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Concert Shooting Tips Return to Bruce Hornsby:
Students Produce Concert DVD
and DIRECTV Programs
Jarid Johnson, the Director of Photography at SFVisuals as well as an instructor at the SFSU MSP Digital Video Intensive, offers these concert video shooting tips.

View a variety of long form music films and/or DVD projects like The Last Waltz or Woodstock; watch music programs on television. Pay attention to the different types of shots and compositions from each camera angle. Make note of how the visuals follow the music and be aware of the shot selections, shot duration and edit pacing.

Listen to music critically. Be aware of song structure i.e.: verse-chorus-verse patterns. Be aware of the solo breaks; note how long solos last and how and when they begin and end. Listen for the return to vocals. Listen for how the music "winds up" indicating a change.

Things to look for while shooting:

  • Pay attention to the interaction between the musicians, particularly the main artist and other band members.

  • Watch the main artist. He may give visible or subtle clues as to the direction of the music. Sometimes he'll give a clue as to when he's going to begin singing or he'll give the nod to another band member to take a solo.

  • Generally, compose your shots to include the musician and instrument when he's not soloing or singing. When he's soloing, you can go for close-ups of fingers, hands or face that can be cut in with wider shots. If a musician is singing back-up vocals, a close-up or medium shot works well.

  • When composing shots, look for interesting foreground and background relationships between the different musicians on stage. Look for opportunities to create rack focus transitions or reveals.

  • Always be on the look out for interesting angles from your camera position and any camera moves you might be able to make. For example, during a guitar solo, show a close-up of fingers the on guitar. When you feel like it's time to make a move, make your move to show the face for a moment or the other hand. You can also widen out to see the musician playing or you can widen out to a two shot. You might be able to start on the drummer in the background, for instance, and pull to the singer or guitarist in the foreground. 

General tips:

  • Pay attention to the music and the musicians. 
  • Use your left eye to see what's happening elsewhere on stage. 
  • Think ahead and anticipate where the music is going and how the musicians move on stage. 
  • Create your camera moves and transitions as if you're live. 
  • Always wear black clothes so you are less obtrusive. 
  • Protect your hearing by wearing earplugs. 
  • Work safely; be aware of your surroundings. 
  • Have fun!

Return to Bruce Hornsby:
Students Produce Concert DVD and DIRECTV Programs

Jarid Johnson and student videographer
Jarid Johnson has been in the music business since 1976, starting with a nine-year career as a radio DJ. His career continues as one of the San Francisco Bay Areas premiere hand-held camera operators,working on DVD and home video releases by major artists including Neil Young, Hot Tuna and String Cheese Incident. He has shot for the "Live at the Fillmore" TV program produced by Bill Graham Presents, shot at every major music venue in the Bay Area, and toured with the Grateful Dead and R. Kelly. In addition, he has shot hundreds of one-off music events over 13 seasons at the Clear Channel/BGP crown jewel venue, Shoreline Amphitheater in Mountain View, CA. His directing credits at Shoreline include The Other Ones and Pearl Jam. Jarid is currently building the foundation for a documentary on the Baton Rouge blues scene.

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