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Shooting a Concert...sort of.

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#1 Shane Norton

Shane Norton


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Posted 14 February 2009 - 11:08 AM

Working at ESPN, I tend to shoot a lot of monitors. This definitely a great job, and I love all the practice I get inside a steadicam. However, on Friday the 13th, I got to shoot something different and I just wanted to share that experience with anybody who might care.

Two good friends at work were putting on a little concert inside our cafeteria. They were set to play for about 40 minutes, performing original songs that were, for the most part, ESPN oriented.

Their set-up was actually pretty cool for a such a small-scale performance. A little raised stage, about as high as a regular step, some nice lighting provided by a senior tech, and a pretty big section of the cafe designated for the audience. There was approximately 10-15 ft. of space between the stage and the beginning of the audience. This is where I came in.

For the noon Sportscenter, my director sent me to the cafe to shoot the concert. We would have someone rolling on my footage the entire time to be edited and possibly used going into or out of a break for the show. Not entirely relevant to sports, but it mixed things up.

My rig was connected via triax. I had the help of my buddy Joe as assist. We used a 500 foot cable from a BSP located near what is called Building 4. The distance between the BSP and the cafe was just about 480 feet, which gave me 20 feet of cable room to walk around with, give or take. This worked out well, given the space I had to work with. For audio purposes, we jerry-rigged a little shotgun mic to the top of my prompter. After some re-balancing this worked pretty well for the right.

When the concert started, we immediately ran into audio issues. We were way over-modulated. Thankfully, we had many ESPN employees in the audience and I quickly grabbed a few audio specialists. After about 10 minutes of troubleshooting they were able to present a solution. The next half hour, give or take, was all mine to play with.

Now, typically, during my three hours of live television my shooting is more waiting then actual shooting. Then, when I actually shoot, it's usually for no more than 5 minutes. I tend to shoot video in a monitor then maybe break from that to another monitor, and possibly one more break to another monitor. (Exciting, I know.) On a good day, I get to shoot people standing in front of our "magic box" where they do demonstrations or chit chat.

So now, here I am with approximately 30 minutes of straight shooting. I felt like a kid in a candy shop. Due to the triax and limited space, what I could play with wasn't all that fantastic, but it was without a doubt the best time I've had in the rig. For the most part, I walked back and forth in front of the stage. I got a lot of two moving two shots of the performers. Quite often I would move in and try to get nice angle of whichever person was carrying that part of the song. There was also a monitor to the right of the stage, from my point of view, which was playing different video of the two singers. I tried to play off of this as much as I can to give the editors something to go with. I attempted to get in the stage at one point, but it was too tight and the triax presented too much of a logistical issue to really pull this off. The audience was actually quite full, so I spent some time trying to get some crowd shots. I couldn't get too deep into the crowd because the leash was a little short, but I could get far enough to make it count. They didn't play the camera very much and really only reacted when a song ended.

I only got to see one shot make air. It was a simple shot of me wrapping left to right into one of the singers. I remember when doing this I went into a dutch angle (trying to some fun stuff) and then righted myself as I moved. Of course, the editor chose this shot and at the moment I start the dutch angle it cuts off, which I felt made it look like a mistake. Oh well!

Back to the differences between my regular shooting and this concert. Holy crap was I tired! I've been a "real" steadicam operator for about 6 months now. This was something entirely new to me. I was convinced that my assist, Joe, was going to have to throw water on my back because it literally felt like it was on fire. Those poor muscles back there were working oh so hard. I always try to work on my posture, which isn't yet perfected, so I don't know if it was my posture that was killing me or just the fact that I've never shot for such a long period of time. I'm also fairly certain that I could replenish the Grand Canyon with the sweat that poured from me.

So in the end, I absolutely had the time of my professional life. The concert was small, and can be described as corny. However, the two guys are very talented friends of mine and it was an honor to be able to do this. I can not wait to get a copy of the raw footage to completely humble any thought I might have had that I'm getting to be a good operator. Hopefully I can post some of it on youtube and see what you guys and gals might think of it.

Hopefully someone out there enjoys this little "journal." I really enjoy reading what you all have to say and look forward to any comments some of you may have for me. Thanks!
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