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Wednesday, February 16, 2011

5 Reasons For Bad Concert Videos

I hate concert videos. Not all of them, just the majority. It's not the music or the artist, it's mostly the directing. It seems like a whole generation of directors learned the wrong way just like a lot of live soundmen did (more on that gripe here).

Many times there's a concert I'd love to watch on VH1 Classic, Palladia, or PBS that I can't get past the first minute or two because it's cut too fast and flat. That might work for music videos (I'm not sure it does) but it sure doesn't for a concert. I want to be engaged, I want to be pulled in and I want to really see the performance in a way I never could before.

So here are my 5 reasons why I think concert videos are so bad. By the way, there's a lot more about shooting and editing concert videos aimed specifically for musicians in The Musician's Video Handbook.

1. The cuts are way too fast.  Give me a moment or two to get a feeling for the artist.  If you cut on every beat I never get pulled into the performance.  There's no rule that says you can't keep a shot on the artist for 5, 10 or even 30 seconds.  I promise, if the artist and the music is great, it's not going to be boring!

2.  There's never enough of the supporting players.  Let me see the rest of the band.  And not just for a second either.  I want to know who the players are.  I want to see how much they're into the music.  And just maybe there might be a great mini-performance within a performance that's worth seeing.

3.  Too many audience shots.  Who cares about the audience?  Unless there's something really special about the audience, I don't have to see them in every song, and not more than once or twice at that.  This constant cutting back to generic audience shots just makes me loose interest.  Sure they like the band.  That's why they're there. You don't have to keep reminding us.

4.  Too many long shots from the audience.  Once I get the feeling of how large the venue is and how many people are there, I don't need to see it again.  Giving me that same shot over and over just disconnects me from the performance.

5.  The shots make the performer look smaller than life.  Please, learn how to frame a shot.  I'd like to see the performance from a perspective I can't normally get, but I don't need to count the singer's nose hairs.  Too many times the shooter frames the shot flat.  A concert is bigger than life so let's shoot it that way.

Too many times a director thinks that the project is his. It's not. It belongs to the artists. Let's give the fans more of them and less of you.
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Felt Blog said...

I totally agree with you. I hate those fast cuts. I heard somewhere the rule is no more than 3 seconds per shot. I don't agree with that at all.
I make multi-shot videos for our band Shagdaddy and I try to make them the best I can. I'll try to use your suggestions as much as possible. Here is one of our latest.
It has fast cuts on the beat in the intro, but then stays on each shot for a more reasonable time.
I really enjoy your daily posts. Keep it up!

Bill said...

So, do you have an example of a GOOD concert video to share with us? I agree with your post, but I'd like to know what concert video works for you.

Clive Young said...

All of these underline exactly why Stop Making Sense is widely considered the best concert film of all time. Long, undulating shots; plenty of coverage of the ancillary musicians; exactly one shot of the audience, during the very last song; no back-of-the-venue views; and excellent framing.

On a personal level, I love back-of-the-venue shots because they provide context, as well as a view of what it would look like from the only seats I could afford.

Bobby Owsinski said...

Most of the real good concert videos are made by film makers.

Don't want to sound to old school on this but Talking Head's "Stop Making Sense" is great as is the Stone's "Shine A Light." "Woodstock" is still a classic. All are good material to learn from.

Anonymous said...

One of my favorite live concert DVD's was never intended to be released as a DVD. It's a recording of the live feed of one of Prince's "Musicology" gigs in 2004. It was meant to be webcast once and never seen again, but of course, bootlegs abound! There's multiple camera angles, and it's professionally done, but since there's no post-production editing we get lots of long, luxurious scenes of the master with his guitar, his band is given generous time and the audience is exactly where they should be -- in the background! It's by far my most-played concert DVD of the last ten years or so.

CaptainVictory said...

Wow, I was starting to think I was the only one. Good to see there are more like me in the world. Couldn't agree more!

One question though, Bobby. What does "framing the shot flat" mean? (Obviously, I'm no film-maker.)


Bobby Owsinski said...

Everything looks better at a little bit of an angle, so a flat show is a straight-on shot at eye level. Concert shots tend to look better when shot from below the performer because it makes them look larger than life, just like the music.

ZakBird said...

Hey, I agree totally with you. The concert video is about the band/artist...not the director. Heard this "fast cut" called MTV video the point I can't even watch music videos and many TV music type awards, even other TV fashion/event type shows. Cut the scene every 1-3 seconds! Saw the last John Fogerty concert video (one example) and the director focused on him probably 89 minutes of the video. He has one of the best drummers in the business who was kicking the crap out of the skins...but the director would literally pan to him and cut within a second (it was like the director new the drummers reputation, and figured one second would be great). Recent Michael Schenker Group (MSG) video was pretty decent, Schenker is the star player, but it was a reunion of the former band mates and the director gave lots of time to the other players. Alice Cooper concert videos are pretty decent...maybe that is from Cooper possibly not having the ego that spotlight has to be on him every second.

Maybe if the directors were musicians...they would show the supporting players more, respecting their talents and skills...and showcasing them. Director probably feels he's there to show only the star. As a somewhat musician...I want to watch the drummer, the bassist, the guitarists (not just a quick lead solo shot). Interest in their techniques and appreciate their skill.

I'd make a great director/editor. My philosophy...act like I'm looking through binoculars at a concert...would I be jumping 1-3 seconds with every viewing way, I'd linger and take it in and savor (and register) what I'm looking at.

Less of audience I agree with...paid $20 to see performance, not the crowd. A few shots to see size of crowd, venue are good...then like you said, move on! Not every song. I hear the crowd noise, I know it's concert! The naked girl...go ahead and show her as much as you want!

Lead solos, pan the whole guitarist, not just a close up of his fingers. But don't focus on his "orgasm face" while he plays!

My pet peeves attending concerts. 1) Women who pride themselves on knowing the words to every song, and having to sing along (LOUDLY) to every song. Shut Up! I paid $60 to hear the performer, not your off-key voice drowning them out. 2) Ragging on women know her...the one that has to stand up and dance to every song, blocking everyone's view from behind. Glad you think you got rhythm, but go dance in the back of the concert hall and not bother everyone. 3) The must stand for every song...forcing 20000 people behind to stand for 3 hours so they can see and enjoy the show too! 4) The Tall're 6'4 and pride yourself on perfect posture and sitting up totally erect...great dude, 20000 people behind you have to stand or lean over several seats to see around you. 5) Lip Synching Artists...Britney Who? Why would I want to pay big money to see an artist lip synch? I might as well be up there (but I can't sing so I'm not!). If you can't sing, get a day job. If you can't sing because you're having to dance on stage, become a dancer. Can't believe people pay out $160 to see some artists who don't sing live. What a rip.

As they say...when in Rome, do like the Romans do...observe behavior around you...if everyone is jumping and carrying on and dancing...go for it...but if you're the only one...Sit Down!


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