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Blocking a large group interview

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Byrd McdonaldBlocking a large group interview
by on May 4, 2009 at 7:00:02 pm

Wondering if anyone has any advice on how to block a 10 person interview! The client wants to have 10 people being interviewed at the same time. I'm likening it to a reality tv "reunion" show where multiple people are brought back on the show to talk about it all.

We are using three cameras.

In general, I'm curious if anyone knows of a good book or web resource for dealing with blocking issues of this nature. I have a library of "shot set up" books - none of them cover how to do something like this.

Thanks in advice.


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Mark SuszkoRe: Blocking a large group interview
by on May 4, 2009 at 8:00:39 pm

If you seat them in two rows of five, bleacher-style, you get your 16 x 9 framing for the wide shot that covers everybody, yes? Then the second camera snap-zooms to people on the top row, cam three does the same for anyone on the bottom row, or maybe shoots a 3-shot to show tighter version of the folks immediately surrounding the speaker reacting. Or it gets a revese of the interviewer.

Bleacher style seating limits their interactivity with each other, which may or may not be good depending on the content and style, but not with the host/interviwer. Shot access is faster than using something formatted "in-the-round", I should think.

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Bill DavisRe: Blocking a large group interview
by on May 5, 2009 at 6:12:08 am

Had to do exactly this about 6 months ago.

We re-configured a lecture room that had the modern "skinny table" group seating.

The room was relatively long and thin, so we set the camera position in the center of one of the short walls.

About six feet out from the other short wall, we created a simple chevron out of two of the tables.

Chairs were placed 5 and 5 behind the two tables.

The angle allowed us to ISO each group with it's own camera.

I didn't want to deal with the potential comb filtering of having 10 open mics, so I got 2 MKH 416 mics from the local rental house and using stands, sandbags, and boompoles, flew the two mics so that each mic was centered and pointed right at a group from just over camera range.

That gave me two balanced audio lines into the two inputs of the camera.

Worked out well, but we were going for a "focus group" type style and the fact that each person wasn't individually mic'd added to the sense of a live recording.

If you're trying to iso 10 people and have it sound like 10 distinct interviews, you'd probably need 10 lavs into a multi-track recording rig.

Good luck.

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Mark SuszkoRe: Blocking a large group interview
by on May 5, 2009 at 3:44:04 pm

Two good boom men with shotguns could work. Maybe. They would have to be very alert not only to who is speaking but who is about to speak. If they are at tables, I like to use omni PZM boundary mics, one for every three people might work, in this case that brings your mic management down to about 4-6 mics, you could have a dedicated guy fly those faders on a portable small mixer and feed the sub-mix to camera channel one, then use boom or shotgun into channel two as backup. That would sound a little more "live" than lavs.

Multitracking independent lavs would give the best control in post, but is expensive to record in the field. The teleconferencing industry has rackmount boxes (Audio-Technica is one that comes to mind) that detect who is speaking and that open only that mic and duck all the others within a microsecond or two... very cool, but also expensive, and I don't know that they would be rentable (though it would be useful).

Any problem like this can be solved if you throw enough money at it, the trick is to throw just as little as possible and still get a good result. You trade off cost for time in psot, generally.

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Bill DavisRe: Blocking a large group interview
by on May 5, 2009 at 5:59:06 pm

As always, I agree with what Mark says on principal.

My only quibble is that every time I've tried to use table mounted boundry mics such as PZMs - some knucklehead turns out to be a "table tapper" and clients get distracted trying to figure out who was playing the bass drum during the interview.

Boundry mics use the table top surface itself as an integral part of the process so they're less efficient if there's a tablecloth or if you try something clever like putting mouse pads under them to keep the mechanical noise transmission to a minimum.

The truth is, audio is complex, not intuitive, and a general pain in the ass.

Too bad it's also the source of the vast majority of the useful information transmission in most videos.


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Mark SuszkoRe: Blocking a large group interview
by on May 5, 2009 at 8:31:45 pm

I've done the mouse pad thing to protect Boundary mics against finger-drummers and it does work, just attenuates the range by limiting the plate size to the mic itself. PZM's also work taped to a wall or ceiling; if they are drumming on those, I want to be in that meeting! :-)

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Dan BrockettRe: Blocking a large group interview
by on May 7, 2009 at 5:45:15 pm

A few years ago, I produced an eight person interview with the cast of Hill Street Blues for the Hill Street Blues Season One DVD. Did the semi-circle panel setup with eight director chairs. Individual lavs on each talent ran into a portable Pro Tools system. Shot it with four cameras, one locked of master shot, on hand held roaming and the other two each scanning opposite angles on the four on the left and four on the right.

All went down smooth as silk and technically was perfect. Was not cheap but was not too expensive, probably $15k for the shoot including a stage at the studio.

Trying to mix ten people live that are not rehearsed and may be talking over each other means that you either mic and record them individually to a Pro Tools or ganged multi-track recorders or your sound will suck basically.


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Paul CroweRe: Blocking a large group interview
by on May 21, 2009 at 9:29:30 am

If it suits the style of what you are trying to achieve you could have a 'host' type person running the I/V that way they could just pass the mic around. A bit like a talk show audience.Think Oprah. Problem solved.


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