Lights, Camera, Action


I put a lot of pressure on myself when Daniel has a singing performance.  When I was in school, it seemed like we had concerts all the time.  I think we averaged two a year.  His class performance of Counting Our Blessings was only Daniel’s second one, period.  The first one had been a technical disaster; it took me many hours to restore some of the songs and mix the music.  This time, I started early in the week; planning out my strategy to make sure every possible, potential issue was addressed.

The video was critical.  I planned to have two camcorders going at the same time.  It would allow me to have two different angles of the same action so if someone got up and walked in front of one camera or the other, I’d be able to edit around them.  I bought my main camcorder right before Daniel was born.  It can take widescreen video at the cost of turning off the stability functions.  No problem.  I planned to take a tripod with me to keep the picture rock steady.  I had a second tripod for my high definition camcorder in the back of the auditorium.  I would take a wide shot of the entire stage, and – because it was HD – I could use software to zoom in and pan around the action without losing too much clarity.

Capturing good audio is just as critical as getting the video right.  My first camcorder’s stereo microphone would pick up the “wild” sound; crowd noise and the ambience of the room we were in.  As a backup, I had a portable MP3 recorder also recording.  My other camcorder had a long “shotgun” microphone aimed at the stage.  I wasn’t sure what the setup would be, but the last time Daniel’s class was at the high school, they used a mixing board.  I threw a long XLR cable that would allow me to plug in directly to their sound system.

We arrived about twenty minutes early.  I had everything neatly packed into a single backpack.  The floor on the sides of the auditorium slants upwards towards the “cheap seats”.  One side had a flat platform, but I assumed that Daniel would be on the other side (Murphy’s Law).  I set up on the slant, but I had a bubble level attached to the tripod to make sure the camera was on an even keel.  I set up my high definition camcorder on its tripod and attached the audio module.  I aligned the shotgun microphone and located a patch panel from the auditorium’s PA system.  The whole thing took five minutes to arrange and I breathed one small sigh of relief.  I flipped on the camcorders to start taping and… nothing.  The battery on the HD camera had apparently decided to die somewhere along the five minute trip to the high school from our house.

While I hadn’t exactly planned for this contingency, luckily I had a “backup parent” with me.  After a small amount of pleading, Meka drove home and brought back the AC adapter.  I untangled the cords in the dark, located an outlet and plugged it in.  The camera came to life as the kids were climbing onto the risers for the first song.

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