JAMES CRAIG PHOTOGRAPHY

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Local Troupe Rogue Swan and HCC Actors Guild's Who's Afraid of Virginia Wolf

Dec 5, 2018

Rogue Swan asked me to do a video of their performance of Who's Afraid of Virginia Wolf at the Black Box Theater at H.C.C.. I jumped at it, having already purchased tickets and anxious to put my new Fuji X-T3 through its video hoops – and of course hoping for a couple of great B&Ws. My Havre de Grace Street project is limited, obviously, to home-town happenings – but as in all of life, there are always gray areas. This is one of those. Rogue Swan is a force in and blessing to Havre de Grace and Harford Community College serves the entire County. So I have no problem stepping out into the penumbra for this one. B&Ws have their own album on the Street page.

Who's Afraid of Virginai Wolf is not an evening of simple entertainment – it's a play where the measure of the performance is how much one's guts have been wrenched in the viewing. It helps to have seen it before, so one can step back a little once in a while and enjoy individual performances. With me, the better it is the less likely I am to want to see it again soon. 


Shooting Stills alongside the Video Set-up / Eletronic Shutter Test

     I was a little worried that the mic on the X-T3 would pick up my X-T2 shutter clicks – they are pretty quiet but I hesitated to risk it, standing there right alongside. I decided that this was an opportunity to put the electronic shutter to the test. I turned off the artificial shutter sound effect and relied on viewer blackout to let me know that the shots were actually being taken.

This brings up a curious point – with the X-T3 eliminating this blackout, how the heck would I know with the new camera, without the sound, that a shot was taken unless I turn on the instant replay on the back screen – which I prefer to turn off.

Conclusion: Often when shooting stage action with slow shutter speeds, there is a little hand or arm movement blur. I like the effect in my B&Ws, at least when using the mechanical shutter. It seems that this effect is exaggerated considerably while using the electronic shutter – not the same pleasing effect. Something to watch out for.

     I was quite busy with the video – what with being perched atop a step-ladder and all – but I managed to fire off a few stills. Here are some that I liked. I gave Rogue Swan the color stills along with the video.

Alan Herlinger is George • Catherine Stalcup Herlinger is Martha

Jacob Paul Johnson is Nick • Tara Nicole Vinson if Honey

 

Images are larger, on black background and downloadable in their album on the Havre de Grace Street page.


Shoot Notes… 

One individual wants me to outline my set-up for this, so I'm including it here. I'm hardly an expert on shooting video, especially with the mirrorless. But combining my experience, a little research and a couple of new I ideas I had, this is it.

     Hopefully one or two others will be interested – better yet if someone has suggestions as to how I could improve on my set-up, preferably without much expense.

SET-UP

• Fuji X-T3 with battery grip plugged into AC – fortunately there was an outlet handy.

• Perched on tripod mounted atop a handy table – about nine feet above the floor to get above the heads of audience. I worked from a small step ladder.

• Lens was the Fuji 18-55 Zoom set at F-4, zoom adjusted to include the entire set. The HCC Black Box Theater is small so the focal length used was close to 35mm (around 50mm equivalent).

• 4K - 1/60 second - 29.97

• W/B on Auto / H265 and Long GOP to keep the file size down / Film simulation on ETERNA / all other settings either off or on zero. Now that I have this as a guide, I can play around with suggestions on a number of otthe her settings. 

• Lens Image Stabalizer turned off.

OUTPUT

• Camera output each half-hour to five separate files – which joined seamlessly in the computer. This left one one-second gap at the half hour mark where I awaited the termination and immediately reinitiated recording.

Instead of waiting, I know now to keep a sharp eye out in the final minute of the half hour for a short break in action/audio and stop/start within about half a second. Here's where the darn shutter release cable would have really come in handy – it seems Fuji changed the darn connector from the T2 to the T3 and never listed it on the list of changes – so I was stuck holding a useless remote in my hand. Precious.

• Sound outputted needing a little volume boost, not much. External Mic adjustment in the camera was 2.5dB – 3dB would have been more like it. Melamount external mic.

There were points in the play where speech got very low – this could be improved (if needed) in the video by going back in, selecting short stretches of audio and boosting the settings – then re-exporting.

• No exposure corrections needed on Acts Two and Three, where I set the Exposure compensation dial to a full stop underexposed – after Act One came out a tad over. This I corrected in the computer. Even at that, white shirts and ultra-white faces still bleach out a little.

• Final files were reduced to HD and given to Rogue Swan on a USB stick. They look pretty good. I tried writing the three hours to a DVE, but the resolution proved unsatisfactory.

• Three hours, almost non-stop, 4K in the X-T3 has to be something of a limit. The camera was getting kind of hot to the touch at the end.