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How to Tape a High School Play (Well)

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Hey all-
All through my years in High School, I was really involved with the drama program, specifically with crew. Started in construction, moved to running, then to lighting, and now that I've graduated, I was pulled back to help out with lighting and multimedia, since I was really the main guy for all of that when I was there (although I learned it all from a German wizard...).
This year, the Fall Play production was The Crucible, by Arthur Miller, and since I am a film student, I was also tasked with taping the show for DVD. We've had professional companies come in and tape shows before, but usually just the Spring Musical, since that pulls in more moolah.
Anyway, Here is the setup I used, and I submit this for your consideration, in the hopes that you may glean some useful information from it.
 
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Step 1: Equipment: Intro

I'm not going to make a list of "what you need", since it's entirely circumstantial, and you probably won't have access to what you 'need' (I know I don't.), instead, I'll list what I gathered and how it was arranged in the best way possible.
In addition to your physical equipment, you'll also need to have the basic knowledge required to run the cameras, and optionally, know something about "mise-en-scene" (it's french, don't worry.), which basically means knowing what is visually appealing to the audience (smooth panning, rule of thirds, etc. google it.).
You also may (probably will) need a second or third camera operator, depending on what your setup is.
amckellar3 years ago
When groups buy the performance rights for a play it doesn't include the right to videotape the performance so you are most likely violating copyright even if you don't sell the DVD. You can't even videotape for purposes of archiving without violating copyright.
junits153 years ago
woo new england!
Theatrefolk5 years ago
I think it's very important to have clear permission from the author and/or publisher to videotape a performance. Video rights are almost never included in the royalties/performance rights and the school can be held liable for some serious penalties under copyright law. It doesn't matter if you're selling the tapes or not. We've just started to offer videotape licenses for some of our plays, but most publishers are very tight on video permission.
fultron89 (author)  Theatrefolk3 years ago
I would say that is up to the drama department heads, not to the lowly student tasked with actually doing the dirty work. I have no specific knowledge on whether The Crucible is under copyright in that fashion any more, but I do know that it's been a year and a half and no one's in jail.
Here's a helpful article on this topic: firemark.com/2010/05/05/aa_filming_plays/
Nice job! I hope their production was far better than reading the play in english class was for me.
fultron89 (author)  Weissensteinburg3 years ago
riiight
*tugs collar....
askj1135 years ago
Would you happen to go to Lowell?
fultron89 (author)  askj1135 years ago
no, Wheat Ridge. And "went".
Ah, well. That's funny because my school's fall play was the Crucible and our auditorium looks just like yours. Although I suppose they all look pretty similar
mweston5 years ago
Hi fultron, our school did the Crucible two years ago, I am a freshman now so I wasn't in it. Though I did help with sound and DV during the performances. This was a challenging play with many scenes (sat least our's was) and it helps to have 3 or four cameras with crew to follow actors. This gives you a lot of room for angles and such to choose from... Anyway good instructible.
e4g1e5 years ago
Really nice i like it :] -e4g1e
westfw5 years ago
So how do you sync up audio video from the two cameras during editing (you're not working with a live video mixer, right?) Will FCP match up the (not identical) audio tracks for you? Ideally, I'd like to sync up video from multiple amateur-class cameras.

See also http://www.instructables.com/id/How-to-Videotape-the-School-Play-or-Concert/
which is the amateur version (about 1/20th the equipment budget?) but has some tips on the actual photography that apply to better equipment as well.

I've wondered about putting cameras up on the lighting mounts; doesn't it look a bit weird from the odd position?

Can your cameras record to tape and output to firewire at the same time? Backups, you know...
fultron89 (author)  westfw5 years ago
You don't have to sync audio. With my setup, there's only one camera actually recording audio. So editing is easy. You just use the one camera's audio track, and sync the video of the other camera to it. You could mount cameras in the electrics or catwalks (where the lights are), but the top-down angle would block off most facial expressions, and it's easier to have all your equipment consolidated in the back, where the audience won;t be distracted by your moving around/snoring. And yes, you can record to tape as well, but that defeats the whole purpose of using a computer in the first place. I personally wasn't sure I had enough tape for two cameras, so the iMac option was my best bet.
How far off can your audio/video sync be off and not look like some badly dubbed monster movie? I guess you lucked out by having the audio being recorded on the camera that was doing closeups, right?
fultron89 (author)  westfw5 years ago
Audio is only being recorded through one camera, so editing is simple. Use the audio from that camera, and discard the other's.
sound915 years ago
Wouldn't it be better to have two to three cameras with a video mixer so that the angles are more interesting for the viewer?
fultron89 (author)  sound915 years ago
Yes, obviously. Thank you.
thebboy5 years ago
good instructable. 5/5
hearsehats5 years ago
Interesting read, with good explanations. Also brought back old memories of being an A/V nerd, and spending countless hours watching bad highschool acting.
Nice, I have a few things to add from my experience. One, you might want to talk a little bit about the legal aspect. If you are selling the dvds you have to make sure that you have paid proper royalties to the appropriate people , not only for script/score but for video taping it. Also, when I am Stage managing I ask anyone that will be operating the camera to see the show at least 3 times before shooting (maybe 2 rehearsals and a show) so they are familiar with the show. Then I run through the script with the operators and go line by line telling them where I want them to be filming. Another aspect with audio is the use of a pit orchestra. In the theater I work in they aren't mic-ed so I like to set up auxiliary mics to capture them if at all possible. Thats all that comes to mind at the moment. Great Instructable! 5 stars! Thanks, Joe
fultron89 (author)  joejoerowley5 years ago
Aha, you speak truly. We tend to be fairly loose on legal stuff, while at the same time being as professional as we can, so I'll add something at the end there, don't ya know. Thanks for reading!
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