Filming shows in 4K and cropping

A forum to share ideas and opinions on the equipment and technical aspects of film, video and AV making.
User avatar
TimStannard
Posts: 872
Joined: Fri Feb 11, 2011 5:20 pm
Location: Surrey

Filming shows in 4K and cropping

Post by TimStannard » Mon Mar 05, 2018 9:56 pm

I am receiving an increasing number of requests to film school productions and produce DVDs,

Typically I film two performances, both with two identical cameras (Canon XF100) one at the back capturing the whole stage and one left or right getting close ups. This means for any given scene I have two wide angles, one CU left and one CU right.

Typically I will use only one night’s performance for each scene although I might use any of the four video tracks in musical numbers where they are performing to a recorded backing track as the tempo will be the same. Filming in HD means I have a little flexibility for re-framing in post.

However, as you can imagine this takes rather a long time to edit and I’m looking at ways of streamlining this part of the process.

I know of at least one guy (whom I've contacted and from whom I'm awaiting a reply) who shoots the whole thing in 4K wide then simply crops for close up, given that the end product is going to be in Standard Definition (DVD) there’s quite a bit of leeway here.

The advantages as I see it are:
1. There’s no need to sync video in post (although this is trivial and I’d have a separate audio which would need syncing anyway)
2. If action is switching between stage left and stage right there’s no chance of missing it.
3. There is no risk of zooming in too close only to have the action move out of frame as framing is achieved in post.
4. There is no risk of zooming in too late as framing is achieved in post.

There are two possible disadvantages that I can think of
1. All shots are from the same angle (but is this really noticeable if you ar cutting between wide and CU?)
2. Focus: If you focus on the back of the stage a character in the centre front might be soft, similarly if you focus for a centre front character, the characters to the rear or left or right of the stage might be soft.

I’d be interested in your thoughts on these issues and anything else you can think of - especially if you've experience of filming shows.

Incidentally, the camera I have my eyes on is a Panasonic HC-X1 which is a UX180 without the SDI or Timecode. With a 1in MOS sensor I hope its DoF isn’t so great as to give me focus problems in this situation, yet it is hopefully big enough to deal with low light better than my XF100.
Tim
Proud to be an amateur film maker - I do it for the love of it

Michael Slowe
Posts: 596
Joined: Mon Jan 29, 2007 4:24 pm

Re: Filming shows in 4K and cropping

Post by Michael Slowe » Wed Mar 07, 2018 11:18 am

Tim, interesting post as this must be a common quandary for film makers shooting stage productions.
If you are relying to a great extent on your camera covering the whole stage in wide angle you would do very well shooting in 4K and selecting your framing in post. Your comment on cutting problems between close and wide from the same (front on) angle shouldn't worry you, especially as you say you have a second camera at one of the sides (not both I think?). You would of course have rather a large file as, presumably, the performance would be shot by the 4K camera in its entirety. A card change or two would be a necessity. If the side camera(s) were shooting HD there might well be a disparity in quality, why not shoot 4K on all cameras? You'd need plenty of cards and a large drive capacity for your edit but both those items are getting easier with each passing year.

Jill Lampert
Posts: 46
Joined: Tue Apr 26, 2011 7:04 pm

Re: Filming shows in 4K and cropping

Post by Jill Lampert » Wed Mar 07, 2018 9:09 pm

Tim, I've recently acquired a Panasonic GH5 and I've used it to film two stage productions in 4K. One at a theatre and one on a stage in Sutton Coldfield Town Hall. My guess is that I was further away than you would be at a school, but I'm not sure how much difference that would make. How wide the 'stage' area is would make a difference. I also filmed each production in HD using two little Panasonic SD900s (one a wide shot like the GH5 and the other trying to catch the right close-ups). I used footage from all three cameras on the final DVDs.

For both productions I was given a spot to set up my cameras, so there was no question of getting 'different' camera angles. My spot was at the back of the theatre/town hall.

I LOVED editing the 4K stuff. Although the end product was DVDs, I cropped the 4K to make it the equivalent of HD, but never down to SD standard. I haven't tried that, but obviously if I was brave enough to do that I would get closer 'close-ups' from the cropping. But the joy of it was that I could vary the size of the shot to suit the moment. One thing I really enjoyed doing was 'panning' (i.e. panning in the edit) as characters walked across the stage.

I had no choice but to film these productions from one spot, but my own feeling was that it didn't matter much. The point was to get a good record of the shows, not to show off fancy filming skills. Being able to get a well focused and well exposed shot is the thing (and that's hard enough in itself), and also getting good close-ups of key moments and soloists singing feels important.

I regularly film primary school productions with a friend. I don't actually do the editing, so I'm not as familiar with it as I would be if they were my own films, but I can say that when we first started we used to take great trouble to spread our cameras out so as to give a variety of camera angles. Recently we have generally filmed from roughly the same place because we don't feel that the shots from the side give any significant added benefit.

Tim, I'll WeTransfer you a 4K clip from one of the theatre productions, and you can play with it and see what you think. It probably won't be as well focused and exposed as your own would be...but worth experimenting with anyway!

User avatar
TimStannard
Posts: 872
Joined: Fri Feb 11, 2011 5:20 pm
Location: Surrey

Re: Filming shows in 4K and cropping

Post by TimStannard » Wed Mar 07, 2018 9:23 pm

Thanks Michael,

You're right about file sizes but I'm comfortable I have that covered, I have a 750GB PCIe internal Hard Drive that I reserve basically for my work in progress files as well as an SSD for System/Programs and three other large internal mechanical drives. I also have a 2 disk docking station onto which I back up (currently 11 other hard drives of varying capacities knocking around the place ******). Fortunately the HC-X1 uses SDXC cards which are comparatively cheap (certainly compared with the CF cards my Canon takes and much, much cheaper than the Panasonic P2s and Sony whatever they're called. A 64GB Card should manage about 56min (the 150Mbps rate is variable so precise figures aren't possible) at UHD/50P and 1hr 25 at UHD/25P. As Act 1 seems to always run close to an hour, I'd probably use 128GB cards.
More of a concern is the cost of batteries if I go for genuine ones. (Cheapest is £300)

My idea to reduce the amount of work was to see if I could get away without using a second camera. Obviously 2 angles makes for a better video, but this adds considerably to editing choices which slows things up. The objective is really to produce a good record or the production for cast and crew rather than a work of art (which is what I always end up trying to do).

Why not shoot with two 4K cameras? Simple - the cost of buying two cameras.

***** Off topic, but discussed before. Ladies and Gentlemen please DO run up your old drives from time to time. I fired up one which I hadn't used for only 2-2.5 years the other day and I couldn't use it. I was able to reformat and breath life back into the disk (I'm not going to rely on it).

Do as I say, not as I do!
Tim
Proud to be an amateur film maker - I do it for the love of it

User avatar
TimStannard
Posts: 872
Joined: Fri Feb 11, 2011 5:20 pm
Location: Surrey

Re: Filming shows in 4K and cropping

Post by TimStannard » Wed Mar 07, 2018 9:47 pm

Jill,

Thanks a lot. Clip received (though not looked at yet).

You'll see from my comments in reply to Michael that I'm currently in the same quandry you appear to have been in the past - how significant a benefit different angles is. If there's no real benefit as far as the customer is concerned, why do it? A second camera adds about 50% to the time it takes to edit.

Funnily enough on another forum, someone suggested rather than the Panasonic X1 which is a traditional camcorder with a so called fixed lens and lots of buttons for quick access, I look at the GH5 so I'm particularly interested that you used that.

The benefits of the GH5 are the larger sensor (4/3" vs 1") so it should be better in low light and the 4:2:2 colour subsampling (which I'm used to on my current XF100) which should theoretically make for more leeway when editing.

However, against that I have to balance that the larger sensor also means a shallower depth of field which is precisely NOT what I want if I'm filming a stage with a view to cropping in. I'm typically at 14m, 20m or 25m depending on venue and even at the 25m venue and with my Canon XF100's 1/3" sensor I cannot get the whole depth of the stage perfectly in focus (even good enough for my eyes).

The other problem with a GH5 (or other Mirroless/DSLR type camera) for me is that I struggle enough to get set up even with familiar buttons on the outside. Menus would be a faff. And then I'd have to chose a lens. I can do without having to make those decisions. With a "proper" camcorder I can point and shoot and easily adjust any setting I need to as we go (with auto functions as a get out of jail for when the lighting director decides to turn everything on at once or light just one square meter with a red LED.

Then we have sound. Whilst I generally record audio (from the desk if available) to a separate device, we also sometime interview cast/director and for that I'd want my mic plugged into the camera.

But all that is practical. I'm still open to persuasion that a DSLR/Micro-four thirds camera is the way to go because I'd love to have for my creative work. But then I'd have to keep upgrading lenses etc as one does!

Thanks again.

BTW Will I see you at the CEMRIAC Spring Festival in a couple of weeks?
Tim
Proud to be an amateur film maker - I do it for the love of it

Jill Lampert
Posts: 46
Joined: Tue Apr 26, 2011 7:04 pm

Re: Filming shows in 4K and cropping

Post by Jill Lampert » Wed Mar 07, 2018 10:50 pm

Tim,
I wouldn't be able to argue the case one way or another about which camera you should go for. Most of my filming is 'run and gun'. For that I like something SMALL and a light tripod. I don't want to lug a heavy camera and heavy tripod around. The GH5 appealed to me because it is small. Unlike the previous GH series it will go on and on filming like a camcorder. It doesn't give up after a certain number of minutes. I was very attracted by the idea that I would have the chance to learn about making beautiful shots. I'm becoming more and more attracted by camera movement in films including handheld, and the GH5 has excellent stabilisation. I was upgrading from a Panasonic SD900 which has done me well but is a pretty basic HD camcorder. The GH5 does 4K. It does all sorts of clever tricks like slow motion and setting three different focus positions. So it is exciting for me. Yes, the whole business of lenses is a faff - but shallow depth of field fills me with wonder (though not for filming shows!). Yes, for me getting the hang of the GH5 is a huge learning curve...but I'll get there!

I use the Rode VideomicPro on my GH5 if I use an external mic. I haven't used the combination enough to say how good it is, but I've been pleasantly surprised by the quality of the onboard GH5 mic. I recorded sound by other means for the shows that I filmed.

Back to filming shows...yes, if I could be sure that I'd get it in focus and get the exposure right I'd just film with one 4K camera. I think it would give me sufficient coverage/opportunity to vary shot size. But I'm not that good at it, so I need other camera(s) for safety. Last time I got the exposure moreorless right for the first part of the show, but for the second part I made it too dark. I'm still learning how to use the GH5 and also these things are so difficult to judge in a theatre with the lights changing all the time.

Yes, I'll see you at CEMRIAC!

User avatar
TimStannard
Posts: 872
Joined: Fri Feb 11, 2011 5:20 pm
Location: Surrey

Re: Filming shows in 4K and cropping

Post by TimStannard » Thu Mar 08, 2018 8:47 am

The blindingly obvious occurred to me last night. A second camera is essential if only to cover a blip (a knock or a member of the audience standing up in front of the camera).
I've heard some good results from the VideoMicPro, but I tend to use an off camera mic for interviews (hand held by Martine or the subject) which is where balanced signal and XLRs reduce the element of risk.
As for exposure in live situations, do you use the Waveform monitor? If not, I recommend getting used to it as your eyes can deceive you.
Tim
Proud to be an amateur film maker - I do it for the love of it

tom hardwick
Posts: 782
Joined: Mon Jan 29, 2007 9:59 am

Re: Filming shows in 4K and cropping

Post by tom hardwick » Fri Mar 16, 2018 1:55 pm

I too am a believer in filming stage shows from one centerline position. Years ago I used to use cameras left and right of the stage, in combination with the on-axis camera, but the edit never really looked right as actors looked left, straight and right, depending on which camera viewpoint had been chosen on the edit.

So now I have my two HD cameras on two tripods as close together as possible. One is covering the whole stage and the other can be much braver in picking out the details and trying to predict which actor is going to speak next.

User avatar
TimStannard
Posts: 872
Joined: Fri Feb 11, 2011 5:20 pm
Location: Surrey

Re: Filming shows in 4K and cropping

Post by TimStannard » Fri Mar 16, 2018 11:01 pm

That's interesting Tom and you've now put the cat among the pigeons as I was coming to the conclusion (from discussions elsewhere) that different angles produce a much better looking product.
It does take a bit of care to get this looking right (one simple rule of thumb is to ensure the camera on the left shoots the action on the right and vice versa) and I have found that if the main wide shot is looking down on the stage, but the angled shots are looking up to the stage (the sort of view someone in the stalls might get) this seems to work far better than if all shots are at the same height.

However, this all requires much more work, and my main objective is to reduce the workload.

Any comment, Tom, on my original proposal to use a 4K camera set wide and crop to suit?
Tim
Proud to be an amateur film maker - I do it for the love of it

tom hardwick
Posts: 782
Joined: Mon Jan 29, 2007 9:59 am

Re: Filming shows in 4K and cropping

Post by tom hardwick » Sat Mar 17, 2018 4:10 pm

Using three cameras (left of stage, centerline and right of stage) almost forces the editor to cut to each of them in sequence, otherwise crossing the line becomes very objectionable for the general viewer. I'm sure the cast members don't mind it in the slightest though, feeling that their showreel will be enhanced by snippets that can be taken using cameras that aren't divorced from the stage by being placed 25 metres away.

So it's important to find out who it is you're filming for when you record stage plays. And you do need viewfinder histograms or zebras, because lighting directors do love the punch and drama of spotlighting pale faced talent dressed in black performing against dark, unlit backgrounds.

I'm rather eyebrows raised at Jill's description of the Panasonic SD900 as being a 'pretty basic HD camcorder'. Gosh. The GH5 is indeed in another class, but then it's in a far bulkier and costlier bracket altogether. The 900, far from being pretty basic, is remarkable in its capabilities, as capable now as it was when it was introduced to a startled camcorder world in 2010. Just saying.

And now to on-axis 4k shooting. I'm a believer, as the crop, pan and zoom can all be done in the safety of the edit den, under the security blanket of hindsight and with the undo keyboard shortcut. But in my view (depending on the importance of the shoot) you do need a backup camera running at all times. You just never know what lies ahead, and video always involves filming into the future.

I've had members of the public 'steady' themselves by grabbing hold of a Manfrotto leg. I've had tablets held aloft. I've had radio mics removed from their on-stage location during set changes, lighting changed at the last moment, all contravening the answers to my carefully thought out questions.

Be prepared. This means using more audio recorders and cameras than appear strictly necessary. Much better to erase them unused than to wish you had backup.

User avatar
TimStannard
Posts: 872
Joined: Fri Feb 11, 2011 5:20 pm
Location: Surrey

Re: Filming shows in 4K and cropping

Post by TimStannard » Sat Mar 17, 2018 4:51 pm

Thanks Tom. As you are probably aware, whilst I'm hardly an expert I'm also not new to this and it is the fact I Martine & I are being increasingly asked to film school shows so we're getting something right. Of course, the fact that the cast (and parents) are mainly interested in their close-ups might well mean they do not notice issue with crossing the line etc. I wouldn't dream of doing it without a backup camera for the very reasons you state. Filming for two nights mitigates this but obviously increases the workload (although watching a show twice doesn't bother me nearly as much as the potential extra work editing).

I think I might just bite the bullet and try editing a (4K) shoot from a single camera and see what the audience reaction is.

In the past I've been able to borrow a second camera from friends who own identical ones to mine. Initially Panasonic NC-GS400s, later Canon XF100s. Sadly I cannot afford two of the new cameras and I suspect matching a Panasonic HC-X1 with a Canon XF100 might be a bit of a struggle. Having seen a sample of Jill's work where she's used a GH5 and a couple of SD900s I'm sorely tempted to pick up a S/H SD900 as it may well match the HC-X1 better in this situation. (I could do with a "carry around with me/take on holiday/general purpose" camera anyway)
Tim
Proud to be an amateur film maker - I do it for the love of it

Jill Lampert
Posts: 46
Joined: Tue Apr 26, 2011 7:04 pm

Re: Filming shows in 4K and cropping

Post by Jill Lampert » Sat Mar 17, 2018 11:39 pm

Tom, I didn't mean to say anything unkind about the SD900! Paula Webster has just won the BEST PHOTOGRAPHY prize at BIAFF for her film Tango in the Wind which is shot with a 920 - a slightly later version of the SD900 - supplemented by a few drone shots! I love my SD900 and were it not for my infatuation with the GH5, no doubt I wouldn't have said the SD900 was pretty basic.

Tim - I hope that when you say 'single 4K camera' you mean this with a safety 2nd camera be it your Canon or an SD900? :)

User avatar
TimStannard
Posts: 872
Joined: Fri Feb 11, 2011 5:20 pm
Location: Surrey

Re: Filming shows in 4K and cropping

Post by TimStannard » Sun Mar 18, 2018 12:21 am

Jill Lampert wrote:Tim - I hope that when you say 'single 4K camera' you mean this with a safety 2nd camera be it your Canon or an SD900? :)
Indeed Jill. I may be foolhardy, but not that foolhardy.
Tim
Proud to be an amateur film maker - I do it for the love of it

Jill Lampert
Posts: 46
Joined: Tue Apr 26, 2011 7:04 pm

Re: Filming shows in 4K and cropping

Post by Jill Lampert » Sun Mar 18, 2018 8:59 am

Tom, if you vary your exposure as you go along, do you have obvious changes of exposure in your video? And what if so, what do you do about it?

tom hardwick
Posts: 782
Joined: Mon Jan 29, 2007 9:59 am

Re: Filming shows in 4K and cropping

Post by tom hardwick » Sun Mar 18, 2018 3:10 pm

I do vary the exposure constantly throughout a stage production because there can be moody lighting, very bright lighting, spotlighting, every which way lighting. Spotlight mode (an auto exposure mode where correct highlight exposures are paramount) can be helpful when you've really no idea what's coming next.

I like to think my exposure changes are invisible though in the old days my 4:3 VX2000 ⅓ stop manual exposure changes were indeed visible, though perhaps only to the initiated.

Post Reply