Iso Is As ISO Does
on June 12, 2022
Pardon the equipment-less nature of this post - I'm stuck at home mid-way through a Covid isolation period.
I'm not sick* and the victim isn't very sick herself ( thank goodness ) but we're playing the game right and sticking to the house. I can't even go to the studio and take toy airplane pictures. But it does give a period for reflection on recent events.
a. I shot a dance show a couple of days before the iso started. Masked, as it happens, and I'm glad of that. And it went very well.
The venue was the Freo Town Hall, but the wonderful mezzanine of the main hall was out of action - apparently the railing or something is unsafe, and it's locked up. One hopes that they can repair it - as a shooting position for stage shows it seemed ideal. The Victoria Hall just up the road also has a mezzanine and I can't praise it enough.
But one thing about public halls - they can sometimes be very short on stage lighting. Not just short on lights, short on control. Many places have one set of lights that come on with no change possible - and sometimes the pattern of the illumination does nothing whatsoever for the performers - and less for the photographers who try to record the scene.
Don't be discouraged - there are professional theatres in the metro area with full lighting arrays and technicians who know how to control them. The best ones are very good indeed and you can be surprised how effectively the professional lighting tech can work with a stage producer - even in a small suburban theatre.
The bugbear of some places can be the colour - several halls around Perth are lit by burning pine pitch torches and have the colour temperature of warm liver. If you depend upon an automatic white balance you may get an equally automatic surprise. Getting an opportunity to take a custom white balance is always a good thing, but you have to arrive at the venue when they are showing the lights. I always ask if I can see a lighting rehearsal to nail it.
Of course, even white balance can go out the theatre window when the gels come on - but if that is part of the show, that is what you see. If you're flashing the stage, you can sometimes influence what the final image will look like - but you may also infuriate the audience. With video, you either supply a steady illumination with your own lights or take what they dole out.
b. Video is a dark cave full of bears. You only know if they are awake when you see the eyes. And when you see the eyes, the eyes see you...
I fell afoul of frame rates and illumination flicker on my first encounter with the projected backdrop at a suburban theatre. Looking at the footage is painful. My second encounter with this sort of backdrop was better as I had time and a chance to alter the frame rate to something that did not flicker. Pure luck saved me, but I knew it would not do so every time....so I undertook a day of studio tests to determine which frame rates, resolution, and shutter speed would keep things safe. A dancer and I went through every setting on my camera with 30-second reels to weed out the duds. I've now got a series of video cards I can consult from that cover theatre shows, outdoors, studio, and interiors, and I can shoot from them confidently. The weekend Freo shoot was done off the theatre card and proved to be fine.
Moral: Read other people's advice, watch YouTube, and then do your own tests with your own equipment in your own circumstances. Don't be a person who never shoots anything but tests, but at least work up your own abilities with your own gear.
c. Wait for the deer to appear.
People who saw Daniel Day Lewis in " The Last Of The Mohicans " chase a deer through the woods to down it with a flintlock rifle saw bulldust. You don't get venison that way, particularly with a muzzle-loader. You wait patiently until your dinner presents itself for assassination; you move very little and very slowly. You get one chance...
The same with video. Wildly waving the camera on the fluid head is fun, but not for the audience. Hoping to get rock-steady shots from a hand-held rig is the sort of thing the advertisers of gimbals and other gear would like you to think, but your best friend is still a good, big video tripod - preferably one made of rock. I use a Manfrotto example, and even though it is not the biggest or newest of their range, it is 101% better than trying to hand hold the camera.
The fluid part of the head is what everyone tries out, but what you really want control of is the locks. If you can halt the horizontal and vertical movements with no vibration of the head, you can arrive at a framing point and stop smoothly. If you can release them to move onwards equally smoothly, the whole thing looks much more professional. Pay attention to where your fingers have to be when you are filming, and get a head that lets you use them without strain.
* This post was written prematurely.
Here I sit, a'plagued I fear, a swab before my nose
The RAT is red, my goose is cooked, the two lines now it shows
So now the time extends a bit, the family eats apart
I write my posts and build my planes and wait for news to start.
I've missed the big shop celebration
I'll miss for many a day
I'll have to be content to sit
And cut and glue and stay.