Can you help?
In early April 2017 I had the opportunity to do one of the coolest things I have ever done. I was asked to be a production assistant (I think that is the right title) on a video production during a sold out Panic! At The Disco concert at Scottrade Center in St. Louis Missouri. On the surface this doesn’t sound very exciting but I promise you, it very cool!
My day job is in the marketing industry and from time-to-time we work with a high-level video production crew that is from Colorado. I randomly received a Facebook message from one of the video production members asking if I was available to help at a Panic! At The Disco concert in 24 hours. The odd part was the guy who texted me lives in Colorado and had just left St. Louis 24 hours prior to him texting me, so I was a little confused. …He just left St. Louis for Chicago, but is now in Colorado but will be in St. Louis, again? After I got over my confusion, I responded back saying I would be happy to help the video production crew.
Although I was excited to part of a cool experience, I also started to become a little nervous. I had assisted with small production shoots where things were low key but never have I been involved with a Grammy nominated artist video production. “Where do I stand?”, “what if I ruin a shot?”, “will the crew like me?” These were all things that were running through my head.
The crew had four videographers and myself. My job was to assist one of the videographers while he literally ran from top to bottom and side to side of Scottrade Center. I was in charge of carrying a secondary camera, a DJI Ronin stand, DJI Ronin camera remote control, batteries, etc. The one thing that I did bring to the table was that I am familiar with Scottrade Center. Since we had to run all over to get a laundry list of shots, I was able to get us there very quickly.
Before the show, the crew went through the set list and discussed who was going to be where and when. This was a little intimidating to me again since I didn’t know any of the songs so I couldn’t be very helpful with timing of where to be as songs were playing. Regardless, I was set to follow a roaming cameraman throughout the arena. We were first assigned to get wide shots from far away and on each side of the arena.
The Show Is On
Promptly at 8:50 we stood outside Brendan Urie’s (main singer) waiting for him to walk out so we could follow him up to the stage. At that point, it was game on! After the initial entrance was over, myself and the guy I was carrying things for had to quickly get several large sweeping shots from each side of the arena that showed people cheering, dancing and having a great time with the stage in the background. We were able to get some really, really cool shots with the stabilization of the DJI Ronin. At one point, I even was told to use the DJI Ronin and get some cool shots. At this moment when I was using the DJI Ronin I realized just what I was doing. I was literally apart of a full-on production that hopefully tons of people will get to see once it has been edited together. I’m not sure if the guy I was helping didn’t know I had never used this type of equipment before but I wasn’t going to tell him. 🙂
After running up and down the stairs for the first 7-10 songs to get awesome shots with the cameraman, we quickly realized we needed to be at the stage in less than a minute. We were currently standing in the upper bowl of Scottrade on the opposite side as the stage. Essentially we were as far away from where we needed to be as possible. This was not good! Our goal was to catch Brenden walking off stage and follow him backstage through a hallway where he would come out and perform on a piano to the back of the stadium. We RAN, gear and all, down to the stage and literally hit our mark perfectly and followed Brenden through a hallway. We waited for for about two minutes. This moment was surreal. The fans were eagerly waiting, not knowing where Brendan had gone. I knew, though. It was me, two camera guys, two security guards and the tour manager…just waiting for the mark to enter the arena again. This was the intermission that gave the band a few minutes of rest before they were back at it.
Once the signal was given, Brendan walked out from behind a curtain and started towards the piano at the back of the concert. We followed Brendan to the piano, which was surrounded by barricades to keep fans out. There were literally thousands of people staring in our direction (okay, really Brendan’s direction) as we were just feet away from Brendan while he was signing. I prayed that I didn’t mess something up in front of everybody, or trip over a cord since everyone was recording Brendan and were merely feet away! I took a moment to look around and really take in what was going on but then I quickly returned to being focused on my task of taking instruction from the videographer I was working for.
Once the song at the piano ended, the piano platform lowered down from its twelve foot height and we promptly followed the lead signer through the crowd to make it back to the main stage. We were just feet behind Brendan walking to the main stage along with several security guards. Fans were cheering left and right and reaching out to touch Brendan as we all passed through the floor seating.
Once we made our way through the masses, the Brendan made his way to the stage but myself, and the cameraman I was following peeled off were literally in the front row filming. We were three feet from the stage and literally on top of the speakers. I had somewhat of a sensory overload with the lights, crowd noise, loud speakers just inches away from me. I was trying so hard to stay focused on my job. We went back and forth filming as the lead signer walked the stage. Oddly enough, while the music was extremely loud I was somewhat able to tune it out since my focus was on the task. That doesn’t mean my eardrums weren’t ringing later that night, though.
Finally Some Calm
After making our way back to the main stage and experiencing a little sensory overload I was told to stay at stage left with the DJI Ronin remote control and wait for any signals to remotely tilt the videographer’s camera up or down. I had earplugs in my pocket during the entire concert but I finally had a moment to actually put them in. They were a life savor.
This was a more relaxing part of the evening where I was able to stand back and take some of the experience in. I was 10 feet away from all the action without the stress of running around. I was roaming amongst the band, the crew and security with ease. It was like I was part of the team.
After a few more songs, the concert came to a close. The whole night was a blur. It felt like I had been working for 20 minutes. In reality I think 15-18 songs were played over 90 minutes or so.
After the concert, the video crew met back in the room where we met in prior to the concert. All the videographers were discussing the shots they were able to get and ideas for the next Panic! At the Disco concert in another state. After about 10 minutes of chatting with the crew, I had no more responsibilities so I handed back my All Access Pass and headed home.
During my car ride home, I really reflected on how cool of an experience I just had. I hope that I have the opportunity to do something like this in the future.
The Final Product
When the final video of what we recorded of the concert is released, I will post a link here.