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Shooting a conference room presentation: Overcoming HVAC room noise and light from presenter's projector

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Roderick Lavallee
Shooting a conference room presentation: Overcoming HVAC room noise and light from presenter's projector
on Jan 4, 2012 at 11:18:50 pm

I have a client who wants to capture and reapportion the content from presenters who give quarterly introductions to new hires. The intention: give the attendees homework so the presenters can spend more time with the meat of their presentations.

Great idea, but getting the presenters in a room outside of dark, shaded conference room in which they give their presentations is logistically impossible. And getting a patch from their PA system has proven sketchy at best.

During the last shoot I brought a mixer, four shotgun mics, and a noise gate to try to first reduce the room noise from the HVAC in the background. It created a worse situation with very noticeable (to me) crashing from when the noise gate engages and dis-engages: making the hiss of the HVAC that much more pronounced, essentially.

Question 1: should I instead go direct from the mixer -- forego the noise gate -- and try to filter that HVAC out in post?

As for the actual video: The only position I have to set up the primary camera is at an angle that -- when I open the aperture enough to get enough light in to be able to actually SEE the presenter -- creates rolling YGB bars in the image if I frame the shot too close to the A/V screen on which they're displaying the presenters slides.

Question 2: I tried 24p, 60i, 50i and many other settings on the fly to be able to even get some of the screen in frame on occasion if the presenter walked in front of it (yes, many other exposure issues then). Anyone have any bright ideas on how to deal with this? I'm using a Sony NX-5 camera.

Thanks in advance!!


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Chris Tompkins
Re: Shooting a conference room presentation: Overcoming HVAC room noise and light from presenter's projector
on Jan 5, 2012 at 3:07:44 pm

Not knowing all the details and logistics with this location and client all I can do is say what we would/do do:

Wireless Lav on the speaker, If there are 2 presenters, 2 wireless mics. If they change speakers, hand over the mics.

Clean audio into your camera.

With slides, you ride the iris. You expose for the speaker, follow them around, when they refer to the slide, pan over, iris down.
Repeat.

Chris Tompkins
Video Atlanta LLC


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Roderick Lavallee
Re: Shooting a conference room presentation: Overcoming HVAC room noise and light from presenter's projector
on Jan 5, 2012 at 3:43:14 pm

Figured as much.

The wireless lav scenario is what I know is ideal. Getting them to wear two, when I have no access to the output source, is what I was trying to get around. (Side note: if you know anything about it, they use a Polycom system for the A/V in the room, for which I went and purchased a Phoenix-plug to XLR adapter, and then the clients never unlocked the system closet into which I needed to patch: hence the shotgun mic scenario).

Riding the iris as well...and I thought riding the focus along with the zoom was a challenge. I guess that's why we get paid the big bucks... :-)

Thanks for the input!


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Chris Tompkins
Re: Shooting a conference room presentation: Overcoming HVAC room noise and light from presenter's projector
on Jan 5, 2012 at 3:56:09 pm

Sorry, I missed the point that they were already wearing a lav for the house audio. I have had people where mine in addition to the house as well b/4.

Ideally you want to plug into house sound and get a clean feed from that. Not always possible I know. More dialog up front I guess.

Chris Tompkins
Video Atlanta LLC


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Roderick Lavallee
Re: Shooting a conference room presentation: Overcoming HVAC room noise and light from presenter's projector
on Jan 5, 2012 at 4:19:45 pm

We thought we had access to the closet but the conference the presentations were a part of had it blocked from 7AM until 7PM the day before the shoot (that started at 7:30AM the next day), and of course the tech who had the key could not be available outside of the hours of 8:30 to 5.

Definitely requires more up-front discussion with the client to manage expectations (read: speakers wearing two lavs).


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Mark Suszko
Re: Shooting a conference room presentation: Overcoming HVAC room noise and light from presenter's projector
on Jan 5, 2012 at 4:14:19 pm

I've done hundreds of these over the years. Every venue has it's unique challenges.

I think a noise gate is not your best answer to the HVAC noise, rather, go with a Parametric Equalizer, which you can use in the field live, or apply in post. This enables you to isolate and minimize the specific frequency of the HVAC noise, wthout distorting much of the human vocal range.

Think about reversing the wireless lav thing: can you just have them wear yours, then run a second tap from your receiver to their PA system? Another approach that's kind of unprofessional-looking, but often quite satisfactory, is to mic the speaker system, when you can't get into the system cabinet for a hookup. Another thing: get your shotgun off the camera an onto a stand and get it up closer to the area where the presenters are. Finally, for audio stuff, you might want to check out Levelator; it's free.

Using all shotguns in this kind of room may not be the best choice, unless each one has a human operator aiming it. IF the speaker stays in a defined area, an omni or cardioid dynamic mic or condenser mic might be a better choice, or use the lav mic under a lapel or pointed at the floor, it will still pick up voice well, but reject more room noise.... I've also had good luck using PZM boundary mics placed on a flat surface like a desk or lectern. The shotguns may be picking up more ambient reflection off walls than you wanted, compared to the pickup pattern of a dynamic cardioid...


Onto the camera issues: this is a classic case where you really want to have two cameras, one that is locked off to frame and properly expose the screen, the other, the presenter. It might be that your second camera is one placed remotely , if you can't get your body and a tripod into the right spot. For some cases like this, I've brought along a consumer type DV camcorder which is very small and can be used with a tabletop tripod or a wall or door mount, for cut-aways and such, unattended. One neat trick for these is to make an adaptor for a mic stand that replaces the mic holder with a cheap dollar store tripod pan head and mounting bolt. Very unobtrusive and space-efficient means of backup camera placement, and you don't need to carry a second tripod, just the screw-on head adapter.

In addition to the two cameras, or in cases where you can't afford a second camera, you get a copy of the powerpoint slides and lay them in later, in post. You can play them full-screen, you can matte them over the top of the overexposed and illegible screen, you can create a 2-box picture-in-picture effect of the slide and the presenter. I always favor shooting mostly the person in these things, rather than the slides, because face it: the person is the component that can't be re-aquired later, the slides pretty much always can be gotten again later. Sometimes, I would get to the venue early, or stay late, and set the camera up right up close to the screen, and I'd just shoot ten seconds of each slide in perfect focus and exposure. Then I wouldn't have to worry about choosing between them and the speaker, later, during the actual presentation. The trickiest bit is when speakers stand right in front of their projections and do shadow puppetry or whatever, or play with laser pointers. Not that much you can do about it, except fix it in post.



You can even out the lighting, if the projection is strong, by hitting the speaker position with an independent, diffused, spot light, to get him a little brighter, and thus reduce the brightness ratio between projection and speaker. Or, you get in there ahead of time and tweak the projection settings and positioning. This will help you with iris management. So will the application of shades or barn doors to the projection system, where possible.


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Roderick Lavallee
Re: Shooting a conference room presentation: Overcoming HVAC room noise and light from presenter's projector
on Jan 5, 2012 at 4:37:22 pm

Great suggestions.

The shotguns I had were positioned all around the room, two very close to system speakers.

Great thought about the Parametric EQ. Doing that in post as it is, and will be getting the PowerPoint deck from the client in a few days to also do the layering.

Also had a smaller camcorder from a complimentary angle locked on the screen, which I'm able to use as B-roll, or an alternative angle to break up the monotony of the presentation.

Great minds? Or maybe I was just lucky.

BTW: the client never realized how loud an HVAC system was until I pointed it out to them in the head phones the night before as we were setting up the cameras / taping down the mic cables.


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Nick Griffin
Re: Shooting a conference room presentation: Overcoming HVAC room noise and light from presenter's projector
on Jan 5, 2012 at 6:14:51 pm

[Roderick Lavallee] "the client never realized how loud an HVAC system was until I pointed it out to them in the head phones"

They never do. Some of the best advice here is:

[Chris Tompkins] "More dialog up front."

This way the obstacles can become more of their problem to accept or fix rather than being seen as your mistake.


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Roderick Lavallee
Re: Shooting a conference room presentation: Overcoming HVAC room noise and light from presenter's projector
on Jan 5, 2012 at 7:09:33 pm

Very well said. Conversations have already begun in preparation for the next shoot in March.

Thanks to everyone.


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Steve Kownacki
Re: Shooting a conference room presentation: Overcoming HVAC room noise and light from presenter's projector
on Jan 6, 2012 at 12:18:30 am

I agree with all Mark's remarks. Bring in a light or 2 and put marks on the floor to keep the presenters where you want them - they'll still walk in front of the screen anyway.

How about finding out what frequency their mic is and simply tuning yours to that? One transmitter with multiple receivers is fine and we do it all the time. You'll need to do that ahead of time, not the day of the shoot and test, test, test.

Is the AC too noisy because of closed off vents? Make sure they are fully open to allow gentle flow. You may need to ask for the facilities guys for help.

It can become awkward to request these things of your client, but they are hiring a professional to make them look and sound their best. You are not Uncle Joe with a camera. By coordinating with them and showing how their personnel can look and sound their best you are offering a great value and show concern for them. If you can adjust the projector, see if you can change the color temp to 3200 or tape a clean piece of CTO gel in front of the lens to match your lights.

Have fun.

Steve






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Roderick Lavallee
Re: Shooting a conference room presentation: Overcoming HVAC room noise and light from presenter's projector
on Jan 6, 2012 at 2:26:30 pm

I think for the second recording series I may even bring in some low temp (physical temp, not light temp) LED spots to hit the speakers from the podium (a trick I noticed that CNBC uses on one of their round-table sit-down segments.)

Bottom line: communication with the client is paramount (isn't it always), and maybe I need to try to be less of a magician with the client and more of an educator. When they know what's necessary (from a high level at least) I'll get more access to what I need to make it look and sound the best.

Thanks to everyone on the thread!


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Steve Kownacki
Re: Shooting a conference room presentation: Overcoming HVAC room noise and light from presenter's projector
on Jan 6, 2012 at 12:21:19 am

On a side note Roderick, I have a question about the NX5. Can you contact me off-list steve at finalfocusproductions dot com.
Thanks!

Steve






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Jim Brown
Re: Shooting a conference room presentation: Overcoming HVAC room noise and light from presenter's projector
on Jan 6, 2012 at 2:35:26 pm

I don't know if you are doing any post production or not, but here is my "secret" for shooting this type of event. First try every way possible to use wireless lav. If you cannot then you must adjust in post. I use Final Cut Pro so I will describe how we do it.

Make certain to capture about 10 seconds of room noise. (No one speaking) Use it as a mask in Soundtract Pro to cancel that noise. If your air conditioning kicks on and off you will neeed a sample with the air off and one with the air on. That will help a lot,but never as good as not getting the noise on there in the first place.

Secondly on your lighting take a look at Presto from http://www.singularsoftware.com. You use two cameras. One to follow the speaker and another focused on the screen. (the screen camera can be a consumer type. does not have to be high quality). You then export the Power Point presentation to .jpg files. In Final Cut pro you lay the presenter on Track 1, the screen camera on track 2 and export it to Presto. You specify the location of the .jpg files. The software will then create a speaker mask with key frame locations, replace the shot powerpoint screen with high resolution jpgs that have a perspective angle on them and create a new sequence in your FCP project that is just awesome. Look at the examples on the web page. It is just as good as the examples.

Hope this helps

Jim Brown
M&M ProductionsUSA


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Roderick Lavallee
Re: Shooting a conference room presentation: Overcoming HVAC room noise and light from presenter's projector
on Jan 6, 2012 at 3:09:36 pm

Thanks, Jim,

I take care of a LOT in post: particularly with this client. Been exporting PPT files into JPGs forever. I used Premiere Pro CS5, and am able to do what you described without having to use any plug-ins or other tools. (There are lighting effects that I can use within PPro, but as anyone knows the final cut always looks better the less you have to do in post, unless you have a $150k editing deck and tons of CGI skills, and that's not me.)

Great call on the sample the room noise, however. I'll use that trick in order to sample the baseline Noise Floor for when I edit the audio in post (I use Adobe Audition CS5.5 for that, which integrates seamlessly with PPro.)


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Bill Davis
Re: Shooting a conference room presentation: Overcoming HVAC room noise and light from presenter's projector
on Jan 13, 2012 at 6:08:44 pm

Regarding specifically "overcoming light from the presenters projector" ...

There are typically two sources of that.

The easy one to control is any spill coming from the projector housing itself, if any. Build yourself a simple foamcore "box" to position around the projector. Takes 5 minutes with a sharp blade and a roll or gaffers tape in addition to the foam core.

As to screen light, it's a tougher issue. Obviously the audience can't see the projection if it's not emitting light back to the audience.

So one solution is to use a podium or lectern to "force" the presenter into a fixes position and light them there. Some will comply, some have a personal style preference or even a pathological need to "wander" while presenting - including standing IN the light of the projection at various times.

When faced with that, just do the best you can. Having rapid and easy control of your camera iris helps a bit.

Good luck.

"Before speaking out ask yourself whether your words are true, whether they are respectful and whether they are needed in our civil discussions."-Justice O'Connor


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Roderick Lavallee
Re: Shooting a conference room presentation: Overcoming HVAC room noise and light from presenter's projector
on Jan 13, 2012 at 7:18:51 pm

Great call on the box. Always have a blade and gaff-tape on hand as it is, and in thinking about it, that is what surprised me about this projector: how much bleed there was from it.

And what was most odd about the effect it created was the rolling RGB bar effect in the entire frame of the shot if I got too close to the screen, even when I closed the iris to compensate (which as you know is problematic for the quality of the rest of the shot).

Oh the headaches you create for yourself when you tell the client you will be as unobtrusive as possible. The threshold of "possible" is about to change. :-)


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