August 13, 2010
Camper Van Beethoven Live Video Premiere

I've always loved listening to live concert recordings, and over the last few years I've enjoyed making a few of my own. Lately I've taken up (as a hobby mostly) combining my love of recording live music with filming it as well. When I found out last winter that the seminal alt-music bands Camper Van Beethoven and Cracker were  playing locally, I asked around the shop if anyone would like to work on a little concert film  - and happily, I was met with a resounding "YES" all around.


Twelve cameras, 64 tracks (32 x 2 for redundancy)  and forty hours of footage later, one song from that evening debuted on Wolfgang's Vault today.


Working with resident Gotham Digital cinematographer David Ford, we knew that adequate coverage was going to be difficult given our limited budget (as in zero). We also had no budget for a traditional control room. In addition to "traditional" coverage with four tripod mounted cameras (Panasonic HPX-170), we used two Panasonic GH-1 DSLR cameras and five Kodak Zi8 cameras planted around the stage sideways so that we could create static frames by combining three of them into a kind of "rock and roll Triptych".


Audio was recorded by our own rental techs Cassidy Donahue and Jeff Santana. We used  24 Crimson Audio iso/split transformers to split all of the mics on the stage and recorded into Metacorder and the new JoeCo box. In addition to the sources on the stage, we added four mics for audience and ambience. The Metric Halo ULN-8  and 2882 with on board DSP was used to create a scratch mix, which was then replaced during editing with a mix created by Gotham's own service tech  Alexander Rastopchin.


No time code was used in the production. Instead, we relied on the on-camera mic's audio and synced it to the scratch mix using Plural Eyes software. Plural Eyes is amazing software that really works. For those not familiar with it, it uses the audio waveform to synchronize media, even badly distorted audio captured by the camera's mics only a few feet away from the stage wedges. The only exception to using the on-camera mic was to the the camera tight on lead singer David Lowery. Since it was at the back of the house (next to the FOH console), it would have received it's audio later than the other cameras that were closer to the stage. The solution was to give it a feed from the FOH console, and this also acted as our absolute fail-safe backup.


Editing duties were split between myself and David using Final Cut. To see additional footage from that night, please see http://www.gothamdigital.tv/cracker.


Not everything went 100% smoothly. One of our cameras decided not to record for thirty-five minutes. Our MetaCorder rig decided to drop 480 samples (one tenth of one second) in the middle of the Cracker set. In retrospect, the best thing we did was to have backup systems in place - the other cameras covered for the one that failed, and the JoeCo happily filled in the missing samples. 


If you'd like to know more about our process, please feel free to drop us a line or send us an email.


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First look: Roland S-0808
Camper Van Beethoven Live Video Premiere
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