Thursday, September 1, 2011

7 Steps To A Great Performance Video

cameraman image from Bobby Owsinski's Music 3.0 blog
Most bands think that just showing up to a gig with a camera is enough to get a reasonable live performance video, but there's more to it than that. In this excerpt from The Musician's Video Handbook, you'll find the 7 steps to get a great performance video on a technical level. The performance is up to you.

"1. Check The Venue Lighting
You can’t shoot it if you can’t see it, so make sure that you have enough lighting so no one is in the dark. Many bands and artists rely on the venue for their lighting, which may be adequate but still has to be adjusted for your needs.
  • One of your first questions to the powers-that-be at the venue should always be, “What kind of lighting is available?” to find out exactly what you’re dealing (or not dealing) with. Ask the promoter, venue manager or sound man - whoever you think is the right person - if it will be possible to ensure that all the stage lights are working for your show. The usual reason that they don't work is because the person responsible (if there is a person responsible) usually can't be bothered to replace the blown lamps and/or fuses. Ask them in plenty of time too - they may need to order or pick up bulbs or fuses from their supplier. The morning of your shoot is going to be too late!
  • On the day of the shoot, give yourself a fighting chance in the lighting department. Put some new gels on the lights and focus them (get them pointing in the right directions to light up the band). In order for the camera to see your face, you need to be lit well from the front first. 99% of the time, stage lights are paired up symmetrically (one color on the stage left and another on stage right), so you’ll want to put the same gel color in both lights of each pair. 
  • Be very aware when positioning lights because a lot of bad things can happen if you’re not careful, like getting hit with a jolt of electricity, getting burned by hot metal, dropping things on peoples' heads, or falling off things while reaching for the lights. Take care! Also, you’ll be thankful if you have a set of heavy duty gloves to keep you from getting burnt, but remember that they won’t protect you from electrocution!
  • Sort out the lights before there's any band gear (or musicians) onstage. This eliminates the possibility of dropping things on people's heads and it’s just so much easier to move the ladder around. And remember, beer crates, barstools or flight cases (especially if they're on wheels!) are NOT the things to use to reach the lights. I learned this the hard way with a tumble from a large flight case that fell on my ankle, resulting in a severe cut and a trip to the ER!
  • It’s important that you pay attention to what the venue people tell you about the lights. It’s a common occurrence that turning on all the lights at once in a small venue will blow a fuse somewhere, plunging the whole room into darkness - and Murphy’s law says its fuse box will be in a locked closet somewhere! Turning on all the lights at once usually looks like crap, too.  
  • Give your light man a set list for the show with indications of what you think might be good. Something like, "First song- up tempo - lots of flashing red" or "the big ballad- mostly blue then white for guitar solo." If your light man has got a sense of rhythm, he'll be swinging along with the band, but tell him that continuously flashing lights soon gets on everybody's nerves and looks like the visual equivalent of mud. Try changing the color only once every every bar or so in a rock tune, and for one song maybe just find a nice lighting look and hold it all the way through (the big ballad is always good for this!) That way, when the band kicks in with another rocker and the lights do the same, it'll be even more effective.
  • What’s Your Color? - If you think about your band, your songs, your show, and colors, you'll realize right away that certain colors suit certain types of songs better than others. Quiet, introspective acoustic guitar songs in a minor key might work best in a blue or lavender. If you're a booty shaking funk band, hot reds and ambers might fit you best. Brutal nu-metal? Then try reds, greens and cold whites.  The idea is to enhance your show by choosing the best colors that best fits your music.
2. Don’t Over-light
One thing that cameramen who are not used to shooting music will do is over-light by having too much of the venue lighting turned on all the time. This is definitely not rock n’ roll and should be avoided at all costs. It’ll make you look flat and uninteresting, and will actually take away from your show instead of adding to it. Before hiring the cameraman, tell him that he has to deal with the stage lighting as is and will only be allowed to embellish it slightly if there’s a dark spot on the stage that can’t be fixed any other way.

3. B-Roll Is So Important
As you’ve seen many times in this book already, B-roll is cutaway shots that are used to cover up an edit of an interview, audio narration, or a picture edit that might jump or look funny. A close up of a guitar pick, pictures on the wall, an empty stage or a stage with just your gear on it, a close up of the kick drum head with the band name on it, a pan across an amp head, hands on a keyboard - these are all examples of B-roll. You can never have enough B-roll so shoot everything you can think of. In the hands of a good editor it will all be used somewhere.

4. Shoot Establishing Shots

An establishing shot would be something like a marquis with the band’s name on it outside the venue, the venue exterior and sign, a flyer or newspaper advertisement with your name in it - anything to establish the time and place of the event. What if you don’t want anyone to know the time or place of the event because you want people to think you’re playing in a larger or different venue? That’s OK, shoot it anyway. It might come in handy somewhere down the road like as B-roll on another video, and is invaluable when it comes to reminiscing.

5. Shoot More Than One Take
More than one take allows you to shoot multiple camera angles if you only have one camera, and if you have multiple cameras then it allows the cameramen another chance to get that perfect shot. If your edit is good she can cut between several uneven takes to make one good one. Of course, this doesn’t apply if you’re shooting a show.

6. Shoot A Lot More Than You Need
The more you shoot, the more good footage you’ll have to choose from and the more easily you’ll be able to cover up a funky audio or video edit.

7. Take Care With The Audio
You can have a great video that shows each band member exactly how you envision, but if the audio is crappy, so is the picture. That’s why it’s important to pay as much attention to getting the best, cleanest audio signal that you can. Go back to chapter 4 (the audio chapter) and follow the tips provided. If the sound is bad then the picture always seems worse than it really is."

You can read additional excerpts on this and all my books at
You should follow me on Twitter for daily news and updates on production and the music business.

Check out my Big Picture blog for daily discussion of music, recording, and production tips and tricks.

No comments:


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...