These days many bands post videos to YouTube to widen their audience, help showcase their talents to booking agents and connect with their fans on a regular basis. But the vast majority of these videos are shot with Cellphones or low-end consumer camcorders and aside from being poorly lit, shaky and having incredibly poor sound, they suffer from showing one continuous viewpoint. This makes make them difficult to enjoy and probably do more of a disservice to the artist than being helpful.
Hiring a professional production crew to shoot and edit a live performance is far beyond the financial reach of most musicians, so many are now turning to a growing legion of guerrilla-style videographers who will do the job for mere hundreds, not thousands, of dollars.
So what is this thing I call “guerrilla-style” videography? Well, it refers to impromptu / low-budget / non-traditional methods.
Traditional production involves a fairly large number of proper professional broadcast video-cameras (6 or more is not unheard of) manned by competent cameramen, feeding a switcher controlled by the head honcho and recorded to traditional media (formerly tape, now often straight to memory cards or hard disks.) Plus there is usually someone handling the audio and perhaps even adequate video lighting in use as well.
Guerrilla production typically involves consumer level camcorders, DSLRs or GoPro action cameras plus a small handheld field recorder such as those made by Zoom, set-up in various places and recording autonomously, and the footage is then later ingested to a NLE such as Adobe Premiere or Final Cut Pro and edited into a finished product. And it is often done by no more than 1 or possibly 2 people.
Traditional production can often be done in the same amount of time as the show itself since it is switched on-the-fly (plus a little pre-show and post-show setup/tear down time).
Guerrilla production, on the other hand, takes a good bit more time to complete but since that additional time is due to post-performance editing, it is often done by one person. This time can be significantly reduced by the use of a multi-cam plugin (or NLE feature), allowing the editor to simulate a live-switching scenario which can then be later tweaked.
Does guerrilla work look as good as a traditional production? It can if the cameras are high-quality, the shots are carefully chosen and the editing is spot on. Often it can look even BETTER because there is more time taken to choose the best angles to show throughout the performance.
But traditional production has one significant edge: multiple cameramen who can pan, zoom and frame at full resolution. Trying to achieve the same thing with static shots often results in a loss of picture quality unless the cameras have captured a higher resolution than the ultimate final product. What I mean by that is this: If a GoPro collected video at 4k but the production is output at 1080p you can easily push in to show only 25% of the frame and STILL be at 1080 res. Or, conversely, if you shoot at 1920×1080 but output at 1280×720 you still have a bit of room to pan and zoom around in without giving up any quality. But try to zoom into a 1080 shot in a 1080 production even a little bit and it will instantly get soft and blurry.
When you are talking about a live concert, you also are dealing with challenging lighting conditions, moving performers who will strain your camera’s auto-focus ability, and lots of potential for theft/damage of unattended gear.
But guerrilla production has some advantages as well. The cost of production is often quite low because you don’t have to rent a lot of pro gear and pay for a pro crew – and let’s face it, pro crews are EXPENSIVE! Consequently, you can pass on those savings to the client and suddenly your services are far more affordable to a much larger potential audience.
So what are the pitfalls? Well, even though inexpensive cameras like those made by GoPro can shoot some incredible sharp HD/4k footage, they are still limited by their lenses (although there ARE some third party options available for Hero 4 and 5 cameras), their battery life, and their connectivity (no SDI or NDI to interface with other pro options). Because they are often put in a fixed location with a single framed view they can quickly get boring in a production, hence the need for many more cameras/angles to keep the edit interesting.
It no longer takes deep pockets to shoot amazing performances. So go out there and shoot!