January 24, 2011

Sweet Music

Music is everywhere in my life. Really.  I mean I like silence but it doesn’t happen a lot. I have music playing when I wake up or lighting a set or writing a blog. Maybe it was the fact I was “convinced” to play the trombone in fourth grade (thus began my days of schlepping gear all over the place). I love being around musical folks, they have  such a cool outlet. Well, all of this is one reason I really enjoy shooting music. I do shoot music videos but in this blog I will cover the finer points (or at least cheap tips) when covering a concert.

My first tip is to know your subject.  When I find out I am covering a band, I will download their music or single that we will be covering. Whether or not the music is your “type” it doesn’t matter. Your job is to know your content no matter what it may be. There are plenty of outlets to hear and see the band.  If it makes you a stronger shooter to know lyrics or music changes, then put that in your utility belt.  I recently was fortunate enough to cover a couple of country artists over the past couple of weeks. I was on stage with Garth Brooks in Nashville and Rascal Flatts in St. Paul, MN.  I knew their music, the lyrics and music changes which made it an amazing experience. A fan with camera skills with the best seat in the house.

My second tip is never to get lost in the viewfinder. This is a great time to be able to keep your other eye open while you shoot (sorry left eye shooters). This takes a lot of practice but will come in handy when people, lights, instruments, stage walls even pyro are moving all around you or on stage where 25,000 people could put you on YouTube for crashing into the guitarist coming to the front of the stage to do a solo.

My third tip depends on what kind of coverage you have to get. If you are part of a one or two camera crew trying to get as much coverage, you will be covering the action the best way you see fit through your producer/director’s vision. If you are shooting a multi-cam (we had 14 cameras on the last show), you will most likely be doing zone coverage (ie iso the drummer) and hopefully will be given to you in a song breakdown in a camera meeting before the show.  When shooting zone coverage it is very important to understand you have to stay with your coverage. No matter how cool a certain shot may look, someone else already has that coverage. In this coverage style you have to think big picture and hope the rest of the crew has their coverage down.

This last show I was the roaming ENG camera. Before the show, I walked backwards leading Rascal Flatts backstage for some pre-show content (once again walking backwards thru a building, see it’s a recurring theme). After they reached the backstage area I was tasked to get crowd reactions, sing a longs, dancing, etc. I like to approach this as if I am a fan with a camera. If you have fans you want to shoot, tell them what you want (dance, sing, mug for the camera), chances are they will do what you need them to. I went as far as lip syncing the words to them if they were to sing a long.  Remember, they are there for the show and may have been primed up many hours before the doors opened, be patient, I try to use humor to deflect anyone being a little overly rowdy. Sometimes simply pointing the camera at them will appease them.

So like anything, know your subject, your surroundings and most of all use your positive energy to connect with the band, its fans and the music. Have fun!

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