Congratulations, your video production company just secured the contract to produce the official content of a music festival! Now what?
From The Big Day Out to Beyond The Valley, we’ve helped produce the video marketing assets for nearly every major Australian music festival since 2014. Save yourself time and $100K worth of broken camera equipment and check out our top video production tips for filming a music festival.
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#1: There Are No Rules
How quick are you on the record button when 100 kilos of confetti suddenly perforates your eardrums? How fast can you sidestep a Smirnoff Double Black when your eye is pressed to the viewfinder as it hurtles towards you in slow motion?
From exotic strawberry daiquiris to your household Melbourne Bitter, we’ve had a veritable minibar of alcoholic beverages tossed at us at music festivals. While it’s the slapstick gold you’ll likely find on Brown Cardigan, when you’ve got $100K of camera equipment on your shoulder the stakes are somewhat higher.
While rules for patrons are lax, sometimes there are rules for video production services at music festivals. CASA drone operation licences are one such rule. But you wouldn’t be in the video production industry if you didn’t have an authority complex and an aversion to always following strict legal guidelines.
#2: There Are Things You Cannot Unsee
From jaws looser than the morals of a security guard to pants lower than an adult shelving an illicit substance, you will be privy to some of the highest and lowest moments a person can experience. There you will stand, a fly-on-the-wall documenting everything.
If you haven’t been fortunate enough to witness a spiritually-enlightened man hula hoop naked for five hours, dive into amateur Youtube video content to broaden your understanding of human potential.
#3: The Edit Is Brutal
Bring your pillow to the studio, because you won’t be spending time with family or your significant other for the next fortnight. Jokes aside, you’re going to be pulling longer hours than an amphetamine-fueled ice road trucker for whom “driving on ice” is open to interpretation.
While there are no rules to a music festival, three actions can save your relationship with your partner by reducing time spent in the editing room:
- Pre-production: establish style, content and the number of videos with the festival marketing department in advance of the festival [the epic festival aftermovie is rarely that any more; management will likely seek several, social-media friendly videos]
- Production: while you’ll inevitably get excited and shoot everything that moves, having a content checklist in your media trailer that you stick to provides camera operators with a focus and ensures that necessary content isn’t overlooked.
- Early post-production: Wrangle that data on the fly. Far from a thankless job, you’ll be thanking your cataloguing-university-student-come-intern as they thank you when they receive an all-access festival media pass (if they manage to get some sunshine).
#4: Prepare To Be Called A Misogynist
Regardless of your gender, someone, somewhere will call you a misogynist for filming attractive women at a music festival. It’s unfortunate that we live in an age in which footage of gyrating men with mullets doesn’t sell tickets to mainstream music festivals.
In order to quieten calls that your video camera is a patriarchal projection of the male gaze, you might want also to film some inebriated males who demand that you take their photograph (even though you know it won’t make the edit).
#5: Capture BTS Content
While it might be difficult to differentiate them (they’ll all be standing at the front of the stage wearing black), if you force yourself to befriend a photographer and you can capture yourself some invaluable marketing content for your business (thanks to Instant Crush, Alex Drewniak, Hayden Dib).
With that said, ensure you retain a professional boundary based on mutual respect (or risk having a face full of a DSLR while you hear about how good their last shot was).
#6: The Aftermovie Isn’t The Festival
While the content you produce is necessary for the festival’s video marketing, there’s little worse than video production crew becoming the surprise headliners at a music festival. Try not to be invasive to artists and patrons; get your shot and leave the stage.
#7: Be a Diva(ish)
Festival video productions are like running a marathon with a Steadycam strapped to your chest. Most festivals are multiple day shoots (like Melbourne festivals Pitch, and BTV), but even single day festivals like Grapevine Gathering and For The Love are an epic production. Unlike marathons though, the checks for performance enhancing substances are not as strict.
Look after yourself, your equipment and your production team by ensuring the following:
- Trailer: Request a secure location reserved only for your video production team (or at least with the flock of DSLR shooting festival photographers).
- Food: Secure enough meal tokens to cover your video production team for the entire duration of the festival in advance.
- Access: Organise media passes in advance of the festival
- Breaks: Ensure that you take scheduled time off.
Accomodation: If you’re camping, lock down a quieter area of the festival so you can get some rest between days of filming.
#8: BYO Personality
For the most part, music festival video production is a run-and-gun affair. However, it’s unlikely you’re going to capture everything you require by taking a passive, documentary-style approach to filming. In some cases you’ll need to introduce yourself, explain the shot you want and direct the talent to achieve it.
Some of our most cinematic moments have been the result of staged shots at music festivals (show loop of some of our best Pitch Festival shots).
#9: Treat yourself to a nice insurance policy
The philosophy of event video production is a lot like documentary filmmaking. Unlike the meticulousness of both narrative production and corporate video production, close enough is good enough in a lot of respects.
Heavily intoxicated before heading out to film the next act? No problem. Have a touch of vomit on your lens but don’t have a lens cloth? No worries.
But when it comes to your insurance policies before a festival video production, play it safe. Ensure you have insurance for all equipment, subcontractors and public liability that is twice as much coverage as you’re required by festival management.
If avoiding jail time wasn’t enough, another reason to get insurance is many clients will require you to have a public liability policy before granting your production company the contract to film. Music festivals such as Beyond The Valley and Future Music Festival have required a minimum of $1 million.
Before video production at music festivals, we once used a commercial camera jib in a 2,000 person for the pyrotechnics night of a Melbourne nightclub without insurance. We wouldn’t recommend that you do that. With a 15 metre jib arm beside fiery explosions before a crowd full of hairspray and highly flammable vegan makeup, it’s incredibly fortunate that the event didn’t turn out like the film-screening denouement in Tarantino’s “Inglorious Bastards”. Life could have gone very differently for this Melbourne video production company.
How much you can expect to pay for insuranceMelbourne video production companies can expect to pay between $50 and $100 per month on public liability insurance. While this amount will vary depending on factors like the number of employees, your age and how often you film in public, this article does a great job explaining the varying costs and premiums for Australian small businesses.
#10: It’s a lonely job
There’s an inescapable irony filming music festivals; you’re surrounded by people yet you’re entirely on your own.
For those filming a festival after movie on New Years Eve: whether you’re onstage or suspended 25m in the air on a cherry picker, you’ll invariably find yourself with no one to embrace but your RED Epic and a Samoan security guard named Terry when the Countdown is over (thanks for being there Terry).
At the end of the day, interacting with interesting people, meeting incredible artists and having the opportunity to capture moments at music festivals is something we’d never change.