RECORDING/CAPTURING LIVE EVENT VIDEO, PART 2

Ok, those definitions took a long time.  Now that you’re well nourished and fully refreshed, let’s get back to recording and how we choose the best solutions for your show.  A few questions to get us started:

  1.  What will the recording be used for? DVD release, TV or cable distribution, website, streaming etc.?
  2.  When is it needed? An hour after the show is over, or is a week or two ok?
  3.  Do you know the workflow? Is your post production team in place? Can we discuss workflow with them directly?

That 3rd question is a good one.  I don’t care if it is your nephew with Final Cut Pro on his laptop or the most respected post house in Hollywood.  If you give us direct access to them, I promise we will save you money and deliver exactly what you are looking for.  There is so much waste when making equipment and post production decisions simply because clients won’t let us talk to the editor.  When we talk to them, they explain the system that they will be working on and the codec that will allow them to get to work fastest.  If you have an editor that uses Apple Pro Res422 as their native editing codec, do you know how much encoding time you will save if you choose a recording device that can capture in that codec?  Follow this math for a minute… There is a three hour show, 5 live cameras, and one B-roll camera with another 3 hours of footage.  All of the footage ends up at your post house as H264 Mpeg, but your editor is working in Apple Pro Res 422.   Now, he or she has to encode 18 hours of footage at $100-300/hr.  Let’s say you choose the $200 vendor, who is probably going to bill at close to 40 hours, to encode 18 hours of video.  That’s $8000.  $8000 that may have been erased by choosing a recording appliance that captured in the correct codec.  Maybe that particular choice was an extra $2000 premium when compared to the device that would capture in H264.  This happens to us ALL OF THE TIME.   All because a middle client doesn’t want to ask the questions, do the homework, know the workflow.  There is also a mentality of “well, we used those boxes last time with our other vendor and the end client didn’t seem to care, so bring them”. I hate soaking clients for their cash just because they have it, and just because the middle client doesn’t want to do the leg work”.  It feels wrong, it is wrong, and more often than not, at the end of the show that end client shows up in the control area and says, “OK guys, do you have the hard drives with Apple Pro Res on them”?  Then our client looks at us like a deer in headlights and says, “Can you guys do that”?  Oh yeah Buffy, no worries… we have a couple MacBook Pros here, and can easily take another 40 hours to kick that out to save your ass, no worries.  It’s 3am, we have a 2 hr load out, a 3 hr drive, we’ve already been here for 22 hours, but let me get to work on it.  You guys know who you are.  I love that you call us, but I just wanted to point out the domino effect that your decisions have on the whole food chain.  Let’s do it right next time.  No torture, no waste.  I think maybe I will make this another blog post as well.
Man….whoever is hanging in here this long really deserves a drink.  I have another 3 hours on this flight, and I am determined to spend every last minute on this post.  So, where were we?  Ah yes, the importance of knowing the “workflow” in advance.  The other questions were pretty damn relevant as well.  So why are we recording?  Will the Pope himself be seeing this on his flight back to Rome?  You gotta love a guy who knows what he wants and tells us why.  An un-named production manager, employed by Mr. Barry Manilow, once asked me to provide a two camera IMAG rig.  He wanted one long lens at FOH, another camera with just an 18x lens set up right next to the long lens camera, and he only wanted one camera operator.  He wanted the long lens routed right to the switcher, which then hit the IMAG screens.  The director was to switch between this camera and a logo all night long.  He also gave us very specific shot direction for that camera, but that’s another issue.  The smaller lens was routed directly to a DVD recorder.  This seemed to be a pretty quirky setup from my perspective, so I asked for an explanation and he gave me one.  He said that the IMAG screens only needed the long lens, just a down and dirty shot of Mr. Manilow on the 30′ screen. “Would you like HD projectors,” I ask, “we have the latest and greatest yada yada boxes”.  “Not necessary, SD is fine,” he replied. “And those DVDs, what becomes of them” I continued, “long wide shot with a RCA audio mix from the house”? Un-named production mangers says, “Mr Manilow only does fly-ins at this point in his career, and from time to time he likes to watch that night’s show on his flight home.  He’s very comfortable with the quality level that this sort of set up provides”.  Great, how can I argue with that?  Couldn’t be easier.  I like a guy who knows what he wants and has the ability to communicate to me why, so I feel confident delivering it no matter how odd it may seem.  The show went perfectly, Mandy came and she kissed him, and then he flew home.  I am pretty sure that the DVD showed exactly what he was looking for to, as I got a quick email from the production manager thanking me for following his direction to the T.  Those emails hit the spot.  I’m guessing if you are still reading this, that you are NOT one of those guys who knows exactly what you want and how to get it.  If you can answer where the material is going to show up, we can normally work backwards from there. It just takes time to figure out the best “workflow” which as I spent 8 paragraphs explaining, will dictate the gear spec.  Make no mistake, the sexier the result you want, the more you are going to pay.  Another thing that’s worth mentioning, is that a couple of times a year we run into a client without a lot of production experience, and after much discussion we both agree that what he or she is looking for is one of those 15 million dollar Superbowl HD Production trucks.  In these instances, we are more than happy to act as technical producers on the clients behalf.  We’ll tell you what we think it will cost, then we’ll shop together, and we’ll follow it and mange it as much or as little as you like, right through to the end of show day.

This is what it looks like when you need the best possible live camera solutions.

This is what it looks like when you need the best possible live camera solutions.

Great work space for 4 or 5 people, 3-6 camera IMAG setup. Cameras can be either HD or SDI.

Great work space for 4 or 5 people, 3-6 camera IMAG setup. Cameras can be either HD or SDI.

We have our own small production trailer that was built specifically for 3-6 camera shoots that focus on IMAG for the big screen, and all of the other peripheral responsibilities that come our way when servicing event clients.  I hope I haven’t killed too much of your time, and that you picked up some value along the way.  Long phone calls and lots of homework, and I promise you can end up with exactly what you’re looking for in an event recording.  Thanks for hanging in there, see you on the return flight!

About Doug Murray

Doug is the Founder and President of Upstage Video. Specializing in large screen video display technology for live events (LED Screen rentals,) with both mobile and modular inventory as well as a full complement of multi-camera production equipment. Our screens light up at the most important events on the globe. If you need some consultation with regards to live event video production...just give us a call.