Shooting Rockness Festival on Canon DSLRs

I had this blog post drafted for a while but despite shooting this last June, the video has only just been released by the festival as part of their 2013 campaign. Few more notes on the end of the post on how it feels to wait so long to release something like this!

After pushing for the job in 2011 to no avail (though I did end up making a little video for my friends at We Own) we were very happy to secure the contract in 2012 with Rockness to produce their official web promo. The event is one which I felt moreso than many others, would benefit from short, high-energy web promo – as it’s not widely known outside of previous and local audiences.

The setting is arguably one of the best in the UK – on the shore of Loch Ness, in the Scottish Highlands. I always told people about the festival with this requisite, though felt it never came through in any video coverage I’d seen. We had arranged a helicopter for aerial footage – a beautiful opening shot passing over the Loch and into the festival ground was the pinnacle of my treatment, though unfortunately in the days approaching the festival we couldn’t secure it.

Crew for the festival was myself, Sam and Ed, with an array of Canon DSLRs – 5D2, 7D, 2x550D between us. Lens-wise was my usual array of 11-16mm, 35mm, 50mm, 135mm, in addition to a 50mm f1.4 and 24-70 f2.8. I also rented an L-series 24mm f1.4 and 85mm f1.8 from my favourite lens rental company Lenses For Hire. Grip-wise we worked with sticks and a Kessler Philip Bloom pocket dolly – a really nice bit of kit.

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Having a small team for this kind of shoot is essential and I wouldn’t dream of covering it on my own or with an assistant (we actually had an additional runner for the weekend who dropped out last minute). With 3x shooters we can cover lots of the site, particularly clashing artists and different crowd angles at peak moments.

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Our secret weapon for the weekend was the recently delivered jib. I’d first became aware of this particular product when my friend Jon James helped shoot a local show on the Your Demise tour earlier in the year, and we shot While She Sleeps ‘This Is The Six’ with it too. It’s nothing fancy, but is a great example of budget film-making kit. With a steady hand and some practice there are some really nice shots to be had.

We almost exclusively used a 550D with my favourite super-wide angle lens, the Tokina 11-16mm f2.8. We kept the 550D on the jib/slider, and the heavier 5D/gripped-7D hand-held. The shots look killer from the jib and add a huge element of production value, especicially with our scenario of no other aerial accress.

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Rockness begun as a dance music focused festival, though as many others in the UK has diversified over the years and adapted to ‘popular’ or radio-friendly music, seeing the inclusion of more band-orientated acts alongside. For the video we agreed to focus primarily on the dance acts, alongside the larger/most exciting other acts. One bonus of this was a chance to cover the incredible AV shows of Justice, Deadmau5 and Etienne de Crecy.

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I’d waited years to see this live, sadly much of the crowd didn’t appreciate it as much as the other artists playing.

Weather-wise we suffered this weekend. Despite its early June slot, which should be summer if you’re not in the UK we suffered mostly grey clouds all weekend, save for a single hour of bright sunlight Saturday afternoon. As much as I can try and push the warmer tones in the grade, a sea of raincoats doesn’t give that summer vibe, but as with filming an event of this nature you deal with it as best you can.

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In the days leading up to the festival our helicopter unfortunately fell through. It was up to us over the weekend to explore other ways of getting an aerial POV on the site. We covered this a couple of ways, riding the big wheel numerous times, and utilising a cherry picker on site for the later headline acts. We shot some reasonable footage, enough to mix it up in the edit.

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In many edits I either use a 2:35 or 2:39 anamorphic crop, as I rarely like the standard 16:9 aspect. What this does give the advantage of is space to reframe the image higher or lower, if I wish to bring in anything outwith the new frame. This was the perfect scenario to reframe some of the sparser overhead shots, using scaling them slightly and shifting the sparse patches out of frame.

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Reframing to show more of the Loch. 1920×800 pixels VS 1920 x 1080 pixels

Shooting festivals can be very tiring weekends – we’re usually shooting for 16hrs+ a day, and carrying gear across site for the 3 days. The reward is capturing the entirety of it, often from a an alternate point of view from most, integrating crowd, stage and behind-the-scenes together.

What’s been particularly strange with this edit is the time taken until release. The video has been finished for a few months now, and I feel like my work has progressed quite subsantially, with newer camera’s and techniques, whilst this has been sitting waiting for release. In saying that, most of the issues I’ve discussed – weather, access etc. would have been the same regardless of what we were shooting on or with, so it’s much more about doing as best possible in the circumstances.

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As he first peice of serious quality video content Rockness has had, I very much look forward to the reaction over the coming days & weeks and how much it will bolster their marketing efforts this year. To everyone at the festival – thanks for having us.

BTS Photos: Ed Fraser & Sam Bailey

We shot a number of other Scottish festivals across the summer, including Wickerman Festival & Belladrum Tartan Heart. I’ve got a couple of BTS posts drafted, if anyone is interested? Fortunately, the weather was much kinder to us on those weekends!

Thanks for taking the time to read this, if you’ve found it interesting, have any comments or would like to see more of a particular aspect, please let me know in the comments.