Capturing the story of an event in video, be it a wedding, a conference, a lecture or a music gig, can seem pretty straightforward on the surface of it. You turn up at the start, set up, hit record, the day finishes, go back to the office and edit it all together into a neat 2-minute video.
Or that’s what I thought before I started filming live events professionally! The reality, however, is that successfully capturing the story of these events draws upon many more components than simply recording everything. There are lessons I have learnt and tips I have picked up, and so, I thought I would share some ramblings from behind the camera so others may get on their way.
First up, work smarter, not harder. Yes, it's cliche and no, I didn't coin the phrase, but, it rings very true for capturing live events. A lot of working smarter comes down to preparation. Preparing for any shoot is essential, but thinking outside the box for the event you are covering can really pay dividends when it comes to the day and editing. For example, you're covering a family wedding and you've been asked to capture more of the intimate and happy moments throughout the day. With that in mind, why not ask for a copy of the reception seating plan and ask where the children are sitting? This way you know where to be and when. You can start to schedule your day and spend 10 minutes capturing smiley and energetic young family members and move on before they start to lose interest and ask mum to go home. This is working smarter, not harder, because the alternative is realising it on the day and filming the table for 20 minutes, trying to capture a moment and subsequently having to spend longer in the edit scrubbing through your footage for the best clips.
Secondly (and slightly contradictory), be aware of the moments you can't plan for. At the end of the day, live events are ... well, live! You can't plan your shoot day to the tee and you need to stay on your toes for moments that materialise. Music festivals are notorious for this as there is a lot going on. When I was working at the Big Feastival in 2018 I found myself in one of the most incredible situations of my career when a sudden crowd formed at a small pavilion away from the main stages. It was the middle of the day, I had filmed the main afternoon act and was moving from the food stalls to the theme park rides, capturing interactions and activity when I noticed the beatbox trio, Duke, starting out on a tiny pavilion not far from where I was. I had planned to shoot the stage later in the day before the main stage act Craig David when I noticed more and more people hearing the band beatbox some dance songs and heading over (it helped that the pavilion stage was near the drinks stands). I decided to head on over, getting close up to the stage. In minutes, the crowd was 15 people deep and there were 300 or so surrounding the small 360-degree stage. As they danced on me and my gear took a step onto the stage and crouched down to stay out of the way. So there I was, centre stage with the band, surrounded by the crowd on all sides, capturing my favourite footage from the day ... completely unplanned. (You can check the clip out here - https://www.instagram.com/p/BnT5aj3ldgz/)
Lastly, endurance - a lesson I learnt the hard way! Endurance splits into two categories: physical and technological. Physical doesn't just mean being fit enough to last the day but can also come down to little things. Wearing the right shoes, eating enough food, drinking enough water, even resting when you can. Seems simple enough but in the buzz of the day, you can easily forget any combination of these as you chase the next shot on your list. Just a sub-point also, yes it feels wrong to be resting at an event you are being paid to capture, but, not only are you legally entitled to it on longer shoots but as long as you capture what you need to, it's okay and experience will quickly teach you its necessity. When I started, I would find myself dead on my feet as the main act came to stage or the key speaker began because I hadn't taken a break and spent all my energy capturing shots that didn't make the edit.
Technological endurance is all down to your gear. Do you have enough battery capacity for the event? Do you have enough memory and backup storage space? If not, schedule in time to backup throughout the event (unadvisable) or find somewhere to charge your backup batteries. Think ahead, it's better to have more of these things than you need.