Pete Roythorne gets to grips with filming using multiple digital video cameras.
Even if you've mastered using a digital video camera, there can still be a feeling of disappointment when you film a school play.
Positioning your camera at the back of the hall to catch all the action does exactly that - capture all the action, from parents coughing and siblings fidgeting, to people moving around at the side of the stage. So what's the answer? Use more than one camera.
Multi-camera work is within the reach of most schools. Many already have more than one digital video camera, and the most you will need for really big shows is four. You do need a powerful computer, however, but you only need one - a typical specification would be a 3.4GHz Pentium 4 processor with a powerful graphics card, 1Gb of memory, a 200Gb hard drive and a DVD burner. On top of this, you'll need a copy of Pinnacle Liquid Edition editing software.
Of course, first time round you may need some help, which is what Great Kingshill School in High Wycombe had from former BBC producer Hendrik Ball of Digitalsavvy. But they soon found they were able to take the process on board and move forward with it.
Hendrik explains some of things to look out for. "It's important to ensure that the sound is as good as possible. Try not to use the built-in microphone on your DV camera, as these not only tend to be low quality, but also pick up 'handling noise' as you use the camera," he says. "A good quality external 'gun' microphone would be the Sennheiser MKE300D, or, for those on a tighter budget, consider the Audio Technica ATR25."
Lighting is another important factor. "Some DV cameras struggle in very low light conditions," says Hendrik. "So make sure there is as much illumination on the performers as possible. Either use artificial light, or make sure there is at least some daylight."
Finally, the multi-camera editing process is different to normal video editing. It involves synchronising or "fusing" shots from different camera angles. Once this is done, you can choose which camera angle you want. The synchronising can take a little while to get sorted out, but the editing itself is quite fast.
Multi-camera filming is not just about producing a much more professional-looking recording, it can also be about including the whole year. By including a filming and editing element, you're expanding the field of involvement, particularly by giving older children the chance to be camera operators.
So why not bring filming your school's show into the 21st century.
Pinnacle Systems www.pinnaclesys.com
Audio Technica www.audio-technica.com