Tips for Shooting Live Events

When working as a video editor, I am sometimes given footage of live events to edit. When people are filming their own events these can be of varying quality. It is better to film things cleanly than to rely on mistakes being fixed in post production, so here are some tips to ensure your footage is clean and easy for your editor to work with :

  • Always ensure your camera is on a tripod.

If you don’t have access to a tripod, use a table or other flat surface. Hand held cameras tend to be shaky and although there are stabilisers available, they tend to take a long time and the results are still not as good as if you have still footage to start with.

  • Check your framing

Shooting live events if different from shooting a film. You only have one take, you can’t reshoot. I like to set my frame a little wider than I would use in the final edit to give subjects some room to move. Generally if you are filming speakers or acts who aren’t professional actors they aren’t good at sticking to a mark. The extra room means that if they do move they won’t step out of frame. I tend not to follow subjects with the camera when they move around the space as you cannot predict where they are going to go.

  • Clean up your framing

If you are able to make sure you have a clean frame. Remove any excess cables from your area if you are able. Make sure you remove any excess furniture, rubbish or other mess from the space you are filming. These things cannot be removed in post and will make your video look amateur.

  • Check your microphone placement

Speakers and acts who are not professionals tend to not only move but fidget. This noise will be picked up by sensitive microphones. Make sure your microphone is placed somewhere that they cannot reach it with their hands but still close enough that it can pick up audio. If possible, a shotgun mic that you can attach to your camera is great for this. If you have a mic that is not attached to your camera make sure you think about where you are going to place it. I suggest taping in under the podium if possible (people tend to fidget with paper on top of podiums!). The floor is not a good place either as people fidget with their feet as well. It is important to check the audio in headphones before you start, ensuring that you can hear the subject. It is also good to check that where you have put your mic does not pick up a lot of external noise such as hum from lights or wiring, or wind or traffic noise. It is much easier to add a noise in post than to remove one!

  • Check your focus and turn off autofocus!

Like with your framing, you don’t want to be changing your focus while a speaker is talking or a performance is going on, as this can look messy and unprofessional. Check your camera is in focus before you start filming. If you are not using a professional camera it it important to check that the autofocus is off. Most consumer grade cameras naturally revert to autofocus, so you don’t have to focus the image yourself. However if the subject is moving the image will keep trying to focus itself which means that it will go in and out of focus as they move. This cannot be fixed in post so it is important to be sure that autofocus is off. There is generally a section in the settings in which to turn the camera to manual focus.

All of these things are important when shooting anything but especially when shooting live events, when you don’t have the option of reshooting. Now go forth and film things!

If you need someone to film your live event you can contact me at hello@juliacampbell.net

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