Larger than Life

Ever hear the term, “larger than life?” Do you know where it came from? The theater and movie production business.  The phrase is actually foundational to what we do as Video Directors in the church every week. I would go as far to say that if you understand and incorporate the meaning of the phrase, you’ll be a much better Video Director.

To understand the meaning behind the phrase we need to go back to the days before film and video. With few exceptions, in theatrical plays there typically was and is now a clear dividing line between the actors and the audience. This line has a defined demarcation, the proscenium. The proscenium opening is the 4th wall, an invisible portal allowing the audience to peer through at the drama on-stage. All things upstage of the proscenium line are to be the focus of the audiences’ attention. All things downstage of the proscenium (with few exceptions to the contrary) are not part of the theatrical stage performance.

The Size Relationship:

In these theatrical plays (before the age of film and video), the size relationship between performer and audience, between stage actor and house audience member is always 1:1. No matter how expansive the stage and no matter where the performer stands, a 6’ tall actor is always 6’. No matter how large the house, no matter if someone is seated in the first row or all the way in the back in the cheap seats, a 6’ tall audience member is always 6’ tall. Although the ability to see detail changes, the size ratio between the performer and any given audience member always remains equal.

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Big Game

At a recent National Association of Broadcaster’s convention a man walked up to the booth I was working in, introduced himself and said that he wanted to talk to me about a TV production package for the upcoming Baltimore Raven’s season. I’ll admit it, I am not a sports guy, at all. In fact I’ll also admit up until now I’ve been a bit of an “entertainment production snob.”  Sports projects always seemed 2nd rate to me, little to no creativity or planning, one step away from covering a fire or a car crash on the news.  Not my cup of tea.

Anyway, in an attempt to be polite I chatted with him and did my best to talk “sports-talk.” At one point I asked, “What stadium do the Raven’s play at, Camden Yards?” His face turned sour and said, “ah, no.” A bit later in the conversation I threw out a few baseball references. He finally cut me off and said, “You don’t watch much football, do you?”

Most of my snobbery about sports stems from a perception that a production team actually adds little to sports telecasts. I thought, they just show up and cover the action.  When you take away instant replays, slo-mo’s, color and play-by-play commentary, it seemed doing a sports telecast was just a matter of keeping a few lenses on the ball. What’s difficult about that?  Not unlike some church production teams, I believed sports production teams were not in control of the content. Recently I began to see that I was wrong about sports and maybe the church too.

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Active Camera

Stay static, push, pull, pan, dolly, truck, pedestal, crab, track and dolly-zoom. It seems like the options are endless. Add to this list flying the camera on a jib, crane or wire, canted (dutch) angles, shaky cam, soft focus, rack-focus, whip pans and more, we could go on and on.

Some of these camera techniques are now seen in some church worship services. In some cases unusual camera movement is used in just one song or even less, maybe just a stanza or even as brief as one beat. For other churches these camera techniques are used on virtually every song.

Where do we draw the line?

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Being Musical

A while back I Technical Directed (switched) a music concert with a Director I had never worked with before. It was a surreal experience.

No matter what the tempo of the song was that the artist was performing, the Director cut at his own disparate pace, totally disconnected to the musical style of the song. As a song progressed in intensity toward its natural apex, the Director continued at his original own disparate pace. When a guest artist took the stage and a new song began with a different style, the control room plodded along consistent to the video portrayal of the previous songs, completely disconnected to what was actually occurring on stage. I think I could have set the production switcher to auto transition every four second and no one would have even noticed. It’s really quite sad.

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Don Hewitt

Don Hewitt began his career at CBS in 1948 and his tenure there spanned an incredible sixty-one years. Shortly after World War II while the new medium of ‘Television’ was just in its infancy; Don and his contemporaries literally invented how this new technology could be used. At the CBS’s News Division Don directed the very first ever live televised Presidential debate. He did the very first live remote broadcast of a political convention. He directed early news programs with legendary newsman Edward R. Murrow and produced the CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite for eighteen years.

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Jon Swearingen Interview

In 2012 I presented a break-out session at the Gurus of Tech conference entitled, “Live Director’s: an Inside Look.” Four prominent TV Directors were interviewed about how they got their start, how they direct live broadcast television shows now, funny stories, their interactions with crew and talent and how they keep the Producers and stars happy.

Jon Swearingen is the television Director for Lakewood Church / Joel Osteen Ministries. His program is the most watched religous telecast on television with over ten million viewers per weekly episode.

Here is the unabridged interview with Jon Swearingen. [00:45:16]

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Ron de Moraes Interview

In 2012 I presented a break-out session at the Gurus of Tech conference entitled, “Live Director’s: an Inside Look.” Four prominent TV Directors were interviewed about how they got their start, how they direct live broadcast television shows now, funny stories, their interactions with crew and talent and how they keep the Producers and stars happy.

Ron de Moraes’ credits include broadcast video Director for “Skywire Live with Nik Wallenda,” the “Miss USA” and “Miss Universe Pageants,” “In Performance at the White House: A Celebration of Music from the Civil Rights Movement,” “Walt Disney World Christmas Parade,” Great Performances: “A Tribute to James Taylor,” and “Eric Clapton’s Crossroads Guitar Festival” and others.

Here is the unabridged interview with Ron de Moraes during his lunch break on the set of “The Celebrity Apprentice Live Finale.”  [00:28:18]

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Jon Small Interview

 

In 2012 I presented a break-out session at the Gurus of Tech conference entitled, “Live Director’s: an Inside Look.” Four prominent TV Directors were interviewed about how they got their start, how they direct live broadcast television shows now, funny stories, their interactions with crew and talent and how they keep the Producers and stars happy.

Jon Small’s credits include broadcast TV Director and/or Executive Producer for Blake Shelton, Garth Brooks, Reba McEntire, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Billy Joel and others.

Here is the unabridged interview with Jon Small. [01:02:29]

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Gregg Gelfand Interview

 

In 2012 I presented a break-out session at the Gurus of Tech conference entitled, “Live Director’s: an Inside Look.” Four prominent TV Directors were interviewed about how they got their start, how they direct live broadcast television shows now, funny stories, their interactions with crew and talent and how they keep the Producers and stars happy.

Gregg Gelfand’s credits include live broadcast video Director for “American Idol,” “National Football League Honors,” “Golden Globe Awards Red Carpet Special” and others.

Here is the unabridged interview with Gregg Gelfand. [00:24:34]

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