How To Videotape Like A Professional
Parents often videotape their child's performance in a play, but the results are sometimes difficult to watch. Professional results can be achieved with only one videocamera and some editing.
Many parents find themselves wanting to record their child's performance in a school-sponsored play or talent show, but find that the usual method of simply holding up a single home videocamera does not yield the most
watchable results. Holding a lightweight videocamera steady is difficult at best, so the results are invariably shaky, and filled with dizzying sweeps across a crowded stage while the parent searches desperately for their child in the viewfinder. Clearer footage of Bigfoot and the Loch Ness monster is readily available.
So what can a parent do to improve the quality of their recordings? He or she needs to think like a professional cameraman or videographer, which
will require some planning and sacrifice. Here are some tips for achieving a more professional-looking videotape of your child's performance.
1. A cameraman's job can be a lonely one. A professional videographer at a wedding knows that his role in the event is to be as invisible and
unobtrusive as possible. The same holds true for whoever decides to film the school play, and I should add 'unfortunately' to be perfectly honest.
Filming an event takes a tremendous amount of concentration on the part of the cameraman, so if this is the only time you will ever see your child
perform in such an occasion, you may want to get someone else to do the taping. Your view of the action will be limited to what you see in your
eyepiece, so decide ahead of time whether or not you are truly willing to risk missing some elements of the live performance in favor of a more permanent but less intimate recording. It is not unusual for several parents or the school to pay for a professional videographer's services, so
check ahead for this possibility.
2. Steady as she goes. Hand-held videocameras magnify any motions of the cameraman ten fold. If you have a tripod stand, by all means use it. Some steadiness can be achieved by placing the camera between one arm and your side, as long as you still have a clear field of vision between you and the stage. Some amateur videographers have been known to brace the camera on the volunteer shoulder of the person seated in front of them. Whatever works to keep that camera steadier will make the results much more pleasant to watch.
3. Keep your zooms to a bare minimum. Zoom buttons are great features, but can easily be overused. One way a professional cameraman avoids the 'search and destroy' look of constant zooming and panning is to know precisely where his 'target' will be at all times. Familiarize yourself with the actual play or the order of appearances. Read your child's script to get a feel for where the main action will be, and focus your camera there. Attend a rehearsal, if at all possible, to better prepare yourself for surprise entrances or sudden disappearances. What you are trying to avoid at all cost is the constant use of zoom while simultaneously sweeping the stage for any sign of your child. This is one of the most unpleasant effects to watch on a television screen, so do your homework first.
4. Cameramen have access. If you are serious about professional results, think like a professional. Newspaper photographers are constantly scouting out the best place to get right into the action, without becoming part of the action. Don't feel obligated to sit in the back row of the theater and hope that the zoom option can find your little ant among all the other little ants. Get as close as you possibly can to the action, right up to the point of climbing onstage. People want to see facial expressions and costume details, not the standard panoramic scanning of the entire theater from the balcony. If you have the time, attend dress rehearsals, where you might have more access to capture intimate moments for posterity. Occasionally, directors will allow videographers to set up their equipment much closer to the stage than you might imagine.
5. Don't forget about editing. One event recorded with one camera will not give you much choice in terms of editing, but you can still do some
'editing in the camera'. Anticipate delays and setups, so you can resume filming the action with a minimum of dead spots. You might even consider
filling the time with candid shots of the patrons discussing how wonderful the production has been, or shouting words of encouragement to the camera.
If the event is scheduled for more than one performance, you might want to consider doing some additional filming of those other performances and
doing some basic editing. With one camera, you should film all the action from one side of the stage on the first night, resisting the temptation to film ALL the action. On following nights, take up identical positions on the opposite side of the stage, and in the center. Again, do not attempt
to capture EVERYTHING that catches your eye, just the action that occurs on that side of the stage. Later on, you can take the tapes to a professional videographer/editor for editing, or if you have the proper computer software or home editing equipment, you can create a very interesting and highly watchable version of the play, complete with cuts and closeups.