Shooting Video at Yoshi’s Oakland

We recently had the opportunity to shoot a performance at Yoshi’s Jazz Club in Oakland’s Jack London Square, one of the oldest and most respected jazz venues in the Bay Area.  It’s a 330-seat jazz club with a state-of-the-art sound system.

I talked to the contact person there a few days before the show to just check in and see if there were any issues to be aware of.  He said the floor manager would help us find places to set up cameras and that we could get a stereo feed from the sound board.

The night of the show we loaded-in at 5:30pm at the side entrance and found street parking.  (There’s a large paid parking lot above the club too, but at sound-check time there’s plenty of street parking.)

The club has a semi-circular stage with small cafe tables and some circular upholstered seating. Stage lighting is all tungsten which makes color balancing easy.  The house manager cleared one table area next to the sound board for our stationary wide camera and audio recorder.  We were given another table spot on the left for a manned stationary camera.

I put the small Canon HF-G10 on a tripod without opening the legs and gaffer-taped it to one of the table dividers on the right.  Finally I had the Canon 5D mkII on a monopod with a 70-200 f2.8 lens that I could use to roam on the right.

The lighting operator agreed to keep the light levels constant through the performance, and she gave us a few minutes to meter the actual stage lighting after sound-check.  The Sony AX2000s were set at f3.2 @ 1/30th with 6db gain.  The Canon G10 needed about 15db gain at the same settings.  The 5DmkII was at f3.2 @ 1/30th at 1250 ISO.

The audio feed from the board was line-level through XLR cables.  My standard audio recording setup now is to run the line-level signal through a portable Shure FP-33 mixer and send mic-level signals split with Y-cables to the camera and to a Zoom H4n.  This solves the problem of the Zoom distorting from a hot feed, and also gives me automatic backups to the camera inputs.  I had plenty of time during sound-check to set levels and make some test recordings.

As performance time approached we started rolling sound and the stationary cameras.  Luckily the house was about 3/4 full so there was some room to roam on the right side, mostly in the back row and against the wall.  The distance from there was a little long for the 70-200mm.  I was getting some medium close-ups of the performer, but couldn’t get in to tight head shots.  Getting physically closer would have blocked some of the audience’s views, which we had promised we wouldn’t do, so I just shot what I could.  The manned Sony on the left could get in closer with a longer zoom, so we’d have some tight shots from that angle.

If the show was sold-out it would have been very difficult to shoot with any kind of mobility, and I probably would have manned a stationary camera on the right.

We didn’t eat dinner at Yoshi’s that night, but they have a pretty good Japanese restaurant attached, and a decent bar menu with sushi, chicken skewers, etc., and a full bar.  There are also a lot of other restaurants in the area like Scott’s Seafood, Miss Pearl’s, Bocanova, etc.

All in all it was an excellent shooting experience.  The management and technicians were very accommodating and helpful, and treated us like professionals.  They charge the performers a fee to allow video shooting, so that could be an issue for some people.  We’re looking forward to shooting there again, or at Yoshi’s other location in San Francisco.