From Technical Director to... "The Chair"
Well, well, well.
The Chair and I meet again, and yes, by "The Chair" I mean the one for the Captain, and by "captain" I mean camera director. Did you think I meant something with real consequences? Please! I am not qualified to command a power armored platoon, an aquatic or space fairing vessel.
Pictured below is where I sat. The laptop runs VMix and powers my ability to switch live and stream. The 19 inch Atomos with the quad spilt recorded four of our cameras in isolation, so even if I made a bad switch, it could be fixed in post. The little Atomos monitor recorded program and the big TV in the back was just a mirror of my VMix interface so people behind me could see what I was doing.
While house director for Big Brother US, I used to joke with my friend who was lead director about "The Chair". We'd joke about the power that went to our heads, getting to direct men like machines from behind a wall of cathode ray tubes. On BB, we had dueling house directors, splitting up as many as three stories at once and as many as 8-10 cameras at once depending on the scenario. As a larger metaphor, The Chair represents responsibility. Without getting to didactic, I'm referring to the responsibility (and fun) of communicating what's going on to the audience and and making sure the client gets what they want.
On this Ted Talk styled, corporate event I became responsible for directing 5 cameras. I needed to not only follow the action of our host, Prem Rawat, but also a slide show and audience participation in the form of active journaling and Q&A from six different locations in the theater.
The camera plot below was created by the technical director I was filling in for last week. Due to some shifting circumstances, I was asked to fill in for the normal house director.
The Chair had finally come to me, and I was again ready... despite the thumping organ in my chest! I'm hoping my icy, professional exterior and practiced, dry humor hid my excitement. Being in Story Department for the last decade or so has been great. It's been steady, but being back on set and "doing it" in real time again is thrilling.
For one thing, I was working with Dave Carstens who was on Camera 5(E)! Nobody on set knew this, but Dave spent four nights, with a pickup day, photographing my short film Deceit. He's the reason I was even on that crew to begin with.
The day began at 7:00 AM. It was a beautiful morning out in Thousand Oaks, CA, but it was already starting to get hot. So into the cool stage of The Kavli Theater I went.
While not the Dolby Theater in Hollywood, it was an impressive theater nonetheless. The above angle is Camera 4. A last minute change I made when the client rightly pointed out that we had two wides pointed in the same direction. I moved it to the stage and turned it around so we could cut back to the audience and the client was happy.
Unfortunately, we were so pressed for time that there weren't any rehearsals, so I wasn't even sure how much we'd integrate a reverse wide shot. Thankfully, there was a lot of audience participation and laughter so it worked out in the end.
With the reverse wide shot covered, we used that beast of a camera lens above to get any close ups of the audience we might need. That was Camera 5. Dave also had to film any audience Q&As close ups whenever that happened. With six different microphones and everyone wearing masks, it was often difficult to tell who was talking and delayed our camera adjustments. Overall we got everything we needed and more.
One aspect of the production that was constantly getting in the way was our latency issue. Even though we were hard wired in and had a tech day where we worked all these things out, they resurfaced with a vengeance. Our remote tech was having to make millisecond adjustments to our live audio delay which interrupt my ability to switch to a new camera. It's nobody's fault, just a limitation of the software and a remote tech department. We went as high as 1,600 milliseconds in delay which is little over 1.5 seconds, a distracting problem.
One tool I didn't get to use was their Stream Deck switcher. It makes switching and running video packages a breeze. We had too many cameras coming into the computer and had to use all available USB inputs for video. VMix is so flexible that I was able to reassign all those button functions in a few minutes, so while productivity suffered no loss, I missed the interface.
In the end, everything went well! There was some lag time when hunting with Camera 5 for who were asking questions. We scored some very emotional moments between our host and students. Tears even.
I felt like I was on BB again. What was, will be again I suppose.
That's the latest over here. I'm hoping the trend of directing continues.
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In 2019 the goal is to produce the short horror film, Changelings, the world of that story and to build a community of filmmakers that are enthusiastic about filmmaking and crypto currency.