how to learn?: record your IMAG mixes.

it sounds a bit narcissistic but a good way to learn how to get better at doing video mixing is to record your own mixes to tape or via a fixed DV cam, and watch them back later. Here are some suggestions on how to get the best out of it….

It’s pretty certain that the person who will be most obsessed with every detail of how you did in mixing a live gig is you. During the gig you are usually too caught up in the mechanics to really assess how it is going, so having the chance afterwards to review what you did is very useful.

Also you can’t always trust others to really notice the things that make a difference. People saying ‘it was really nice’ isn’t what we are after here.

There are two basic ways to record your mix, each of which has advantages and disadvantages:

1. Record the mixer output to tape or computer

This doesn’t have to be anything fancy – just a VHS VCR hooked across the video mixer outputs is fine (in fact there is a good arguement for NOT making a high quality recording – as it prevents temptations to bootleg a tape of the show!). Whatever format you choose, pick one that lets you record the whole show on one tape. You don’t want to have to remember to swap tapes in the middle of a gig. Also try really hard to get an audio feed to record with the video, as watching two hours of only video from a gig is REALLY boring regardless of how motivated you are. This will usually require a balanced audio feed from the PA desk at front of house, so make sure your audio guys know that you want this and plan it into their cable plans. You will need some way of converting the balanced feed on XLR cables into unbalanced phono inputs to go to most VCRs.

The advantage of this method is that you get a good look at critical focus, lighting etc as the cameras actually captured it. The disadvantage is that since you weren’t actually doing a recording of the event, but doing IMAG, you may get a skewed idea of how it all looked to an actual punter sitting in the audience.

It is likely, for example that there will be no wide shots and you will never see the screens in shot (if your campos are doing their jobs properly).That leads us to the second method…

2. Record the show on a static camcorder at front of house

Another very useful technique is to set up a dv cam at the back or at FOH on a locked off show of the whole stage INCLUDING the screens. This gives a better idea of how your IMAG or playback fits in to the whole show. This can be very helpful to know what shots work or what ones are just distracting. A bonus of this method is that you can usually get a passable reference sound from the onboard camera mics without having to worry about audio feeds. The disadvantage is that you may need someone to be available to swap tapes, and you also have to watch for people standing in front of the camera etc You may also feel that you can’t sacrifice a perfectly good camera to this job, when it could be giving you an extra IMAG source on stage!!

Either way it’s important to get an objective assessment of how your mixing skills are improving and this is a handy way to learn.

Finally remember if an audience member asks the question “are you recording this gig?” the answer is ALWAYS “I’m sorry – no recording will be available for this gig!”

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