Article by Richard Jobson, November 30th 2010
I have just completed a new film about my old punk band The Skids all shot on 5Ds and 7Ds.
The event was a week long celebration of the different aspects of my work in my home county Fife in the East of Scotland. The gig was the finale to a week of cinema workshops and talks including an on stage interview conducted by the crime novelist Ian Rankin about my life and work.
As a team we didn’t have long to plan how to shoot the various events. We kind of just arrived in Scotland and made it up as we went along. This is not how I normally work and being more of a control freak made this improvised approach a bit of a worry.
We had three 5D MkIIs and a 7D with a variety of prime lenses as well as Zacuto rigs and follow focus.
Filming the smaller intimate events was a great way of preparing for the Skids gig. The live interview with Ian Rankin was in the same hall as the gig, The Alhambra in Dunfermline, which gave us a perfect opportunity to work out where to put the cameras on the night.
Approaching the idea of shooting the Skids gig was a somewhat daunting prospect. The band I had joined as a teenager from the East of Scotland were known for their energy and full on live performances. Would we as older, more mature members of society be able to find that same presence and madness and how the hell with such limited resources were we going to film it in a way that was going to hopefully become a small piece of Scottish r’n’r history?
Other questions were swimming around in my head. Were the band still relevant? Could we really still do it or were we just another bunch of old punks desperately trying to catch the heat of the past? There are so many bands out there from that era who are cynically cashing in on a current retro nostalgia trip. I don’t want to be part of that.
Live gigs are tricky to shoot. Intrusive cameras and operators getting in the way of the show more of often than not make the event feel fake and just a tad dishonest. If we were going to capture this moment then we were really going to have to think it through. The initial improvisation would have to evolve into something more substantial by the end of the week. It was also an opportunity to create a business model for other shoots of other bands.
Live gigs in the music industry are one of the only ways of making money, they want to record the gigs and can’t afford big productions but still want cool and effective images that capture the live vibe.
We decided on shooting both nights of the concert. The problem was that the first night was a warm up in another city and of course in another venue. We needed two nights to create enough material so we would have a fast cutting style at our disposal. The music is fast and furious so no point in locking cameras down and moving between wides, close ups and medium shots. Too boring. No, what we needed was something far more in your face without the problem of camera operators in each other’s shots.
I have been working with HDSLR technology from the beginning and have used the 5D MkII on various projects from pop promos to short films. This camera alongside the 7D (which can shoot 60fps giving us a decent slow motion option) were the tools of choice.
On the first night at the warm up gig we concentrated on close ups of all the band. We made sure that they would be wearing the same clothes the next night. Shooting from 5 different positions with moving cameras (one was on a glide rail at the front of stage) we soon found that the intimacy was captured.
The second night was all about the occasion. A large sold out venue with an enthusiastic crowd meant that we needed to turn the cameras the other way. The great thing was that the audience thought of them as stills cameras so paid little attention to them being pointed in their face. In the edit we used the multi-take option in Final Cut Pro to look through the footage simultaneously and we were constantly amazed at how we never saw the other cameras at any point. It was a real breakthrough. How many times have you watched your favourite band on TV at an event like Glastonbury and been disappointed to see camera teams all over the stage? This doesn’t happen using HDSLRs, you just don’t see them.
The whole experience was invigorating, a new way of working and another feather in the cap of convergence. It’s now a style I’ll take into my next movie project: HELTER SKELTER. Mulit-cam shooting, various angles covered with small discreet cameras using wonderful glass on the front. I can’t quite put into words how this changes the game for me. I’ve been working with small budgets on all my movies but always tried to create something visually arresting – now I can really do it for even smaller sums of money and most importantly retain control.
The Skids Live 2010 DVD is available to order as a Special Edition DVD with Free CD from www.theskids.com and www.the-skids.co.uk