Tips to consider when using static cameras for IMAG

Static cameras, i.e. cameras set up on a single fixed shot may seem like an attractive option if you have more cameras than you have operators. They can be very useful, but they have their drawbacks, some of which are outlined here…

It’s ironic that in most VLOBLIVE gigs it’s actually easier these days to get good cameras than it is to get good operators who can use them well for IMAG. Lots of folk have perfectly decent miniDV cameras that they use for filming their offspring or whatever most of the time, but which can be pressed into service at VLOBLIVE gigs. But what if you don’t have anyone to operate them? Or what if you want to get a shot that would be impossible for a person to get, either because it’s from a position where they couldn’t stand onstage, or it’s too close to a performer to be safe.

In this case using a ‘static’ camera, i.e. a camera locked off on a single shot is definitely an option, but be aware of some issues that can trip you up with this kind of use.

1. Don’t overuse static shots – they get very boring very quickly, and as soon as the audience have worked out how you got the shot, the next time they see it they will think “oh yeah, THAT camera again”. Don’t worry if you only use the shot two or three times during the whole event. The temptation is to think “I’ve got this shot so I better use it”. Like all good IMAG, the audience should understand WHY they are seeing this shot, not just coz you got bored.

2. Be careful about framing – it is VERY easy to line up a shot in rehersal or soundcheck and then for the performer to step out of shot and you have no way to tell them to step back in! This is why static shots work best for static performers. Keyboard players, drummers and percussionists are among the best candidates.

3. Be careful about focus – it is nearly always best to put a static cam in fixed focus, as the danger or focus hunting with auto-focus is very high.

4. Keep the static shot for when there’s something worth seeing – this will require some preparation, but if you know there’s a keyboard flourish or a drum fill coming and you cut to it just in time it can be very effective.

5. Don’t forget to light them well – the static shot is a good case for using specific video lighting, just for that shot, as you know what needs to be lit. An on-camera light is a good option to fill in the shadows but try to diffuse it a bit if you can.

6. Consider buying a pan-tilt head with remote control to give you some framing options. You can get ones like this one that work with any small camera. Even if you don’t have a pan tilt head, consider getting someone (one of the other camops) to re-position the static camera, say at the interval, to give at least two different framing and positioning options.

7. Consider using the camera remote control to control zooming remotely. You may need to get clever with where you put the camera to allow the remote to still work, or you may want to invest in a Lan-C wired remote.

8. finally consider only using static cams for shots that are impossible for a manned camera, rather than one that could be a manned cam. This will give a motivation for using them and will make the shot more interesting for longer through the event.

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