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Help with equipment for filming a show.


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Hi Guys,


Having spoken to some people at my school, I thought it would be a really good idea to film our next production properly I.e more than two cameras, recording audio properly and changing shots. I am new to this side of things, but I am really eager to learn new skills in what this involves.


As far as equipment is concerned, we already have a Sony HDV1000 and some other cameras that all in film in HD. I am not to bothered about what the res is as long as it is HD as I am able to change it later in FCP Compressor. For audio we will be using a Mackie TT24 desk with pit band, vocals and ambient noise going through it, so thats all sorted.


What I really need to know is the best way for me to do this, I will be wanting to put a couple of mounted cameras at the front of the stage and maybe a couple from wings and in the rig (might be an interesting shot). I am aiming to get hold of another Sony HDV1000 for a different angle. Is there a relatively cheap and good place to hire these from? Please bear, there is not a budget for this in the overall budget so cost is a really important factor. Please could someone let me best way to A) record the audio B) what equipment I am going to need for mixing the video and having a live play back of all the cameras. Can this be done through FCP or Adobe Premiere Pro CS5?


Thanks for your help


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The answers to all your questions rely pretty heavily on what the purpose of the recording is; is it for an internal record, in which case, a very basic setup would suffice or for sale as a DVD(Copyright dependant), in which case people are usually expecting something for their money.


However to answer your questions as they stand.


Please could someone let me best way to A) record the audio
For audio we will be using a Mackie TT24


The best/ideal way would be to take an independent split of each channel and mix it post production, something I imagine your music department could accommodate. The desk has ADAT out, so something like the ALESIS HD24 would be ideal. Again it depends if you already have something in house.


B) what equipment I am going to need for mixing the video and having a live play back of all the cameras.


Why would you want to mix live? It adds an extra layer of complexity and cost you've already admitted you don't want. Simply put a tape in the cameras and deal with the mixing in the edit.

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Thanks for the advice. I will look into the copyright and see what we would be able to do. I guess I should do some more research and planning into what is best for the show and what I want to achieve from it.

Thanks for the help and suggestions, greatly appreciated.

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Trying to do this real time live, on the fly, means you need a LOT of skilled people who are used to doing the job and understand the teamwork involved, which I doubt that you have.


Get as much on separate tracks as possible and do the sound mix and vid cuts later.


Sort out camera support! Tripods etc. Long lenses need help to stay steady!

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I doubt they will have any long lenses, but yes tripods (proper video tripods such as vinten vision 6) are very cheap to rent and will make the production much more professional than using cheap wobbly photo tripods.


You at least need one monitor per camera and a comms system. Whoever is directing the shoot will watch the monitors and tell the camera men when and where to move to. You could have this person cut live on a vision mixer, but it will result in a better product if you do the editing afterwards in a multicam editor such as Sony Vegas or Final Cut Pro.


http://www.kenstone.net/fcp_homepage/multi...ing_martin.html is a basic introduction to the concepts involved.


Don't expect it to look like TV - basic cameras such as the HDV1000 simply do not have the required facilites for broadcast style production. Renting broadcast HD cameras will cost you more per day than the purchase price of the HDV1000.

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Thanks, School already has very good quality tripods and stuff we are a bit more advanced than that :P. Yer I understand quality issue, but that isn't really a major problem. I'm just wanting at the moment to find the best way to do it and best places to hire some stuff from if needed. We defiantly don't have the budget for ARRI Media or anything as professional as that, but it would be nice to make it at least a half decent job of it. If it all goes ahead it would be the first time we have ever tried something like this.

Thanks for the advice and support, I know I sound really naive to all this but you have to start from somewhere and I appreciate you taking the time to help explain things to me.

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I film everything we do. Just for internal viewing, its good for the kids to see a nice video result of what they've been involved in.


I don't see the need to film in in HDV. How many Blu-rays are you going to be distributing?


We shoot on 3 DVX100s and my personal Canon 550D. I do have a little handheld for a 5th angle. I usually do a full stage shot from the back (we have banked seating). Then SL and SR with camera OPs, I have all this linked into my mixer too for live feeds which is especially good for dance shows and talent shows etc. For audio I take direct outs from the desk, that's 12 channels of RF and since I can only do 16 track recording with our system, I submix the rest through the aux's.


I'm assuming after extensive searching that you're using the HVR-HD 1000. Excuse me if I'm missing something but I really can't find the HDV 1000 anywhere online. However, the HVR-1000 is really just a consumer HD camera in a shoulder mount body. Far from a pro camera, not that that's a hugely bad thing. You'll get a good image, but as stated before, don't expect broadcast quality.


You can get away with having only a few camera Ops if you position well and if they're good and get the shots you want. Train them. Set the cameras up. don't let them adjust the settings. Tell them how to get shots. Make them get steady shots. Don't expect them to be pulling focus or anything else fancy, just hope they are capable enough to frame some decent shots for about 40% of the time. With a few statics, you'll be able to get a decent end result.


If you want the live feed on the cheap....do this. Buy a vision mixer only a cheap one. I got a panasonic WJ-AVE5 for £150. Two channel. Then I bought two video splitters from ebay. £5 each. Then I feed upto three sources into each splitter. Then the output of the splitter goes to the input of the vision mixer. You select your source on the splitter then mix to it on the mixer. I put a monitor on each of the video channels on the desk. A better solution would be to split the composite feeds and send them into a CCTV screen splitter set up to help you select the correct shot. Yes , its the long way round, but it's much cheaper than getting an edirol V-8 and it works fine for us. We also employ two scan converters, so that we can put 2 computers into the vision mixer.


I hope some of that helps.



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Thanks thats really helpful. We already have a vision mixer that works, so I guess we could use that. The show normally runs for 4 nights so we could play around with the angles and how to record it. You are right about the camera being a HVR-HD1000, my mistake.
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Without specific permission, a video record, even for educational use is a straightforward breaking of the contract somebody will have signed. Two things can happen. One is you do it, sell the DVDs recoup some money and just hope none ever get to the copyright agencies attention. The other is you ask permission. In 99% of cases, they will say NO. They view mums and dads as the public, so while they may grant permission for it to be used for an exam piece - seen by the teacher and the exam board, commercial exploitation (which is their word from a letter I once had) is strictly prohibited. The license grants amateur rights, and you can't do many things that a professional show could - like use their logos in any marketing of artefacts. Many will also require certain features on the posters. It's all very strict. Schools and colleges, being what they are, often assume that as it's education, they have carte blanche to do what they like. It's wrong, but let's assume your teachers tell you to do it. They carry the can, so don't worry about it - above your pay grade, so the saying goes.


If you have FCP or CS5 available, then you can shoot away and get as many cameras up and running as you can, then you record the audio separately - either as a straight two track (if the sound op is good), or as suggested, via multitrack to mix later if they are useless. All these get put onto a timeline in the editor and synced up. FCP and CS5 can both then do an 'as live mix'. If any cuts go wrong, don't worry, you just re-edit them.


Bad news is that almost certainly your school CS5 or FCP edit suite won't be able to handle this many HD streams unless you have some pretty flash computer kit - which for this means very fast processor and raid drives. The amount of data is just too big, and many systems stutter badly, with delays as you cut and this doesn't work. My edit suit has a couple of systems, one with CS4 and one with CS5, and the CS5 (newest) can cope with 3 live HD streams. So what I do is cut with the three main cameras, then when the multi-cam edit is done, I manually edit in material from the other cameras, which might be POVs (Point of View) odd angles, or perhaps audience shots.


It takes a VERY long time. A 2 hour show can easily take a week to edit. You might have a rough cut after the first day.


Camera wise - if they are all different formats, then it's likely you will have a lot of rendering to do to get the frame sizes to match - especially if you are mixing SD and HD. If you want a mainly HD output, then the SD will have to be upscaled - and this all takes time = it could easily take a couple of days to ingest the material if it comes in tape and card formats!


Shooting wise. It's pretty essential to get all the camera people on headsets, so even without attempting to mix live (and multicams on a 2ch mixer and a few switches is simply horrible - AND isn't of course HD capable) they need guidance. Something happens on stage - what you don't want, but usually get without comms is that everyone goes for it. Nobody doing the wide angle for cover. Or maybe they all frame a duff shot at the same time. When they can talk, if they have a good shot they can tell the others, leaving them better choices. "I've got the hat" "I've got all three" "I can't get fred, he's too upstage" this kind of thing. with 5 un-coordinated cameras it's amazing how many times none have a decent shot you can cut to!


With consumer or pro-sumer cams it's often best to ban zooming slowly, and use zoom quickly to get from framing to framing - ensuring that somebody has a brief to remain med wide to wide at all times for cover - and they can maybe do very slow zooms - nothing fast at all. Not all cameras have easy to operate manual focus which is critical. If they only have auto, or the operator is sh1t, then you have problems. Lenses will be wide open in many scenes and depth of field narrow meaning autofocus is a bad day in hell. Each camera if they are different, will handle low light differently so you need to test them. Any camera that has a rocker for focus is best left on auto, bad though that is - leaving only cameras with proper zoom rings for manual (and worked by the best camerapeople) I seriously doubt if the school do have decent tripods and heads. The test is simple. With them pointing either slightly down or up, can you take your hands off and they stay put. If they hurtle down or up if you let go, then they are grim. Zoom right in. Can you slowly creep sideways, or do you come up against resistance, that suddenly gives, meaning the camera suddenly pans two feet to the right or left? Any camera you identify as needing to do the close ups needs the BEST tripod you have. The wide angle ones can have the poorest. When you decide where they can go, can the operator actually manage to stand still and upright for an hour without needing to keep dropping their arms to get the circulation going?


You should also shoot every night you do the show - just in case a shot missed from one performance can be 'stolen' from another.


You have a huge job on your hands - a really complicated one. If you are not familiar with CS5 or FCP don't even attempt the edit. Neither of these are quick to learn, and have lots of essential shortcuts you won't know about. When the render window pops up because you accidentally pressed the wrong thing and you cannot do anthing with the PC for 6 hours, and then run out of drive space, you will soon learn new swear words.


Last point - If the rights holders find out you did record the show, then one little tactic they have is simply to not allow your school to ever use their material again. They accept a little fudging from schools and colleges, but mention video and they get the wobblies! However - youtube has quite a lot of examples, so it's a gamble really.

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Just a couple of points on that Paul. The reason I mentioned the switchers an cheap mixer is that it's very cheap and in the reach of most school budgets. Trust me, if we didn't have to do it like this, we wouldn't. But it's cheap and while it is crude, it works.

Secondly, if there are a couple of static wides, you can get away with three ops without headsets especially if you're specific about their areas of coverage.

Thirdly on the edit...you don't need an amazing computer to do multicam offline. I'm not sure how easy it is on fcp but with avid, I simply capture everything heavily compressed (sd - 14:1) edit, then batch capture but if I'm delivering SD and it's a quick project my pc is a high enough spec to cope with a good number of 1:1 streams without backing up. But I just thought I'd mention that point.


I'd agree with you that if the OP is unfamiliar with the software it'll be difficult, but we all had to learn software. If there's time and it's not critical just take your time and learn it.


Finally, not all shows are musicals or subject to copyright. We have school concerts, dance shows, drama nights, fashion shows, talent contests, rock nights etc. All of which get filmed and put on DVD and nome of which are subject to copyright (we don't sell things to parents either anyway) but AFAIK the op didn't mention the nature of the show ( I might be missing something) but it may all be above board.

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On the topic of comms I find it pretty staggering that anyone suggests working without comms.


If you want your production to look good then comms are essential. The shots must be directed by ONE person and camera ops should not be speaking to each other (or indeed at all really unless they have a problem). Having a wide of the whole stage is not that useful, its a horrible shot which says "this is a school production" it has its place but your cut will look rubbish if you rely on that wide to cover poor camera technique. (Depending on the purpose of your film. If you intend it to be a filmed drama then avoid wide angles as much as possible, if your making a documentary about the school putting the show on then the wides have more of a place)


Actually this is where most productions of this type go wrong from the outset, by not working out the purpose of the film before shooting the end result is a scrappy edit. If your serious about making a film then be serious about it, storyboard your film and think about camera angles and moves and how they will cut together. Think about the story your telling through your film and how to use cinematography to enhance that story. If the cameramen and director are inexperienced then make the most of the fact that the production is doing several shows. Shoot some of the rehearsals, review the rushes and discuss what works and what doesn't with your camera operators. Try and give everyone as clear direction as you can, if your working with people who haven't used cameras before then show them what you mean by "frame left" "frame right" "2 shot" "Medium close" "close up" etc etc. Make sure your on-comms direction is clear and easily understood. Most inexperienced operators will leave too much or not enough headroom and will frame everything so the action is dead centre of the frame, explain that this is not what you want! (turning off the centre markers on the camera viewfinder can help avoid sniper syndrome)


The post process will be long winded without the luxury of cameras which are designed for multicam shoots. Make it as easy as you can for yourself (again using the rehearsals as much as you can to iron out problems before the show opens) WHITE BALANCE the cameras. Try and get the lampies to provide consistent lighting levels on stage, your film will not look nice if the lighting is really patchy. Try and make the cameras as close a match as you can using in-camera settings, this will make the post production grading much easier.


Have a production assistant / logger sit next to the director, its their job to make notes (jot down timecodes of good shots and bits where their were problems) this will make the edit much quicker and less painful. Shoot multiple performances, ideally having reviewed the previous performances before shooting the next one. This will let you know if there are any crucial bits which you messed up where you need to reshoot that scene with the cameras in the same places, or indeed will give you a chance to move some cameras and get different angles if you had covered it all perfectly in the first shoot (though make sure you have someone watching continuity if your going to do this)

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