Many steps go into producing a three and four camera live show. The first part, of course, is to get the best sound and video you can in the setting. This can be a challenge in some locations, even with a stage and lighting. The biggest challenge I’ve found is the spot light and getting all the cameras adjusted for the changing lighting. It takes quite a bit of monitoring and riding the controls of the camera to get good exposure.
I spent many years in my earlier career working on the movie sets with the camera department and with a Director of Photography and Gaffer. This was the ideal setting for a shoot as everything was a group effort, with controlled lighting, rehearsal with camera and actors, and most of all continuity. This is what I enjoyed the most because even though the movie work has high pressure and things that can go wrong, one can always line everything back up and reshoot. Even with the live shows I did at Warner Bros. we had many days of rehearsal before shooting the live show.
I’ve been really working hard at trying to get my material of my own productions to be a good quality, without the luxury of the expensive equipment, the team of crew and the continuity, and I have to say it has been a real learning experience. I have improved my equipment to three matching HD Canon digital cameras for this last production and added a separate field recorder for sound which enabled me to take sound from the sound booth. I also added a specialty condenser microphone which helps with sound booth mic failure.
It doesn’t end there, the work continues in the editing room, and it is rather lengthy. I line up the cameras, and send the work to another sound mixing program for my partner to sync the cameras to the booth and ambient recordings. I then start cutting from one camera to the next, trying to have the camera shot that best shows the faces of the actors with dialog. Closeups are great but also not as good as the movie work, in that the continuity is not there on the live stage. Shooting the closeups has to happen the same time as the rest of the production, dropping the closeups in from another day has different sound even with the same set up, since the actors, wardrobe, and reactions result with different timing and continuity. Many do not realize that a handkerchief being in a different pocket or even worse – a different shade of blue will be very obvious on camera! I try my best to get closeups on the same day, otherwise it is hell to edit.
After my edit I send the material for a last sweetening of the audio, then it’s exporting the project to a DVD authoring program. Last year I had been using a simply consumer program before Apple decide to discontinue it and had to upgrade to another authoring program.
This has been a blessing in disguise since I now have more menu choices and graphics. I have been using the Adobe Creative Suites, which is great to have all the Adobe software, and I use at least four out of the ten or more programs. They aren’t perfect though, as I discovered Adobe started un-supporting their DVD authoring program right after I started using it. Ugh… the learning curve again. I was able to use the Adobe Encore (the DVD authoring that they suddenly did not support) by exporting it from CC as a timeline and then importing it to Encore CS6. Then I can build a menu to have a title of the project and date, and buttons that will lead either to the different acts, which can be over and hour each or chapters that one can pick to watch.
The waste of burning DVD’s that were incompatible to every DVD player is something many people do not understand. The trick is to get the DVD to work in a computer, a game console like PlayStation or X-box, newer and older DVD players. We keep a DVD player that is over 10 years old just for this purpose. I can also say that we have went through 5 other older DVD players and trying to find another one should this go out will be difficult. Once I nave a multi-player compatible master, the duplication can finally begin. Each disc takes 10-15 minutes to burn so while that is going on, I’m usually creating a DVD cover in Photoshop and designing the label to be printed on the disc. I package everything and call my clients that ordered and arrange for pick up. Another item on the list is a dubbing machine!
I charge $20 per DVD most of which is eaten up by waste, DVD’s and DVD cases, printing and ink. The work is for the love of it and it’s what I know best. I can’t say that I really get compensated for the many hours I spend shooting and editing on live shows, but I have really enjoyed doing the work, because I’m inspired by the theater. The jobs that are more lucrative would be small commercials and sometimes short events, weddings, etc., that only require one or two cameras with the client providing me an idea of what they want. I’ve had many years of working this business of my own, with very little capital. I am happy that my work and reputation are building each year which will enables me to purchase higher end equipment and software to produce a better product each time.