Since I began capturing concert videos a lot of people have asked how I take such incredible quality footage. Getting great live video breaks down to the type of camera you use, your location in the audience, and your ability to hold the camera steady. Here are my techniques for capturing great concert videos.
The type of camera you use is the single most important aspect of capturing great video. Most cameras available today record 720p or 1080i HD video, so getting great picture quality isn’t too hard – it’s the audio quality that’s difficult to obtain. Even the best current camera models that capture HD video and Dolby stereo sound deliver distorted audio when faced with extremly loud volume from a concert venue. Unfortunately there isn’t anywhere on the side of the camera box where it reads, “Works well at 140db concerts!”. Finding a camera which works well in this environment is mainly hit or miss, and the best solution is to look at videos shot by others and ask them which camera they use.
The camera I use is the Canon SD780. This tiny point-and-shoot has 3x optical zoom, is as tall and wide as a credit card and only 0.7 inches thick, shoots 720p HD video, and best of all it captures great audio quaility in a loud concert environment. A couple of months ago we lost our SD780 while on vacation and I experimented with a couple of newer Canon models, the SD940 and SD1400. Both are replacements to the SD780 and offer 4x optical zoom, more megapixels and a wider maximum aperture. Almost identical in appearance and supposed upgrades over the older SD780, I was shocked after I took each to different concerts and returned with subpar heaviliy distorted audio! I called Canon tech support about my findings to which they could offer no explanation other than, “Our cameras aren’t meant to be used in such loud environments.” Unfortunately, the SD780 is a discontinued model so buy one as quickly as possible while supplies last.
Along with your digital camera you are going to need an extra battery and a large memory card. I have found that each song averages about 1gb, so plan on a 16gb or 32gb card in order to capture an entire show. Also of consideration is the type of card you buy, as there are different SD speed class ratings for SD(HC) memory cards that indicate the actual transfer rate of data the card can sustain. I found this out the hard way as I had a 32gb class 4 card that kept causing intermittent blank glitches in my audio. I now use a class 10 card without issue, and highly recommend a class 8 or 10 to capture HD video.
The next most important part of capturing great footage is your location in the audience. Using a camera with only 3x optical zoom, you need to be as close as possible in order to get some great close-ups unless you are more interested in fitting in the entire stage. For me, front row is the only way to go. Aside from not having to deal with anyone in front blocking your view, front row allows you the ability to rest the camera on the rail while also giving you enough distance from the typical mosh pit a couple of rows back. Holding the camera steady is also a lot easier in the front row as you aren’t being pushed around in the audience. Getting up to the front row is another matter, and is most easily done by attending general admission shows and arriving 6-10 hours before the show starts to secure your place in line. For those shows without general admission, getting front row or even close to it can be a lot more challenging and is mainly about buying tickets within seconds of them going on sale. If you attend a lot of shows you tend to see a lot of the same faces and these friends can be very useful for helping one another get better spots in the venue. It also pays to become friendly and familiar with the security guards, crews, and anyone else who might be able to help you.
There you have it, how to capture great concert video footage. Hope this has been helpful and I look forward to seeing all of your great concert footage!