Hints and Tips

Preparations for Filming a Theatre Production. 

Before you agree to film a show it is advisable to attend a dress rehearsal to see what the lighting and sound is like and get a general feel for where you can put your cameras and microphones. A copy of the script is also useful.  Try and choose a time when the cast have had at least a few performances before you film. This will help note off stage activity and be prepared for anything unusual.

Wear comfortable clothing and have some water for drinking to hand, you could be stood around for some time.

It is advisable to check before you start filming that your camera is operating properly, and recording. It would be a disaster to find that you have no film in the camera at the end of the day. It only takes a minute or two to playback a short piece.

Settings

To maintain the best quality, the camera should be set to HD 16:9.  The AVI. format is the most universal system and will run on a large number of devices. It has the advantage of having less compression than other systems but can contain  very large files  If your camera uses SD cards then the format could be MPEG 4 or AVCHD both of which use compression to reduce the size of the file. The more compression that is used the worse the image is likely to be during editing. Unless the right codec is used the degradation of the picture (short lines that appear on fast moving objects) does not completely go away when the video is transferred to DVD or Blue Ray

Editing  should be done in High Definition and converted to DVD when making the final disc.

The equipment you need.

You will need a minimum of 2 cameras, No 1 of which should be capable of recording, non stop, the whole production; or the complete act between intervals.  If the battery will not last that long, then a mains supply is required. In any case batteries have a habit of dying just when you need them most, so either have a good supply of see if you can attach to a mains cable, but avoid trip hazards.

The second camera should be used to provide close ups and different angles. If more than 2 cameras are used they should be used to compliment each other and not copy.  All cameras should be set to run at the same frame rate,  25 f.p.s. More than 3 cameras can be a burden to the editor.

All cameras should be put on MANUAL. Focus, brightness (aperture) and white balance.  The white balance should be set before filming according to the standard lighting on the stage and should be as near as possible the same for all cameras.

Camera 1 should be mounted on a rigid tripod and positioned so that it covers the whole stage, not just a part of the stage, so that it does not need to be moved. This will be the method of capturing the whole production whilst the other cameras will fill in the details and add other items going on.

Other cameras can be hand held or mounted on a tripod, a free smooth moving tripod would be best. If hand held, try & keep the camera steady at least whilst filming. and avoid using the zoom to get in close.

A complete sound recording should be made either by a separate recorder or by the No.1 camera. The sound level should be set in advance and auto gain should be turned off. Bear in mind that the sound microphone will pick up sound from a few inches away more than it will from a few feet away, so chose the position carefully.

Make sure that Camera 1 and the sound recorder is running at least half a minute before the production starts and runs on a similar amount after the production finishes.  This allows the Editor position to add credits etc. to the film.

Cameras 2 etc can be roving, but make sure they do not get in the way of Camera 1.  Do make plenty of close ups, and medium close ups of the actors but do not hosepipe around or make sudden movements. Avoid having the cameras wandering aimlessly around. It is always a good idea to make medium close ups of any solo or duet songs.  The use of the zoom should be avoided.

When you have completed the filming, just check that you have got a recording, If a failure has occurred, it may be possible to  repeat the recording at a later time.

Once you are convinced you have a good recording, remove the media from the cameras, protect the recording from accidental erasure and pass it on to the Editor as soon as possible.

Editing

The footage will need to be captured onto the editors computer. Camera 1 can be entered onto track 1 together with the sound from this camera.  If a separate sound track was recorded this can be added and its position adjusted to match the pictures from Camera 1.

The footage from the other cameras can be added onto another track and their position carefully adjusted to match the sound.