Shooting a live band
I have been asked to shoot a band in a live venue. I have limited experience filming so I am doing my homework before the day. I am shooting on a Panasonic AG-HMC 41e (I hope this is in the relavent section).
I have never properly used a camera on full manual before and my first thought would be that to get good results I will be shooting in manual mode all the way. Has anyone got advice to get the best quality shoot? I feel I will need to set the white balance up manually, is there anything I should use specially to reference this? I have never had great results shooting in the dark with this Panasonic but I am convinced I just need to get to know the camera more.
Also, as it will be fast shoot with lots of movement I guess the 720P50 would be more suitable or the 1080i50 mode?
Thanks for you help in advance - I am hoping to get into more video shooting with this opportunity as I do a lot of editing.
Hi Steven. I've shot a lot of live band footage with the HMC 150, and would say that if you have good stage lighting, it will help immensely, and will get high quality videos. I've shot some in 720 and some in 1080 and usually just shoot in 1080 now. Always shoot manual, as stage lighting will tend to burn out your whites while the camera tries to adjust. And never shoot autofocus for stage. Ever.
The biggest problem you are likely to encounter is sound. Most young bands are seeming to play at earsplitting volumes, so I usually try and go off the sound board for at least a Zoom if I can't feed the 150 directly. Be SURE to get to the club early enough to test your sound volumes on ALL recording devices. Bring earphones to help during the actual shoot. Then turn your 150 sound down low so it doesn't clip, and you can marry the stuff up again in the editing process.
I've had good luck plugging into boards when the volumes are high.
Also, shoot more than you see. I mean let the camera run on past the event and don't move too soon. Pretend you are a tripod when shooting, not on wheels. Think about swiveling from the waist, not the shoulders.
Practice with the camera in advance to make sure you can effectively zoom in, pull focus and zoom out quickly and efficiently.
Too many times I've panned away too soon and regretted it in post. Zooms, when used at all, should be *slow* and steady, unless totally for effect.
Some samples to see what's possible.
Here is a stationary 150, off the board in a club with a earsplitting volume. The board feed was fine. Needed to wear earphones the whole night, as it was painful. I won't ever shoot in such an environment again without serious ear protection, if at all. You don't have to watch the whole thing to get the drift here. It's not an inspiring piece, but a document for the band.
The next is shot hand held with a shoulder mount system, sound off the monitors and mic'ed with an audiotronics shotgun attached. It did a *decent* job. If you like the bands, it's worth a watch. My goal was to create a sample of many bands, done without a tripod mount camera creating the anchor. Was thinking more about Pennebaker and Woodstock than just capturing the event.
Next was a live single camera shoot with sound off a professionally done board. I would have loved a second camera on this,but they wouldn't let me for the sake of the audience. This is your typical thing done to just capture the event, no fancy crap.
That should give you a good feel for what the 150 can do in the hands of a relative serious amateur.
That's for that - very helpful! I don't think I will be worrying about the sound too much. It is just a test to see my shooting ability. I guess I will be just recording sound as a 'guide' for the other cameramen there/for the editing process.
I am worried about lighting mainly. I guess I need to set a manual white balance, and use manual focus etc. What king of aperture settings do I need? will the 'zebra' function be useful? I have never used this and not 100% what it is. I have only ever used a auto mode camera.
I have a few weeks to practise and will be borrowing some flashing lights to test shooting in my house. Your tips are very helpful.
Thanks again :-)
It might be hard to shoot white balance, especially if there are stobes, etc. but try and get some practice in doing what you can. Zebra can be very useful in eliminating overexposed areas. Very easy to overexpose in such a situation. You'll likely find the exposure by adjusting when you get there. No guidelines. Might not be anywhere near wide open if your lights are bright. Then again, you might have to boost in post. I've had to on occasion. On my Youtube site, the one video of Southbound was needing a bit of post boost. Worked just fine.
Thanks. I will have to do some researchingwith the zebra. I have heard to set the white balance in the foyer or something like that. Your advice is very helpful and hopefully I can let you know how it goes :o) I have a few weeks to mess around.
I've shot a bunch of bands and other stage productions over the years, various venue conditions: professional concerts, folk festivals, High School Bands, school and community theater. I would never recommend establishing a white balance in the foyer... you have no idea if that's any closer to your stage lighting than the lighting in the rest room or the popcorn stand.
If it's a modest setup using room lights, you can probably lock in a decent enough white balance. One key, though... if you do have multiple cameras, set 'em both the same, whatever that setting happens to be. Never on auto-white, never on auto-focus, and even auto-exposure is a thing to use sparingly.
Sometimes, you have to wing it a little. In a situation where there's going to be lots of changing stage lighting, I lock it on whatever makes sense based on the white lighting on-stage, during a performance. If you can't get an ideal white reading, you can "eyeball" the color ... your eye's view of the stage and your camera's viewfinder/LCD need to match.... that's the best definition of "correct" when the colors don't resemble anything found in nature. Even if it's off a bit, you can tweak the color a bit later. The worst option is to leave it on auto white balance, which is very likely to make the shoot insane at best, useless at worst.
And by all means, learn to use your tool. The last thing you need is to panic and go fumbling to find the white balance button (up on the left side, not far from the focus ring) or any other feature in the dark. The HMC-4x, like many Pannys, speak in enough code words and symbols that it pays to spend some quality time with the camera before using it.
As for sound, a board feed is your absolute best bet. I always have an extra digital field recorder or two, cables of my own that'll let me hook the device to RCA, 1/4", or XLR outputs from the mixing board, etc. Without the board, I'll set up the field recorder in the best possible location, on 24-bit, to hopefully not distort when the high SPLs kick in (some concerts are too loud for such devices' built-in mics at any recording level... it's not the preamp, it's the mic itself that's distorting). You also want the camcorder mic set up properly... I set my HMC-40 to duplicate the mic input to both channels, then set one very low and the other where I actually think the audio's going to peak. That way, when I'm wrong, I have that second track to deliver the undistorted version.
If it's really, really loud, you might leave the camcorder mic home and use a couple higher SPL mics. The Rode NTG-1 I use on my main camcorder claims to support levels up to 139dB(spl). I've had camcorder mics overload due to loudness, but never this particular one. Then again, if you're actually experiencing 139dB(spl), you have more concerns than the video... like the fact your ears are starting to shut down (I think I got close to this at a Raconteurs concert once... it was painful, even with the Hearos in my ears).
I am pretty much a newby at live bands but I have shot 3 30 minute programs now and have made all the mistakes.Multiple bands at Bluegrass Events and one semi major act (the Tams..for you old guys).
Sound is crucial and problematic. If you are coming off the board you better hope the sound man knows what he's doing and cares about your sound. Its not a given by any means.
Get a good mic and always be prepared to go it alone. If you can, use his sound and yours.
You cannot have too many options or to many audio sources to choose from and/or mix together in post.
I am an audio professional so I come from a completely different direction. I recorded the audio from the following on a multitrack audio recording system using isolating transformer splits and synchronized all later. The camera guy walking around was transmitting stable SMPTE time code from an MP3 player split into the camcorder's audio in and a Sennheiser transmitter. The receiver out was low impedance and the SMPTE signal travelled down the snake to the Front of House where a stationary camera provided house sync to the audio recording system while the smpte was recorded on stationary camera after being jam synced with an Adams Smith Zeta III synchronizer. Later the clips were easy to align and edit and then the audio synchronized to the clips.
More at http://www.youtube.com/picker999