With summer officially underway, festival and event season is in full swing. With one festival already under our belts this year, we are reminded of just how complex an event shoot can seem. Whether you’re a production crew filming an event, are hosting an event and want to capture it yourself or are organizing an event and working with a production team, these tips will help you stay organized and make the most of your shoot.
1. Have a schedule
Shooting a huge music festival or large city event can be daunting because there is so much to cover. If you can, go over key acts, places and vendors with both the event organizer and the production team ahead of time and make sure everyone is on the same page about “must-catch” moments and highlights of the event. Figure out where you want to focus your attention throughout the day, and then make sure you have enough time to get from point A to point B.
2.—but don’t stick to it
While it’s great to have a concrete plan, don’t overload your schedule with too many time-sensitive moments—you’ll want to leave time to catch all the great beats in between. The best moments are often the ones you’ll miss if you blink. While it’s important to have a plan when you go out to shoot, you have to go where the event takes you and always be on the lookout for the right moments and the right people. Don’t be afraid to spend time veering off course if you’re catching great beats. Candid b-roll of visitor interactions, great looking food and spontaneous dance moves are what take an event video from just coverage to a cinematic time capsule of the day.
3. Keep interviews short and sweet
Getting testimonials is key to capturing the visitor experience at an event. While having a few anecdotes is great, you’ll probably end up using snappier to-the-point sound bites in your edit. Come up with a few wish-list answers and then ask simple questions that might lead to that kind of response. Avoid open-ended questions like “How are you liking your time at the festival?”. Instead, try asking something like, “What’s the coolest thing you’ve seen so far?” This makes people be specific, and by asking the same question to multiple people, you have a common theme to edit to.
4. Don’t be afraid to direct
Not all candid moments are created equal. Sometimes, you need to give people a little push to get the shot you’re looking for. It might seem unnatural at first, but asking a couple to give a quick kiss to the camera or getting a kid to bust a killer dance move can give you just the shot you’re looking for. You’re just not always going to get those moments “au naturel”. The same goes for interviews. If you want to get those short, snappy sound bites, there’s nothing wrong with guiding what people say, as long as it’s believable.
5. Gear up
When shooting an outdoor event, it’s important to strike a fine balance between having the right gear and being lightweight enough to navigate through crowds and be minimally invasive. A basic 18-55mm lens is always a good place to start because it provides versatility. On top of that, only bring what fits the event you’re shooting. Food festival? Bring that macro lens for some juicy close ups. Huge crowds? Bring a super wide angle 10-24mm to capture the huge scale of the event. If you’re not sure what kind of lens you need, this Gizmodo article offers a guide to basic lens types. Sticking to two or three lenses should give you enough flexibility but still keep your load light. Stock up on batteries and memory cards and carry them with you so you never have to waste time heading back to where you’ve stored your gear. If your event is outdoors, it’s always a good idea to bring a protective cover for your camera so you don’t have to duck and cover if it starts to pour.
6. Don’t forget about sound
Big events often have a cacophony of background noise. While recording the ambient sound of an event can sometimes result in a muddled and unclear mess, catching particular sounds up close can do wonders for the production value of your piece. On top of catching testimonial sound bites, it’s always a good idea to record the sounds of the event. The sizzle of burger hitting flat top or ice clinking in a martini shaker can give your visuals more life and make your end viewer feel like they were there. If you’re shooting an event with live music or speeches, find out ahead of time where the soundboard is located and hook up your audio recorder directly to it.
7. Select as you go
Especially when you’re shooting a lot of b-roll, it can take days to pick selects from the gigabytes upon gigabytes of footage you shot. This ends up being a huge time-suck when you start post-production. To make the process easier for your editor, make notes as you go. Jot down the clip numbers of great moments so that when you go to edit, you already have a good idea of what your selects will be and can save hours of time in post-production.
8. Shoot ahead
Whether you’re filming over the course of a few days or just a few hours, you can never assume that shooting conditions will be ideal. Changes in weather mean you might have to alter your plan or even hold off on shooting temporarily. A drop in temperature or a rainy afternoon also means you’re less likely to capture a good crowd turn out and the happy smiling faces you’re after. Plus, the experience is a lot less enjoyable for you and your crew. If you capture more than you need to during nice weather, you won’t be at a loss for footage if the next day gets rained out.
Once you’ve put these tips into play, you’ve probably got some awesome footage to work with. Now it’s up to you or your editor to turn it into something great that gets viewers excited about checking out the event or coming back next year. Short, snappy sizzles are a great way to capture the essence of an event in a short amount of time.
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