In this article, I would like to communicate some tips and techniques to help you get great live speaking footage every time.
Introduction to the producer or director
The first thing you must do is meet your producer or director. Who is in charge of the video portion of your event? One way to meet this person is to ask your meeting planner for an introduction. Another is to call the facility where you will be speaking and ask them to introduce you. Either way, meeting the producer or director of your event is the first step in getting great footage.
You want to begin by thanking them for meeting with you. Tell them you are glad to have their professionalism for your video recording. Tell them your main purpose speaking to this group is to give their audience the best information and value about your expertise.
Tell them that you understand it is crucial that your wish for a perfect video recording does not interfere with the live audience.
Live Video recording
Assure them that you are comfortable if they have to stop you for an unexpected reason if something should go wrong with the sound or video. Let them know how important it for you to have footage of this speaking engagement. Ask them for their suggestions, but remember, they are busy like everyone else. Don’t talk their ear off. Rather, earn their respect. They are like the chief in the kitchen preparing your food.
Keep in mind as professionals, they charge for their services accordingly. Ask them in advance about any fees associated with you getting a clone of the digital video footage they will be recording. Ask that they do everything possible to make the footage they record first class.
If at all possible, rehearse before you go on either the day of or the night before. This includes checking the lighting for even, consistent lighting; wireless audio microphone radio frequency drop outs; or interference and equipment functionality.
Test record a 2 or 3 minute section of your presentation and play it back. Listen to the audio through headphones and view from your confidence monitor or viewfinder. Listen carefully for hums or buzzes. Absolutely no hums or buzzes should be acceptable.
You will hear room noise and HVAC (heating and cooling) systems. There is not much you can do about that since it is a hotel or meeting facility and not a sound stage!
About Digital Video Equipment
Most Digital cameras are tapeless. Format transfer is one of the hardest parts of using your live digital video footage. Try to get your footage in full quality Quicktime format (.MOV file format). If there is a charge for that, it’s probably worth it. Here’s why;
Various manufactures of digital video cameras use their own proprietary encoding.
Production companies like Primeau Productions who will be creating your speaker demo video will need to convert that proprietary footage to use for editing in Final Cut Pro, Premiere Pro or Avid. More than likely, it will be more cost effective for you to have the live production company do the format conversion.
If Primeau Productions does the conversion, we will have to search the Internet, locate the proper converting software and reformat that live digital video in our studio before beginning your demo video editing. More than likely, it would be better to have the live production company do the conversion since they have done it before and have the process down. After all, it’s their equipment.
What other Equipment Should You Expect?
(2) 400-600 watt lights minimum. More than likely, you will be on a general session stage with plenty of lighting. FYI- white light is best for video. Suggest they not use any color fills unless those colors compliment your skin color. Sometimes blue or red fill lighting will make you look better on camera.
Is it possible for them to have a back up wireless microphone to use in case your main microphone should fail? Microphone failure is probably the number one reason your video could not turn out.
Audience reaction microphones
Our client Steve Rizzo always speaks to the production team before he delivers his presentation to request that audience microphones be strategically placed around the general session room to pick up the audience reaction.
This signal from these microphones should be sent to an isolated channel on the video recording; separate from your main speaking microphone. That way the post production company or editing team can mix the sound during the editing session.
You can also use the camera microphone to capture audience reaction/applause and assign to the isolated track or use the B camera to record audience reaction (if you have the luxury of a 2 camera recording).
The Room Set Up
Do what you can to make sure the room and stage look good on video. Sometimes the littlest things will make your video look sloppy. Are there tables that can be moved off the stage to give you more room? Anything you can do or say to keep wait staff and other persons from walking around during your presentation?
If you Hired the Crew to Video Record Your Presentation
Recommend a stage direction if you have a choice. Position it away from kitchen doors and exit signs. Windows and mirrors could also similarly ruin your shot. If possible, recommend that they build the room set up from the rear forward. Give as much distance from the wall behind the stage if possible. It will then be out of focus. If there is a drape, please make sure your outfit does not blend in with the drape color.
In the back of the room, set up two risers for the main camera; One riser is for the camera and one for the camera operator. (Avoid footage that is shaky.) Double this for two cameras.
What does the shot look like in your viewfinder or monitor?
As a video producer, it is my preference to NOT have a center aisle if at all possible. It adds energy and value to your video footage to see the audience in the shot, even if it is the backs of their heads. If this is not possible, place the camera to one side or the other in the rear of the room instead of shooting straight up the middle, center aisle.
People are becoming more sensitive to having their group’s faces on camera for your video. Be considerate and make sure what your clients protocol is not violated.
Take into consideration what the camera shot will look like from each back corner location. If you choose the back right corner because there is electrical outlets readily available, turn the camera on using your battery to take a quick look at the shot before setting up to stay at that location. What do you see in the viewfinder? If there are undesirable exit signs, thermostats or kitchen doors in the shot, move the camera so they are NOT in the shot. Pipe and drape may be worth the investment if you are not happy with the back ground look. Beware, black drape sucks out light but looks better than royal blue and maroon.
Types of Camera Shots
Try to arrange your camera “A” shot to have audience presence. If the stage is too high then have your “A” camera capture you on stage. Get a variety of slow push in and pull out shots so your entire recorded speech does not look the same. .
Ask your camera operator to shoot as if their camera were live all the time. You do not have to constantly move in and out…just occasionally. Medium body shot (waist up) a majority of the time.
It is important that you have movement in the video. If you move around a lot on stage, let the camera operator know. It’s best to stay with a medium to wide shot if you move around a lot while speaking. Do not be as concerned with zooming in and out. If you move around a lot on stage, then the camera operator does not have to do a lot of zooming in and out. Ask them to use their professional judgment. The fact that you spoke to the camera operator and told them what you are looking for will increase your odds in getting great footage.
Hopefully the room is large enough so the video does not look too compressed and busy. We know this may be out of your control. However, when you arrive and realize the room is too small, ask if your program can be moved to a larger room. One out of ten times one is available and we move. The more room, the better the footage!
If we are shooting more than one camera, we get a variety of interesting shots with camera two. Some would include larger audience shots; others would be four, three, and two person audience shots. Make sure nobody in your shots is sleeping, looking bored or picking their nose. Find the audience members enjoying themselves and get it on tape. When recording audience shots, stay on the shot for a minimum of 15 seconds—stay longer if you anticipate a punch line. Get as many audience members as possible so all your audience footage does not look the same.
If you are comfortable, get some other shots of you walking on stage, taken on stage from behind you with the audience in front; side angle shots; quick pans to the audience and back; and shots we could use for a montage or transition or edit. Wide shots from the rear of the room showing the IMAG (image magnification screens) are also desirable.
If your client is video recording one camera and you would like to add another, ask for permission to bring in another camera operator that will record all “B” roll shots as outlined above.
When you hire a second camera operator, ask them to keep their camera in manual iris and focus. Set the iris once for the stage area and adjust only if necessary. We do not want video footage that comes in and out of focus constantly throughout the presentation which is what auto focus will do because you are moving around.
Although lighting is not as crucial as back in the Beta camera days, but it is still important.
If you are bringing in your own crew, lighting should be done from far room left and right as close to the stage as possible. Back of the room lighting will cause shadows behind you. Place your lights extremely wide so that the shadows are out of the shot.
By placing your lights close to the front of the room and wide, the shadows will be far left and right behind the performer. When you are shooting, these shadows will be out of your shot because you are not shooting extremely wide shots. Try not to have any shadows in the shot. If necessary, use back lighting to help accent the performer and remove any shadows.
Place the (2) lights against the walls stage left and right and use sandbags or grip tape so if they are bumped they will not fall over.
Use back light a bit for depth near the back extreme side points of the stage so the lights do not get in the shot.
Please give your live producer or director complete amnesty. Ask them to help you look your best. Make sure you don’t have any stray or fly away hair strands before performing. Women, this is especially important for you. How does your lipstick look?
Men, is your tie straight?
I know this may be uncomfortable but I promise you we will not mind the feedback. Take one final look in the video monitor before you begin your presentation to make sure you look great.
NO EMPTY SEATS IN THE SHOT!
You are using this footage to produce a promotional or demo video that will get you business. It is crucial that the footage look exciting and interesting. PLEASE do all you can to avoid empty seats in any of your video shots.
If we are using two cameras, make sure the second camera (if shooting audience faces) does NOT show empty seats.
Hide all lavaliere wireless microphone wires; make sure to always use fresh batteries. Please ask the production crew to let you know if something on your person is not right.
If you use a lavaliere microphone, make sure the microphone capsule does not rub against your jacket, tie or scarf.
If the group has hired a photographer, please meet with the photographer, introduce yourself, and ask they not get in any of your shots. Of course you can’t help the flash going off. In fact, that looks kind of cool in the video. However, it has to be understood that they stay out of the video by not walking through your shots.
This entire process should not take you more than one hour including a rehearsal. Primeau Productions believes this is time well spent to do everything you can to make sure an excellent opportunity to get great video footage is not missed. All great speaker demo videos begin with great footage.
One final thought; if you hate being photographed, try to convince yourself you like to be photographed. Based on our professional experience, we have found that if people hate being photographed or video recorded, their footage will probably look bad. If you embrace the video recording process, smile and love the camera, the audience will love you in the room and at home.