Videoing a Presentation
If the circumstances are right; then, doing this can be fairly straightforward. If the circumstances are not right; then, it may take special skills and equipment to produce a reasonable result. In the latter case, if the recording is an absolute necessity; then, hiring a professional is probably a necessity as well.
The Right Circumstances
What are the right circumstances? Well, the primary requirement is that the lighting levels, within the room where the talk is to take place, are first of all, sufficient, and secondly, pretty even throughout the whole space.
This can sometimes be a problem in lecture theatres – where the lighting levels are kept low so that audio/visual presentation systems are able to operate optimally.
In order to check for adequate lighting levels, simply take the camera you intend using into the room, well before the event, and find out whether or not you can get a decent image. Look out for any limitations; e.g. you might be able to get a clear picture of the stage, or lectern etc, but not of the audience; you might be OK when the lights are ‘up’ but not when they’re dimmed in order to use the screen.
If the project seems do-able, but there are issues, it is important then, that you liaise and negotiate with the person who is giving the talk. Make them aware, first of all, that a video is to be made. Then, try to ascertain how, in general, they intend to go about their task.
Ask whether they intend to walk out into the audience (if that is going to present you with problems). Explain, if necessary, that if they move into some areas of the room (for instance, against a window, or in front of a lighting array, or directly in front of the screen) this means that you can’t film them properly. Explain also, the possible consequences of this, that it could seriously compromise the quality of the video, and make it inappropriate for distribution. See what can be done about lighting levels in general; try to find a compromise – something which works for them, and for you.
If at all possible, you should work with the speaker (or maybe a surrogate) to discover ‘no go’ areas, and ‘no do’ activities (such as moving rapidly across the auditorium, which makes it difficult for you to ‘pan’ and follow them). Make sure you have agreement from them; draw chalk lines on the floor etc, if necessary/appropriate.
What about Sound? Clearly, the audio environment needs to be checked out as well. This is usually less critical. Unfortunately, though, it can be a little more ‘technical’ to make sure that the sound quality is of a sufficiently high standard.
Are there sounds from outside which could intrude? Aircraft or traffic noise can make the sound track of a video of very poor quality, or noises such as movements of people elsewhere in the building, and so on.
If the ambient-sound situation is acceptable; then, there is much less to be negotiated, with the person giving the talk, as regards audio. Unless they have a particularly quiet voice, and in addition, do not intend to use amplification, sound quality will mostly be down to just you (see below).
Find a good position for your camera, and set it up using a tripod: you won’t get a professional looking result without; make sure there are no obstructions between it and the space where the speaker will be ‘performing’. This often means raising the camera up so that its line of sight is above the audiences heads.
Try to agree with the speaker that she or he informs the audience, at the outset of the talk, that a video is being made, and of any requirements you may have in regard to this. You can’t really order people to remain in their seats, come what may, throughout the whole proceedings. On the other hand, a few audience member’s heads, etc, moving about on the video is quite acceptable – if it’s happening all the time though, that can make the whole proceedings a little farcical.
Is sound amplification to be used? If so (and where possible) it is best to plug the camera directly into the P.A. (public address) system. This can usually be done either via the ‘monitor’, or the ‘record’ output of the P.A. You may need to use a conversion cable – from ‘mini-jack at the camera end, to either stereo output jacks, or a one and a quarter inch jack, at the P.A. end. Of course, check the sound levels, speak into the P.A. microphone yourself, and make sure the volume is sufficient.
Otherwise, you will just have to rely on the camera’s own microphone. These are often quite good, in terms of sensitivity, less so in terms of quality; nevertheless one of these will usually produce an adequate sound track. As long as the audience can hear the talk well enough; then, the built-in microphone will also pick it up sufficiently well.
This is mostly just a matter of keeping your wits about you, and having a copy of the talk in front of you. It is necessary to know, at least roughly, the order of play, as it were.
Clearly, the aim is to keep the person giving the talk, completely in view at all times. If they move about a lot, during the filming, this can be quite difficult. If you do lose track of them, it is sometimes, but not always, possible to do something about this in post-processing (see below)
Ideally, you should have run through the entire ‘script’ with the speaker, before the event, at least once. Where this is not possible, at least practice with the script yourself in order to be ready for the actions/activities of the speaker – i.e. to be ready to pan and re-focus as required.
As can readily be imagined, if this element of the filming is likely to become very involved; then clearly, a situation exists where it is probably better to engage a professional.
Once the talk has been filmed, that’s not entirely the end of the process.
You can edit the film via Windows Movie Maker, or similar software, and you can edit/improve the sound track via Audacity (which is the industry-standard software, and is free to download).
Typical editing in Movie Maker would be to replace any sections where, for instance, the presenter is not entirely within the ‘frame’ with images from a relevant section of her/his presentation.
Typical sound editing procedure would be to remove noise, boost volume, etc as required.
Producing a good quality video of anything is time consuming, and the work requires a fair amount of commitment. Use a professional if the situation calls for it, and where this is possible; otherwise, delegate the task. Only when there is no alternative, should you devote the time to it yourself. Doing this will inevitably reduce your effectiveness as an event organiser – not least, while your presence is required behind the camera.
A video is often worth having; as ever though, the resources required for its production, must be balanced against its overall value to you.