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Old June 29th, 2011, 09:42 PM   #1
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Lighting at a concert

If you're shooting video at a concert are there any tricks to getting a good image? I did my first one tonight at my church. There were no expectations on me at all so I'm looking at it as a learning experience. I have to say, my image SUCKED!!! The light they had on stage were either Red or Blue in a dark auditorium :-( All the light was in front too so there was REAL bad shadows. In a situation like this, I can't have my own lights, how do you work around it? Is there a way to position yourself to get a better image? I was dead center in the balcony. Is there a trick? That was disappointing.
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Old June 29th, 2011, 10:00 PM   #2
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Re: Lighting at a concert

Most of the performances I have shot have been lit for the "effect" of the performance. Most of the light guys could give a rat's rear end about the video guy and his lighting needs. Also quite a few places have gone to LED stage lights which, form my experiences, washes everything in color and blows your saturation to the moon.

If this is anything like you experienced, I used Colorista II to fix some of it and pull the saturation back down to earth.

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Old June 29th, 2011, 11:11 PM   #3
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Re: Lighting at a concert

Post some sample captures and what camera, and you should get a firehose o' advice shortly following...
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Old June 30th, 2011, 07:43 AM   #4
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Re: Lighting at a concert

Thanks Dave, I've got a different project on the computer right now, I'll post some clips once I get to this.

The camera is an XLH1. I had it set on full auto.
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Old June 30th, 2011, 08:18 AM   #5
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Re: Lighting at a concert

Hi Paul, I would put the blame on the concert's lighting director. There's nothing much you can do with a poorly lighted stage. Did they just throw in lights just for the heck of it? A properly lighted concert is very easy to shoot, the lighting director would ask you to white balance against a white light, lock it and your set.
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Old June 30th, 2011, 08:29 AM   #6
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Re: Lighting at a concert

First of all I would watch using full auto. The low light levels will mess with your focus and almost all cameras I have ever used tend to over expose in auto. I like it a little darker and then fix it in post. The other thing is changing of lights may also mess with auto white balance. When I do something on a stage, I try to white balance in the center of the stage with full white lights. If that's not possible then I go the indoor preset setting. That will sometimes over saturate a little, but it keeps it natural and consistent.
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Old June 30th, 2011, 09:53 AM   #7
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Re: Lighting at a concert

#Noel, Ya the lighting was VERY poor. They had white rope lights around the steps of the stage and 1 large stand with about 6 or so stage lights on it with alternating Red, Blue, and Yellow gels. The stand was dead center in the rear of the auditorium (small church... lights about 40-50 ft. from the stage.) The lead Guitar had the lights controlled by peddles on the stage and would switch between colors at different points of the song. I don't fault the guys... it's a real small group. 3 people that tour together and do all their own lights and sound (the sound board is on stage with them.)

#David, Thanks man for the advice! I could see it going screwy on me in the view finder when he would switch light colors. I can only imagine what it's going to look like when i see it on a monitor. Worst part was the speaker they had between sets was wearing a Red shirt and the lights they left on when he was up were red. Ugg... Next time I have this opportunity I'll spend more time with white balance and manual focus.

I told the band, I was going to try and put a sketch effect on the footage and salvage it by making the video purposely distorted. We'll see what I can do in Post.
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Old March 19th, 2013, 03:33 PM   #8
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Re: Lighting at a concert

Forget ever getting natural skin tones in concert unless the lighting guy is working for you rather than the venue. All I try to do is set a white reference on the stage under some reasonably consistent lighting while they are setting up the drums and race around white balancing all my cameras to that. As long as they all match, nobody expects them to look as if I shot the concert under non-concert lighting conditions. That said, some venues have had lighting set up by professionals who work on getting both even and colorful lighting:

Shot at Durty Nellie's in Palatine, IL:

Shot at Buddy Guy's Legends in Chicago, IL

Last edited by Chris DeVoe; March 19th, 2013 at 03:40 PM. Reason: Added video clips
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Old March 19th, 2013, 06:23 PM   #9
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Re: Lighting at a concert

I get a bit steamed up by topics like this one, because video people always seem to blame the lighting designer or operator when the fact is that in virtually every case, they are being paid to light for people - NOT cameras. They may well have spent days rehearsing, and plotting hundreds of cues, each one honed and tweaked and rehearsed. Then, with a few minutes to spare before showtime the video guy turns up and wants white light, no saturated colour and no shadows. The LD's brief may well be LOTS of saturated colour, very dark background, follow spots, lots of strobes and big audience blinder blasts. If the requirement is for good video first, then the LD will want a monitor feed to work to, and will put up with bland, dull lighting for the audience. Only the director/producers can make the call. Now I have lots of LED sources in my designs, for the first time in years of lighting, I can throw huge amounts of saturated colour at the stage, and LED blue, for example is nothing like the blue we used to get from Lee 181 Congo Blue.
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There's nothing much you can do with a poorly lighted stage
Poorly lit from the video perspective maybe, but perhaps spot on for the audience experience.

When I shoot video in theatres (my main video income), you shoot 3200 or 5600 depending on the percentage of tungsten or discharge in the rig. If followspots are in use, then white balance to their colour temp, and forget any idea of auto iris. Lights will point at the camera, and they will flash - that's just how it is. If you need the video as a priority, then arrange the status in advance - don't moan at people who are doing their job. When other video companies provide video at events I may be production manager of, some understand the job, but others clearly don't - and any requests for no flashing, more white or less contrast fall on very deaf ears.

It's a very rare thing to get a contract for live shows that mentions video the way you guys are talking. When I get music events that are going to be shot for video then there will be riders detailing the integration, and the LD and the video director will talk. We have a local HD studio that do music events from their studio and it's streamed out live on the net. The stream looks great, but when you are in the studio, the lighting is bland in the extreme, but the studio audience are in this case secondary.

This was shot from a panasonic small handicap, and you can see all sorts of problems. We didn't video this show, but a similar one was in the pipeline, so I sat the small camera on the lighting desk to see if the vertical LEDs were going to cause problems - which they did, vertical smear, because they are facing the audience - shining into people's eyes. You can see loads of red and blue and how the camera doesn't deal with it too badly. This job had a fairly balanced lighting design - lots of front and back light, specials for the main people in the band and followspots, but in some designs, there will be very little front light at all. This is quite common now for design reasons, but also for practical reasons - as in, nowhere to hang them! What you can't see in the video are open white specials that cover the main band members - focussed tight, and I use these to just lift the front people from the murk - it helps faces a bit, but they're not really up enough to be seen - however, the drummer special spoils the look, so was only used on specific numbers where he needed to be seen. The naked eye sees these specials long before the camera does, so the use of them is limited.

In Chips video above, I don't quite understand why you were trying to remove the saturated colour - I thought it looked good. Live performance is rarely lit to look natural. Maybe it's just me being used to stage performance where I am always trying to avoid white, and add colour? I've been doing a show this week where in my rig I have 12 KW of open white lighting from Arri fresnels (left over from a conference) and they will not be use at all, because I need for this show, red, magenta, gold, yellow and blue because of the costume colours - and plenty of haze because I want to see beams. The show is being video'd by a firm we see often, and he's already called me to check the lighting is what he guessed - colourful, flashy and lots of darkness.

Last edited by Paul R Johnson; March 19th, 2013 at 07:16 PM.
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Old March 19th, 2013, 06:55 PM   #10
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Re: Lighting at a concert

My main issue is venues where the lights are not set up by professionals, and none of the scenes supply even lighting. I'm happy that it is colorful, and can even deal with the intense single color light of LEDs (though please, lay off the strobes). But too often, the lead singer will be intensely lit, while the drum platform is in near darkness. I know that it's usually the case of the venue owner cheaping out and buying half the instruments the lighting designer wanted, but seriously - you can't light a whole stage with four LED lights:


One of my favorite venues to visit is one my my least favorite venues to shoot in. Mainly because the lighting is PAR lamps - from 15 feet away. I fear I'm going to wear out the iris control on my XH-A1:

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Old March 19th, 2013, 11:30 PM   #11
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Re: Lighting at a concert

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Originally Posted by Paul R Johnson View Post
In Chips video above, I don't quite understand why you were trying to remove the saturated colour - I thought it looked good.
My complaint with it was how submerged the entire stage was in those two colors. This has been my experience with these smaller acts, a quickie light bar set up and LEDs that wash out everything in their path. You have to admit, when the blue light was on, they looked like Smurfs !!! :-)

IMO, LEDs are in their infancy and slowly people are figuring out how to use them correctly. Now had this band had a white backdrop and washed that all out with the LEDS and used a spot on the guitar and singer, that would have been neat. But dayglow green, Harley orange and Smurf blue aren't my opinion of good colors for people.
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Old March 20th, 2013, 12:44 AM   #12
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Re: Lighting at a concert

Probably my most difficult concert shoot was one where the band was performing Pink Floyd's "Dark Side of the Moon" while the movie "The Wizard of Oz" was projected upon them.

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Old March 20th, 2013, 04:30 AM   #13
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Re: Lighting at a concert

For drama, colour choice will be more subtle, lots of shades, and lighting history dictates that warm colours are happy and nice and comforting, while blues are cold. Green is a real rarity because if any of the performers have black skin, it has the horrible ability to make their skin tone look plastic and in some cases, like they are dead! However - for music, colour is considered emotional - indeed, in contemporary lighting design strobes into the audience are deemed essential. Personally, I don't use them, but my colleagues do - big time. In fact, the quantity of strobes very often causes real power issues when they all recharge after a fire - amps galore! LEDs are still developing, but they are getting brighter, so any problems you have now from a video perspective will get worse. As deep colour at decent brightness is now possible, expect more use of it. In the past, 4 1KW par64s on the drum kit in congo blue was the darkest we could go, and close in too - any washing of a stage had to be a lighter blue - just to get some brightness. Now we hit a button marked blue, and we get it!

Small stages can indeed be lit by a few dirt cheap Chinese cans that work pretty well - and some are just left on a sound to light preset, where nobody is in charge. Colour changes, in time with music have been 'normal' for years. One UK act from the 60s, still going have nothing but colours for every song, but over the years have what they call 'chat state' - the only state in the desk that has white and bright in it - for the gaps between songs when they chat to the audience. Many video people unused to music events of different sizes try to apply their normal 'rules' and they don't work. One only recently asked me for a bright white state so he could balance his cameras. I gave it to him, but he just didn't understand that this white state would never be used in the show, so any colour balance derived from it would be very wrong. My retired SD JVCs had a nice auto iris 'spot' preset that was actually quite usable by brought in sometimes novice cameramen, who would be unable to run manual iris. The spot setting just taming the followspots. These are the major brightness issue for video people, and I'm usually happy to pull these back, brightness wise for video people - IF they ask, because they do exactly what they should no normally - punch through the dark colour murk to give the audience the theatrical version of a zoom. Video people rarely understand the concept that the eye is drawn to the brightest object, but also spots changes in brightness. A trick used in straight plays for years. The Agatha Christie 'whodunit' - where the audience need to see the villain slipping the poison into a glass - all you do is dim the stage gently, while bring up the area where the villain is. Just subtle changes, that the brain and eye perceive, giving the audience the theatre version of a cut to a closeup. In TV the lighting stays constant. In theatre, in a perpetual long shot, colour, movement and effects are all they have. Many video people want to remove this to give them the best shots. Even in mega budget TV with amazing lighting, the audience in the studio don't see very much, needing to watch monitors to see what it really does look like. Think the now popular ballroom and ice shows - they look stunning on tv, exposed and lit for the camera, but in the studio live, they're rather bland and even. If they lit for the audience, the viewer at home would miss so much.

In a bar with $100 of lighting, it really isn't going to be easy.


EDIT
I don't mind sharing some material that went quite badly lighting wise. Something as stupid as a camera accidentally switched to the wrong colour balance preset, and lighting (this was before the LED explosion) that in blue was just too dark from certain directions.One of those cases where the audience got the good deal, the video was just lacking.

Last edited by Paul R Johnson; March 20th, 2013 at 07:12 AM.
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Old March 20th, 2013, 01:08 PM   #14
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Re: Lighting at a concert

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Originally Posted by Paul R Johnson View Post
Small stages can indeed be lit by a few dirt cheap Chinese cans that work pretty well - and some are just left on a sound to light preset, where nobody is in charge. Colour changes, in time with music have been 'normal' for years.
My issue is with too few PAR cans from too close, which gives pools of really intense light surrounded by by an ocean of dark. You put a pale blonde girl 15 feet from a 500 watt PAR lamp, and you have to close the iris way down if you want her to have a face - totally killing anything in the background.
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Old March 20th, 2013, 02:18 PM   #15
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Re: Lighting at a concert

That's pretty well how it is I think. It's very rare to be able to point a camera at a stage and get good images with out assistance. Some of the parameter tweaks do a reasonable job of pulling things out of the shadows, just needs a little experimentation!
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