Shooting Video at the DNA Lounge, San Francisco

We were hired to shoot a 3 hour event with multiple performers at this South of Market club.  The DNA Lounge is a cavernous former warehouse that has been built out with a large stage, impressive lighting and sound systems, and a mezzanine that runs around 3 sides.  It’s painted completely black inside.  They do a wide variety of shows there, from hip-hop dance to indie rock to burlesque reviews.  This night was a relatively tame benefit for a local charity and a going-away party for a well-known cabaret singer.

I made a site visit a couple of weeks before and shot some test footage.  I also talked to the audio tech so I thought I would be able to get a good feed from the board.

I brought 4 cameras — 2 Sony HDR-AX2000s, a Canon HF-G10 and a Canon 5DmkII.  I had planned to lock down one of the Sonys and the G10, have my second cameraperson run the other Sony on the mezzanine and I would shoot with the 5D on the dance floor.

The first problem was that the management wouldn’t let me shoot with a tripod on the dance floor.  I had to either stand on a 4×4 plywood box for the whole night or shoot from the mezzanine.  I decided to put the G10 on a tripod on the box, unattended because it has a long run time with its internal 32gb and two SD slots that will run consecutively.  That became my wide covering shot.  (Click on photos to see a larger image.)

Coverage shot, Canon HF G10

I mounted one of the Sony’s behind the stage pointing past the performers toward the audience.

DNA Lounge, Rear camera

The other Sony was on the mezzanine stage left and I was stage right with the 5D.  My 70-200 couldn’t get very close from that distance so I had the other camera shooting tight closeups while I covered two- and three-shots.

The audio was supposed to come from the board into my Tascam DR-40, but I had a write error and lost about an hour of audio.  My backup was that the DNA always captures the audio on an mp3 file that they post on their website for a week, but that turned out to be distorted.  So I had to make do with audio from the G10 which was the closest camera to the action.  It’s not great, but it’s usable.  Luckily I remembered to turn on the mic attenuator when I set it up.

The DNA is great for shooting from the mezzanine, especially that night when they had it blocked off so we had most of it to ourselves.  Unfortunately there’s no elevator so you have to lug your gear upstairs.

The lighting is mixed, with an LED color DMX system and a single quartz follow-spot operated by a guy on the mezzanine.  When the spot is on and lighting the main performer you get some nice backlight and hair-lighting from the LEDs that are constantly changing.

DNA Lounge, Front Spot Light On

I shot 1080p30 at 1/30 sec at around f4 (5DmkII at ISO 1250, Sony’s at +6 gain) with the white balance set for tungsten.  Sometimes the operator turned the spotlight off, and then you get some horrible blue, magenta or yellow color on people’s faces that’s impossible to fix in post.  I think those LEDs must be missing some part of the spectrum because it is really ugly by itself, plus they are probably “daylight” balanced so that doesn’t help.  If I shoot there again I’ll ask the light operator to keep that spot on all the time.

DNA Lounge, Spot Light Off

When we got there at 4:30 on a Tuesday there was plenty of street parking, but when I did my site visit on a Friday at 10pm parking was impossible, since it’s on the same block as Slim’s nightclub plus a couple of restaurants.

The DNA runs a pizza cafe that’s open 24/7 next door to the club, and there’s a full bar and snack bar in the club itself.


4 thoughts on “Shooting Video at the DNA Lounge, San Francisco

    • Thanks for the comment. I just started doing this a couple of weeks ago, mainly to keep notes for myself. But it’s nice to know somebody’s watching. Please pass it on.

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