Live Stage Performances

Filming a live stage performance, such as a play, musical, concert, or dance, is extremely challenging. It poses four enormous challenges: capturing the sound, getting power, capturing the picture, and getting permission in the first place.

Getting Permission

At most professional performances, the management doesn’t permit camcorders. Whether union rules, copyright rules, house rules, or simple paranoia is at play, the bottom line is that using a camcorder (or any camera) is usually forbidden.

That leaves you two alternatives: Confine your footage to performances where camcorders are OK, such as the choir concert at the elementary school—or film surreptitiously. (As the size of DV camcorders shrinks year by year, the latter option is becoming ever more popular among people who don’t mind flouting the rules.)

Capturing the Sound

When you’re filming a performance from the audience, your camcorder gets hopelessly confused. It’s programmed to record the closest sounds, which, in this case, are the little coughs, chuckles, and seat-creaks of the audience members around you. The people on stage, meanwhile, come through only faintly, with the hollow echo that comes from recording people who are far away from the microphone. As any camcorder buff who’s filmed her kid’s school play can tell you, the resulting video is often very unsatisfying.

You have alternatives, but they require some effort. One option is to equip your camcorder with an external microphone—a unidirectional ...

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