Filming Conferences, Lectures and other live events

Filming Conferences, Lectures and other live events

Filming live events, limitations
Because the event is live, we will film as best we can under the circumstances, but, we do not get second takes, etc., so some imperfections are unavoidable due to background sounds, poor lighting, limitations on camera placement, etc. Plan a brief pause between speakers for a microphone change, and film (tape) change.

Different rules of etiquette may apply when filming live events. Attendees may not want to be on film for numerous reasons. In general, film only the speaker; don't film the audience without explicit instructions and permission. At the beginning of the event, the Master of Ceremonies should mention that the event is being filmed, and the camera is filming the speaker not the audience. Of course, under certain circumstances, for example, if there is a question and answer session, you will want to film the audience. At any time, the client, or the speaker, may request that the filming be stopped.

Cell phone interference
The M.C. should request attendees turn off their mobile phones (not just silence them) each time they convene. Silenced mobile phones may interfere with audio. Other audio interference, for example, from electronics outside the room, may be unavoidable.

Filming should not interfere with the speaker or distract the participants.

Location scouting
If at all possible, the client and filmmaker should scout the location in advance, at the same time of day that the shoot will take place. Where are the electrical outlets? How is the lighting? Are there windows? Is the sun shining on the speaker from behind? Are there curtains, and can they be shut? Do the lights make noise or flicker? Does the ventilation, or other equipment or activity make noise? Can doors be shut? Murphy's Law applies here.

Giving your filmmaker good direction
Provide the filmmaker with the most detailed schedule possible, and be sure to notify the filmmaker of changes to the schedule. The filmmaker will use his best judgment to get the most useful footage possible. You can help tremendously by giving the filmmaker good direction.

If the video is going to tape, the speaker may want to pause briefly for tape changeover hourly.

Arranging for special footage
If there is an opportunity to get additional footage, such as private interviews during lectures breaks, or Gramma before the wedding, plan ahead and arrange for these.

 "B Roll"
Think ahead to plan what kinds of additional footage you might want, such as shots of all the attendees at the banquet, brief interview with the honorees, exhibitors, etc.

Breakout sessions
If there are concurrent breakout sessions, choose which you most want to be filmed.

Still photos
You may find additional still photos invaluable for your video project. Plan to hire a photographer, or ask a volunteer to get still photos, for instance, of honorees.

Filming PowerPoint presentations
How you want to film a PowerPoint depends on various factors including whether or not the slides convey information not conveyed by the speaker, whether the text is sufficient size to be legible, and whether the room lighting is sufficient to see the speaker, number of slides, and how smooth or fast the pan and zoom from speaker to slides. Most often, video quality is much improved by inserting the PowerPoint images in post-production, though this can be time consuming, i.e., expensive. Be sure to get the PowerPoint presentation on disk for future use.

In general specialty lighting is not required since newer video cams perform very well using just available (ambient) light. However, look out for lights that flicker or buzz.

If you have a sound system, plug directly in to it to minimize background noises. You may need to ask your audio guy's permission. If you don't have a sound system, put a wireless microphone on the speaker.

In some urban settings, a wired microphone is preferable to wireless, since some electronic devices may interfere with wireless transmission, including mobile phones in silent mode, and radio frequencies used by some emergency services.

Meals and Perks
If you will be serving meals, arrange to feed the filmmaker, and to serve the filmmaker early, first, late, or to go, depending on circumstances. Often the filmmaker barely has time to enjoy a meal. Filming a conference is not attending and participating at a conference, so the conference itself is not a 'perk'.

Conference Organizer retains all rights
Make sure your filmmaker will not release any footage without your express written permission.

Permission to release short segments
If you give permission to others to release film segments, be sure to agree in advance to specific wording of on-screen credits.

Delivery of Master DVD's
Be sure to keep a set of "raw" (unedited) master DVD's, for your archives, and for your future use. Check these DVD's immediately for completeness and report any deficiency promptly. Retain the original master tape cassettes for safety.

Post-production editing
Once you have reviewed the raw footage, you will have a clearer idea of what is needed in post-production. Unless post-production is minimal, negotiate post-production separately.

Make the best use of your video once it is live.
For further information, see DanShaw.com

Hiring a filmmaker By DanShaw.com

Hiring a filmmaker By DanShaw.com

"I'm thinking of having a film made. What should I know about hiring a filmmaker? How much will a film cost and what should I expect from my filmmaker?"

Despite the continually dropping prices of electronic gear, and the seeming ubiquity of video cameras, making quality films requires a lot of expensive equipment and thousands of hours, even years and decades of professional experience. It is true that anyone with a web cam or even a cell phone can make short videos for youtube.com, but making effective or even watchable films is an art and a science.

Buying your own camera

If you are considering buying a video camera, the first thing you need to know is that consumer level cameras can cost under $500, but professional cameras are likely to cost nearer $1,000. The main feature that distinguishes a pro level camera from a consumer-grade camera is that the pro cameras will have an input for an external microphone. If you are at all serious about doing videos you will need an external mic jack. Shooting in all different situations requires that you will sometimes have to put your camera in a less-than-optimal position, for example, at the back of the room so you are not blocking an audience (or the bride's family!), or far enough from your subject to take in a wide area, such as an entire stage. Since the volume of sound drops off exponentially, if you move your mic twice as far away, you will get one quarter of the volume you would have at the nearer placement. You will want to place your mic up close, or use a wireless mic, or plug directly into a sound system.

All the accessories you'll need

By the time you buy all the accessories you need for your camera, such as various microphones, tripod, batteries, chargers, wide angle lens, etc., you can easily spend $3,000. Then you will still want a lighting kit, which can cost hundreds more. Tripods deserve special mention. Video tripods must have a level bubble, so that you can pan the horizon if needed… a video tripod does not have a central post; if it has a central post, it’s a camera tripod, not for video. The smoothness of the pan is critical, especially for distant subjects; Libec brand is the industry standard.

You’ll also need a computer and the software to edit your film. Mac comes with I-Movie installed, but I-Movie is a not pro grade. To burn DVD's you need to download (from tucows.com, for example) a program such as Toast. If you are using a PC you could get a program such as Adobe Premiere Elements for as little as $200. "Elements" is the bare-bones version of the program that should be plenty for most novices. High-end editing suites such as Avid or VT Edit can cost thousands of dollars and require top-of-the-line computers. The exact type of camera and accessories you’ll need will depend on what you want to do. Get some expert advice.

Anticipating your costs

If you decide to hire a filmmaker, keep in mind that they have made a substantial investment of money and time to buy and learn how to use their equipment. It is reasonable for a professional filmmaker to bill their time at $150 an hour or more, and to also bill for machine time. Some professional shops estimate that a job will cost $1,000 per finished minute of film: 15 minutes = $15,000. Obviously, if you are paying this kind of money you can expect completely professional results, professional customer service, and a detailed contract before you begin; expect to pay a deposit, and to make partial payments at benchmarks along the way so the you are not expecting the film studio to expose themselves to the risk of non-payment on a major job. Fortunately, if you do not have the kind of major budget needed to hire a high-end studio, you can likely find an independent filmmaker who can do the job for less, perhaps because they have a lower overhead, for example by working out of their home instead of an office. If you are working with an independent filmmaker, read on.

A fully professional film requires an entire production crew

If you must have a professional film, it can not be produced by an individual. You will need to hire an entire crew; two or three cameras and camera-people, a director, an audio engineer, at minimum, perhaps a lighting specialist, other technicians, very likely all earning union wages. If you hire an individual, you can expect a high-quality end product, but you can't expect the kind of result you would from a crew.

Your finished product will be only as good as the footage you film. The more time you spend planning your production, the less time and money it will take to film, and in post-production. Spend as much time as you possibly can in planning, story-boarding, even shooting non-actors or stand-ins, so that you have a crystal-clear idea of what shots are needed. Scout your locations with your filmmaker, and an audio engineer, if at all possible. Visit your locations at the time of day you plan to shoot. You will need to know what the lighting and sound conditions are going to be when you arrive with your cast and crew. As with any complex project, the more precisely you can specify exactly the end-product you want, the more likely you are to get it, on time and on budget.

Shooting in the field and in the studio
Expect to pay somewhat more if your filmmaker has to haul all his equipment to a field location; it can take several people hours to pack up, move, set up, break down, and reset their equipment back in the studio. Shoot as many takes as you reasonably can, since it is nearly always more expensive or even impossible to return to re-shoot. Do not rely on the camera's view screen; bring along a larger monitor if at all possible. An otherwise perfect shoot can be ruined by a piece of lint or a stray hair that is impossible to see through the camera.

Should I film an event, or stage something for the camera?
In general, you will get much better results by staging something for the camera. In a live event, you aren't able to do second takes, impose on a paying audience by blocking sight-lines, hold up the event while you adjust the camera, lighting, sound system, etc. When the final product REALLY matters, you may need to review each shot on the monitor before you go on to the next.

It is vital for you to scrutinize the raw footage immediately. You may discover some imperfection that may have passed unnoticed (people are their own worst critics!) Make sure there are no ‘deal breakers’ in the raw footage that make it unusable. If a reshoot is needed, best to know on the spot.

Editing video studio is a matter of micro-seconds. You may need to make a cut between words, before a blink, before your subject takes a breath, etc. You and / or your filmmaker should be taking extremely detailed notes on exactly what was shot and the time-codes. Good notes can mean hours of time and hundreds, even thousands of dollars saved in the editing studio. It can be extremely time-consuming and tedious if you or your editor has to watch and rewatch your video to find where the edits need to be made. During production be sure to take all the time you need. Pauses in speech are natural, pause between segments even if only for a second. If you make a mistake, say "Cut!" or “take two,” or simply back up and start over. In post-production you can edit out pauses, bloopers, etc. When you finish a segment, sit still for a moment as newscasters do, to allow time to "fade to black". (Don't look up right away and ask, "How was that?"). When you feel confident you’re done filming, sit for a moment to make sure you've got everything you could want.

Make sure your filmmaker has clear instructions about any titling and credits on the video. Make sure that they know how to spell people's names, and how people want their website address, etc. to appear. Go through the time and trouble to render your video and upload it to the web, that they Don't waste resources having your filmmaker redo a film because you failed to mention that so-and-so's credit should have said "Dr." instead of "Mr.", for example.

Lastly, you will want to have the film rendered into several formats, a high-resolution format for viewing on TV from a DVD, and a lower-resolution format for the web such as Flash .flv, Apple Quicktime .mov, or Windows .wmv.