Gibson Summer Jam 2008

Over the years of producing live-music performance video content I’ve come up with a list of things I like and don’t like and some where you wonder, “what the heck were they thinking?” I’m a huge fan of the classic music documentaries like, “Gimme Shelter”, “Woodstock” and “Monterey Pop”. The Maysles Brothers and D.A. Pennebaker’s approach still stands the test of time. So with that in mind:


  • Closeups. I like closeup shots. They are intimate, convey energy and command attention. Closeups on faces, fingers on strings, shots that stay close and pan.
  • Handheld camera work. Let me clarify. Handheld camera work by people who can hold a camera still. Camera ops who know what they are doing. Good handheld work moves to follow motion, not to create unnecessary motion.
  • Great audio quality. This should be a given but I can’t believe how often the audio is subpar. In music related video work there is no excuse to not have studio-quality audio, but it takes proper multi-track recording, mixing etc. to get there.


  • Silly sweeping jib camera shots. You see it a lot these days. For some reason, recent concert videos all seem to need to swing that jib around over the audience etc. I guess the idea is to inject energy (where there may not be much). Really distracting.
  • Crowd mugging shots. I watch these videos to see the music, the band and the artists. Not the fans goofing off in front of the cameras.
  • Missing the action. There should be a rule that editors and directors actually know something about music. Hey, what a killer guitar solo! No wait, we’re looking at the lead singer, fake playing a guitar instead. Huh?
  • “Shakey cam”. I’m REALLY sick of this. I guess the idea is that we’re supposed to think it’s intimate, bootleg footage or something. It just screams to me, AMATEUR! The only legitimate “shakey cam” video that should be accepted is war zone news coverage; where actual people are shooting at you. Then it’s OK for camera work to be shakey. Anything else is pretty pointless. (See above – Handheld camera work).
  • Crowd singalong stuff. I just wish this stuff would get left on the cutting room floor.

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3 Comments. Leave your Comment right now:

  1. by Torrie

    I’m a sucker for the sweeping jib shot- I love it! But I totally agree on the shakey cam. Isn’t the point of a video camera to capture great images?

  2. by Michael Harnett

    Hi Jon,

    I agree totally with all of your likes and dislikes, although I do like crowd shots that are from the back of house cameras that are focused on the band but captures the energy of the audience to the performance. We filmed Rage Against the Machine twice and the energy of the audience was essential to the music and finished video.

  3. Good points Torrie and Michael. I guess some jib shots work for me and crowd shots also. My main gripe is the recent style I see in mostly country-related concert videos where it’s much ado about not much. Then it seems like we get inane swooping jib shots and too much crowd mugging that seems like it has nothing to do with what’s going on onstage. The couple crowd shots in Monterey Pop of people’s reaction to Jimi Hendrix is priceless stuff. Silly knuckleheads flashing faux gang signs at a Montgomery Gentry concert does nothing for me; I’d rather see the Hamburglar twirling his mike stand…uh, I guess.

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