Video Production 101 Part 2: Site Planning

 In Arts, Education, Home Page

Last week, our friend and guest-blogger, Tom DeAngelis, Producer/Director/Owner of the Production House, LLC in Toms River, NJ, talked about part one of the production planning process. He now moves on to part two in the three part series.  In case you need a refresher on part one, read this first:  Video Production 101 – Part 1:  Pre-Production Site Planning.

Let’s dig back into the production planning process…

What am I looking for?

Here are just a few things you need to think about. You’ll always want to check camera angles and lines of sight.  That’s a must.

If it’s an exterior shoot:

  • Where is the sun at what time of the day?
  • Are there any physical obstructions you will not be able to work around?
  • Are there any structures that might afford some interesting angles: maybe a nearby rooftop? Can you access it?  How do you go about doing that as per permission, physical access, etc.?
  • How about potential sound issues?
  • Might there be some wind problems (near the water, or an open field)?
  • Is it a residential neighborhood or a park where there may be some landscaping, lawn mowing, chain saws, etc.?
  • Are you close to a road where there’s heavy truck or bus traffic? That can wreak havoc if you’re doing a lot of live sound.

Here’s a short example. We were in Manhattan shooting a promotional for a company from Kentucky that ran tours for students.  We were using wireless mics to record sound bites with the students on the steps of Saint Patrick’s Cathedral.  Surprise!  The radios in the many taxis in the area interfered over and over with our recording.  We were able to save that part of the shoot with a fish pole and wired shotgun. But, if we didn’t have the gear on hand or the crew to handle those shots, it would’ve caused some big problems.

What on earth is a fish pole and wired shotgun and what does it have to do with this you ask? A fish pole is another term for a handheld boom to which a microphone can be attached.  When you see news crews running around covering an event you may see a cameraman, a reporter and /or a sound person holding what looks like a long stick and there’s a mic attached to it.  Generally, they will be holding it over the head of a person or group of people whose comments they are trying to record.

So there’s the fish pole.

The wired shotgun is the actual microphone that is attached to the end of the fish pole/boom. A shotgun refers to the “pickup pattern” of the mic. Different types of mics pick up sounds from specific angles. A shotgun picks up sound primarily that is coming directly at it, not from the sides or from the rear of the mic. Think of it as the equivalent of a telephoto lens compared to a wide angle lens. A wide angle lens sees a “wide angle of view” and that would be the equivalent of an omni-directional mic, which has a pattern (as the name suggests) that picks up sound that is coming at it from all around. Lastly, this shotgun was wired.  Very simply that means the mic was connected to the camera or recording device via a cable (not wireless).

Problem of interference on these particular wireless mics from unexpected sources was solved by:

  1. Attaching a microphone that picked up sound directly from the speaker (eliminating most traffic noise).
  2. Attaching a microphone onto a fish pole/boom that could be held directly over the speaker’s head (getting the mic close to that speaker (very important).
  3. OR you can do like we did and take “wireless” out of the equation by using a cable to plug directly into the recorder –  no interference problems!

Stay tuned for part three of this series coming next week!

For more in depth information on this topic check out these two links. Photography and Video Pre-Production Tutorials 

Extensive Checklist for Video Pre-Production Site Survey


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