Updated: Dec 18, 2020
She TV here! Today we’re sharing with you our experience being a Los Angeles production company filming TEDx events. We always enjoy filming for TEDx! We love what their organization and movement stand for, their strong attention to detail, and the high-quality/professionalism of their videos. (Read: our shameless self-promotion)
The fact that they’ve created a platform where people from around the globe can organize their own independent events, film them, and then share them on the world wide web (aka TEDx’s YouTube channel) to be streamed around the planet massively inspires us. *SIGH* We’re just in awe thinking about all the hard work that goes into building a brand/organization like that.
For these reasons and more we are extremely proud and honored to be a part of the TEDx community. As a newer member of the TEDx world (our first TEDx was in the summer of 2018), we have learned A LOT when filming TEDx events. We have had many triumphs and a few failures. But every failure was more of a triumph than anything because we learned exactly what to do differently the next time.
Here’s a summary of the key lessons we have learned. We hope these tips will help you in your TEDx event:
1. YOU MUST LOCATION SCOUT
Location scouting is almost always necessary-- no matter what you’re filming, but for live events, it’s absolutely crucial. If you’re a production company like us, you’ll only handle the video services, not the on-site AV services.
The AV team is in charge of setting up the stage, running the screen/slide for presentations, and adjusting the audio levels for the event space. They are the ones who are making sure it’s a pleasant experience for the audience in-person.
You, however, are in charge of making sure the online audience (the audience that will last for years and decades to come-- no pressure) has a pleasant experience (aka pristine audio and a good variety of visuals).
We’ve encountered two main scenarios regarding audio recording. The first way (and most common) is working with the AV team’s sound mixer. This method is preferred but still comes with its own risks. Let us break it down for you.
In a perfect world, the AV team will have a sound mixer that is controlling each speaker’s microphone and their audio levels coming out of the speakers surrounding the stage. All you have to do is plug your sound recorder (we use a Zoom H5N) using an XLR cable into an Output on their mixer. Boom. Done!
We recommend getting to know your AV people on a first-name basis. First, it’s always nice to be friendly with the people you’re sharing an entire day with. Second, you want to be at the top of their attention if for some reason the audio is not registering on your recorder.
In our first TEDx event, the AV team had mixed the levels for the audience, but not for our recorder’s feed. The first speaker to get up to stage began speaking, but we weren’t getting any audio!
Luckily, we always have Shotgun microphones attached to our cameras, sending the camera an internal sound feed. With these backups, we were able to fill in the gap with the camera’s internal audio (professionally sound mixed, of course).
The second way we’ve recorded audio is via our personal lavalier microphones. We recently filmed a TEDx event that took place in a movie theater. The movie theater’s audio system did connect to working microphones for the audience’s speakers, but there was no audio mixer for us to plug into to get a clean feed to record. We spent a few months before the event brainstorming ways around this.
We ended up with two options:
The speakers would be mic-ed with our personal lavalier (for audio recording purposes) AND hold a handheld mic-- or have a mic on a stand (for audience purposes).
The speakers would be mic-ed with our personal lavalier (for audio recording purposes) and would project into the audience (instead of having a microphone).
The speakers we worked with chose to project, and then we had our recorded sound covered with the personal lavalier. This is the kind of stuff you don’t want to be figuring out day-of, so make sure to figure these details out BEFORE the event date.
If you’re in film, then you know: lighting. is. critical.
You want your speaker to be looking nice and professional, but if they aren’t well-lit, then we’ll never know. Oftentimes the AV team, or the auditorium you are filming in, will have a lighting plan already figured out.
If they do, that’s wonderful! You will want to make sure that they have it set up in a way where the “spotlight” or front light is giving enough light for the speaker, but not washing out the screen behind them.
In our most recent TEDx event, there was no spotlight provided by the AV team nor the movie theater and, thus, we had to bring in our own.
We used an Anthem One light-- which is a powerful professional-grade lighting system that lasts 2,000% longer, is twice as bright and is 1/4th the cost of a metal halide system. In normal people's words, it's a little box light that can illuminate up to half an acre!
It was perfect for our TEDx event because it was small (easy to be kept out of the way) and using just one light was plenty to fill the stage with beautiful soft light.
And a huge thank you to Jason Moore for setting us up with the lights! We appreciate you!
2. YOU MUST HAVE A GAME PLAN
In your location scout, you can begin prepping a plan of where your cameras will go. We recommend filming with AT LEAST three cameras:
Camera One is a Wide Angle of the entire stage with the TEDx sign, screen, speaker, and maybe a bit of the audience.
Camera Two is a Medium Shot of the Speaker, either a full body shot of speaker or “Cowboy shot”, which captures the speaker from the middle of thighs to head.
Camera Three is a Close Up Shot of the Speaker. This will likely be the most used shot in your final edits, so make sure it’s flattering, out of the way of the audience (away from any interruption), and in focus.
A few obstacles we encountered and learned from when actually filming:
Make sure to pack enough fully-charged batteries in addition to the batteries you’re using. Our batteries (for Sony and Canon cameras) typically last 30-40 minutes, meaning we safely change them out every 2-3 speakers.
You’ll want an extension cord with your battery charger ready to go so you can have constant batteries ready to go.
In our experience, batteries last less than they say. Sometimes our camera’s monitor would tell us that a battery has 30% of life left…. and then die immediately. If this happens, don’t freak out, just change the battery as quickly as you can and resume recording. This is the magic of having three cameras-- you have two backup cameras in case one dies.
>>> MEMORY CARDS
This tip is self-explanatory. Make sure you have enough media cards to supply the day’s worth of content. In our experience, filming in 4K, we have about an hour and a half of space on a 64GB SD card. This means we safely have 6-7 speakers worth of memory. We typically need 2 cards per camera, but you should have more ready to go in case of emergency.
The good thing is you won’t be filming for 4, 5, or 6 hours straight. You’ll usually only be filming for the speaker’s speeches which typically run from 7-15 minutes.
3. YOU MUST PLAN FOR THE WORST
You know what they say about the best-laid plans. Here are some obstacles we’ve encountered in the past:
>>Attendees Obstructing the View of Speakers
Even if you location scout and come three hours early to set up all the cameras, you normally don’t ask someone to sit in the audience to test out what it looks like. Normally, you’re focused on the speaker. Some people sit tall!! Or rather, some chairs are tall. So it’s very important to test what the audience is going to look like when seated to make sure they don’t interrupt your camera angle.
While you do the best that you can to prevent technical difficulties, they’re a part of almost every project. Having backup plans thought up for troublesome scenarios like if the speakers were to go out, the lighting was to change, the camera was malfunctioning, etc.
Remember that you are a part of the TEDx production. You are not just an outside video production company. When you are there, most likely wearing a TEDx crew shirt, all the audience is going to see is another person on the TEDx team. So be sure to be friendly and communicative with the TEDx volunteers, the organizers, the speakers, and any passing attendees. Keep in mind that the attendees are all anxiously awaiting for an entertaining day, and the speakers are most likely very nervous about their speech. Be patient, gentle, and kind to all of them.
4. YOU MUST READ ALL TEDx RULES & GUIDELINES
Read all the TEDx Videography rules!! Read them. Memorize them. Sing them to people on the street. Seriously, if you don’t follow these rules TO THE T, then your videos may be compromised and will not be allowed to be posted. Dun dun dun…
For your own reference and to share with your speakers, here’s a link to rules: https://www.ted.com/participate/organize-a-local-tedx-event/tedx-organizer-guide/video-photography/video
After you have filmed your event, congratulate yourself with a long night’s rest and maybe some ice cream. But don’t celebrate too long. Videos always take longer than expected to edit so get on them early. You may experience some very excited, anxious, or persistent speakers who message you every day wondering when their video will be up! So mentally prepare to kindly explain the process to numerous people.
Once you finish editing the video, following the strict editing guidelines found here, you have to upload the videos to the TEDx Media Uploader, which puts the video onto Youtube. Beware that once you have submitted all videos, this process could take anywhere from an hour to FIVE business days.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. You’ll have to submit information with each video. Don’t be fooled-- you may think you know everything about your speakers and their videos until you get to this section. You have to input information such as name, email, gender, bio, video description, video tags, video category, and more. We absolutely recommend gathering this information EARLY. Like, don’t wait until you’re uploading to go on a hunt for this information.
Since you’ve made it this far in the blog, we wanted to reward you with a helpful document we’ve created that has saved us (and will save you) hours worth of work. Below is a document we’ve created to help gather all the information you’ll need for the uploading process. Send it to your event organizer to send to the speakers so they can input their information.
>>How to Download:
Open up file
Click on “File” in the top left corner
Click on “Make a Copy”
Choose a destination for the file on your GDrive
Notice that the Categories and Tags sheets cannot be edited. In other words, speakers cannot create their own categories or tags-- they have to choose from the list provided.
Thank you for making it this far! We’d love to hear about your upcoming TEDx event and answer any questions you might have! After all, rising tides lift all boats, and we may even learn something from you! Or if you are looking to host your own TEDx event, we would be happy to be your go-to video team and make your event the best, most seamless experience with the best videos yet!
Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org any time to say hello! :)
We also owe a huge thank you to Eraina Ferguson for giving us the opportunity to build our partnership with TEDx from the ground up. She’s an incredible speaker, event organizer, fellow creative, and friend. We appreciate you, Eraina!