Tag Archives: cameras

The Multi-Camera Field Shoot

One camera is better than none when trying to preserve memories or information from an event.  Some events lend themselves nicely to the one-camera shoot where zooming in and out occasionally gives you everything you need for visual variety.  There are other events where having at least a second camera, is beneficial if not critical to the mission.

Why Multi-Camera?

It’s all about choices.  In scripted videography you have the benefit of being able to shoot the same shot at multiple angles and as both a close-up and wide-shot.  Event videography does not afford you the same opportunity.  There are no do-overs.

The multi-camera setup allows you to have at least one camera set on a wide-shot all the time and another camera roving on close-up shots.  Editing is where you marry the two together in what will hopefully be a visually more appealing video than if it were a one camera shoot.  The wide shot is your base shot or safety shot where you know you will not miss any action.  Your additional cameras are your b-roll capturing the same activity close-up and at different angles.

The Plan

I am writing this for producers who intend to edit their footage later rather than mix on the fly during the event.  The plan still has applicability either way, but it is written with editing in mind.

The Cameras

You’ll need to know how many cameras you are running ahead of time.  Determine your position for each of the cameras relative to the action and decide which camera / operator will do the wide shot and which will do the roving close-up shots.  Yes, you really should have a camera operator for the wide shot. If for no other reason than to make sure the camera does not get knocked into in a crowd and ruin the shot. The other reason being that you will hang your main audio off the wide shot and will need a knowledgeable crew member to monitor audio during the show.

If you are just running two cameras you can have them run side by side. If you were to add a third camera you would want your wide shot in the middle and a camera angled on either side for roving close-ups and pan shots.  Make sure each camera/operator is assigned a role and sticks to it. The last thing you want to find out in editing is that both of your cameras took the exact same shot.

DDD_broll

Audio

As mentioned above, your wide shot camera will capture the main audio.  You will want to make sure the person running that camera is also comfortable in monitoring and adjusting audio levels.  You will want to make sure that the other cameras in your setup can capture some level of audio.  This audio is important for syncing all the footage from the various cameras in editing, but will be discarded from the final product.

Syncing

The final piece to this setup is syncing all the cameras.  This is extremely important.  All the cameras must start and stop at the same time and at the same intervals so they have the same time code in editing. For example; if you know your event is to begin at 7:00pm, make sure all your cameras start recording at 6:55pm.  The cameras should not stop recording until two minutes after the event has ended.  This buffer of time at the beginning and end of footage from each camera will allow the editor to sync all the footage once and proceed with editing.  If one of the cameras stops for 5 minutes in the middle of the show and the others keep recording then there will be a sync issue somewhere in the middle of the footage.  That will result in extra time for the editor to find the issue and re-sync additional points in the footage.

Prepping for the Event

Heading into an event, videographers will want to ask the event planner several questions;

  • Can you describe or provide a diagram of the layout of the room?
  • Are there power outlets available?
  • How much flexibility do I have for camera placement?
  • Depending on camera placement, how much traffic will be moving round the cameras?

The more information you can get up front the easier it will be to plan for gear needed and prepare your crew for the event. Setup will go smoother if you can walk in with a game plan.

Copyright 2013 Digital Design Digest

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Technical Tales of Woe – Standards? What Standards?

About two years ago I needed to retire my old G5 Mac and after months of research and consideration I finally bought a new 27” iMac computer. 1  It has tons of memory, a big beautiful screen for editing video and overall faster performance than my former G5.  At that time I was still using my MiniDV, tape based camera for shooting.  My research included assuring that this older camera would connect with this new computer and software.  It did, eventually, but not without an absurd amount of effort on my part to troubleshoot an issue that all boiled down to what brand wire I used to make the connection.  Apparently not all FireWire cables are created equal.

I knew something was wrong when I plugged in the FireWire 800 cable to the camera and saw the “DV-In” notice blinking furiously on the screen.  I only had the computer for less than a week and was already wondering if I got a lemon.  I checked all my connections to make sure they were fully engaged.  I researched the issue online, made sure all my drivers were up to date and even tried engaging the camera through different editing software programs.2  The results were the same.  The computer and camera were not making a steady connection.  I sent the computer in to the shop for assessment and it came back with a clean report.  I called Sony, the manufacturer of my camera, to see if they had any advice.  No luck there.

This went on for two weeks because I assumed the issue was with two of my main components to the technological equation.  After concluding the issue did not rest with the computer and that nothing could be adjusted on the camera I began to resign myself to the fact that I would need to upgrade to a newer camera.  It was an investment I knew was coming, but had hoped to put off for awhile.  But before I made that leap I decided I would buy another FireWire cable, just in case it turned out this issue was with a bad cable.

The original cable was a generic brand FireWire cable.  I really didn’t think anything of it when I bought it.  Firewire is FireWire.  A standard data transfer cable.  I spent months researching computers, software, hard drives and even cameras.  Of all the pieces to the technology puzzle I figured the FireWire cable was a no-brainer. Before buying the second cable I decided to read some of the user reviews.  I could only laugh and shake my head at what I learned.  The brand cable purchased did not play nicely with Apple computers!  Had I bought a second cable I would have had the same problem.

I began looking at other brand cables and reading the user reviews closely.  I found one that had positive reviews from Apple owners. The camera worked great with the new cable…for a few months.  I ended up needing to replace my 5 year old camera anyway do to aging mechanics.  Regardless, I learned something about standards….it varies from brand to brand and now I research even the smallest, least expensive components before buying.

  1. It may shock some of you that I am not a devout Apple owner.  I did have to think about getting another one. Two years later there are no regrets in doing so.  My computing needs, however, have changed since then and so has Apple. To keep my options open my laptop ended up being a Toshiba.
  2. Another Technical Tale of Woe in standards – Final Cut will not import AVCHD directly.  iMovie is needed to recognize the camera and capture the footage.  Final Cut, circa Pro X, was the semi-pro and pro option for editing the footage once it was captured.  Adobe CS4 would import AVCHD but crashed on a regular basis during editing.  Adobe CS6 is an improvement.

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How to Buy a Video Camera

This is a question I get frequently from new and seasoned camera owners.  Technology changes so quickly it is easy to assume the rules for buying a camera change too.  When buying any technology it is always a good idea to do a little research on the latest trends to see what is out there and their price ranges.  But before you invest too much time pouring over technical specifications of a potential purchase, spend a little time listing your specifications.  In other words, what do you want this new camera to do for you?

Your list should include everything and the kitchen sink.  It does not cost you anything to simply put it all on paper.  As you list your needs and price range you will begin to prioritize your specifications.  A good camera will last you at least 5 years or more so invest wisely and look at the features you may want tomorrow, not just what you know you need today.

Media Storage

The days of capturing video to tape is obsolete.  You will be hard pressed to find a tape based camera on the market and the only reason to buy one on the cheap is for the ability to backup archived footage to a hard drive. SD cards are the current future of video cameras.  So as you surf the offerings out there look at each camera’s storage type and capacity.

How much footage do you plan to capture before transferring it to an external drive?  The Sony Bloggie is a nice pocket size camera that takes good quality video and photos.  But with only 8GB of space you will need to offload it to a hard drive frequently in order to make room for your next production. If you are going on an extended trip or do not plan to transfer footage to external drives frequently, consider upgrading to a camera with a larger storage capacity.  For less than $300 you can get a small palm sized camera that can support a whopping 60GB or more of storage. With that kind of storage you can shoot everything in sight and edit the best later!

Battery Life

This actually goes hand in hand with video storage.  Some of the smaller blogging cameras have small batteries that need frequent recharging. If you are the occasional videographer or shoot more close to home where you can recharge regularly this may not be a major concern.  If you travel a lot or your occasional shoots last several hours then you want to look at a camera that is supplied with batteries that last more than 2 hours or invest in a few spare batteries.

SD, HD or Both?

Standard definition (4:3 aspect ratio) is still alive and kicking and a more efficient standard in terms of hard drive space and processing power when editing.  HiDef video(16:9 aspect ratio) produces stunning video and has the file size to match.  It also requires an extremely powerful computer to edit this footage efficiently. As technology evolves HD video will become as efficient to work with as SD and, eventually, replace SD video.

All that being said it would be worth your while to look at cameras that allow you switch between SD and HD recording if you are purchasing for your business or for a serious hobby. A camera that can straddle both standards will give you the most options to start.

Video and Audio Quality

Video has come a long way in a short period of time.  For very little money you can acquire a camera that takes phenomenal video footage for work or personal use.  There are some great cameras out there for under $300 that will take crisp, vibrant video images which, if you follow some of the basic principles for shooting video, you can edit later into a quality production.  While the inexpensive cameras offer some stunning video quality under most circumstances, you may find yourself wanting more control over different lighting situations, shot composition and sound.

Let There be Light, or Less of It

Exposure is how much light is allowed to enter the lens of the camera and it affects the brightness and darkness of a shot.  Too much light washes out a shot and makes the subjects too “hot”.  While you can darken a shot in editing you can never get back the detail lost from an over exposed shot.  On the flip side, too little light can darken a shot and make the video quality appear grainy.  You may be able to lighten such a video in editing, but with mixed results depending on how dark it started out.

All cameras come with automatic features that adjust for different lighting situations to some degree.  As you work your way up the price chain you will find cameras that offer more manual controls for adjusting exposure.  In additional to manual controls present on the camera there are lens filters at reasonable prices as well as external lamps that can attach directly to your camera.  These are great in situations when you are in close proximity to your subject and require just a bit more lighting than your surroundings provide.

I Can’t Hear You!

Most of the low end cameras on the market take phenomenal video footage in their own right but severely lack in their ability to capture adequate audio.  Almost all cameras come with their own built-in microphone.  These mics are fine for capturing ambient noise or for spontaneous narration by the camera operator but they will not produce the kind of rich, robust sound quality you will want for a professional video piece.  If you are going to be filming a lot of interviews and narration then you will want a camera that can accept external microphone attachments.  There are several varieties of external microphones built to handle different types of audio situations. (Another story for another blog). Owning a camera with a mic input gives you the option of attaching any one of these microphones to your camera.

Look for a camera that offers at least an eighth inch mic input.(Price range $900 +)  Even an inexpensive, external handheld mic will yield better audio results in an interview than the built in microphone.  For about $200 you can get and XLR audio adapter that will plug into the eighth inch mic input and give you 2 grounded XLR audio inputs.  This gives you the option of attaching 2 professional level microphones to your camera or a mixing board for even more microphone inputs. There are other camera models out there that allow external mic hookups without the need for adapters, but their price range typically starts at $2500.   Depending on your needs you may decide to allocate that $2500 to putting together a full compliment of field gear rather than just the camera piece of it.

Zoom. Zoom.  Zoom.

There are 2 different types of zoom advertised for cameras; optical and digital.  In the age of digital technology consumers mistakenly focus in on the digital zoom feature, which can often boast a 100 -200x zoom in of the subject.  Digital zoom simply magnifies the pixels that create the image of a subject.  The further in you zoom the more distorted the subject becomes.  Like in graphic design and video editing, digital magnification has its place when use sparingly (and as a last resort) but it should not carry any weight in the decision process of buying a camera.

Optical zoom is the number you want to pay attention to.  The technology of optical zoom allows you to zoom in closer to the subject while maintaining the crispness and overall fidelity of the image.  Some brand cameras have always offered impressive optical zoom technology.  A higher optical zoom helps you get high fidelity close up shots from further away without needing to purchase additional telephoto lenses.  It’s a nice feature to have. However, if you know you will mostly be filming subjects within close proximity it is not a necessity.  Other considerations to be weighed, maybe more heavily, are the chip size (bigger chips and more of them lead to richer images), the camera’s performance in low light situations and its manual options for controlling exposure and shutter speed.

If you are the casual videographer and have a few hundred dollars to support the hobby you really can’t go wrong with some of the great sub-$300 out there.  If you are a serious hobbyist or needing a camera for business purposes and plan to invest equally serious money in the equipment do your homework first, starting with understanding what you expect from your investment today and in the future. Your camera will be the main hub of your production gear so plan with expansion in mind.

 

Copyright © 2012 Digital Design Digest

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