How to produce a live concert video on a budget – Audio post production

Now that you’ve got all of your tracks captured it’s time to mix them. Here’s where your advantage comes in over most of the standard concert video clips that you’ll see on the web. The subject of mixing is far beyond the scope of any blog so I’ll assume that you’ve got some basic skills and share some of the techniques that we applied. Luckily, our bass player Mik has lots of experience recording and mixing over the years and is set up to do this at his house. So this allowed us to divide tasks. I would get straight to work editing video while Mik pulled together the audio mixes. Mik’s DAW of choice these days is Apple Logic Pro. We captured the audio in Cakewalk SONAR Producer, but since we used an external drive it was as easy as handing the drive over to Mik so he could fly the wave files into Logic. All audio was recorded at 24 bit/48kHz. Mixing 16 tracks can be done in just about any DAW these days. SONAR, Logic, Ableton Live, Cubase, Pro Tools, Studio One, etc… Including the lighter versions of these. If you have no budget for software try Audacity on PC or Mac, or If you’ve got a Mac you’ve probably already got Garage Band. These have their limitations but they can be used to mix a 16 track project. I may ask Mik to contribute some specifics to this post, but for now here are some general things to consider:

Apply panning to match the actual stage setup. Our keyboards and saxophone were on stage right and the guitars were closer to center  or left. When the visual matches the audio it makes the whole thing a little more realistic. You may still want to keep things like bass drum and bass guitar center to avoid sending too much or too little low frequency energy to one side or the other.

Check and adjust for bleed. Live tracks will often have lots of bleed from all of the other sounds on stage. This isn’t always a bad thing, but in most cases you will want to try and reduce it if possible. Often this can be accomplished with an EQ. For example, the guitar amp is bleeding through on the bass drum track. Try a high cut or low pass filter on the bass drum track. This will cut out any of the higher frequencies coming through (guitars, cymbals), and since the bass drum resides in the lower frequency range, you won’t lose much of it.

Blend some room sound in to give it a real live feel. The sound of the room can put back some of the excitement of the live vibe back into the video. It’s also nice to hear the applause after songs. We used a matched pair of mics to capture a stereo recording on two tracks through the mixing board. This is blended in to taste.

Beyond these, the standard considerations for a good mix apply. Since the captured audio tracks are raw, there is room for compression and EQ. Reverb will also need to be added. Try placing your reverb on a bus and bringing it into your individual tracks using sends. This method will apply a similar reverb to all of your tracks and “glue” the overall sound together a little more. Mastering is a consideration, but since our end goal is video for the web, extensive mastering isn’t necessary. We applied some EQ and slight limiting to control the overall mix. The overall volume was hot enough and we’re ready to bring it into the video editor.

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How to produce a live concert video on a budget – Capturing Video

Video cameras and equipment can be very expensive and it’s just not practical for most people to have more than one. But if you can round up three or more mini DV cams from your family and friends you’ll have the bare essentials and the potential for making a great video. Just make sure that the settings on all of the cameras match. Most importantly, decide if you are going to shoot standard 4:3 or widescreen. Widescreen on most consumer video cameras is not “true” widescreen and basically letterboxes your standard view to create a widescreen effect. This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t use it, but you should know what your working with. Also you will want all cameras to record audio as you will use that audio to help sync them together in post production. Here are some things that we learned that you might want to consider and share with your camera operators. These will make for a better end result.

Label tapes in advance. If you’re using mini DV tapes, or any tapes for that matter,  get extras and label them in advance. Cam 1-1, Cam 2-1, cam 3-1, cam 4-1, cam 1-2, cam 2-2, cam 3-2, cam 4-2, cam 1-3… Each operator should only work with one camera if possible. You don’t want to sift through 10 or 20 tapes later trying to figure out which is which.

Divide and conquer. Assign each camera operator to a specific region or performer to assure that you’ve got enough coverage at all times when choosing your shots later on.

Tripods are your friends. Tripods hold a camera steadier than any human can. As a result their shots have an extra advantage and can look a little more professional. For a live concert, a tripod on either or both sides of the stage will give you a lot to work with when editing.

Zoom slowly. Nothing says low budget more than an unsteady camera zooming in and out at great speeds. This can be difficult to watch on a larger screen and even make you a little queasy. Treat that zoom button with a very light touch. Personally I ask for as little zooming as possible. Also, this goes for both zooming in and zooming out.

Get creative. Experiment with different angles on the hand help cameras. For example, peeking around a drum at the drummer or from the side or back can be really interesting.

My final bit of advice on this and maybe the most important:

Once started, keep all cameras rolling non-stop until the tape runs out or the show ends. You will be so thankful to only have to sync them all one time per tape set in post.

We used four cameras. Two on tripods and two hand held. They were all standard miniDV cameras shooting in standard definition and we shot in widescreen format.

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How to produce a live concert video on a budget – Capturing Audio

The key to a good audio mix is getting all of the instruments to sit in their own space or in the right space using any and all of the tools at your disposal. Most live recordings are captured “bootleg” style with a recording device in the room or with a stereo mix taken from the mixing board. While many of these sound surprisingly wonderful, they offer little flexibility for editing. Luckily, most modern mixing boards include “direct out” or “insert” options which allow you to tie into each individual channel on the mixing console and route it to another place. In our case, it’s a pair of audio interfaces. These options are also generally pre-fader which means that the fader, EQ, sends etc… are not included. However, the channel gain is included and this is very important to remember as we will see.

The venue had a 24 channel Mackie mixing console and I took inserts for 16 channels into two SONAR VS-700R interfaces and captured on my lap top with SONAR Producer. Again, the hardware and software you use doesn’t really matter as long as it can perform the functions described. The image below shows the routing scheme. Two things to note here; First, when using channel inserts, a TS or TRS cable is required and the cable should be inserted to the first click, not all the way in. Second, when using two interfaces together like this, it’s best to sync them together via wordclock. This was done very simply by connecting a BNC cable from the output of the first interface to the input of the second. Make sure that your interfaces are set up correctly as master and slaves. The VS700R required a jumper switch adjustment to do this. Syncing your interfaces will prevent any drift in the audio between them. Correcting drift can be a long and painful process, so you’ll want to avoid this at all costs.

This shows how we captured the audio. From the mixer to the interfaces and finally to the lap top.

Using a SONAR template created in advance, I had a project setup up to receive each of the 16 inputs on 16 tracks. The last and very important step was to make sure that the levels were in a safe range. This is where the channel gain controls on the mixing console come into play. Our friend and fellow musician Jack came in that evening to mix the band and assist with the audio. We adjusted the channel gains to optimize levels for the recording so when mixing the room for the live event Jack could make all of his volume adjustments on the faders without affecting the recording.

An external USB hard drive was used as the audio folder. We recorded 16 tracks at 16/48 without a glitch. With over 2 hours of music this used up almost 20GB of space. Here’s how we set it up:

4 vocal mic tracks

4 drum mic tracks

1 mono keyboard track

1 bass track

1 sax track

3 guitar tracks ( 2 acoustic and one electric)

2 room mics (mixed in to give the recording more of a live feel if needed)

These tracks were captured and ready to mix for video.

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How to produce a live concert video on a budget

My group Los Sugar Kings is always looking for ways to offer more content to our current and future fan base and decided to make some web videos of a recent live performance.  We wanted to avoid putting out the typical low quality videos you see on the web, the ones with poor video and audio. After all, we’re promoting our live show and want it to be the best possible representation of what we do. Generally, something like this can cost in the thousands, and that’s on the low end. Working with a smaller budget we had to find creative ways to get it done and that’s just we did. This was our second live video project and we learned so much along the way. In this post I’ll show you how we did it and how you can too.

Here’s what you’ll need

1. A well rehearsed band that’s fun to see and hear.

2. A gig in a live venue that will allow you to film. If they have a decent house mixing board and some lights that’s a plus but not a deal breaker.

3. Friends or fans that you can recruit to help out and lend a couple of DV cams.

4. Some audio and video editing software. Doesn’t have to be pro studio stuff, most consumer software solutions can handle the task. There are even some free options out there.

5. Time. Post production will take many hours if you want good results. But it will be worth it.

For expenses, if you’ve already got some software, you might need to pick up some DV tapes and some extra cables for the audio recording.

Since this will turn into a very long post, I have divided it up into five posts. Follow the links below.

1. Capturing audio

2. Capturing Video

3. Post production – Audio

4. Post production – Video

5. Delivery

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