I just shot video for 2 events in the past 2 weeks. One event was a three-day conference, the other was an evening fundraising event. Both events wanted videos to produce a “sizzle” reel - a fast-paced, stylish, fun video to promote the event next year and showcase what a blast everyone had at the event this year – very smart and great marketing. Here are a few tips and tricks I learned from shooting different events that may help you the next time you’re asked to videotape a live event (note* weddings are not included because they are a different beast - and a future blog)
1. When the client is organized, you are organized. My client held an orientation meeting with me a week before the conference. I was given a thorough description of the conference, their expectations for me, a schedule of events, interview list and specific shot list for each day. Questions were answered and I walked into the conference armed and ready. Good pre-production allows you to be organized, prepared and focused on your work – not running around trying to find the client who has no time for you during the event – do what you can to be prepared.
2. Be Portable. There’s a time and place for extensive light kits, pocket dolly, and potable jibs – conference shooting is not one of them. Crowds, extensive breakout sessions, and constant running around make carrying a ton of gear exhausting and hindering. I use my rig for most of the shooting and make sure I have my tripod set up and ready at least 10-15 minutes before the Keynote speakers – you don’t want to be holding a rig steady for 10-20 minutes while the keynote speaker delivers a speech – have it in the room ahead of time ready to go. An oversized fanny pack can tote your lenses and audio, and my zoom audio recorder, light, and LCD screen were already mounted on the rig.
3. Vary the shots: Getting the shots on the list provided is one thing – getting a great variety of these shots for editors to choose from is another. Being a DSLR shooter, it’s crucial for me to have a wide angle lens, such as a 16-35mm, or a 24-70mm, and either a zoom telephoto like the 70-200mm or a prime lens like the 50mm. Shoot your wide shots – static, pans, whip zoom etc, then throw on your telephoto and get all your close-ups – static, rack focus, tilt – whatever you want. But what if you’re shooting a group of people talking and you know you won’t have time for that? A good all around zoom or your 50mm will be your best best. I would get as close in as I can with the 24-700mm (without sticking the camera in their face and being obnoxious) or stick with the 50mm prime that plays nicely with focus and depth interchangeably. The objective is to get at least 5 varieties of the shot listed so your editor (or you) will have lots to choose from. Make sure each shot is at least 10 seconds long.
4. Work with the light you are given: You will not be able to carry around a light kit. Portable LCD lights are great for spot interviews, but placing someone alongside a window, under a nice tungsten flood light, or even outside if possible, are all great options. Constantly look at where your light source is coming from and adjust your white balance as needed. I adjust the kelvin temp on my DSLR to have a little more control over the light temp and warm it up or cool it down if I like. Of course 2.8f Canon L-series lenses don’t hurt either – every dollar spent on those lower f-stops is worth it when it comes to preserving the image quality of your video. Conference halls are notoriously dark and many times I have to get in as close as allowed to the speaker – I have no quarms about also going behind the speaker onstage - stay pretty much backstage and don’t get in their way and it’ll be fine. Noise will be reduced and you’ll get another great shot of the speaker with the audience listening.
5. Check in with someone at beginning, middle, and end of day: Establish during your pre-production meeting who your contact person will be during the event and get their cell number. I like to check in when I arrive to a) cover my own tracks so that there’s no question I arrived on time and b) make sure everything is still on target for the day. Same goes for lunch and end of day. If any questions or problems arise during the event- a quick text to your contact person will sort things out. Keep check-ins very quick and professional.
6. Back up, back up, back up – I’ve learnt the hard way to carry an army of back up supplies at events where i’ll be shooting alot. Battery charger, laptop computer, portable external hard drive (I love the Lacie Rugged), and card reader – can help you transfer and back up video while you eat lunch. The stress of running out of compact flash cards or battery power is gone and you can shoot to your heart’s content!