to Bruce Hornsby:
Students Produce Concert DVD
and DIRECTV Programs
planning for the shoot at Villa Montalvo began this spring, when SFSU
MSP Director of Intensive Programs Craig Abaya assembled a team of
mentors to shepherd his student workforce through production and post on
the Hornsby project. The group included concert videographer Jarid Johnson,
video producer Mark DeVito, multimedia producer Thomas Luehrsen and audio
maven Kim Foscato.
"We planned this over a two-month period, which is amazing given the number of 'firsts' in this project," says Abaya. "This is the first time that a student project is being supported by major companies and readied for a major commercial release. It's the first major concert that's being shot on miniDV. There isn't a control room where the director can watch all of the cameras during the shoot. All of the paradigms for production have gone out the window."
and concert videographer Johnson took the lead on production planning,
with Johnson concentrating on technical aspects of camera operation and
lighting design, while Abaya brainstormed the camera placement and developed
crew assignments that would showcase the strengths of his students.
Production called for 11 Canon video cameras, with six cameras on-stage during the concert to shoot musician close-ups, three cameras in the audience, one backstage camera, and a roving camera and crew that could move throughout the extensive grounds of Villa Montalvo. Before and after the concerts, each camera and its crew would also be assigned to gathering interviews or b-roll footage, which would be used in a 'making of' documentary for the DVD.
and Johnson chose the XL1S
because its readily available controls made it ideal for the demands of
live production. "A lot of digital cameras are menu-driven, and dialing
through menus is tough in a live environment," says Abaya. "The Canon cameras
are much more ergonomic. There's an iris dial right at your fingertips,
which makes a difference. The XL1S has all of the buttons where and when
you need them."
See Jarid's concert shooting tips
a series of meetings, Johnson briefed his camera operators on the Canon
XL1S and provided real-world pointers on music video production, like the
importance of wearing earplugs and kneepads. Johnson also wrote up detailed
project notes and shooting
tips, which he posted on a password-protected Website for the Hornsby
project. Designed and maintained by Abaya, the extensive site includes
creative, technical, production and contact details for the production
and its participants, from crew lists and camera diagrams to QuickTime
video clips of rehearsals and meetings.
increase their expertise in music-video camerawork, the students reviewed
long-form concert programming from artists ranging from Nine Inch Nails
and U2 to Neil Young, Woodstock, and The Who. To familiarize themselves
with the venue for their upcoming gig, the student crew convened at Villa
Montalvo in early June, to shoot a concert by the jazz group Guitars and
Saxes. And to expand their insight into Hornsby's music and musicianship,
the MSP students had the chance to listen to an advance copy of "Big
At the back of the venue, a Power Mac G4 running E-MU/ENSONIQ PARIS Pro would be set up to accept 24 to 48 audio inputs directly from the stage box, which takes microphone and line inputs from vocalists and instruments and feeds those signals to the 'front of house' and monitor mixing consoles. The G4 would be fitted with two Apple Cinema Displays, so that 48 audio tracks could be monitored simultaneously.
To edit the footage for the DIRECTV and DVD releases, the finished audio mix would be imported into Final Cut Pro 3, which would be used to edit concert, interview and documentary sequences. For the DVD release, the edited video sequences would be combined with interactive menus in DVD Studio Pro.
"Bruce plays off the feel of the audience, the band and the mood of the evening," says Abaya. "It's a jam-band mentality that's very daring and exciting. We wanted the students to be able to feel what was happening and go with it because even when you have a set list, you have to be prepared to improvise."
In addition to the artistic challenge, Hornsby's performance style also presented a logistical problem for the crew. On every camera, videotapes and camera batteries would need to be swapped out on a regular basis throughout the shoot though there were no planned breaks during Hornsby's performance. Assistant director Shelley Blockhus would take responsibility for managing an inventory of some 60 batteries and more than 200 tapes, and for keeping operators stocked with fresh batteries and tape stock throughout both nights.
"It's a little daunting, but we understand the way Bruce performs, and we respect his artistic process," says project producer Lana Posner of Poskat Enterprises, Inc. "We may run into some snags and wind up missing something one night, but with two nights, our hope is that we'll be able to capture the essence of the performance. It's definitely going to keep the students on their toes."