It’s a rare breed of shooter who’s able to capture the connection between an audience and the performers at an event like Free Press Summer Fest, which packed Eleanor Tinsley Park with 90,000 people last month.

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You’ve either got it, or you don’t, according to Free Press TV Creative Director Mark Armes, the driving force behind the summer fest video production crew, which films and photographs the event from literally every angle.

Festival shooters instinctively shoot from the gut at the right time and the right place; have an eye for live; marathon amounts of willpower and moxie; most importantly, they’re maniacs about music, Armes said.

“There are a lot of people who are good at video but not necessarily live music coverage,” he said. “The biggest thing that helps is to have a passion for the music. Music lovers have a personality type. They can hear the music and how what’s going to happen next in the song. You become part of the performance.”

Joining the crew is the perfect gig for ambitious shooters looking to gain a lot of experience and exposure in a short amount of time, he said.

“If you’re smart about it, you’ll leave those two days with more experience than another person couldn’t get in 20 years if they tried,” he said. “Filming a festival, especially this one, is a special thing. It’s the only game in town, so people are excited about it and you can see that in the footage.”

Armes inadvertently started the crew, and his own career as a festival shooter, when he filmed summer fest’s 2009 debut and posted a recap of the high-energy fast-paced event online. The caliber of the lineup alone had already received attention from the national press, but the distinct Houston flavor of the video, and those that followed, proved hugely popular among locals and is credited for the steady increase in attendance since it began.

Image Gallery from this year’s festival (via ikan Facebook)

“The videos aren’t just to sell tickets, but to take people down memory lane,” he said. “They like to be able to go back and visit it.”

Because of his personal experience learning on the job, Armes gives little credence to the typical prerequisites of employment, regardless of the size of the crowd, the caliber of the talent or the genre of music.

“I don’t think any of the crew this year went to film school,” he said. “We are very unconventional. The people we hire would have been there shooting it already.”

So how do you get your foot in the door? Don’t waste his time.

“We never check for resumes,” Armes said. “Send me a link to a video you shot. If you don’t have a video online yet, grab a DSLR and shoot a show.

Call a band and ask them if they’d mind you shooting one of their performances at Walters or Fitzgeralds.”

Check out the evolution of the crew’s productions over the years, linked below. The clips are getting shorter, “Like a fever dream,” with fast, sporadic cuts, crash zooms, tilts and fast pans.

I’m looking forward to seeing another new feature when this years’ recap drops. Armes collaborated with a motion graphics designer to bring a different style to the video.

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FPSF- Last Year Was A Rehearsal from FUNWUNCE on Vimeo.

The shooters were also told to play with their perspectives.

“We wanted everyone to be as artistic as possible,” he said. “I told them to grow their own masterpiece — shoot from the gut! These can’t be boring, standard shots, so movement is key. They have to be exciting to watch and hold your interest.”

He cited a crewmember who shot footage as she crowd surfed during a performance as a good example of what he’s looking for.

Armes starts assembling the video production crew in February.

2010 FPSF ad

2011 FPSF recap – longer, at 3:30 and sentimental – like a dream

2012 FRSF recap – 1:30 “like a fever dream”