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Old December 2nd, 2013, 08:16 PM   #1
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First time shooting a concert (questions)

Hey everyone,

I've been following the forums here for a while now and now needed advice. I'm going to shoot a concert in the next couple weeks and wanted to get some advice on my plan.

As I don't currently own a camera, I have decided to rent for this concert my church is putting on. I am doing this event for free, and therefore all the rental charges come straight out of pocket. I am recording this for free as I have yet to turn videography into a profitable business for myself. I intend to rent 2 Canon XA10s with adequate batteries as well as a Canon 50mm f/1.4 EF lens to pair with a borrowed T3i (which I will rent batteries for as well). The plan is to shoot with one XA10 on a tripod at the back of the room to get a wide shot of the stage, have my assistant take video handheld with the XA10, and I would use the T3i to get some fancy DOF shots. I already have a follow focus rig that I intend to use with the T3i and have used with it before extensively.

So my first question is what microphone should I get for shooting a concert? I assume the locked down cam would record the best audio since it would be consistent in quality and would be the closest to what the crowd/audience hears. What I am most unsure of is if I should get a shotgun mic or a large diaphragm condenser mic. What type of mic should I get? What will pick up the most natural sound from the event?

Secondly, will my current plan adequately cover the event so I can create not only a highlight video, but also an entertaining full length edit of the event? Is there a way I can spread the three cameras to get a more coverage? Should I not offer a full length edit of the event?

Next, is the Canon 50mm long enough to cover an event like this from multiple different angles or should I get a 135mm? I was thinking about a zoom, but I can't really afford to rent one with constant aperature which would be absolutely necessary considering the lighting conditions. What do you think?

The last thing I wanted to know is how much should I try to give them? I wanted to do a full length and a highlight video at least, and maybe a promo for this event next year (it is annual concert). Is that too much work to do for free (in my spare time)?

I have never shot anything like this, focusing mostly on short films/music videos in the past but I really wanted to transition into live event video and though this would be a great event to start with (since they didn't have any plan on video taping the event this year anyway).

I'd love to get some opinions on all this and I appreciate everyone who read this wall of text.

Oh and here is the video they had someone "official" shoot and edit last year. Not exactly sure why the aspect ratio got screwed up, but it did.

- Matthias Claflin

Last edited by Matthias Claflin; December 2nd, 2013 at 09:11 PM. Reason: typo
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Old December 3rd, 2013, 02:21 AM   #2
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Re: First time shooting a concert (questions)

Not going to get into all your questions, there are better stage shooters here than me, but some thoughts...

Why the XA10s? Not my first choice. What are the other options?
The 50mm is unlikely to be much good unless you are onstage with them. 70-200 mm is the choice if you are using a DSLR IMHO.

If it's going to be as loud as last years, take a mixing board feed through line in to your recorder (you do have one with a line in right?) and just use the mics on the cameras for syncing. I once shot in about 120 decibels of pure rock noise (with ear protection on) and my board feed saved me and made the band sound like they were much better than they were. You might not like the sound here, but believe me, it was painful to listen to without earplugs and totally distorted my best efforts to reign it in on camera. (
).

The DSLRs are going to need a lot of SD cards to cover a full couple of hours. Plan accordingly. I rarely use DSLRs for stage. Camcorders work just fine. You don't need much DOF shots on stage. Your camcorders can usually do the job.

These days I like to work with one camera fully locked down. I used to work freestanding, but don't like the look. Here's an early video shot with a single camera on shoulder mount. I did manage to record sound from my shotgun on the camera and it was ok. While I would never shoot like this today, it's too shaky, I think the energy level came across fine. The zooms could not have been done as well as they were with a DSLR, though I had only owned the camera about one month. It worked great though. I just needed a monopod. You don't have to watch it all but it does give you some ideas of a variety of shots you might encounter.

Lately, I've been shooting with two xf300s locked down from two angles. Here's an example,with sound off the board. It's one of my better ones I think without having full access to the stage. These are long telephoto lenses so I don't need to be on top of the action. Only think I might have added is a third cameraman with a telephoto and a Dslr from stage right or left. I would have liked one or two real tight face shots.

So think about getting tripods for all cameras, and use one without, or use the tripod as a monopod.

The short highlight might be worth doing for free, but a multicamera hour long presentation is not worth giving away. When there is no budget (or I love the band and want to give them free publicity) I might offer up just a lock down from the back, long view, no tight shots, just a document of the concert. You can see those kinds on my Vimeo and Youtube pages.

Also you have to consider your audience. You don't want to be blocking their views, making them regret having paid money to see a show with a cameraman dancing around in front of them. I try to stay low, in back or on the sides.

Hope this helps. many of us start with jobs like these. Just don't give away the farm, and consider it a portfolio builder. Good luck.
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Old December 3rd, 2013, 04:30 PM   #3
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Re: First time shooting a concert (questions)

Definitely looking at this as a portfolio builder.

Anyway. I wanted to use XA10s because they are cheap to rent and I have to pay everything out of pocket. I typically rent from ATS Rentals. I have had very pleasant experiences with them in the past. That being said, the cheapest camcorder they offer with XLR ports was the XA10. Also I intend on buying an XA10 in the future, but would love to try it out first. That being said I have lots of experience on the HF G10 (younger sibling to the XA10) and thought it would be a smooth transition from one to the other. That being said I can't really afford much else for camcorders but I would love to know why you wouldn't want to use an XA10, and what to look for in a camera for this type of work?

As far as audio goes, I intended to record directly to one of the cameras via the XLR jack, as opposed to using a seperate audio recorder. (I still need to touch base with the sound guy who will be at the event, they may be recording a high quality version of the event that I could get my hands on).

After watching your videos, I would agree, I definitely want all cameras to be locked down, so maybe I'll rent/buy a cheap monopod to shoot with. Anyway, thanks for the response!
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Old December 4th, 2013, 11:33 AM   #4
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Re: First time shooting a concert (questions)

Matthias,

Al gave you very good advice. Handing a camcorder to an "assistant" and expecting him to get you usable footage is a bad idea unless he is experienced and talented at it.

There is a ton of information in the audio section about what you need to know.

You have too many maybe's. Know what you are going to do before you start the gig. Then let the other parties know what you are doing and what you are NOT doing.

A full length record sounds useless here? If no one wanted it in the first place why bite off an elephant for your learning experience? If you tell them your going to do that someone will suddenly say, "he promised us he would do it". Then they will claim they have to have it or it will ruin their future if you don't produce it. That is a commitment!

Don't wait until the day of the gig to let the talent know you are going to record, get permission FIRST. Even small time performers can become instant divas when a camera shows up.

Everything you need to know is here on this forum.

Good luck. These type of gigs can be fun and they are fantastic learning experiences. Communicate well with everyone involved so you don't learn things the hard way.

Steve

One more thing. Only use batteries when you have to. Run off of AC power at all other times.
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Old December 4th, 2013, 03:27 PM   #5
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Re: First time shooting a concert (questions)

Hey Steven,

Thanks for your reply. I think I have changed my mind aobut utilizing an assistant. As helpful as it would be, I think I'll just shoot with two cams to make things cheaper/easier on me.

I haven't discussed any of what I will be providing with the owner/operator of the venue yet. I just secured myself permission to film. I plan on going over, in more detail, the plan for the night, this weekend, but wanted to get ideas/criticism from here first. So thank you for that. I think my best bet is just offering a highlights video that they can use to promote the concert next year.

The talent does know that I will be filming (or at least the "leader" of the band knows.) Do I need to get some kind of audio/visual release form from the band members? I figured I would, as I normally do this for all my projects.

I appreciate all the feedback you all have provided thus far, and will definitely be taking a closer look into past threads on this topic for more info. Thanks!

- Matthias
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Old December 4th, 2013, 06:57 PM   #6
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Re: First time shooting a concert (questions)

WELL, at least the bar was set pretty low... aspect ratio, interlace artifacts, distorted sound... ouch...

I'd FORGET the SLR entirely, unless you've got a zoom and want to run around a lot...

One camera locked off WIDE, high (you'll want a TALL tripod to avoid lots of "back of head shots") and centered. Second camera (and preferably a third) working close ups and cutaways - likely NOT on a monopod - you want stable footage. Having the second cam at a different angle gives a better production feel, but then it NEEDS to be manned, and you have to trust the operator...

I use a multi cam adapter I made in house to set up three cams (left side of stage, right side of stage, and center/zoom/ closeups) for a wide stage, plus a fourth on a clamp pod for the wide. It's been an "OK" solution, though not ideal.

IF you can have a "wandering" third cam with an operator you trust who can "work the stage" properly without getting in the way, those can be good angles to have... note all the caveats...

I think you CAN get by with two cameras, three would be better. You'll have a better time in post if they match, but...

Audio, forget trying to get a "house"/ambient "mix" - depending on the venue, the sound guy, and the volume, you'll get bad to horrible sound most likely. OTOH, for an event this size, there should be a "house mix" that you DEFINITLEY need to get a copy of - maybe mix "ambient" with it, but DON'T rely on ambient being worth bothering in a rented venue with live sound mixing... I was initially hoping this was in a building that had been sound engineered for a large church, then you said rent.... ugh... Ambient is tough in a building properly sound engineered with a proper sound system... it's well nigh to impossible in most "rented venues"...

The one concern I'd have is with light conditions - I shoot small Sonys myself, so I'm confident that small camcorders at the high end of the consumer range (IIRC, that's an XA10 if you speak Canon) can pull this off, but be aware that you'll need to be on your toes (thus why you probably shouldn't be messing with an SLR TOO...).
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Old December 4th, 2013, 10:49 PM   #7
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Re: First time shooting a concert (questions)

Hey Dave,

I agree. The bar was indeed set very low. When they played that video at our church to "hype" the event, I couldn't help but cringe while watching it.

I think I will drop the DSLR as I can't afford to rent a zoom and at the end of the day, I am doing this for free, so it would be better for me to focus on what I know I can do (with two cams) as opposed to trying to complicate things with three. It doesn't seem realistic to try and shoot this with any kind of assistant or trying to manage three cameras.

You say "likely NOT on a monopod", why not? My idea aobut a monopod is that it would allow me to get a variety of different shots from different angles, allow me to be completely mobile, while also keeping the camera more stable than handheld. Would it be better to just man a locked down cam on a tripod?

Also I will be in touch with the sound guy this weekend. I will see what cables I will need to get a line from the board. I'm sure they will accomadate such a request.

As far as lighting goes, they will be doing a full "rehearsal" of sorts before the concert (the day before) including doing all lights as if it was show time, which I will be at, with my camera, testing out different shots with different settings, hopefully making it easier for me to figure out what I settings will be necessary for that night.
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Old December 5th, 2013, 12:19 PM   #8
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Re: First time shooting a concert (questions)

A rehearsal should be VERY helpful to iron out the kinks! That and a little advance footwork, and it should go well!

As far as using a monopod... well, even if you're stable with one (I tend to wobble... thank goodness for image stabilization), you still have to be supporting it. I've got monopods myself, and they have a place (love the Bogens with tiny feet!), but it's a place between "handheld" and a stout tripod, with good and bad points.

Monopods give portability, and you can use them sort of like a steadycam with practice, but it's not easy to get constant footage if and when you're moving. Still better than handheld for a long form event, but...

If you need to tend to your "main" camera because "stuff happens", that #2 camera on a monopod will not only not cover you, but will present a problem while you figure out where to park it... For a #3 or 4 "roaming" camera when you KNOW you'll have a solid "safety" (and preferably a backup as well) to cut to, sure, but it's risky for a 2 camera shoot to have the "backup" not be capable of being locked down for at least a little while should the need arise.

FWIW, I probably am a bit paranoid about redundancy and planning, but that comes from doing "live" events on the audio and video side - it's amazing how many "strange" things happen, even when you plan ahead!
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Old December 5th, 2013, 02:20 PM   #9
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Re: First time shooting a concert (questions)

Dave is right on, as usual. I use good tripods. If I need to be light and fast with a camcorder I sometimes skip the big heavy video sticks and run around with the camera on a bare bones Bogen made for still cameras. Small, light cameras like the XA10 do not have enough heft for me to be steady with them unsupported. I have used monopods too. Never to my total satisfaction.

I used to shoot with a lot of Canon cameras. Not all of them were selectable between line/mic. Is the XA10? As Al said, use line and a sub mix if you can. If it will not take a line feed, at the least you will need a DI box to knock it back to mic.

The rehearsal is going to save you big time. Don't just monitor it a lot, roll footage you can look at and listen to afterwords. It sounds silly but I can't tell you how many experienced operators set up before a show and don't actually do a test record and say they are ready. Not on my gigs!

Concert audio is hard to monitor for quality because of the db level in the venue. You might pick up a hum and not be able to hear it live. Be careful. There is so much that needs to be done correctly to record a gig like this. They get messed up by a lot of guys. Wish I could be more helpful because you sound sincere about advice but I can only help a little in a couple of paragraphs.

Rule number one: Don't clip the audio.
Rule number one: Don't clip the video.
Rule number two: This is a classic fail for many "auto functions".
Rule number three: Have fun.

One of your most useful cover shots will be to shoot from the edge of the stage back towards the audience. Concert audiences love it when you point a camera at them, even christian ones :) Shoot a lot of this because when you go to post you can insert it anywhere, anytime, with no sync issues. The footage can be from a different song and no one will know. It can save you.

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Old December 5th, 2013, 03:31 PM   #10
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Re: First time shooting a concert (questions)

I can't chirp in with much useful because so much depends on what the concert actually consists of. A locked off camera with a stereo microphone could be best IF the sound at that location is good. Only your ears will tell you that. If it's a mix of live and amplified sound then it could sound very odd. Don't forget that you may have a good sound op or a poor one and worst of all, the mix will be set to give a good balance. If there are loud instruments then the pa May have none of those in the mix, just the things that need to be made louder. So a mix of camera sound and desk audio is safer and you can adjust the blend when you edit. The real killer for me with this kind of thing is wobbly images. Look how it can go wrong
My band - I had three cameras from a video job in the van, so I gave cameras to one girlfriend, one wife and a venue tech. None had used cameras before. I told them keep on wide and instead of zooming go in closer. I told one to do a wide shot and not change the zoom and to steady the camera on anything solid. Sound came from the desk. As all the cameras moved, including the one I'd told not to, the audio varied so much that I couldn't use much of it. You can hear the sound mix is wrong in places. View this, spot the errors and don't copy them!
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Old December 5th, 2013, 05:37 PM   #11
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Re: First time shooting a concert (questions)

So after reading/pondering all this advice I have decided that I'll rent a seond tripod for the second camera (instead of a monopod), and use my tripod for the main camera. The main camera will shoot a wide shot, in theory encompassing the entire stage, and I will man the second camera to get more specific shots and a different angle. I plan on only making a highlight video/promo video for next years event. I don't plan to offer them a long form edit at all, just in case I do miss something important, I don't want all that stress the first time I try a gig like this, especially when I'm doing it for free. However I plan to shoot as if I were going to create a long form edit that way I can get the practice and experience for next time.

As for audio my plan, as of now, is to shoot with a line in from the board, (according to this schematic there is a "line" switch on the xlr inputs), this would record to one side of a stereo channel, while I shoot the other side of the stereo channel with my shotgun mic. Then in post I can seperate them and mix as necessary or remove one altogether if it is awful. Is this a bad idea?

As mentioned above, I think I will shoot everyting while my cameras are plugged into power to avoid any battery issues.

I also have every intention of going to the rehearsal and shooting multiple different angles, and settings to see where I want the camera to be and what settings work best for the venue. The XA10, if anything like the HF G10, has full manual control over aperture, ISO, and shutter speed, so I will get to play with a mix of those to see what gives me the cleanest image. I plan to shoot in a neutral color mode and boost saturation/color correct in post.

Due to financial restrictions I am incapable of renting a third camera, unless I borrow the church's DSLR, which I think would overcomplicate things as suggested above. I think that a mix of the live performance and various shots before/after with the band/audience, I can get a neat little highlight video.

Onto the more business side of things... Should I put together a shot list for an event like this? Should I put together a service agreement to protect myself, and ensure rights to use this footage to promote myself in the future? And do I need photo/video/audio release forms from all who are in the video?
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Old December 6th, 2013, 12:46 AM   #12
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Re: First time shooting a concert (questions)

Good ideas from all the respondees, and your last post has good decisionmaking. Lower the risk and expectations, and just have fun in a learning experience. having both cameras locked down is always better.

If you have time at rehearsal, yes do a shot list. If you have an assistant (i.e. friend or partner) then have them do it. A good task for a novice wanting to 'learn the ropes'. You'll be busy.

Running two cameras alone is fraught with problems, though it's doable. I've had a zoom mysteriously zoom in while I was across the hall shooting from the B cam. I think it was a defective remote control zoom handle, but I wasn't around to watch it.

BE SURE you set your record levels to -10 to -15 on for the peaks. I can't tell you how frustrating it is to blow out your limits. If you don't know what I'm talking about, then go to the audio section of this and readup on setting levels right. It's really important! Some even recommend -20 to run things at. I find that too low for my tastes. But I try to *rarely* go above -10 in situations like this. Getting close to 0DB is asking for trouble. You can almost always boost sound and save it, but you cannot recover blown sound to any real degree.

If you are doing everything for free, you don't need any kind of permission to use stuff from the church. you are donating your footage to them. If you need to do anything, simply tell them that in an email.

As to model releases, boy it's always better to get them, but the performers likely are wanting you to promote them, right? If you are simply going to do something to promote the church and the performers, you likely won't need it. I've never needed to for the freebies I've done, including the ones you see below. One I was 'hired by the band" the next two I was doing PR work for the organization, and their contracts stipulated they could shoot limited video for PR purposes.

Do it if it makes you feel better, but you likely won't need them unless you actually sell the work in some way.

Have fun and write if you find work...
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Old December 6th, 2013, 02:56 AM   #13
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Re: First time shooting a concert (questions)

@ Paul -
Still better than the OP's "gotta do better'n this" footage... all that while having wife AND girlfriend shooting <wink>.

@ Matthias -
As far as audio, keep in mind that depending on the size of the room, you can have a lot of strange audio delays and phasing. When you get to mixing, pick ONE audio source to use, and then add additional sources only if you need to - trying to sync multiple audio can be a nightmare. Honestly, depending on the room, there are times when the on camera mics might be better than you expect... I would hope that from the video you posted that all the instruments will be mic'd/mixed rather than roaring stacks/cabs in the mix - that bodes well for the house mix being pretty decent - maybe have the sound guy recording during the rehearsal to check it out?

You can always shoot for a short promo clip, and then if it works out well, do a long form. Work from the set list, use a shot list as a tickler if there are specific things that would be good closeups, otherwise wing it...

One thing you haven't mentioned is copyright issues, probably better just to whistle on through that potential graveyard - if you want to explore that side of the issues with an event shoot, well, there's lots of old threads here...
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Old December 6th, 2013, 06:01 AM   #14
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Re: First time shooting a concert (questions)

You do need 1 or 2 locked off cams on solid tripods for sure - and positioned where inattentive audience members cannot jossle them - but I disagree with the others over the use of a monopod. It could add greatly to the interest value. You don't need to hold it steady for more than a few seconds per clip as people do expect rapid cuts between angles in music vids.

But what can really make a difference I have found is the video stabilising software Mercalli V3. I've just used it for the first time on about 150 short clips. Its remarkable.

V3 is standalone n.b. you don't buy this version to integrate into your NLE. It can batch process which means that you can simply load up all your clips and walk away while it analyses and outputs them ready for use. And a real timesaver is that it can auto-analyse and identify whether there are intentional pans and zooms mid-clip and act accordingly. You do have full manual control as well if you want it.

The MP4 output files are about 4x larger than my original AVCHD files but I can live with that. I had expected them to play very smoothly in my NLE which is Vegas Pro 12 (770); I imagined that they would be like files transcoded from AVCHD but in fact they play choppy when editing. They do play properly in VLC Media Player though. Must be down to their size. You can examine their characteristics using the free MediaInfo software. So if you are doing a multi-cam edit you may want to use your originals when actually editing then swap in the stabilized versions afterwards.

It won't get around compositional errors like cutting off the tops of players heads (sorry Paul!) but it does make hand held very usable.

As for the audio. Lots of potential for a nightmare as others have explained. Try to monitor it at stages during the performance rather than just setting up at the start and hoping for the best. Often at amateur events the sound board operators well-meaning talk is far stronger than his walk :- (

Pete
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Old December 6th, 2013, 08:34 AM   #15
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Re: First time shooting a concert (questions)

For audio if you record to the camera a feed from the audio mixer to one channel and from the camcorder mic the other channel they will almost certainly be out of sync, just enough to echo on a simple mix and will need to me moved in to sync in Vegas or an audio program. Vegas is the best for this re syncing as it can slide, squeeze and stretch the audio channels for sync. The reason they will be out of sync is just the simple speed of sound in air or down a cable through the delays in a mixer !!

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