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Shooting Live Events

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My History of Live Event Shooting

I started out live event shooting with a consumer grade camcorder. I began shooting church services when I was a teenager. I varied from a wide shot of the stage to a head and shoulders shot of my pastor preaching. I got to be good at the zoom switch during this time period. I learned to do a pretty smooth zoom. A smooth zoom is all muscle memory.  It would have been better if I had a smoother tripod, but that neither here nor there.

I graduated to a multi camera shoot when my church started to help film a local music festival. I started as a videographer for the show and eventually got to the point that I was mixing and directing. For 10 years I was a camera man, coach, mixer and director of that show. As mentioned, I grew to the point in my experience where I could coach the younger kids. Many of the teens that came out to shoot wanted to have the prime shot for whatever action was happening on stage. I began to teach them that while shooting a live event you have to have a big picture mindset. The director does not need 6 shots of the same activity. The director needs a variety of shots. Two cameras out of six can cover the "event" on stage while the rest need to stick to their assigned post. It is indeed important to have assigned post so that everyone knows what to shoot. That is a guaranteed way to keep your shots varied. 

I also shot services at a church that used all their cameras on remote control. The six cameras were controlled from the media box by a switcher and a joy stick. Learning to use the joy stick to pan and tilt the cameras was tricky, but I managed it  over time and got to be pretty good at it. I repeat, you have to think big picture. What do you want the final result to look like?  Not all of your cameras need to be tight head shots focused on the main speaker. As a live event producer you must think of variety and flow of cameras. My layout looked something like this: one camera was tight on the face, another was head to toe, still one was wide on the stage, and the last I liked to be positioned above the stage on wide angel. That gave me a great shot of the pastor,stage and audience. 

Now I shoot with two cameras at Victory orlando. One camera is a wide head to toe shot that I mix with a belly up tighter shot. Eventually we'll have a bigger team and will be able to do a multi camera shoot. I cut both shots together in Premiere and add titles, text and an intro and outro. Finally it is exported and uploaded for our online audience.

Production Camera


  • Push: A push is a zoom in. You would use this to tighten in on the subject.
  • Pull: A pull is to widen the shot back. Think, pull back. This would be used to reveal more of the scene or event.
  • Pan: This means to move the camera from left to right or vise versa. Usually you do this when following the subject on screen while they play or speak.
  • Tilt: Tilt is to move the camera up or down vertically. Another good motion to lead the eye of the audience.
  • Truck: To truck the camera means to physically dolly the camera across the floor to acquire a better shot often while live. 
  • Boom: A boom is a piece of equipment like a crane. The camera set on the head or the end of the pole. The boom shot is meant to arc or swoop in on the subject. The operator can even operate the camera at he same time if the camera is fitted with a remote control. 

The New Wave of Production Cameras

Blackmagic Production Camera

Blackmagic Design Production Camera 4K with EF Mount
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I'm excited about this new wave of cameras. The 4K is just one great feature. It's a full on production camera with all the audio outputs you need and a 10 inch back screen! That screen is enormous!
Production Cam

Camera Shots

  • Wide: This is your establishing shot. You might open on the building, arena, stage, team, etc. It lets the audience know where you are and what is happening.
  • Head to Toe: This is a medium wide shot that leaves a little room below the feet and above the head. It is a great full body shot to follow the speaker or musician with.
  • Hip Shot: This can be from the hips  up or  from the stomach up. Its a tighter shot than the others but it still allows for some breathing room.
  • Head and Shoulders Shot: This is a tight shot on the head and shoulders. It is used to display emotion, and when the speaker is getting across a major point. 
  • Audience Shot: This can be a group shot of the audience or a single person. Make sure that they do look bored or sleepy. Make sure they are displaying emotion or responding accordingly.

Of coarse you can plan varying angles from the side, top or below the subject. All of these shots you want to vary in order to create a nice mix that keeps the audience interested and entertained. Variety is the spice of life after all.

Production Camera 3

More Affordable 4K

Live Production

I learned my rules of live production shooting when I shot services at Victory Christian Center.  One of the first rules when shooting live production is to place your head set on and acknowledge the director. They need to know that you can hear them and can receive instruction. Know that your tally light is the indicator as to weather or not you're "live" and on camera. This can be found usually above the monitor.

Following that, you need to focus on your first subject for the night. You always focus on the subject before you're on, never while you're shooting. On your left hand controller will be a ring or some kind of tool. Turn the ring to focus the subject. If you have the "focus assist" on then your subject will be outlined in a blue highlight.

Push in on the subject's eyes to focus on them. To push in and pull out you will use the right hand controller. There will be a switch there that you will slowly press in on to push the zoom in. But be careful the switch can be very sensitive.  That is why there is another lever. This lever controls the sensitivity of the zoom switch. You can make it bet super sensitive or you can make it tighter and  several degrees in-between.

Now you are ready to shoot the live event. Relax and focus on the tools. Get to know them. Know how to operate them through muscle memory. This will build confidence and fluidity with your shots. Then you will be primed and ready to create quality work.

Super, Educational Video



Mar 16, 2016 8:20pm
I really needed this refresher course. I often shoot live video events (quinceaneras) and though I am familiar with the process it can still be a little hectic when something "goes wrong" with the carefully planned event.
Thanks for sharing. I appreciate your skill and knowledge of this vitally important area in video production.
Mar 17, 2016 12:55pm
Thanks for the comment. I hope this helps some people. I'm not super advanced in this area but I've done enough to know the basics in camera operations, mixing and directing. I know what you mean about hectic, I've had my share of those moments too. But you just got to relax and focus and get through it. Often refocusing on the basics can help get through the tough spots. For more details on this and other types of media please see my blog.
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