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ARRI Multicam captures “Stay Live” concerts

The advantages of ARRI cameras for live events, from the perspective of a producer/director, a colorist/editor, and a documentary filmmaker.

In Germany, as in other countries, a year without live gigs has dealt a financial blow to music venues and musicians alike. With the online concert series "Stay Live," German broadcaster ZDFkultur, together with NPO Initiative Musik and agency Turbokultur, seeks to help the defunct music scene. Producer/director Marc Schuetrumpf and colorist/editor Christopher Stoeckle of production company Neoxfilm spoke to us about why they chose ARRI Multicam to shoot the 12 live concerts, while documentary filmmaker Tobias Koppe explains why ALEXA Mini was his camera of choice for behind-the-scenes footage.

Can you describe the ARRI Multicam setup you put together for the live concerts?

Marc Schuetrumpf: We had five ARRI AMIRAs, which were used and positioned in various different ways, including on two dolly systems with curved rails and on the stage itself, in an Easyrig. This was especially advantageous for our special stage, which we placed in the middle of the audience area. It also meant that larger bands, with up to 11 performers, could be filmed in a natural way because we could move among them and they played at the same level as our camera operators. 

It really elevates the footage, going beyond the standard shots you would normally see for situations like that. Even with wider focal lengths you can have a narrower depth of field, drawing the audience’s attention either to the singer, or a different performer, or the mentor off to the side. That’s a big difference from traditional 2/3-inch cameras, where everything is in focus and you can’t shape the image. It’s also much more inspiring for the camera operators, who did a really outstanding job on this project.

Combining the AMIRAs with Fujinon Cabrio zooms meant that we could quickly, but smoothly, change focal length when needed. It made it look like we had more than five cameras, and allowed us to react much faster to changing situations. All in all, ARRI Multicam gave us a very flexible, high-quality setup. Like the way movies shot on film have a certain cinematic look – I always want to achieve that, and with this system I can.

Did the ARRI cameras make a difference to how you were able to light the concerts?

Marc Schuetrumpf: We tested, and it's amazing how intense the lighting can be without negatively affecting the recorded image. Even powerful spotlights are rendered perfectly in the picture. For example, we had a really heavy rock band with a lot of intense flashing lights as part of their stage show, but the AMIRAs captured all of it really nicely. 

Christopher Stoeckle: I have definitely noticed that with other cameras, when the intensity of the light is at its strongest, you can get a black spot in the middle of the light source. With ARRI cameras there's no such thing, and that's a huge advantage. 

Marc Schuetrumpf: That wide contrast capture makes such a difference that even the viewers at home would easily recognize its value. In our camera tests, AMIRA went one or two stops further in both underexposure and overexposure. Even when the image or a spot is pushed to extremes, the colors are much better than other cameras. That was one of the reasons why I chose ARRI Multicam. I don't want to worry about lights in the frame; in fact, I want to consciously include them, and I was impressed by the results. When I look at the pictures on the screen or on TV, I'm as happy as a little kid. 

There was a project in the late Sixties called “The Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus,” where the whole concept was a kind of a small center stage with different bands – newcomers, friends, and rock stars playing together – filmed with 16 mm cameras. I was so happy and almost overwhelmed to bring this spirit of meeting friends and other musicians in a very special location again on stage, with an even better image quality than analog film. 

We simply could not have pursued this concept with a smaller dynamic range; it allowed us to be flexible and varied. We had 12 bands, ranging from pop bands, to Las Vegas glamor with happy shining costumes, to heavy metal. And there was a different look, or genre, for each performance.

Did LUTs form a part of developing those different looks?

Marc Schuetrumpf: We recorded Log C and had a basic LUT that we developed in preproduction. Then we had two or three additional LUTs for the different genres or looks, emphasizing certain colors or adjusting the contrast. If you tweak something on the LUT, the images react immediately. The sensor is very sensitive, and that's the biggest difference between this and other popular formats or systems. ARRI Multicam has very natural color rendering – black is really black. Being able to incorporate LUTs creatively and easily is a big advantage of the system.

Christopher Stoeckle: We looked at the bands and what they were playing, and adjusted the colors accordingly. There might be more intensely saturated colors for lighter performers, and then a blue or monochrome look for heavy rock, for example. With ARRI cameras you have all the possibilities and you are not limited. The images are fast and easy to work with in the grading system, partly because footage from all the cameras is so well matched. You don’t have to spend much time matching colors, which is a saving for the production.

Tobias – why did you choose the ALEXA Mini for your behind-the-scenes documentary?

Tobias Koppe: I shoot almost all my projects on ARRI, and the ALEXA Mini is my camera of choice. I love it, because the ProRes codecs can do more for me than the so-called Raw formats of other camera manufacturers. We shot on two ALEXA Minis with Angenieux Optimo zooms, capturing 3.2K ProRes 422HQ in Log C for a 2K delivery format. I usually shoot ProRes 4444, but 422HQ is useful for data wrangling reasons. 

LUTs are also important for me, because you can give the director different options, but I never use more than two LUTs per film, because the added value is limited and it makes things more complicated. On this one we mixed a couple of LUTs, and could then pull it a bit crisper in the grade. It was a good look and gave the documentary an organic feel. 

To watch the concerts, please visit https://www.zdf.de/kultur/stay-live 
Opening image: ©Georg Wehle