200 doesnt cover full stage) and I am done....

Happy to answer any questions, and I will post some examples once edited down.
capture it as it happens...with motion and sound.
Vince Baker is offline   Reply With Quote
Old May 14th, 2013, 03:48 PM   #15
Inner Circle
Join Date: Nov 2005
Location: Lowestoft - UK
Posts: 4,030
Re: Going DSLR for Show/event filming

Stage work for me is a DSLR killer. The things I do just don't work out properly on DSLRs.
Faffing around with having to sync multiple clips, and actually having gaps?
Shallow depth of field - exactly what I don't want. I need everything in focus, front to back, left to right, all the time. If I need shallow DoF for effect, I can have it, but I do not want it as the norm.
I need to be able to slowly pan, tilt and zoom in from wide to CU, and the reverse. I need slow creeps.
I need to take the camera high and see the viewfinder. I need manual controls that work properly. I need white balance presets that are accurate and repeatable - 3200K will keep me very happy. I need settings to let me see a bit better in the shadows and prevent whites blowing out at the top.
I need phantom powered XLRs, and at least two channels of balanced audio in, happy with line or mic level. I want controls that I can adjust by feel while I'm looking at a picture, not a menu.

For me, this means real cameras. I've not had any issues with video camera quality.
Paul R Johnson is offline   Reply

DV Info Net refers all where-to-buy and where-to-rent questions exclusively to these trusted full line dealers and rental houses...

B&H Photo Video
(866) 521-7381
New York, NY USA

Scan Computers Int. Ltd.
+44 0871-472-4747
Bolton, Lancashire UK

DV Info Net also encourages you to support local businesses and buy from an authorized dealer in your neighborhood.
  You are here: DV Info Net > Special Interest Areas > Wedding / Event Videography Techniques

Thread Tools Search this Thread
Search this Thread:

Advanced Search


All times are GMT -6. The time now is 01:39 PM.

DV Info Net -- Real Names, Real People, Real Info!
1998-2024 The Digital Video Information Network