What you brought with you

The best equipment you have is what you brought with you. A very good example of this is from our last trip to Cuba.

The purpose with the trip was diving and relaxing with my wife. Photo and video-filming had to fit in to this schema, and our luggage allowance was limited to one piece of checked bagage each.

Therefore I "only" brought with me a Sony HD-videocam with an external mono shotgun mic, a stereo lavallier microphone, a new GoPro for getting video-footage underwater, a tiny Manfrotto clamp for attaching the action-cam to things and a roll of pink gaffer tejp. What was left home was everything for lightning, sound-recoder, stereo microphones, mixer, cables & adapters, video-tripods etc. Neither a computer for editing footage and making intermediate edits was with us. Only an older iPad 2 with 64 Gb of memory for looking at the footage from the GoPro camera was brought along.

Friday evening, the last one after week for us at the resort, were a local band with dancers performing on stage after dinner. We didn't have any plans after the meal, so I run back to the bungalow to fetch the videocamera and enjoy the show.

The performance was really nice and I filmed roughly half an hour of their act. Afterwards, in the lobby, we showed the lead singer the film on the small videocam display. Remember, this is Cuba, a different country compared to most others. He was fascinated to see their performance.



They have never been filmed on stage before and, (as I understood from his spanish), that they never had been recorded during the twenty years he have been singing and playing. The rest of the band, with dancers, then joined him to see and listen to themselves.

They told us that they would also play at the resort the following evening, and they invited us to film and record them on stage. This time more traditional Cuban music and without dancers. Both Lotta and I accepted the offer with pleasure and promised to make a DVD for them to be send over later. Steaming via Internet is not yet an option in Cuba.

Our challenge was now to get all needed material for a concert video, with a limited set of equipment, and only one live event to shoot. 

The plan for next evening was now to let Lotta to take photos with the DSLR as she was used to the camera. The camera was a Nikon D700 with a 70-200/4 VR-lens without possibilities for video, but with very good light performance.  My job was to be both responsible for camera and sound during the concert and ms. M Clamp was responsible for B-cam footage. 

During the morning next day, I went to the stage to see were I could put the GoPro. There was a lightning rig at each side of the scene so I set the clamp in the right one and  mounted the action-camera. Without a display is it very hard to know what you are capturing. There is an app for remote control, but it needs a password from the camera. I had downloaded the manual downloaded on the iPad, but they password was not there. only to be found on their support site. So, without internet connection, I had to film a sequence with me as a singer on stage, import the clips into the iPad, look at the short film and then re-arrange the camera-position. Repeat until good enough. Then back to the reception and wait for the taxi to the next place to stay.

Half an hour before the band was supposed to start, we were with all equipment at stage, preparing for the gig. during this time we were mounting the GoPro, checking the DSLR, both videocameras and their sound recordings as well as looking a memory cards and batteries a final time before the band arrived.

The lightning was a challenge, or the lack of proper lightning. Lotta had to turn the ISO up to 6400 and normal shutterspeed was between 1/15-1/60s at f4. Not an ideal situation with a tele-zoom. VR does help when you have long speeds, but not when people are moving on stage. I just went for automatic white-balance on both cameras and hoped for the best.

The GoPro battery is rather small so I didn't want to start shooting until the band was on stage. I set it up for remote control and started the filming when Yvette as presenter entered the stage. The problem was that I had set it up for sequential stills, not video capture. There is a small LED flashing when capturing to memory on the camera, so I saw that something wasn't working properly. It took more than five minuters to change the settings remotly and at the same time shooting handheld with the Handycam with the attached external microphone. Not a trivial task in dim light and with reading glasses.

The filming of the show went very well after these initial issues and we had some really good clips to show the band afterwards. Already the day before, we captured notes on paper of all members in the band and who was playing which instrument, including the names of the four dancers.

A short session of the draft material from the concert can already be viewed on-line. There is yet no sound editing, no color corrections, no effects in this draft version. Just simple multi-cam clips with synced audio tracks. When the concert DVD is mastered will it also be posted on-line.

Ritmo Joven playing at Playa Girón (draft version) from Casimir Artmann on Vimeo.

Some of Lottas really beautiful photos can be seen at flickr.