Video Production Tips - Filming Talks and Presentations

If you work in the video production world, it’s very likely that at some point a client will hire your camera crew (or just a videographer) to capture video of a speech or presentation. Whether it’s for a medical conference, corporate event, keynote speech, short talk, or a live presentation, it doesn’t matter…the same applies to all: Preparation is everything. In other words, makes sure to get some pre-production work done before your camera team starts to film.


Our Camera Team Filming a Keynote Speech in Vienna

Pre-Production


For our production crew here in Vienna there’s never enough information the client can give us before any video shoot. Here are just a few points:


- Find out what kind of video the client wants. For instance, do they have examples of a style they’re looking for? In most cases the answer is yes.


- What’s the content of the presentation?


- Does the client want the speech / presentation filmed in its entirety? Or do they only need snippets? This determines how flexible the camera operator can be with the camera set-up.


- Will there be a screen/projector? And does this need to be incorporated into the final video?


- Location scouting! Make sure to scout the location beforehand and find out how big the room/stage is, where you can place the camera(s), is there be a PA system (sound board)? Will the speaker be holding a microphone? Wearing a wireless lav mic? Or will there be a microphone attached to the podium? Where are the power outlets, etc. You get the deal.


Audio


As with basically every corporate video shoot, recording high-quality audio can significantly differentiate an amateurish video from a professional production. If there’s a technician with a sound board on site, you can ask to get the audio feed sent directly to the videographer’s camera via an XLR cable. Another option would be to hand the technician an external recording device (Like a Zoom) so your video team has a copy of the audio file to synch later in the editing process.


Audio Feed Sent Directly to the Cameras via XLR

Should none of these options be feasible, simply have the speaker wear a lav mic to get the audio sent wirelessly directly to the videographer’s camera. Note: It’s always a great idea to have back-up audio in case something happens. Have the camera team record a second audio source at the same time (for example by having a Zoom recorder near the table, or attached to a directional mic next to the stand).


Lighting


This can be tricky and might very well be out of your control depending on the event you and your camera team faces. Bigger conference centers usually have their own technical department that can/will modify the lighting on the speakers. However that’s not always the case and it could very well be that your video crew will find themselves filming talks and presentations in much smaller venues with bad lighting situations.


Our camera team films talks and presentations on a weekly basis here in Austria, most of them being in “crowded” smaller venues (like in co-working spaces) with bad lighting and a data projector behind the speaker. Basically a recipe for disaster for the camera operator when it comes to exposing the image. In these events our video crew brings along a few panel and/or spot-lights and we try our best to light the presenter/speaker without spilling too much light on the projected screen behind them.


Lighting the Presenter

There’s a give and take in those situations where our camera team lights the speaker. On the one hand the final video will look much better (image and subject can be exposed properly) while on the other hand people in attendance won’t see the projected screen very well due to light spillage. In these cases it’s really important for the videographer or production manager to clear up these details with the client beforehand so there are no surprises on the actual video shoot.


Don’t Film the Screen


Although what’s being projected on the screen might be necessary for the final video, don’t film it. Trying to expose for the screen and speaker at the same time will make your image look anything but professional. The cameraman is better off framing a tighter shot focused on the speaker (like a medium shot) and simply getting the presentation files from the speaker later in order to synch them in the editing process.


Filming Presentations at a Conference Center


Tip: Make a screen recording instead. The majority of the presentations and talks our camera team films here in Vienna don’t only have “power point-style” slides projected on the screen. The speakers will oftentimes need to flip back-and-forth from the presentation slides to the internet as part of their presentation. Synching the presenter’s mouse movements, different websites, and real-time typing is then basically impossible in post-production (sometimes the speakers we film do live website coding…good luck recreating that in the edit).


In those cases our video crew does a live screen recording of the speaker’s laptop as they’re presenting. In other words, everything that is being projected on the screen is simultaneously being recorded as an .mp4 or .mov file directly by the presenter’s computer. This can be easily done with free third-party screen recording plugins (like OBS), or with Quicktime (if they're using a Macbook). Alternatively the videographer can use a capture card to record the speaker’s screen.


Video Team Filming Talks at a Smaller Venue in Austria

Later in post-production the editor only has to synch the audio from the screen recording with the camera’s audio, saving a bunch of time and headache during the edit. Note: Make sure the screen recording outputs the same frame rate as the video crew’s camera(s) or else it won’t synch properly in the edit. If that’s not possible, the video editor can convert the screen recording files to match the camera’s frame-rate in post-production (by using Adobe Media Encoder for example).


So there you have it, a few tips and tricks on how our video production company in Vienna shoots presentations and talks on a weekly basis. If there’s anything we missed, let us know.


Posted by Vitor Goncalves

Vitor is a filmmaker, cameraman and editor based in Vienna, Austria. He is the owner of Reel Arts Media.


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