– Ben Martens

Recording Public Events

After my last post on Friday about the new camcorder I use for recording at church, it dawned on me that I’ve never written up some of my learnings from recording public events. I’m far from an expert, but I’ve made enough mistakes that I have some things to share.

  • Get there early. If you’ve never recorded at the venue, go there days ahead of when you’ll actually need to record. Figure out where all the gear will go and where the action will be taking place. But even if you’ve recorded at the same place many times, you can’t arrive too early. There’s always something that needs extra attention.
  • Don’t try to do this without a good video editing package that you’re familiar with. I like Adobe Premiere Elements. Whatever you use, you need (at a minimum) to have the ability to sync individual audio and video tracks and then cut between them.
  • Unless you are going to have a completely stationary camera, you’ll need at least two cameras. Leave one at a wide angle capturing everything and then do your zooming with the other camera. You can cut to the wide angle while you’re adjusting/zooming the second camera and then switch back to the zoomed view once you’ve got it all set up properly.
  • Have at least one backup for everything. So if you’re using the two camera setup described above, make sure you have at least three cameras in the process. For the audio, hopefully you can record straight off the sound mixer, but also set a little portable audio recorder up near the action to use as a last resort. I can’t count the number of times that I’ve been saved by what I thought was just an extra device.
  • Plan for people getting in your way. If all of your cameras are clustered in the same spot, one person walking in front of you can ruin all of the angles at the same time. Scatter your cameras around the building.
  • Start recording early. Don’t try to hit record right as the action starts. Figure out what time it’s scheduled and then walk around hitting record about 5 minutes early. This gives you time to fix any last minute issues, and then you’ll be comfortable behind your main camera well before anything exciting happens.
  • The most time consuming part of this for me is always syncing up the various audio/video tracks. If you can pull it off, walk into the view of all the cameras and clap your hands together. (Or if you’re fancy, use one of the clap boards like they do in the movies.) That’s almost never feasible for me so I have to revert to other tricks. Sometimes I’ll cough really loud after turning on all the equipment. Other times I’ll just do my best to work with some other noise/visual that most of the gear picked up. Inevitably I spend a ton of time moving clips back and forth frame by frame trying to get them all lined up.

The more I do it, the more I learn because I keep finding new ways to screw up! If you want to check out my work, a lot of it ends up on the church’s YouTube page.