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School Productions: Shooting

Always use a tripod. Hand-held school production videos are painful to watch. Find a good position with a clear, unobstructed view.

The lighting may be poor and/or uneven so automatic focus and iris are not good options. You really should use manual focus and manual iris (this is always good practice anyway). The focus can usually be set at a constant distance where most of the action happens but you may need to adjust the iris as the lighting changes.

Ask someone to give you a warning just before the show begins. This allows you to start shooting at the right time without missing any action, but avoids wasting a lot of tape waiting for the show to begin. You might like to keep the lead-in time short, or you could start recording a few minutes before the curtain raises to give yourself a background for opening titles.

In most cases your footage will tend to be static shots or slow, gentle movements. The stage action is what is important and your camera work will be fairly minimalistic. Only go for fast-moving camerwork if you are very confident that it is appropriate and will work.

If you are using a single camera you will obviously need to shoot entire scenes uninterrupted so make sure you are comfortable and don't get too tired. It's a good idea to plan "micro-breaks" where you rest your arms for a few seconds.

At the end of the show, you might like to continue shooting a wide shot for several minutes — this is a useful shot to overlay the credits on.

Important: Most people who watch the video will be families of children with minor parts, so make sure you get shots of all the kids! Do some slow pans of the chorus/choir, dancers, extras, etc. Parents want to see the faces of their children and clear shots of the costume they spent hours making. Even if you can't quite see all of them, at least show that you made the effort!

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