How to Shoot a Musical Performance Cinematically: Duran Duran Live with Den Lennie

Trying to capture a musical performance in its entirety without missing anything requires serious planning and attention to detail. Den Lennie over at F-Stop Academy had the monumental task of being the Director of Photography for a live performance of Duran Duran, and rather than film the performance over a number of nights like many tour DVDs, they had just one performance and two hours to get all the material they needed. Check out some of the clips and a description of how Den accomplished this feat along with the help of director Gavin Elder and Producer James Tonkin.

First, here is a little bit from Den about the process:

Ours proposal was unconventional in so far as we’d not have a gallery  and we’d not be on director talkback.  The Director Gavin Elder and producer James Tonkin would be operating cameras on stage and so we had to plan carefully each camera position and what shots each operator would be assigned.


We chose to shoot the gig primarily on Sony PMW-F3, and Sony NEX-FS100 camera’s with on stage minicams Sony HXR-MC1P.  The F3′s were recorded internally at 35mb/s and externally on to Convergent Design Nano Flash ast 80mb/s Quick Time. This meant we’d have the necessary higher bit rate for HD Broadcast spec and a secondary back up using the camera’s internal codec. Special mention here to my colleague Alister Chapman who we brought in to manage the camera profile and the technical camera configuration.

Den decided to shoot this as cinematically as possible, and that meant real cinema lenses for a lot of the cameras:

From a  visual perspective we wanted a Cinematic look and so chose to use Cinema Zoom lenses on the main cameras – we used Angenieux Optimo 24-290mm and Arri Alura 45-250mm and 18-80mm.  However on the two canera positions on the sound desk we had a throw of 120′ to the stage and in order to get a hero close up we opted for an image stabilised Canon HJ40 with an adaptor from mtf  This did look different from the cine glass but the guys did a great job grading it to match the other angles in post.

Here is one of the camera plots showing the positions of some of the cameras:

Here are two clips from the concert:

It certainly took a lot of work to put this entire operation together (7 prep days and 60 post days), but by breaking it down methodically they able to successfully get everything they needed in just one night. I've done a few live music shoots in the past, but absolutely nothing even remotely on this scale, and I can only imagine how intense the post production was on the shoot. For more information about the process, head on over to F-Stop Academy. If you're going to be in London in the middle of August, Den is putting on a program called "How to Shoot a Music Video." Here's a little bit from Den about that event:

Does anyone have any interesting experiences about shooting or editing live musical performances?

Link: F-Stop Academy - Duran Duran & How to Shoot a Music Video

[via Notes on Video]

Your Comment


Interesting to see the use of the Canon HJ40 - having used this a lot for live concerts I've always loved it, but never had a chance to grade with it - usually just for an IMAG situation. Pretty amazing results from the f3's! I'd be curious to see this same setup with some fs700's in the mix.

July 13, 2012 at 11:53AM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM


Hey guys check out the latest short film project from Director/Writer/Designer SUNG CHO. Please visit the kickstarter site check out the promo video and then help out! Thank you in advance!

July 13, 2012 at 2:03PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM


I started a one-take multicam peformance video project (SerialBox Presents) as a way to learn motion imaging (I was transitioning from photography). I've found that shooting and editing live music performances has been an absolutly incredible teaching tool. It helps you to think three dimensionally about not just the shoot itself, but the components you'll need to cover everything in post. We happen to not cheat any shots, our final edits are all "real time," but regardless, it's always a puzzle to piece together. We've now gone on to shoot multicam for MTV and VH1, I just DP'd a live DVD for a band that was 12 cameras (w/ only 1 night to capture) and have one coming up in a couple months that will be a mix of F3 and Alexa.

Thanks for posting this Joe, enjoy seeing these kinds of shoots get some attention :)

July 14, 2012 at 8:46AM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM


I've been shooting live performances for some friends of mine in a band here in Chattanooga, TN. My team has only used two cameras at most for each show we've shot and even with 5 shows total there still isn't enough variety to capture even an entire song for a compilation video. We're hoping to step up to 4 in future shoots.

Shooting live performance is always very exciting though and I have to say it's my favorite kind of shoot thus far. It reinforces quick decision-making and action. I learned to be very quick and efficient with my camera moves and focusing. Plus the band I work with puts on a great show so that makes it easier to find an affective shot.

Here's one example I operated the shoulder rig

And for a shameless plug, here's a link to the band

July 14, 2012 at 11:29AM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM


Am I the only person that thought the final product looked cheesy and silly? Don't get me wrong, it was excellent visually, but the gimmicky stuff they used like: Quick inversions of shots, random black and white, weird stepped digital zooms, and whatnot just ruined it for me. Seems like an awful lot of money at time to go into something that feels like it was edited in iMovie.

July 14, 2012 at 12:57PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM


Brian, I felt the same way. Not feeling the editing at all. I would have let the performance itself make the video exciting and just support that with great footage.

July 15, 2012 at 11:01AM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM


What part of Duran Duran isn't cheesy? Fit the product to the subject.

July 15, 2012 at 10:05PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM


yup... I first thought these quick edits were errors, but as they were everywhere, it had to be a creative decision. If I leaned anything in my years of music filming, it was to get out of the way and let the performers and music shine.

The worst example of this has to be David Bowie's Reality Tour DVD. I was at the show and it was fantastic, but the cheesy FCP effects totally ruin the film.

July 19, 2012 at 2:46PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM


Hey, just wanted to share a summary of a live show I covered some time ago.

It was shot on 4 canon 550D (I operated one of them), and I did all the production, logistics, editing and post work.
Hope you like it, any comments would be greatly appreciated!

July 14, 2012 at 1:50PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM

Eric Boslok

Wow, it's so cool to see Duran Duran live, singing Ordinary World!
Love that song =)

2 hours and only 1 chance to capture this event must have been really nerve-wrecking..
Did you do audio mastering as well?

Just to share as well, I got a chance to film a Taiko drum festival in Tokyo, Japan, 2 years ago.
It was my first single-camera, multi-angle project.
Filmed across 5 different live performances.

Do check it out if you're interested! =)

July 15, 2012 at 2:22AM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM


A few thoughts I had -

I thought the quality of the sound & mix was excellent - so important for a live music gig. The mix engineer knew his stuff i think.

There didn't appear to be huge variation in the lighting, which is great from a shooting point of view, and was probably necessary in order to achieve the cinematic look that they were aiming for. If you are trying to shoot something where the lighting levels vary from black hole to super nova, you are probably gonna have to be riding the iris and gain buttons which in turn will probably eliminate any notion of shallow depth of field and other such artie effects.

I thought it an interesting decision to not have a director calling at least some of the camera shots. At the same time, this isn't too crazy. In my experience shooting some dance shows, so long as you have good camera operators, who know the shots you want and know how to get them, there often not a lot of directing that is needed. It is a little different when you are trying to be mindful of choreography, entrances, lifts etc. - calling cameras definitely helpful there. But with enough cameras, good operators and a good master shot - you should be covered for most stuff.

60 days post highlights something else I strongly believe - it would be very hard to live switch a live show and really do it justice. Why? Because no matter how much you plan, you never know what is actually going to happen during a live event. Despite the time, editing in post gives you a much better chance of spotting and including some of those magic moments that good operators and well thought out camera positions will allow you to capture. If it was live broadcast then obviously you have no choice, but I believe a post edit will allow a better product in the end.

Cheesy? Maybe. Interesting that only the keyboard player continues to uphold the GlamRock tradition of flash clothes and make-up. The others were virtual Garage Grunge.

Important to remember too that a video of a live performance is quite different to being at the live performance. In this case, while the sound quality was great, the stage show (of the one clip I saw) was not hugely dynamic or theatrical, so it was up to the edit to convey the feeling and the essence of the performance. In this case, the song was fairly mellow and balladish, which the audience getting into it. I thought that the footage and edit captured that - there was flow in the tracking shots and the unique POV snippets.

I liked it.

My two bobs worth.


July 16, 2012 at 5:27AM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM


Cinematic is a big word... mixing bullet cam footage to f3 footage certainly kills any efforts to have a cinematic product in my opinion. The cuts to B&W and the grfx overlay looks super cheesy.
To me definitely fits greatly the Duran Duran brand, but to call it cinematic it is a quite overstated description.

I have been trying to achieve cinematic live show for quite some time now and this is the last thing I put together with some friends, filming a great band of friends and with $300 worth of rental lenses and no prep what so ever:

all shot on dslrs, from 5dmkII down to t2i.

Let me know your thoughts and critiques!



July 17, 2012 at 8:40AM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM


Good work on the filming and editing, but I don't really see the difference to other "non-cinematic" live show recordings. Since when do movies use a lot of "destroyed film" effects, or b/w or rhythmic digital zooms? I don't care too much for these effects.

The most cinematic concert footage that I know, also shot at only one event, is Portisheads NYC Roseland Ballroom live performance from 97. The editing has a lot of crossfades that aren't necessars in my opinion, but the whole thing looks really cinematic - because it was shot on film.

If you don't know it, you should!
This is only a bad copy from DVD though. I watched it in a movie theater in 97 or 98 and it was great.

July 20, 2012 at 1:42AM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM


First and for most...nice use of tracks and jibs in the live performance. Yeah its cheesy, that's 80's rock retro. The edit...well fitting. As far as the cinematic look goes...meh. Just as others here have stated the effects are not seemingly cinematic and the video quality, be it great, dosn't personally strike as "cinematic" it looks like HDTV when it first came out. Too crisp and clean for a rock show, in my opinion. But all in all the coverage is great and for not having a com system in place, the cameras captured it very well. I broadcast live tv all the time and a live switch would definately not have done this show justice.

A side note: Matteo's video of The Augustines struck me as more cinematic than the duran duran videos. But all this is just opinion! cheers and remember, ABS! (always be shooting)

July 20, 2012 at 2:08PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM


I was blessed to be a part of the Music Video MasterClass 2012 organized by Den Lennie (fstop academy) in London, last month and I can't begin to say just how impactful it was.

It was a 4-day training programme and I must confess I spent the first day beside myself in absolute wonder and awe that I was in the same room with such legends as Dennie, James Tonkin and Dan Chung HIMSELF!!!

Anyway, by the time I calmed myself down enough I realized the inordinate amount of careful thinking, planning and strategizing that goes into making any meaningful piece of work! Also, I left the experience with a profound appreciation of the importance of the word - "COLLABORATION".

As a photographer, I pretty much could do most anything between me, myself and I. But film making is a whole different kettle of fish entirely - YOU NEED PEOPLE!!

For me, MVMC 2012 will be one of my most cherished experiences on my journey to becoming a film maker, and for all the (aspiring) film makers out there - make the most of EVERY opportunity - to learn (like on this excellent website) and to SHOOT!

Cheers, all.

September 4, 2012 at 3:04AM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM


For what its worth, and having shot live concerts for over 20 years, I would have to point out a few things to those less familiar with the format. I like the fact that they took a "cinematic" approach. Yes, "cinematic" can be a dangerous word, but in my opinion the use of the balanced "show" lighting as opposed to TV lighting played in their favor. I always work very closely with the LD to set latitudes for the color temperatures, and then we coordinate that with video, rather than bring in a bunch of additional lighting. I feel its starts to look like a TV show, and you lose the "feel" of being there, the "concert experience".

However, on the edit side, I think shooting the whole show ISO, and cutting in post can quickly get you in trouble, taking away from the "feel" of the music and the show as performed by the artist. Personally, I always prefer a live switch, and when not broadcasting live, a few tweaks in post! I don't believe you can really capture the moment, and the "show" with an editor (who probably wasn't even there) after-the-fact. I've done it, and you can pull it off, but often something always seems to get lost.

Taking nothing away from the editor as the editor can always tell a story. But speaking as a concert producer/director, i believe my job is capture the artists performance and maximize the energy of the show.
While these guys did a great job, to me the final product is more of a "Concert Doc" than a live show experience.

Technically, I like the overall "look", I actually contributed to what I call the mixed "texture" look decades ago, so I have no issue with the intermittent use of B&W even if it is employed to mask lesser quality imagery. The trick with that, as with every "effect" is how you use it, keeping it very limited and exploiting it on specific opportunities.

I am sure many could look at my reel, and make the same critiques. It is, after all art, and therefore subjective. I think they did a very nice job with the show, although not how I would have approached it. As a musician, I feel music is fluid and I use a lot of fluid motion. If we're not moving cranes and dollies we're pushing and pulling, but always moving in harmony with the music.

Great Job, and great comments, and great website!

All the best!


December 18, 2012 at 5:14AM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM


I prefer your shoot to the Duran Duran vid above. As other users have mentioned, it's all about letting the performance shine through, which your vid does. Critique? Maybe complement the colour lights with white light, it always looks good on video..

May 25, 2014 at 2:34PM, Edited September 4, 8:56AM