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Best Way to Record All Day Seminar...?

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Guy CirinelliBest Way to Record All Day Seminar...?
by on Jul 22, 2009 at 7:18:55 pm

Hi All -

I am scheduled to videotape a 3 day (8 hrs./day) seminar that features multiple presenters - each giving about a 45 minute speech - to an audience of about 100 attendees.

We will most likely have 3 cameras to capture the entire event (wide shot, close up and audience reactions) and will edit in Final Cut Pro using Multi-Cam into several short modules.

In the past, I have shot similar programs on Sony Z1's in HDV format, but the digitizing and rendering time were grueling.

Any suggestions on what camera and format to shoot in to reduce the non-productive time? Can I record straight to a hard drive to eliminate the need for digitizing 20 hours of footage? Is the Sony EX1 a possibility?

Thanks so much - any help is much appreciated!

- Guy

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Mark SuszkoRe: Best Way to Record All Day Seminar...?
by on Jul 22, 2009 at 8:56:29 pm

Your biggest time (and thus, money) saver to handle a job like this is to live-switch as much as possible.

Rent a "fly-away" switcher rig and matching cameras, roll it into the cost of the project. The money you spend on the rental is offset by the MANY hours you are going to waste digitizing from all three cameras into what must be a massive hard drive array, and the time you are going to take faking the live switch in post could be measured in weeks. Or buy one: Edirol sells a DV switcher for under a grand. That's easily covered by the editing saving, then you OWN a SWITCHER from then on, not a bad thing to have.

Now, if you just can't afford the switcher, ok, the Iron Triangle demands any two but only two from that palette of choices known as "fast, cheap, and good".

However, you can have some of the best of both worlds: with a cheap switcher, live-switch to a master recording in your editing computer and a backup DVD or Firestore recorder while you roll isos in all three cameras (tape changes deliberately offset in time so two cams are always running while one is being reloaded). If you do a good job on the live switch, you are DONE. If you make a little mistake here and there, you would only need to digitize a few minutes from the apropriate iso tape to patch it over.

This will cut your editing time by roughly two thirds. Maybe take four days of editing off the bill. Work the numbers, see if this will work for your specific gig, but also consider you get the bonus of the switcher thrown in for free ever after.

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Guy CirinelliRe: Best Way to Record All Day Seminar...?
by on Jul 22, 2009 at 9:54:38 pm

Thanks so much Mark... very appreciated!

Live switching does sound to be a great time saver in this case. This is an annual event, so I would be able to use the gear again (assuming I get the gig).

A few questions...

- I'd like to capture it all in HD. Does that affect any of your suggestions?

- How do I capture the output of the switcher onto a master hard drive? Is that simply a matter of "Log & Capture" in Final Cut?

- As far as capturing the video on the isos, it sounds like you are recommending tape...? What is the best option - HDV Tape, P2 Cards, XDCam Memory Card, etc.?

Thanks again - very helpful!

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Mark SuszkoRe: Best Way to Record All Day Seminar...?
by on Jul 23, 2009 at 1:33:11 am

Let's see... worst case, based on my interpretation of what you wrote initially... make it... eight guys a day talk 45 minutes to an hour each... for three days, times three cameras, is roughly...3,240 minutes, which equals, what, 54 total hours of footage... all in HD.

If you can afford enough P2 cards to cover that, what are you doing shooting corporate talking heads?

And can I come work for you? :-)

Even in HDV, that's a lot of storage IMO... going to take over 54 hours of real-time just to load HDV tapes into an edit system before you make the first cut. $7 per hour on tape is roughly $400 with tax. Add on some more for mastering. What's P2 cost these days? On P2 media you would probably run out of time trying to offload the cards into a laptop or drive array, and get them back into the cameras before the next guy starts jabbering. You need at least a day's worth of cards for each camera, assuming you offload them overnight so they can be re-used the next morning. But you then have to budget for something to offload them to; generally in the low-end budget world, that's a laptop and stack of external RAID arrays. Oh, and, though they transfer their footage faster than real-time, with just the one laptop, you're going to be up pretty late loading in three cams' worth of cards every night. Better pack some energy drinks! Suddenly, reusable P2 may not be as big a money-saver as you thought, because you're shifting the time costs over to post, not actually removing them.

This is why IMO a live switch is the first, best thing to try and do. Though to cover myself, I would still roll isos in the cams, at least 2 of them, the tight single and the wide cover. If your shooters are awake, and you have good communication with them, or at least a plan and hand signals, one will always hold a useable shot while the other changes up, and you'll have little to paper-over with cut-aways or b-roll later. If you have single speakers, powerpoints, and occasional wide shots or audience responses, you could cut the budget by just shooting with 2 cameras and live-switching or post-switching to add the slides in as a virtual third camera shot.

But how to do it? You could try dragging your edit suite to the hotel ballroom, (always fun) and capturing 45-60-minute batches right into Final Cut, on-site. But you'd need a backup insurance policy in case that hangs, as it sometimes does on longer grabs. On the low end, DVD recorders. On the HD end? AJA sells a portable recorder now, the Ki Pro, you see it advertised on the COW as we speak (waves at blinky, seizure-provoking flash ad, upper left page, as he mentions it). I might want to rent that bad boy as my master recorder to take the feed off the switcher, if I were planning this. Have to check if it has the capacity you need. The HDness complicates matters.

I'm not sure what you gain by shooting this in HD, unless Al Gore is bankrolling a sequel. I'm an HD luddite myself and think it often only adds expense and complication to a project. But we'll assume there's a super-good reason it must be HD. Then the $900 Edirol may no longer cut it.

There are still rental and to-own switchers, from Edirol, Panasonic, DataVideo (Supposedly OEM Panasonic underneath, I'm told), Sony, Grass, Crosspoint, etc. all out there. I used a rental unit earlier this year which was a neat one by Edirol that's actually 2 switchers in one: a 4-input composite/component SD switcher on the left side, that works alone or as a feeder input to the right side, which is an SDI HD switcher, with DVE. Had an input for VGA from a laptop too, so you could bring in powerpoints nice, direct and clean, in synch with the projector, not trying to shoot the screen with a camera or drop jpegs in during post. This switcher sounds about right for your needs, though that's obviously not the only possible model.

If they have money to do this in HD, then my counsel to you is try to still make the job pay to own the switcher, because that then becomes a source of revenue generation (or at least massive time savings) and increased productivity all year for many other potential and various gigs. But you have to do the math.

Run a spreadsheet and compare ALL the costs, time and staff as well as hardware, and if renting the switcher saves even nearly enough money to buy one, off just this one gig... then it makes sense as an investment to just BUY one.

My experience of rentals has been that whatever the gear is, for higher-end stuff, they generally rent for about 20-25% of the purchase cost. That varies a bit, but if we take that as a median, and we rent it more than 4 times in a year, we could have bought it and saved money. That formula is why I say own the tripod, lights, and sound gear; those hold good resale a long time and you'd use those the same way every time you go out, but rent the specific type of cameras, switchers, hard disk recorders, jibs, dollies, steadicams, etc. you need for each job, for only as long as you need them, and you're money ahead regarding staying current, maintenance, etc.

The switcher is a game-changer for how you do this sort of work, and compared to what your crew costs for the shoot will be, ( assuming a decent day rate and staying on-site at the hotel for the three days and 2 nights) it may not even be the hugest expense. If it gets the master done a week sooner than otherwise, the money man may not even blink at the extra cost. Especially a rental, that's going to run a couple hundred a day... they may even give you the weekly rate for renting it three days.

So go, sharpen your pencil, and report back when you have run thru the stuff. Let us know what path you chose and why. And how it worked out.

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Guy CirinelliRe: Best Way to Record All Day Seminar...?
by on Jul 23, 2009 at 1:51:55 am

Let me first thank you AGAIN for such a thorough (and time-consuming) response. I read through it once and will definitely need to go through it again line-by-line.

I will get back to you as to what was decided (and why!).

By the way, the reason I'd like to keep it HD (or at least HDV) is that we've been using my Sony Z1 HDV camera on their smaller projects and they LOVE the way it looks.

Time to get to work and investigate!

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Mark SuszkoRe: Best Way to Record All Day Seminar...?
by on Jul 23, 2009 at 2:06:59 am

I like to give complete answers:-)

At the risk of channeling Bob here, the fact they like your Sony HD footage of some short one-time event should have little bearing on how you tackle this 3-day monster. What did they "like" ? Because the cynic in me guesses they liked seeing a 4x3 letterbox up on their 3x4 TV with 24p shutter/ temporal artifacts. So "film-y", you know... Which is easy and cheap to do with SD gear.

You really have to tailor the hardware choices to the content, budget, and the ultimate goals of the project, and it may well be a 4:3 SD product does the job just fine. Especially if all you have on stage is one guy at a time and his slides, without much audience interactivity. Even putting the guy up full-body alongside of a wide shot of the projector screen, you're going to be "wasting" most of the sides of a 16:9 frame anyhow with that composition. Not to mention hurting readability.

Think this thru like you are paying for it out of your OWN pocket. It's about value for money.

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Alan LloydRe: Best Way to Record All Day Seminar...?
by on Jul 23, 2009 at 8:51:50 pm

Bring a laptop with Adobe On Location and record it to hard drives directly (using tape as a backup) and setting up post and finishing will be much, much faster.

I dislike using edit applications for live capture when live capture applications exist. And are far less expensive than the AJA whatever.

(Full disclosure, I'm a PC guy - just not in that other sense...)

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Mark SuszkoRe: Best Way to Record All Day Seminar...?
by on Jul 23, 2009 at 11:20:02 pm

The Adobe thing had slipped my mind. Is OnLocation rated for HD? Would the laptop need a special interface?

I suppose a laptop with Vegas might also work... but as you say, the Adobe product is a dedicated capture application, not an editor. Have you had a lot of practice using it, Alan? What would you say about trusting it to do hour-plus-long single grabs without a fumble?

The numbers are harder to crunch, depends on the rental cost for the Ki pro versus buying OnLocation and a laptop to run it on, and perhaps an external array to hold the data.

A quick skim of Adobe's PDF file on S4 version suggests you'd also have to budget for a box from MAtrox or AJA on the front end of the laptop setup, and if that is the case, then the cost difference between that and the KiPro may become closer.

Looks like either way, you'd be buying an AJA product, or renting one. But I could be wrong.

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Alan LloydRe: Best Way to Record All Day Seminar...?
by on Jul 24, 2009 at 10:25:17 pm

I've been using it (CS3) all week on location (snicker!) and captured about 5-6 hours of footage overall, shooting miniDV. I think our longest grab, though, was maybe 30 minutes or so.

It has HDV presets.

Anything that will output a firewire signal will work.

I have just used USB externals for capture (we're rotating them as we've been doing edits offsite while still capturing) and it's just worked. Wish I could say the same for my Wacom tablet - it died this morning. Didn't register on any of three machines!

BTW, it has a WFM, vectorscope, and audio meters in with the record monitor, and playback for client viewing is no trouble whatever. This is on a stock Dell Vostro 1500 running XP/SP3. And yes, we roll tape in the camera as a backup. Have not needed to use one. (Crosses fingers, thinks about taking shoes off...)

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