Middle School Theatre cameras - on a budget

Dear Control Booth Community,

I would love to know if anyone has any recommendations for cameras I could use in my theatre for zoom. Last trimester we used a Canon XA15 (I think, I don't have it to hand to check) and two security cameras. The Canon did an ok job but wasn't able to cope with brighter scenes. The security cameras, despite being HD, were pretty crappy. We are a private school and I feel like I could get money for something that would work going forward but with the current climate in schools the budget would still be conservative - Let's ball park at $1000 for two cameras... but could go higher. Any recommendations?

The cameras would feed into a blackmagic mini unit. The sound would be from two hanging choral mics and two Crown PCC160 - we won't he pushing the sound out to the main speakers just to the feed so I think I have that part covered but any input here would be great - the last time, with just the hanging mics - it was harder to hear than we hoped. Adding the floor mics to see if we can get a bit more this time.

Any advice would be much appreciated!


First, I am not a video-expert. However, we've had some streaming projects last year because no public in school was allowed. We used up to four Sony FDR-AX53 camcorders with a Atem mini. We hired some led-panels for lighting. No problems with white balance an good picture quality.
Sound was delivered by our PA, you can't leave that to the Sony's.
Thanks Vince, They look likes something I could make happen as they could have uses outside of the theatre too - more bang for the buck goes a long way with Admin.

I guess this takes me to a second question - which may have been answered somewhere else - when planning on shooting a theatre production are there any hard and fast rules that I should apply to my usual theatrical lighting that will help with picture quality? Previously, I have always just thought ... I'm doing a theatre production that happens to be being filmed, I'm not going to undermine the quality of the lighting for the audience to benefit the recording ... but since this may be just a live stream, I think I may need to consider some other options. Anyone any cunning ideas?
I've just read this thread and see that raising the color temperature of my lights (this is all new for me!) would significantly help as would lighting through a camera's viewfinder. It seems that I should also light everything with less contrast ... which in my blackbox makes for a much less dramatic look for this show!

Some questions for anyone who can answer, do I need to raise the temperature of ALL my lights or just my front white lights? (Raising the temp on the whole plot would be very challenging for a one man operation who also has a full time teaching load ... none of which is in the theatre!) . I assume if the gel I'm using is raising the temperature (is that a thing) I don't need to use a CBT?

The more I think of it the more it seems that lighting the stage and keeping it lit is the best for filming .... which brings me back to my original problem with filming a theatre production - I want it to look like a theatre production!

Any advice appreciated...


For those Sony FDR-AX53 camcorders, what settings do you use for the set and forget units?
Since I'm not really cameraguy I had a pragmatic approach. After setting a basic lighting, one camera was set as good as i could do. Starting with it's basic setting, adjusting the white balance, and possible some things as diaphragm and such so it delivered a nice picture on the monitor. Most settings would then be set to manual so nothing changed unexpectedly. The other camera's got set to the same values. After placing them probably some little adjustments so their pictures here in line with each other.
I'm sure a real cameraguru could do much better. However, providing good light, well chosen camera angles, well timed cuts between camera's, smooth lower thirds and other titles and not to forget, crisp sound does all count for a good result.
Well, my helpers and I may not be professionals in all these things, but we managed to get some nice streams.
Back to the question: I can't give you the perfect settings, Ask a pro, or go pragmatic and trust your eyes :) .


Well-Known Member
Premium Member
My suggestion is that if you want your cameras color-matched then buy all the same model, at the same time, from the same vendor. And cross your fingers.

Shading/grading for color is not trivial (so I've learned). Trying to match up different image sensors, image processing, etc is... well, it sucks. Starting with fewer variables helps it to suck less.

Jay Ashworth

Well-Known Member
We've shot 3 semesters on our mainstage, largely not lit for TV, with the XA10s, and I've been very happy with them.

They do have less dynamic range than the stage, and they'll blow out a little if you're irised for the dark. But if you don't have to open that wide they're fine. I've built a whole rig around mine, with 8" HDMI viewfinder, splitter, SDI converter, LANC controller and the like...

And they *still* sell for the $1100-1200 now used 10 years on that they used to sell for new. And worth it.

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