Digital Video Techniques - Recording a Rock Concert
A good concert video can stand alone as a great film. Capturing live music is one of the most energetic, and equally difficult, types of production experiences any digital video producer can have. It is important to plan ahead fully and know what elements you need to succeed. This method for recording a concert is best for capturing the event for the venue or the artist, but not for pirating the show because you will have to present too high of a profile for that.
The most important thing about recording a rock concert is to capture the music perfectly. The performance is important, but without a good recording of the live music it will not work whatsoever. For this you need to record at a location that has live sound mixing, which most do. Take your primary camera and position it near the audio booth. Take an XLR cable that you would normally use to plug in an external microphone and plug it straight into one of the unused output jacks on the board. There should be several of these. Make sure to clear this both with the venue, the artist, and the sound mixer before beginning.
Do the audio set-up during sound checks because this is the perfect time to make sure you are picking up the correct audio feed. You should now be able to hear exactly what is coming out of the speakers in your headphones. Since it will be difficult to differentiate what you are hearing in the headphones against what is coming out of the speakers, you should record a thirty second segment of the audio tests then go and listen to it outside of the building to make sure it was recorded cleanly and properly.
The best way to record the concert is with a standard three to four camera set-up. The camera that you used to plug into the audio board will be your master camera and will be the one that you use all the other clips to sync up with. This one will record the stage at a distance, and you should frame up the stage perfectly and not move the camera. You will want the video from this camera to be one consistent image because later you are going to be matching the footage from the other cameras against this clip when editing.
You are going to want two cameras on the stage, one on each side of it. These are going to be pointed at the band and the people that run them can change focal lengths and the focus of their framing periodically during the performance. They need to be recording audio at all times even though it will not be used in the final product. It is important to do this so these clips can be matched up against the audio from the master clip being recorded from the area of the audio booth. Make sure these cameras focus on things like the guitars of the musicians, the face of the singer, and the hands of the drummer.
The last camera, which can be optional, is also on the stage and moves left and right as space will allow. This camera is meant to capture the reaction and movement of the crowd and also if there are theatrics such as one of the musicians moving into the crowd. Again, audio should be recorded at all times and the camera should never be turned off once the performance has begun.
Once you are in the editing room you capture the master clip first and lay it out in the Timeline. You then capture the rest of the footage, audio and all, and match each one perfectly in sync with the master clip in the Timeline. Once this is done you can delete all the audio except for the one from the master clip that was recorded through the audio booth. Now you simply cut back and forth between the video clips, only keeping angles that are interesting for their timeframe. Try not to keep any video clip on the screen longer than four to six seconds. Once you have done this you will have a performance captured at four different angles that match perfectly to one clean audio track.
Future Trouble Shooting
Now you have essentially put together a concert video. Once you have done this you will have a better set of resources to address spontaneous problems next time you are in this production situation.
This post is part of the series: Video Production Types
Here are articles for different types of video production.