Most Vajra Echoes video recordings are made with a multi-camera live-mix video system specially created by Vajra Echoes for recording dharma teachings. The system usually uses four videocameras. The four cameras are remote control cameras operated with a joy-stick controller. These cameras are placed around the room providing different angles for recording the teacher and translator as well as a camera in front to record the students and shrine room. All four cameras feed into a video mixer. The camera operator has video monitors showing him the view that is actually being recorded as well as the alternate views available from the other cameras. The video mixer allows him to switch from camera to camera (with a choice of transitions). The joy-stick controller allows him to change the view point of the cameras that aren't currently recording before bringing them into the video. It is also possible during the question and answer period to create a picture-in-picture image so that both the teacher and the student are on the screen at the same time.
The result is video that provides the feeling of actually being present at the retreat. The shrine room, the participants, and the full atmosphere of the teachings all come alive. People asking questions are on-screen rather than merely being disembodied (off-screen) voices. The interactions between teacher and student are seen clearly. The sound quality for these recordings is generally excellent. The sound comes directly from the teacher's and translator's microphones as well as an area microphone to record the assembled students when they are chanting or singing. Usually a wireless microphone is used to record audience questions. All of the sound comes to the video recorder directly from the audio mixer. This approach reduces ambient room noise to a minimum.
Vajra Echoes strongly believes that a shrine room should be a shrine room, not a TV studio set. By using remotely controlled cameras, naturally available lighting (in most cases) and by placing the recording table at the rear or to one side of the room, the distracting impact of the ongoing videography is reduced to a minimum. Some accommodation is required, however. Depending upon the layout of the shrine room, some of the remotely controlled cameras need to be placed on tripods at various locations in the room. Some can be mounted on a wall or support column. Cables need to be run to the recording table, although this is done in a way to make them as unobtrusive as possible. By making the equipment setup as unobtrusive as possible, the participants at a teaching are not distracted by the equipment or the recording process. Thus the whole retreat/teaching experience proceeds normally, as though no recording was going on at all.
Generally speaking, the highest cost in video production is the cost of the labor of post-production editing. Vajra Echoes minimizes this cost by doing live mixing. That is, the selection of the video images via the video mixer is done on-the-fly, as the teaching is happening. Doing this well is a form of mindfulness practice and is a skill that is honed over time. As with any practice, there is never true perfection, but the extremely rare cut to the wrong camera or other such minor video errors, which usually last only a second or so, are the only downside to this process. If all of the video images were mixed in post-production editing, thus eliminating all errors but requiring a great amount of labor, the cost of producing DVDs of a given teaching could easily double. Without live-mix recording, DVDs of short teachings would be much more expensive and DVDs of week-long teachings would be financially prohibitive. The decision to do live mixing instead of lots of post-production editing was a fundamental one at the inception of Vajra Echoes in 2001 and remains the bedrock of its operation and financial viability.
For an example of a multi-camera live-mix recording, click on "sample multi-camera video" in the navigation menu.