Cinema 2.0: Shooting Live Sets in One Day - Raindance

Welcome to my new blog on Cinema 2.0.

Cinema 2.0 is A NEW APPROACH TO DIY FILM PRODUCTION, MARKETING and DISTRIBUTION working outside of the accepted mainstream cinema industry. It’s about leveraging your peer-to-peer marketing and online digital distribution for your own original cinema making your authentic, artisanal and original programming for enjoyment worldwide.

This weekend I had the opportunity to immerse myself in filmed live performance as both an audience member for the new concert film, HARDCORE DEVO LIVE! by Keirda Bahruth and as a music video director shooting a new promotional film for the NY rockers Stone Soul Foundation.

As the DEVO film was captured in one glorious night at the Fox Theater in Los Angeles and I was similarly tasked with shooting my own video the same way – I thought it might be a good idea to outline the best ways to approach filming a live performance when you only have one shot at it.

  1. Know the music – Spend time acquainting yourself with the nuances of the work and create a paper edit of how you want to proceed. Outline in beat sheet format the key moments or emphasis points you want to hit. Design your coverage.
  2. Confirm the music – Last minute track tweaks or adjustments could be a problem if you have an earlier song version. If you’re shooting a music video, you will be working with a pre-recorded track played back over a PA system. Check the track or set list to make sure you have it right.
  3. Check in with the talent – Learn everyones name and make sure you understand what the label or management group want to emphasize (or not). Understand what is important to them and what they wish to emphasize. Ask for illustrations, ideas, input and advice. It makes for a better project.
  4. Confirm dates and times for arrival and the actual time needed for the band to set up. Do they have a ton of gear that needs to be organized? If you’re recording live music, make sure you get a feed from the live sound mixer working front of house. Check and double check your feed before starting. Your filmed success depends on clear and focused sound. #checkit
  5. Check the PA system – Drums will drown out everything and if you’re playing back pre-recorded music, make sure that the band can hear the song. Do not depend on your on-camera mic’s to provide any sound for the edit as they will be overwhelmed by the sound from a live event or playback from the PA system. You will post sync to the best possible music as recorded separately from the line feed or to a pre-recorded track if making a music video.
  6. Shoot the rehearsal – If working live, film the rehearsals and get as many close-ups and cutaways as you can. Take FULL advantage of this time to get up close and personal with the band as you will not have that luxury when they are playing live. Director Keirda Bahruth for Hardcore Devo Live told me this saved her bacon more than once when filming. Cover ALL closeups before the audience arrives on lead talent if possible. Move your cameras in tighter and GET PERSONAL.
  7. More cameras make for better editing – Hardcore Devo had eleven cameras working at all times to cover their live event. I used four distinct cameras shooting multiple angles for my music video. Make sure you get a nice ‘safety’ master on a dolly or slider to intercut all of the frenetic edits you will be adding in the postproduction phase. Cover the stage from multiple angles and at 45 degrees to the onstage band action and take advantage of shots from behind the band looking out at your audience if you have one. Dramatic lighting FX from behind look great. Think ahead and watch for the lighting cues.
  8. Don’t block the audience – If shooting live, you have to ALWAYS remember the audience paid to see the band – not your cameraman. Keep the sight lines clear and use long lenses as needed to capture the action. Stay out of the way  of the band and watch them during rehearsals so you don’t run into a performer during their epic guitar solo. #makealist
  9. Cover them all – Lead singers and guitarists get most of the love – but don’t forget bass, keyboards and drums. Try and get a minimum of two lenses per player in a variety of shot sizes with cutaways to the detailed guitar fingering, keyboard playing or unique musical element your band is emphasizing. Don’t forget behind-the-scene moments as well!
  10. Smoke Machines add depth – Add a touch of smoke or fog to see your lighting come alive.  You don’t need a lot for the ‘God Rays’ to come alive and allow you a richer lit set. Pick up a low-cost water based fog machine and pay attention to the smoke detectors and fire regulations of the venue. Keep the doors closed to contain the ambience.

Hardcore Devo

HARDCORE DEVO LIVE is a great example of the band’s early demo material from 1974-1978 with many of their hit songs included. Director Keirda Bahruth has created a wonderful showcase for the fans of the seminal art-rock band that maximizes shooting a once-in-a-lifetime event in engaging fashion.

For more information on HARDCORE DEVO LIVE, go here.