joreth: (Super Tech)
I did a thing!

Some of the videos I have directed are now up online!  One of my favorites is this intermission music performance by Shelley Segal: https://vimeo.com/183400692:


This is kind of a big deal to me, but the explanation for why is kinda long so I will explain why its kind of a big deal next.  If you just want to see some of my work as a Technical Director / Camera Switcher, visit http://video.skeptrack.org/ and check out the sessions from 2014-2016.  I can't remember for sure which videos are the ones I directed in 2014 and 2015 because the producer was letting everyone try their hand at it so we could provide relief for each other and when I wasn't switching, I was running camera, but I did the majority of them.   I know for sure that I did the Meyers-Briggs panel in 2014.  For 2016, I directed all of them except LeighAnn Lord's comedy show "Unsupervised" and "More About The Skeptics Guide to the Universe", so if you want to see examples of some of my work, there it is.

I used to work for a TV studio in California, but when I moved to Florida, I couldn't find any work in broadcast.  So I went back to my roots and worked for live events.  The companies that I could find work for were mostly labor companies who didn't offer any high level technical positions.  By the time I worked my way up in the ranks to finally catch the attention of some production companies who *do* have operator positions, I had been away from the switcher for so long that I no longer felt comfortable selling myself as a "TD" or "Camera Switcher".  Plus, since I worked in a studio, and it as so long ago, I didn't know the specific brands or models of equipment that was being used in live events (even though they all do the same job, they just have their own way of doing it).

But, since DragonCon started out as a volunteer position, no one really cared if I screwed up, so the guy who owned and donated all the equipment for the show sat me down in his chair and asked me to show him what I could do.  So I did.  And he has insisted that I return every year since.

The entire crew is volunteer and, other than myself and the owner of the equipment, no one has any actual pro A/V experience (although one of our camera operators is at least a professional photographer) and no one is really obligated to be there so we don't always have a full crew to run all the equipment.  Therefore, we try to make things as simple as possible, which includes arranging things so that we can get away with no camera operators at all if we have to.  In fact, one person can run the lights, video switching, graphics, lower thirds, and audio if absolutely necessary, but probably not very well unless it's only one or two speakers and nothing goes wrong.  I usually leave the lights (on and off - one look) and leave the audio to others and I switch between 4 cameras and the presenter's slideshow, operate the lower thirds, speaker timer, record decks, and the remote control Q&A audience microphone all myself.

So that is my situation when I get behind the console.

This year, we had a special treat that brought me back to my broadcast roots.  My first actual paid gig was to run a handheld camera for a live band that we had in the studio.  I have been in love with that position ever since.  This year at DC, A musician was asked to perform in the intermissions between sessions, so I got to dust off my rusty old music video skills and try switching for a live musical performance!

The catch with this is that, because it was in the break between sessions, I had no, repeat that *no* camera operators at all.

Our setup is one stationary camera set to a whole stage wide shot from behind me at Front Of House, 2 cameras on tripods at approximately 45 degree angles to the stage, and one remote contol camera mounted to the ground-supported truss structure on the stage.  The RC camera is supposed to be aimed at the Question & Answer microphone out in the audience, so we can record the audience members asking the various presenters questions.  But, since I was responsible for operating the RC camera as well as switching, I started playing around with it and discovered that its range allowed me to spin around and capture some interesting angles on the stage as well.

When I found out that the musician would be playing, I hopped down from behind my console, ran to each of the two cameras to pre-set them in what I hoped would be decent shots to capture whatever action the musicians did on stage (no rehearsal, mind you), ran back to my console, spun the RC camera around, and started switching between the three (the wide shot camera didn't have a good shot because of where the musicans chose to play on the stage so I just never used it for the musical interludes).

So, that's why there aren't all that many different shots - I didn't have any camera operators to move the cameras and the RC camera had a limited range of motion from its stationary position attached to the truss.  But it did have about 3 or so decent shots from that position, and I used its auto-focus deliberately to get the sort of soft focus pulls that I might have done by hand when I run a hand-held camera on stage.

Given my limitations with lack of crew and camera movement, and my lack of practice switching (seeing as how this is the only show every year that gives me the chance), I'm quite pleased with how the musical interludes turned out.  Check them out, and remember that the Skeptrack website will continue to add more videos as the producer finishes editing them.

BTW, if you need some A/V gear or engineering done in Atlanta, I highly recommend contacting Abrupt Media.

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