The camera team arrived at noon, five of us. One on the crane, one on the long-lens,
another a bit nearer, also on a platform in the crowd and two on the stage. I was one
of the the hand-cameras onstage and, as the more experienced, was also to go onto
the pier. The long catwalk which goes out into the crowd.
The briefing from the director contained a phrase which I hate hearing .
"Okay it's a multi feed from the cameras, you know the drill."
In plain English it meant that we were supplying pictures for the videowalls and for a
television broadcast. This causes quite a few problems. Firstly it means two directors,
one for the screens, one for the television although they usually try to ensure that
they take the same pictures as often as possible.
You see, when you're just broadcasting, it doesn't matter if the videowall comes into
the picture, in fact it often adds to the scene. If your camera is on the videowall
though, you try to avoid getting the screen in view otherwise you get a feedback, like
the "Bohemian Rhapsody" video, which usually looks awful if done accidentally.
Usually the directors will "split" the output so that a close-up of the performer is on the
videowall when those long, swooping crane shots occur or if the hand-camera is likely
to catch the screen. But it's still got to be thought about every time you frame a shot.
... not just another day at the office
As cameraman you do have a bit of help though. The camera has a red light in the viewfinder
to show when you're live on broadcast. On a multi-feed you also have an orange light to tell you
when you're on the video wall. So sometimes you have red, sometimes orange, sometimes both
and, occasionally just as one goes out and you're about to reframe; the other starts to glow...
If you're unlucky, you have two competing directors, sometimes wanting different things and, as
the catwalk camera, I've also got to be aware of what the other cameras are doing, otherwise I
can end up in between the performer and another camera, or suddeny find myself being
shouted at as the crane whooshes overhead. This means constantly looking at the "return".
The "return" is the ability to press a button and see, in the viewfinder, the pictures going to air.
pressing the "return 2" button shows what's on the videowall. So, as well as having two different
warning lights, you also have two "returns" to concentrate on.
Not a job for the faint hearted.
The show was going for four hours, with three different broadcasters taking feeds. The first
hour 5pm-6pm was going live on local television, 6pm to 8pm was for a satellite music channel,
8-9pm, recorded for terrestrial broadcast.
Plus, of course, the video wall which was being viewed by 25,000 fans...
Over the years you learn what's expected. Obviously black clothing is the order of the day, a
decent pair of shoes and, if you're working outdoors, a pair of black calf leather gloves. About
ten years ago I noticed Mick Fleetwood wore ear plugs on stage, good idea. Since the
hand-camera normally only has a single sided headset I now wear a plug in my right ear,
although tinnitus is already a problem, hopefully it won't become a nightmare. Standing in front
of a rack of speakers, normally the only member of the crew who has to do so, you actually feel
the music go through your body, imagine what it's doing to your eardrums...
I started "doing" rock concerts over twenty years ago and, despite now being a lighting
director, mainly working as DoP on dramas and documentaries, I still love the thrill of
working with a pumpin' rock 'n roll band and jump at the chance to work a large gig.
Venues are now international, the crew flown to wherever the show's on, one hotel
room being the same as another, arriving in the morning, show in the evening, into the
hotel and flying home the next day. The rock 'n roll lifestyle died out with the great
rockers, modern performers are on mineral water and vitamin pills.
Now that I'm pushing the half century, it's no longer a case of just turning up and doing
the job. The camera's heavy, you're constantly jumping on and off the stage, ducking
out of shot, contorting and bending with twenty pounds of electronics and glass trying
to pull your arm out of its socket. Your constantly trying to get the right movement,
avoid your cable basher and hold the camera (which is getting heavier by the minute)
steady, so it's off to the gym at least a couple of times in the week leading up to the
show and a couple of Neurophen before you start.
Even so, the next day the muscles are stiff and there's a spectacular bruise on your
Still, I won't stop doing stage-cam until they prise the camera from my cold stiff fingers...
Rob Lambert, Dop.
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