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Shooting stand up comedy

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Shane Copland
Shooting stand up comedy
on Aug 28, 2015 at 4:19:22 am

Hi all!

I'm a comedian and have never had a lot of luck filming my sets. The problem I get is a washed out face (not sure that's the right term. Basically what happens is I'm pale and the spotlight on stage will turn my head into a white ball on camera). Any suggestions on how to avoid this?

I have access to many different DSLR and HD cameras. Feel free to suggest one that may work best in these lighting conditions.

Thanks for your time!


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Aaron Star
Re: Shooting stand up comedy
on Aug 28, 2015 at 8:51:10 am

Shoot at least 3 camera. A,B on one side, and C wider shot from the other side of stage. This will give you 3 shots to cut your set up in post. A&C could be roughly the same shot size from different angles, with camera B as medium or close shot if you have an operator. Having both sides of the stage covered, allows you to cut and keep you facing the camera when turn to different sides of the audience.

As for exposure, stop down so you look good in the spot light. Lock all cameras to that exposure. If the rest of the stage or seating area is to dark, add fill lighting to bring that up. You can also bring the spot light down, it is most likely on a dimmer, but to low and the light will start to turn real orange. Best to adjust the contrast of the overall stage and seating areas to work with in the contrast range of the cameras you are using. Keep the spot light up all the way, as to not blow color temperature of the light.

Single camera pretty much just follow the same exposure adjustments above.

Hire a pro, and do not pay them if you look like crap in review of the footage.


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Shane Copland
Re: Shooting stand up comedy
on Aug 28, 2015 at 3:21:38 pm

Thank you for your response. Of course I didn't provide enough information. I travel extensively doing comedy, and can't hire someone to shoot in every town. Also, these clips are to send to booking agents and manages and some light promo - so video quality doesn't have to be impeccable. Most bookers say "...as long as I can see your face I don't can't what it looks like. I really just need to be able to hear it."

So I'm thinking of picking up a DSLR camera at Best Buy or possible a camcorder - if I can't grind a DSLR that can film 30-mins. Any tips on helping my face not show up as a white blob? ISO settings?

Thanks and sorry again for the lack of initial info.


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Todd Terry
Re: Shooting stand up comedy
on Aug 28, 2015 at 3:59:04 pm

Yeah I suspected you weren't trying to film a Showtime Special, just looking for something for archival or booking, or at best YouTube clips, I didn't get to chime in yet though.

Fortunately your problem is very obvious and likewise the solution is painfully simple...

You are simply overexposing, which is easy to do with a brightly-lit subject in a dark theatre. Your culprit is a camera in "auto" mode. What that is doing is averaging the entire frame (including tons of dark space around you) and calculating an "average" exposure. Ergo the subject, you, is way overexposed.

Any camera you use should have a manual exposure mode (you might have to dig into a camera menu, especially on a lower end camera) and dial it down to an appropriate exposure level. One of the challenges with shooting theatrical productions in a dark theatre is that the light and levels are constantly changing... but in a stand-up show situation that's rarely the case... usually the light is constant, so you should more-or-less be able to "set it and forget it" and get good exposures.

Additionally some lower-end consumer-level Best Buy handicams will have a "spotlight" exposure setting that is for exactly the situation you describe. If your camera has that feature, give it a try.

But mostly, get out of "auto" mode. That's your killer.

T2

__________________________________
Todd Terry
Creative Director
Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.
fantasticplastic.com



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Aaron Star
Re: Shooting stand up comedy
on Aug 28, 2015 at 8:43:35 pm
Last Edited By Aaron Star on Aug 28, 2015 at 8:46:02 pm

What Todd offers is good advice. I thought about the spotlight mode too, but you do not get that setting on DSLR cameras. On Nikon there are a couple modes to try under effects which are named Hi Key, Low Key, or silhouette. I am not sure what Canon calls them. It really depends on your setting and background. Basically your silhouette setting is going to see the over exposed areas and stop down, and allow all the darker areas to fall off.

You asked about ISO and stops. This is harder to say without seeing the environment. When shooting Film, 500iso at a 2 would pretty much be what the eye can see in a dark setting. Adjust for low cost lens that only achieve 4-5.6 and you are at 2000-4000iso. But you have that bright spot light you need to expose to, and 2000-4000 could be grain city for your video. You could get a light meter and meter the spot light, or tape a 18% grey card to the mic stand, and use the spot meter mode on your DSLR. In auto or P mode use the camera in video mode to "read" the card, and note what the camera wants to shoot at. Then manually set the camera in video mode to those settings. Make sure light is just falling on the card, and not reflecting the spot light. You can walk up on the card and take a reading, then put the camera back on the tripod if the card is to small to get a good reading.

http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/search?Ntt=%2B18%25+%2BGRAY+%2BCARD&InitialSe...


Once you solve the picture problem, I would spend some time on getting the audio cables necessary to get a line from the mixer or PA system. Possibly even getting stand alone recorder like a Zoom H4n and tapping that into the stage mixer. A camera with pro audio interfaces will allow you connect directly to the camera with whatever the stage has. Obtaining clean audio will sell you almost better than a rocking clean image.




Here are just some of my low cost, future looking cameras that I would recommend for what you are trying to do. Remember HD is already the old Standard Def, and if things go to 8k in 5-10 years, your HD clips are going to look pretty low res. But get the best you can afford today, as even a low cost DSLR will give a good HD image.

This would be a good choice for preservation as a good cheap 4K camera, and not have the 20min limit of DSLR. 4K will down res to HD very nicely, and then you will have a good long term preservation format.

http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/1022653-REG/sony_fdrax100_b_hdr_ax100...

or

This is the same unit with pro audio interfaces, a 10-bit codec (which you did not know you needed, until you see it), and you would need to add the 4K license into the cost if you go that route.

http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/1072752-REG/sony_pxw_x70_professional...


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Mark Suszko
Re: Shooting stand up comedy
on Aug 28, 2015 at 10:31:54 pm

You could set manual iris while shooting a few seconds or minutes of someone else doing an earlier set, note and leave those settings the same for your set.

As to getting better audio, getting a board mix is a good goal, if you're doing more sophisticated videos, but a board mix isn't going to have as much of the room tone and audience reaction in it, and a comedian needs to have that live reaction prominent in the audio, so what I'd suggest is one of the pocket sized digital audio recorders like a Zoom or Tascam, (cheap yet pretty good), and you perch that on the edge of the stage, within ten feet of you, or keep it in a shirt pocket, or hook it onto the mic stand, a foot or two below the regular mic. These things can have a ridiculously long run time, so you could start it well in advance, place it, and collect it much later. That way it presents no distractions or awkwardness to your entrance and exit for the actual performance. Then synch up the recorder audio with the video's audio later in post and mix between them. In my way of thinking, it's about finding a balance between results, and ease of use and transparency to your process of what you're there to do. If it becomes the focus of attention, it's not worth the extra work, and should be done another way.


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Gary Huff
Re: Shooting stand up comedy
on Aug 29, 2015 at 2:47:38 am

[Mark Suszko] "what I'd suggest is one of the pocket sized digital audio recorders like a Zoom or Tascam, (cheap yet pretty good)"

I would get the Rode smartLav, mic yourself, plug into your smartphone, and hit record. It's $50 and it will sound better than just having the built-in mic on a portable recorder.


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Mark Suszko
Re: Shooting stand up comedy
on Aug 29, 2015 at 4:05:45 am
Last Edited By Mark Suszko on Aug 29, 2015 at 4:06:55 am

While not disagreeing with Gary's interesting and attractively simple option, I'll point out that though the clip-on lav will get the comedian's OWN words clearly, it may not have much range to pick up any AUDIENCE reaction or general room sound as well.

And if you're the kind of stand-up guy who really works the hand mic close to the mouth sometimes, to create different sound effects, voice impressions, beatboxing, whatever, and so forth, the coat-mounted lav's not gonna pick that up with the same sonic characteristics as tapping the mixer board, mic'ing a speaker cabinet, or planting a mic at the front of the stage, or whatever. If getting a balance of performer and audience is important, just a lav alone might be insufficient.

The Digital Audio Recorders usually come with a port to attach an external lav or other mic too.

And here we are, debating audio in a cinematography forum. What's next; the audio guys discuss chromatic aberration corrective lenses? :-)

/I'm here all week

/Tip your waitstaff kindly


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Shane Copland
Re: Shooting stand up comedy
on Aug 29, 2015 at 4:14:07 pm

Thank you all for your replies. Very helpful!

Re: audio, I actually have bee using the lav into my phone method for quite some time, coupled with a zoom recorder in the audience. For the most part it works well, and the lav surprisingly picks up the audience well on its own. The drawback to this is sometimes the monitor speaker that is pointed toward myself on stage causes echo.


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Aaron Star
Re: Shooting stand up comedy
on Aug 29, 2015 at 9:41:27 pm
Last Edited By Aaron Star on Aug 29, 2015 at 9:44:17 pm

This echo is why I suggested using a Zoom H4N in 4 channel mode. recording the audience/room with built-in, and then running a line to Channel 3 from the mixer/stage PA mic you are speaking into. More than likely the Stage is using an SM58 which will give you a much higher quality than any smartphone lav.

In post make the audience levels like <-20db and bring it up only when you need to hear it.


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Shane Copland
Re: Shooting stand up comedy
on Aug 29, 2015 at 9:56:03 pm

I do run from the soundboard whenever possible. Unfortunately some clubs don't want you to and since their review of me determines if I work there again, well... I don't push it.

The lav works really well 90% of the time.


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Bob Cole
Re: Shooting stand up comedy
on Sep 4, 2015 at 1:39:03 pm

So Shane, tell us a joke about filming yourself.

Bob C


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Shane Copland
Re: Shooting stand up comedy
on Sep 4, 2015 at 10:37:06 pm

I'm filming myself to gain exposure... but not too much!

Huh? Huh?!


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Todd Terry
Re: Shooting stand up comedy
on Sep 4, 2015 at 10:40:58 pm

I'm going to give that a groan... but also with a mild slow clap.

Not bad.

T2

__________________________________
Todd Terry
Creative Director
Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.
fantasticplastic.com



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Shane Copland
Re: Shooting stand up comedy
on Sep 4, 2015 at 10:53:59 pm



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Bob Cole
Re: Shooting stand up comedy
on Sep 4, 2015 at 11:15:19 pm
Last Edited By Bob Cole on Sep 4, 2015 at 11:19:04 pm

"exposure... but not too much."

Way to go! You have a bright future.


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Shane Copland
Re: Shooting stand up comedy
on Sep 4, 2015 at 11:55:33 pm

Nicely done!


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