Filming a panel debate discussion

Seven panel guests sitting on separate chairs on stage
The main panel debate guests on stage

Panel debate video production

Filming a panel debate allows the later editing of the discussion with multiple camera angles and the sharing of various length versions.

Video production commission

Digital Drama, a multi-media production company, commissioned me to film and edit a panel discussion, which they were producing for the Noel Coward society. The subject for discussion was the play ‘Peace in our Time’ by Noel Coward. The panel consisted of nine experts, chaired by the Producer of Digital Drama and supported by three actors (who had performed this play in their recent radio production) who would act out a series of scenes from the play during the 60-minute debate. The debate was to take place late one morning on the stage of the Noel Coward theatre in front of an invited live audience.

Location filming advice

After discussing the format with the event’s producer, I recommended filming it with two cameras as they would give me more flexibility in editing the debate together. I also suggested hiring a sound recordist to record and manage the sound given that there were to be six people on the panel supported by three actors on the side of the stage. We planned that each participant should have their own radio mic fitted so that we could record perfect sound for each contributor as they described their interpretation of this work while being supported by spoken pieces by each of the actors.

Lighting

Filming a panel debate and delivering the editing video to a high standard means that the location, set and lighting needs to be considered. The Noel Coward Theatre kindly agreed to let us use some of their house lights to better illuminate the people being filmed during the debate. One of their stage curtains would provide appropriate theatrical stage backdrop to the discussion.

Setting up the sound recording kit

The sound recordist, Pietro Giordano brought his Sound Devices 664 (12-channel 16 track digital sound mixer and recorder) along with 7 radio mics (including two Wisycoms dual systems) which, together with two of mine, gave us the nine radio microphones we needed. Pietro set up his sound mixer and workstation just behind my cameras and started fitting all the radio mics to the panel guests and actors as they arrived.

Two camera filming

The two cameras (one filming 4K video) were mounted on tripods in the middle of stalls with enough room in front of them for the invited guests. Before the debate started, I asked the actors to wait for a moment for my cue so that I could re-frame the cameras before they started acting out each of their scenes. This generally worked well with only a short pause before they started each scene. These gaps were then edited out for the final video. The details and running order of the debate had been very well prepared and the actual debate and recording all went very smoothly.

Managing the sound files and video editing

After the debate had finished, Pietro gave me a copy of his polyphonic (.wav) sound files for the edit. Once imported into Avid this polyphonic file opens up to display each of the separately recorded audio tracks. I first copied all the media onto my 2 x Promise Pegasus 12TB RAID drive sets (one main working set and one mirrored back up set). I then edited a full-length 67-minute version of the panel debate and also a 60-second trailer. Using 4K video footage gave me a lot of flexibility to resize the shots to make the edit work very well as I was delivering video at 1920 x 1080 resolution.

Both the 67-minute version and the 60-second trailer edited from this shoot can be watched on my YouTube channel. If you would like my help with the filming of your project please get in touch.

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Julian Langham

Julian started his career in media in 1994; shortly after Julian was invited to join the BBC where he was quickly promoted to Editor. Julian left the BBC to develop his freelance career in 2009. Highly-practised and skilled in constructing engaging narratives, Julian’s key strength is his ability to produce strong visually-led stories. In his work, Julian shares his passion for creating powerful synergies between story content, visual rhythm and music.