3 Methods For Filming a Live Session
After filming over 300+ live acoustic sessions over 4 years, I can confidently say that I now know a thing or two about filming them. Yes, I have made hundreds of mistakes along the way, but hopefully I’ve learned from the majority of these mistakes and can share them with you so that you get a better idea of how to film a great looking live session. I just want to point out that this article is focusing on the different methods of filming a live session, it doesn’t go into detail about how to set up microphones or edit the footage. I go into greater detail on those subjects here.
How Do I Get Started?
So you want to film an acoustic session? You want to post it up on YouTube, accumulate millions of views and become an instant millionaire. Well it’s not quite that easy, having a great product and promoting your products are too different things, but I’ll save that for another article. Let’s focus on creating some great content shall we.
The method of filming your session totally depends on what look you’re going for, you may want a totally live experience or you prefer playing to pre recorded audio, which means nailing the song is one less thing to worry about when filming. Do you have a camera crew? Two or more cameras? Decent set of microphones? There’s quite a lot of equipment to think about when filming such a session, hopefully this article will give you one less thing to worry about.
Three Methods For Filming
As stated before there are numerous ways to record a session, here in Reload Sessions we’ve experimented with a few of them and now we’ve finally figured out our formula and can share with you how we do it. There are 3 distinct ways to filming a session and I’ll break each one down for you.
Filming To A Pre Recorded Track
This is something that we don’t feature on our channel, however it is something we’ve filmed on numerous occasions for other artists. One of the benefits of choosing this tactic is that you don’t need to worry about the audio on the day. You can go to a studio or record in your bedroom, take your time with each track and make sure the audio is somewhat perfect. So on the day of filming all that’s required of the artist is to know their parts and mime the track. One of the main drawbacks to this approach is that if the artist doesn’t sing/play their parts correctly or in time, the session can not look genuine. If you’re trying to make your video come across as a live session, it can be pretty easy to spot that you’re not actually performing live to the camera. This can in turn distract the viewer watching and switch off.
In terms of the set up for the shoot, you’ll need some sort of sound system or monitoring to allow you to play back the pre recorded track on the day of filming. Depending on your recording it’ll probably be best to use similar instruments that feature on the track, you don’t want to be seen playing a saxophone when on the track it’s guitar and vocals. That’s a bit extreme, but you’d be surprised what I’ve come across YouTube throughout the years.
Filming this type of recording can be a bit tricky, a lot of the mistakes artists don’t keep in mind is the continuity of the session. If you’re trying to imitate a live recording, you don’t want to be cutting to too many angles especially where it’s not consistent. What I’ve seen time and time again in these type of shoots is the artist looking one way, and then cut to the next shot she/he is immediately facing another way. These are little issues, however it does add to the overall product.
In terms of filming equipment, you can get away with using a one camera set up. As you’re miming to a track, you have the luxury to stop after a take, move the camera for another angle and repeat the process.
This style is actually quite popular on the YouTube platform, you can see well established YouTubers taking this approach and it seems to be working for them.
For our channel however, we focus on giving a platform to artists that perform live. We want to show viewers a true example of a live performance, so each artist is given only a handful of takes to achieve the best performance. Saying that there was a time quite early on in our channel were we dabbled with multiple angles from multiple different takes. Which leads me onto the next method.
Filming After Getting The Best Audio Take
Early on in the creation of our channel, we were experimenting with what was the best way to film an acoustic live session. Back in the day we only had a one camera set up, and the only way we could achieve multiple angles in one session was to record the session a number of times, move the camera each take and use footage from different takes. We didn’t want to use a pre recorded track, but audio taken from the day. So we would take audio from one take (preferably the best audio take) and then place the footage over that track.
The process was simple, however when it comes to editing the footage it can be a bit of a nightmare. Unless the artist and musicians have impeccable timing, can recreate the exact same runs and replicate every single movement in previous takes, you as an editor should be fine. Of course it’s not that easy, singers don’t always sing the same and musicians don’t hold the same note every single time. So when trying to pull different angles from different takes and piece them together, there can be a lot of continuity issues.
If you do decide to go with this method, I would advise possibly getting the instrumentalist to play to a click, to allow them to keep in time. Filming multiple takes, gives the filmmaker luxury in getting the best angles, it was at times like these where it allowed us to be creative. It also gives the artist time to work on their performance and get the best take out of them. It’s also a good idea to get some cutaway shots, that gives you footage to play with if you’re having any continuity issues.
At Reload Sessions we have veered away from this process, as it took up a lot of time in the editing process. Although, the audio came from a live performance, it wasn’t as true of a performance as we would like it to be.
Filming A Complete Live Session
It is in this method where we decided to settle on creating an ultimate live experience. An artists would come in, perform from start to finish and we would film the whole performance. Every camera is rolling throughout the performance, there’s no stop and start, it’s really down to the artist to get their performance right. This is added pressure on the artist, but we always say that we want to give viewers an insight in what each artist is like live on stage, and this method is the closest thing to representing it.
As our channel progressed we invested in a couple more cameras to allow us to have multiple angles, we thought filming the performance with just one angle would be quite boring for viewers to watch. This is just a preference, there are a few successful YouTube videos out there that still do it this way
As everything is recorded once, both the audio and video need to be set up correctly. There is little margin for error here, you don’t want your audio equipment to fail half way through the performance, nor do you want your cameras to to suddenly cut out. I personally prefer this method as it makes the editing process a hell of a lot faster, instead of placing footage from different takes on one audio and worrying about timing issues. I just select the multi-cam option in the editing software and pick and choose which angle I would prefer during the take (for more information on how to edit a session click here). I don’t need to worry about continuity issues as every camera is filming the same moment all at the same time. There are numerous channels similar to Reload Sessions that have opted for this method, and it does make sense. When dealing with a handful of artists week in, week out. You don’t want your time taken up in the editing process. You want everything streamlined to allow a better workflow for everyone involved in the project.
Here are a few examples of a complete live session:
Which Method Will You Go For?
I hope I gave you some insight, I hope this helps you decide on how you want to record your sessions. It took us a few years of experimenting until we finally decided on our method. So if you’re still confused, I definitely recommend getting stuck in and trying out different ways. Once you start getting into it and doing it over a few times, you’ll start to understand what is a better workflow for yourself. Or better yet, if you find that you’re still confused send us an email over at firstname.lastname@example.org, I’d be happy to offer some advice.
If you think this article would be useful to any aspiring videographer, artist or musician who wants to start recording live sessions why not share it to them. If you have any feedback or thoughts on this article, make sure to comment down below.
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