Easy way to work out how close your FOH cameras have to be..measure it!

One of the eternal questions for VLOBLIVE video is how close do the FOH cameras need to be to get good shots. The answer, of course, is …it depends..read more for details.

Camera positioning can make or break your IMAG at a VLOBLIVE gig, and one of the key issues is how to get good closeup shots from front of house (FOH), i.e. out in the audience. You want a camera out front because that is where the talent will be looking, and to engage with the audience they have to look INTO the camera.

So… how far away can you cope with?

Well, it depends on a number of factors and it can be quite hard to compare because:

Just knowing the focal length doesn’t tell you. A 105mm focal length may seem like a lot but it is different on a 1/5 inch CCD on a DV cam from a 2/3 inch CCD on a pro studio cam.

Just knowing the zoom range alone doesn’t tell you. You can have a big zoom range e.g. 20x, but of course if it starts at extra super wide, it won’t get that far towards telephoto at the other end. Also, many consumer DV cams boast fantastic zoom ranges, but they are including the horrible ‘DIGITAL’ zoom in that, which throws away pixel info and should NEVER be used in an IMAG setting.

You CAN work it all out mathematically, but, to be honest, life is too short to explain that one in detail, so I suggest a more empirical approach.

Sometime, when you are not so busy (like NOT at a gig??) set up your camera in a large enough space, e.g. outside, and try it.

All you need is a measuring tape, the camera, and a willing volunteer.

Get your willing volunteer to gradually move away from the camera while you frame up a nice tight head and shoulders shot on them. I mean tight here – the top of their head should be at the top of frame, and the edges of their shoulders should be just about to go out of shot. This is the least-close-closeup you can really get away with on an IMAG gig. If you can’t get this shot from FOH you are going to struggle to convey the emotional intensity of the gig.

Of course you will have to keep zooming in as your volunteer moves away, and eventually you will run out of zoom range. Tell the person to stay there, and then measure the distance from the camera to them. That’s it. That’s your furthest-away-this-camera-can-ever-be distance. Yes, of course you CAN go further away, if you absolutely have to, but you will miss out on this key shot, unless you can get it some other way.

Once you build up a list of all these FATCCEB distances, you can plan where to put your cameras long before you get to the gig.

Finally, a word about tele-converters. They suck, mostly.

You may be tempted to whack a 2x or 4x (or more!) teleconverter on the front of a DV cam and revel in the monster you have just created, but, unless you have paid serious money for the teleconverter the results will be…well… pants actually. Softened image, darkened corners, failure to autofocus, screwed up colours etc. – these are all symptoms of cheapo teleconverters

My advice is buy very very carefully, and stick to 1.5x for screw on types.

Pro lenses with built in 2x converters generally work OK, but you still lose some sharpness and some light. You may end up with two FATCCEB distances for these cameras. One with the 2x in and one with it out.

OK – that’s it. Just do it.


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