A Heads Up about what I'm doing this evening and how to watch the program.

It all starts with the battery charging, doesn't it? I've spent my time since August 16th working on a project for Zach Theatre and the big broadcast/reveal happens this evening at 8 p.m. CDT. It's a fund raiser being streamed to YouTube and Facebook channels and a large portion of the two hour show is two guys, live, playing the part of emcees. The next biggest chunk of the show is the video content that I created along with Zach producer, Joshua Cummins. The best stuff is the show opener video right at 8 p.m., the kid's dance performance at about the halfway mark, and the ending number with a famous singer/actor. Here's how to watch: https://zachtheatre.org/support-us/red-hot-soul/  Saturday evening, Sept. 26th, 2020.

Each of the creative dance/music segments were shot using a moving camera on an ever evolving selection of gimbals. On exterior locations and on the stage.  I have learned much. As one of the very young dancers said to me after a long, hot day: "It's fun to see an old, gray-haired man running backwards with a camera in his hand, being chased by fifteen or twenty kids!" To which I would add: over and over again.

We finished shooting the very last of the creative content videos this past Sunday afternoon and Joshua has been editing since way back at the starting line. To date I've delivered about three hundred gigabytes of video, shuttling it back and forth on a portable HD.

One Lumix S1H, Two Lumix S1's with V-log upgrade, one G9
24-70mm f2.8 S-Pro of the "A" camera. 24-105mm S for the "B" camera and the 
70-200mm f4.0 S-Pro for the "C" camera.  A couple of back-up primes for the S cameras.
12-60mm Panasonic/Leica and a Meike 25mm Cinema lens for the G9. 
Some power banks and an Atomos Ninja V for grins.
Heavy bag.

I spent yesterday worrying about and packing for the one and only dress rehearsal we had for tonight's big show. A local company called "Werd" is doing the live-streaming and wrangling the feed from three live cameras (courtesy: Kirk Tuck Photography and Motion) as well as the pre-recorded creative properties. 

Rehearsals for live shows and fund-raisers are critical. Especially when you are working with a shoestring budget. The rehearsal had all the usual bumps and it was "learn on the fly" as far as scripting went. There were many changes to translate the (hastily and not by me...) written script to actual people speak. 

My call was for 5:30pm but, of course, I showed up at 4:00 p.m. since I'd never worked with the production company before and I know from anecdotal evidence that live streaming four sources to two channels can be fraught with peril. I hauled my stuff in (responsible yesterday and today only for three cameras). All lighting and audio is someone else's headache. 

I set up my three tripod mounted cameras and got them all sync'd for frame rate, data rate, etc. Turning off some stuff so it would not show in the final feed and turning on other stuff that should make streaming more efficient. But we can go into that on Monday.

And then the fun started. All three cameras were set identically and all three were plugged into HDMI to SDI converters. My screens were happy and active. The production company's screens were black. Blank. No signal. As I was out numbered all suspicion fell on me. There seemed to be a presumption that this was all the fault of "photo" cameras being used for video. We did that for a while, checking all the settings and connections until I got bored with being the slow guy and pulled out a Ninja V external monitor and hooking it to each camera, sequentially, to show the production kids that we did indeed have alive signal gushing through the pipes. I suggested they restart and let me turn on cameras first. OMG. Worked like a  charm. Live images bouncing around everywhere.

Setting up and framing at 6:30.

I thought yesterday's rehearsal was going to be an "edge of my seat" adventure in which cameras would fail, nerves would fray, fingers would be pointed and hysteria would rise as the night edged on. But we mostly just ran the script, made content changes and massaged the words. I ran all three cameras continuously for just about three hours. It was more or less a drill for me about how to manage power consumption and the possible need for intra-show battery changing but I found that all three models of the Lumix S1x system will run for a long time with one battery. 

When the battery levels the "B" and "C" cameras dropped down under 25% I added an Anker Power Bank (external battery pack) to each of them because the external battery will charge the system while running. Since I was not using AF or I.S. the camera batteries ended up with more charge at the end of the evening. 

I estimate that with two Anker 20,100 external "chargers" we could run each of those cameras for about 9 hours. And, bonus! there is no time limit whatsoever for recording in M4p @1080p. You can go as long as you have space on a memory card (128GB gives you about 13 hours of record time) and an energy source. 

Still in rehearsal at 9:15...
Side shot from the B cam.

Staying with batteries for a moment, I did a different test with the S1H because I'm using it with the battery grip (which will work on any of the three S1 variants). I experimented and found that you can "hot swap" the battery in the grip and not miss a frame. Set the preference for the camera to always try to use the grip battery first. It makes sense since it's the easiest one to access. When the grip battery runs to zero the camera automatically switches over to use the battery in the camera. Once that happens you can open the battery door on the grip, remove the battery and replace it with a fresh one. Once you do that the camera then switches back to suckling from the grip battery. While all this is happening you could also attach an external battery or charger to the camera's USB-C port and recharge the camera body battery. 

With so much power flexibility in place you could easily work continuously until your two SD cards fill up entirely. Nice. Very professional power management. Two thumbs up. 

Center. Seated = Bruce, the teleprompter guy.

We were fortunate to have a teleprompter and a very good operator along for the ride. He'll be here tonight as well. The teleprompter was mounted on the same tripod as the "A" camera and had no effect on its operation. That camera was meant to be stationary which is kind of logical. Works well with a teleprompter on it. Bruce was a consummate pro at the teleprompter with an almost uncanny ability to judge the cadence and speed of his presenters. 

Too much information...

We weren't recording or streaming last night but tonight we'll tighten up a lot. We'll do a custom white balance on all the cameras to make sure the color matches, and we'll make sure to do it after the sun sets so we don't have any light coming through the windows that might add to the overall mix. 

We'll also use the luminance spot meter in the S1H to set exposure and duplicate that  setting across the three cameras. 

I'll be on the "C" camera most of the night because it's the tightest crop and requires the most changes to the comp to follow each of the presenters as they bounce dialog back and forth. Thank goodness for focus peaking and very high def EVFs. I'll try to put an external monitor into the mix but I want to make sure I don't do anything to complicate the signal feed to the switcher.

Flowers everywhere by David Kurio.

This is the longest and most involved volunteer project I've undertaken in years. Joshua and I have collaborated on capturing six or seven involved and highly choreographed dance numbers with dozens and dozens of performers and we've done it under some challenging conditions. A 13 hour shoot during a Texas heat wave. Working on a stage where the primary lights were blown out of commission by a lightning storm, and working with the complexity of so many people's schedules. But tonight is the capper and once we send off the last electrons into the social media void I'll consider it a success. 

One sad note: We now have cameras that are capable of shooting 12 bit raw video at 2,700 mbs (Sigma fp). A camera that can shoot 6K in ProRes Raw (Lumix S1H) and two other variants that are also well endowed for higher end video production but live streaming calls for a very low data rate in order not to exceed the bandwidth of the upstream data caps. Like using Triple Crown thoroughbreds to pull a plough. 

I can hardly wait for the client who asks, with a straight face and a good budget: "Just how high a quality video can we make?"

All our creative content was shot in 4K at 4:2:2 color sampling with a 10 bit bit depth. We mostly shot in Long GOP at 150 mbs but our tap dancing segment was shot in the same set up but in ALL-I. 

ALL-I does handle motion better. I'll be using it more often in the future. It records at 400 mbs.

Watch tonight if you want to. Write a check if you have money to burn and want to support Austin live theater. Or wait until Monday when I start linking just to the actual creative segments here on the blog.

On Monday I'll officially have started the arc reactor in the sub-basement at VSL and we'll be making more content as frequently as we can conceive and produce it. 

Thanks for hanging out and waiting. Now, who in the "When will Kirk Return" pool had Monday the 28th? Winner!