An Event Videographer / by guest blogger Adrian Kasbergen

Day in the Life of an Event Videographer
By Guest blogger Adrian Kasbergen  
eQuality Video Services

After we “met” through Twitter and Facebook on our common interest and excitement over Sony’s new NEX-EA50 video camera, Lucas (of media kitchen) asked me to write a guest blog on my activities a an event videographer. Before I do so, I should stress that for me this is a hobby, not my profession.

Flashback:
In 2003 I recorded a middle school musical that my daughter performed in. I recorded it front to back and from a tripod, and having seen that, requests started to trickle in from parents that would like a copy of the tape. I had used a DV-tape camera, but didn’t have the IEE-1394 connection to my PC, nor the right editing software to do decent editing, so I provided them with copies on VHS tape. The responses were very enthusiastic. More tapes were ordered (I started asking $5 per tape) and I was asked which event I would record next. Obviously there was an opportunity there. So I bought the gear and software to do PC editing and DVD burning and created a full-fledged DVD from that first musical. And those DVDs sold quite well too. So, working with the choir teacher next events were scheduled, order forms created, etc. This pretty soon started to expand to other school, song teachers, etc. IN the 9 years since that first DVD, I have created 85 event DVDs, the last 25 of which are also available on Blu-Ray. For some of them I have trailers on YouTube, for some of the older one, I have now posted the entire event on YouTube.

Back to the present:
At the start of the school year I contact all the schools/teachers I’ve worked with before, asking for the events that they would like me to record. Fortunately there are no date conflicts most of the time (I have only had 2 conflicts in all those years). I place the events on the calendar on my site as they come in. About 2 weeks before an event, I create an order form. For each school, the order form contains the currently planned event(s), but also ALL earlier events for that school, because I continue to sell each and every one of my DVDs, even after 9 years. I send the form (in PDF format) to the relevant teacher(s) with the request to distribute those (printed or through email) to students and/or parents. Those forms can either be mailed to me (with check payment), or handed in at the event (with check, cash or credit card payment). I also place an entry for the new DVD and Blu-Ray on my website, where they can be ordered and paid for using PayPal.

The day of the event I arrive at the venue about 1 hour ahead of time, with my stepson. My stepson sets up shop in the hallway, with a table, stack of order forms and pens, while I enter the theater and start to set up my equipment. Currently that consist of a Sony HDR-SR12 with external microphone, headset and remote controller, on a Manfrotto 501HDV + 546BK tripod. Pretty soon the camera will be replaced with the brand new Sony NEX-EA50. This will also allow me to hook into the XLR connection on the multi-channel audio mixer in the sound booth. (Note to self: don’t forget to order than extra-long XLR cable). Usually at that time there are some final rehearsals and lighting and audio tests going on at that time, which I can use to tune my equipment. When the doors open 15 minutes before the start, I’m all set and can relax a bit. About 3 minutes ahead of time I start recording, so I can catch any type of pre-show announcements, which I may or may not use. The recording starts wide screen, covering the entire stage. As the MC enters the stage, I slowly zoom into him/her, zooming slowly out again when I sense that he/she is near the end, or when interesting things start to happen on stage. As I’m a one-man show, with 1 camera, I have to make sure that I catch everything important with that one recording. The camera runs all the time, even when the stage is reset; only stopping during a real break. Whenever there is a longer rebuild period that I expect I may cut out in post, I make sure that I change zoom and/or camera direction, so as to get a nice transition, and not a “plop”. During each performance, I start recording zoomed out to the size of the group performing, and then slowly zoom in to either left or right, pan to the other side and zoom out again. That way I’m sure that each parent gets a good close up of his/her kid. At the very end, I zoom out to the max and let the camera run for another 5 minutes or so, panning through the audience as they get up, chat and leave. This will be the backdrop for the end titles.

Post:
Gone are the days of DV tape, so there is now a simple file copy from the camera to the PC and I have all I need on my workstation (dual 4-core Xeon, 8 GB RAM, 2 mirrored 2-TB drives, which are only for current work; all historic files are on a server with four 2-TB drives).

I then start up Sony Vegas Pro 11 (soon to be replaced by version 12), and put the entire recording on the time line. I find the right point to start, keeping in mind that I need 20 to 30 seconds of opening titling before the MC starts talking. Next is finding all the “dead space” in between songs that needs to be deleted and for each decide on the nicest way to cut and transition. I’m always careful not to use too many different transition types. Coming to the end, I find the best place to start the end titles and use the leaving audience as backdrop for that. I then double back and place markers for each song (about 2 seconds before the actual start of each song (or its introduction if applicable) to cater to the inaccuracy of some DVD players). And place song title and performer(s) in lower third at the exact start of reach song.

All editing is done with the raw AVCHD material straight from the camera (Vegas is very good at that) in the 1920x1080 setting. Once all editing is done, I run three renders: 720x480 MPEG-2 for DVD, 1920-1080 AVC for Blu-Ray and AC-3 audio.

Next up: DVD Architect 5.2 (part of Vegas Pro). Here again I start in the settings for Blu-Ray and I load the HD render (the AC-3 render has the same file name and is automatically picked up). I try to find or create a menu backdrop that is in line with the event and the event’s show guide, and then find a button style that fits that backdrop. The structure for the DVD is mostly the same: start with my eQuality lead-in, and then go to main menu. The main menu offers the choices “play all” and “song selection”. The “song selection” sub menus are created semi-automatically based on the markers placed in Vegas. Then there is a long cycle of testing all the menu pages, making sure that menu buttons work properly and that the cursor key movements between them are logical. The Preview function allows me to see how the Blu-Ray or DVD would work on a real player, before final render and burning. That’s a real time saver. When I’m really satisfied, I run 2 renders: one for the Blu-Ray, then change all the settings and the video file to SD and then render the DVD.

Pack and ship:
But I’m not done. I want the DVD and Case to look nice too. I burn a label on the DVDs using Lightscribe. Even though it is not in color, it looks very professional. Unfortunately there are no Lightscribe Blu-Rays yet. I always use the real Amaray DVD case (no slimlines or other knock-offs) in white (to have some distinction from the regular black). And I create a real cover to wrap the case. For the front of the cover I look at the show guide, and the menu backdrop and crate something that fits those styles. The side gets the school and event name in the same font as used on the front and menu, and the back gets as much detail on the event and performers as I can find. Then it’s a matter of printing, labeling, duplicating, putting in envelops, printing address and postage labels, dropping off at the post office and I’m all done.

In conclusion:
I know I titled this “A Day in the Life”, but obviously this is not a day’s work. And if I look at the proceeds, subtract the costs and the write off on hardware and software and then divide this by the number of hours put in…. Let’s suffice to say that flipping burgers pays better. For me most of all, this is a lot of fun. It’s a hobby that mostly pays for its own costs. How many people can actually say they have a hobby like that?
More importantly even: Those DVDs and Blu-Rays really are “Memories that Last a Life Time” and make parents and students very happy. That’s a big reward in and of itself.

Adrian Kasbergen
eQuality Video Services 
equality.kasbergen.net







.

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