Stage to Screen: Mastering the Stage Event Market, Part 6
Posted Jun 1, 2008

The show is over, the curtains have been drawn, and the performers are heading home. Now the work begins. For me, filming a stage event is just as much a high-performance activity as performing onstage. As a camera operator you’re focused on your role at the camera and your interpretation of the event through your lens. I love being behind the camera and it shows, especially compared to the part that comes after: namely, postproduction.

I find it very difficult to keep on task while editing, but I guess that shouldn’t come as a surprise. Back in the edit bay—unlike when we’re on a shoot—we have so many distractions, from phone calls to emails to online forums and the courier, it’s amazing we get any editing done.

I don’t think I will ever get rid of or delegate the administrative and marketing aspects of my business, so when I do get a few hours of time that I can devote to editing, I try to make the most of it using a system I’ve developed. Here’s what I do.

I try to capture my footage when my editing system is not in use, such as in the evening, before I head out for a meeting, and when I am working on other administrative items on my admin computer. The last thing I want is to be all set to edit and have to wait hours to capture all the footage.

Recording to flash memory or external hard drives via a laptop or direct-to-edit solutions such as the new Firestore FS-5 makes quick work of this process, and these devices also allow for an extra bit of insurance via a redundant tape backup.

Once you have your footage in your NLE, you need to synchronize your angles. I roughly line up my footage on the timeline and then take a closer look at the audio waveform for visual cues to align the multiple angles. With the audio aligned, I compare the video to make sure it too is aligned. Remember that sound travels slower than light, and when you are getting one audio track from a soundboard and a second from your stage microphone, they are often a few frames off.

An easy way to compare two camera angles at the same time is to change the opacity on the top camera angle to 50% so that you can see through to the layer below it. You may need to unlink your video and audio layers in order to adjust the video without undoing the audio sync you just achieved. By advancing a few frames, you will soon be able to determine if you are in sync or if you need to make any adjustments.

With both your audio and video synchronized, you can then separate your audio tracks. This will require duplicating your audio tracks and using only the left in one and the right in the other. Having separate audio tracks allows you the most flexibility in mastering your audio once you have completed your multicam editing.

Depending on which NLE you use and how its multicamera interface handles audio, you may need to copy and paste your audio tracks onto your new multicamera sequence to preserve your multitrack audio.Multicam editing allows you to view all your camera angles at the same time so that you can decide when to switch between camera angles. What’s more, it lets you do so live so you don’t have to stop and start the video every time you want to make a switch. Since I began working with multicam editing when Adobe introduced Premiere Pro 2.0, this one feature alone has cut my editing time in half for stage production work.

With my angles selected, the remaining editing process is similar to any other edit where I trim my in and out points between performances, insert cross-dissolves at my trim points, add 45 frames of black video between trim points, add my titles—usually offset by the duration of the cross dissolve at the trim point—and insert my chapter points.

Instead of opening the title maker every time I need to create a title, I will create a template of a lower- thirds title and then a title for each of my performance numbers in the order they will appear. On my show program I write a number next to each title and then assign the same number to my title files’ names so that I can be sure I haven’t missed a title and can easily figure out which one is missing.

Audio mixdown is the final step. This involves using the soundboard audio as your master and adding in the stage microphone only when there is audio coming from the stage or at the end of the performance to insert the applause. You’ll need to adjust your audio levels down to compensate for the additional audio and insert audio crossfades (similar to a video cross-dissolve) to ease the audio in and out.

The final stage in preparing my master DVD is to export my edited video to my DVD authoring software. I export my timelines to an AVI and then import them into Adobe Encore CS3, where I create menus and design the navigation architecture.

Once my master is burned, I duplicate the discs on a tower using preprinted DVDs that I have my local supplier thermal print for me. Then I insert my DVD covers (also outsourced), and package my DVDs for delivery.

Now the work is done—curtain call, anyone?

To read previous installments in the Mastering the Stage Event Market series, click here.

Shawn Lam, MPV (video at shawnlam.ca) runs Shawn Lam Video, a Vancouver video production studio. He specializes in stage event and corporate video production and has presented seminars at WEVA Expo 2005-7 and the 4EVER Group's Video 07. He won an Emerald Artistic Achievement Award in Stage Production at Video 08.