A simple guide to setting up a video village on set

Video village is the hub of collaboration and creation on a set. For as long as we’ve been able to broadcast an image to a screen, film sets of all sizes have had some form of “video village” set up for the director, producers, and cinematographer to review the work being created. 

In this guide, we’ll walk you through how to set up a video village for your set and some exciting new technology that’s reshaping how everyone can get a peek at the footage. 

What is a “video village” on a film set?

Video village refers to the director's monitors and the area that immediately surrounds them on set. 

On small sets, it may just be a small off-camera monitor propped up on a stand, while on bigger budget films, it’s often one or more large monitors that allow the director, producers, cinematographer, and other key personnel to watch a live feed of whatever the camera operator is seeing. 

Typically, setting up a video village is left to either the camera department (typically a 2nd AC or camera PA) or, if one is present, the Digital Imaging Technician (DIT). They are responsible for ensuring that the monitors and cables are working throughout the shooting day. 

Equipment needed to set up a video village

Setting up a video village doesn’t require a ton of fancy equipment. You can even set one up with a small TV and a table (as long as you have a way to transmit the camera signal to the TV). However, if you’re working on at least a semi-professional set, you’ll likely want something that looks a little more polished. 

To set up a video village on set, you’ll need:

  • One or more monitors 
  • A stand or cart for the monitor(s) to sit on
  • SDI + HDMI cables OR a wireless transmitter/receiver compatible with your camera model
  • Chairs (optional)

Typically, you’ll want video village monitors that are capable of receiving an SDI cable input since this is the most standard cable output for most professional cameras. However, if you’re shooting on something like a DSLR, you may need an HDMI cable instead. 

Hardwiring your video village setup to the camera is the most surefire way of ensuring a stable connection between the camera and the monitor. However, if you are going to hardwire your camera, make sure you have a long enough cable to allow your camera operator flexibility of movement. 

Wireless transmitters and receivers eliminate the cable problem, but they are much more expensive and require some expertise to set up. They can also be prone to signal interruptions and need regular battery changes, which is something to keep in mind when deciding whether to go wireless. 

Who gets a seat at video village?

The question of who gets to sit at video village can actually be one of the most “unspoken” points of contention on a film set. Most people want to get a peek at the video feed, but it can quickly get too crowded. 

Typically, these positions will always have a chair at video village:

  • Director
  • DP (Cinematographer)
  • Script Supervisor
  • 1st AD
  • Art Director/Production Designer
  • Executive Producer
  • Line Producer
  • Writer/Showrunner
  • Gaffer
  • Key Grip
  • Stunt Coordinator

If there are chairs and room available, seats at video village may also be offered to:

  • Actors
  • Agents
  • Special guests of talent or crew

While these positions won’t necessarily have a permanent seat available at video village, they will need to be within view of the monitors from time to time to check on continuity:

  • Hair
  • Makeup
  • Costumes
  • Props

As you can see, this list is already pretty long, and it doesn’t include all the other curious crew members that may want to get a glance at what’s going on. 

Now, video village seating is getting even more limited due to social distancing measures, which means that many of the people further down the list can no longer get close enough to a monitor to check on a makeup touch up or make sure a prop is in the right place. This has led to productions having to get creative with how they allow access to the video village, which we’ll get into later. 

The key thing to know about video village seating is that there are two people who will always need access, and that’s the Director and the DP.

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How to stage your video village for optimal viewing

When setting up your video village, you need to remember that the seats closest to the monitor should be reserved for the Director and the DP. As they’re the ones creating and signing off on each shot, they need the best view. 

The Script Supervisor should also be right up front. They not only need to be able to see every inch of the monitor to check continuity, but they also need to be able to communicate with the DP and Director about continuity issues and script changes. 

If there’s room, typically, a chair would be placed to the side of the front row for the 1st AD so they can communicate with the Director, DP, and Script Supervisor throughout shooting. 

Now the next row of the video village is a little more flexible but often is given to the Key Grip, Gaffer, and Production Designer, who also need a good view of the monitor and to be able to talk to the Director and DP. Sometimes producers and writers are also put in this row depending on their requests and seniority. 

Behind that row is the most flexibility and is where people who haven’t been mentioned are positioned. 

You’ll also want to make sure your monitors are raised high enough that everyone in the first two or so rows can get at least a partial view, and use bigger monitors if possible. 

If you’re filming outside on a sunny day, make sure to either have the grip department set up flags or attach monitor shades to your monitors to block out glare.

As we mentioned before, with social distancing measures likely here to stay, the amount of people that can be seated at or even near the video village has dramatically decreased. This is pushing productions to find new ways to give everyone a peek without cramming in close. 

A new era: remote video village

When Teradek and similar technologies hit the market, they revolutionized wireless video broadcasting on set. They allowed focus pullers to set up wireless monitors anywhere on set and allowed Directors to have handheld monitors. 

Wireless video has continued to advance since then, and now there are new tools that not only allow you to create a wireless video network on set but also allow you to broadcast that stream anywhere in the world. 

One piece of technology that’s reinventing what “video village” may mean in the future is Evercast. Not only does Evercast allow you to stream live camera feeds to collaborators around the world, but it also allows those collaborators to chat face-to-face in a virtual collaboration room

This means everyone can not only see what’s happening, but they can have live discussions about everything that’s happening on screen. In essence, you get all the collaboration of crowding around a Director’s monitor, with none of the elbowing. 

With Evercast, you can not only set up a remote video village, but you can take this collaborative space with you into the editing room as well. Evercast allows editors, animators, and composers to share their workstations while video chatting with the team. 

Video village will always be a fixture in film and TV production, but in the future, it may be a virtual village everyone gathers in instead of a physical one. All you need is an internet connection for remote video production and editing.

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