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Old October 25th, 2007, 09:34 PM   #1
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Shall We Dance?

Well, not us.

I've been asked to make a short video for Web & Promo DVD for a local dance studio. The owners are serious pros, having done Ballet in NY and Modern/Jazz with a couple of touring companies. Nice people, maybe 1/3 my age!

I'm looking for suggestions re how to light them while they do a couple of short demos of different dance styles. I think we can contain the motion within maybe 8 X 10 feet or maybe a little less.

Thinking to intermix short dance clips with close up dialogue telling a little bit about themselves.

Just to make things harder, would like to do at least one green screen sequence showing some close up moves (waist up, probably)

Because they will be moving around a bit, I was thinking of something really simple like a large softbox or two and something for the background. Not sure if I'd be able to cover the area with a softbox, though.

I know it's an open ended question, just looking for some thoughts and maybe some questions I hadn't thought of.

Note - I'm thinking of using an HD110, locked off, and doing some cropping/panning in post to stay tight on the dancers rather than trying to follow them as they'll be moving pretty quickly at times. Would downres to SD and might intermix some close-up clips from a GL-2 depending on how they look.
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Old October 25th, 2007, 11:46 PM   #2
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Most "dance studios" I've been in are pretty gastly as far as lighitng.

Typically, a ceiling full of overhead flos - with hot spots galore. Then there's the ubiquitous "wall of mirrors" that are great for watching yourself dance while you're learning, but a nightmare for keeping the camera and lights out of any shot.

Even given your 8X10 foot space, lighting that as a head to toe "even field of light" would likely take a LOT more than just a couple of soft boxes (unless they're the 10 foot long kind pros use for shooting cars!)

So what are you starting with? What's the location like? What about moving outdoors on a nice cloudy day? (Let nature provide the uber soft box!)

If you do have to work in their studio, one old trick is to get a bunch of cheap flo fixtures and lamp them with the same stock the room uses for the overheads, then you can set up a wall of side fill flos to fill the overhead shadows in eye sockets.

Other than that, maybe dim everything and get some big fresnels and use them as stand mounted "wide soft followspots" to highlight the couple as they move around the dimed studio?

Lots of choices, but nothing I can think of that's really easy if you have to deal with a dance floor sized area and you want superior results.

Anyone else?
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Old October 26th, 2007, 12:35 AM   #3
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Thanks for the input. Waiting for a cloudy day in Tucson is about as bad as waiting for one in Scottsdale, I'm afraid! And when we do get one, everyone will be busy with something else!

I think the only good news is that they don't have a wall of mirrors - aside from that it's as bad as you think.

On the other hand, I don't really need to light the whole space. I was thinking to just try to get a background (paper/wall/green screen/whatever) lit from the sides with a couple of fluorescent fixtures.

If I can keep the dancers confined in a somewhat smaller space, and not try for all head to toe shots but maybe mostly a bunch of waist up moves, then do you think another fluorescent fixture/softbox from the front would give enough coverage?

In this case I think I could keep the dancers pretty much on one spot and just deal with arm and upper body motion and maybe a bit of "moonwalking" and jumping around pretty much in place.

I think for these folks I'm considering capturing their style and "moves" more than real dance. Hopefully this will simplify the problem.
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Old October 26th, 2007, 09:27 AM   #4
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Hi Jim,

How about Chinese Lanterns? 360 degree lighting. Pretty flat over all, less "ghastly" overhead look than regular ceiling fluorescent fixtures. Spacelights come in handy for situations like this and the chinese lantern is kind of the poor person's spacelight so to speak.
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Old October 29th, 2007, 04:44 PM   #5
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Is there maybe a small community theater in your area that you can rent time in without breaking the bank? It would give you a large stage, backdrops, and use of their lighting equipment.

Sorry, this doesn't really answer your question of HOW to light them, but I've shot in a dance studio, and as Bill already said these places are not made for video shoots. I tried to limit the dancers to a small area, but it did not work very well.

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Old October 30th, 2007, 09:23 AM   #6
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Jim, it seems you have everything at hand and a clear understanding of what you need to do, you just need to sit down and organize everything. A darkened studio/ballroom (their own) should supply you with all of the area that you need.

A demo is just that, a short demonstration of one dance at a time, it should show only the best parts and all of the possititve qualities.

1. Make a list of each dance they want to include, Waltz, Tango, Rhumba, etc. Include the costumes and style that each one demands. Make a note of the type of lighting that would be appropiate. Don't forget that you can use Dark or Bright lights, a high contrast ratio, a dark dramatic ratio, colored lights. Each dance should be developed and noted individually.

2. Since you have a darkened ballroom you can light only the area that you need to capture your dancers as they enter and pass your camera view.

Obviously it will take time but so does anything of quality.
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Old October 30th, 2007, 10:20 AM   #7
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In lighting dancers, it's very nice to have a hard kicker. Gives more definition of their bodies and gives a beautiful result.
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Old October 30th, 2007, 10:43 AM   #8
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Thanks much for the additional inputs.

I think the idea of using a sort of ark room with just the lighting I want (and not trying to light the whole area) will work fine.

Also, I'm in luck as there's no need for costumes for what we're thinking of.

One seeming (at least to me) advantage of the space they have is that it is quite a long room, and I can leave room between them and the wall, as well as get back quite far with the camera so I can use a zoomed in lens to keep the focus where I want it (focus in all senses of the word, ie viewer attention and shallower depth of field) Alsom with a tighter angle of view I think it will be easier to contain the arm motions in front of the background and not include any ceiling in the shot.

I was thinking to record with whatever pieces they want to use, but have a percussionist friend improvise a percussion line against the music, and use only the percussion in the video. I think this will help keep it kind of hard and edgy and set a rythm and drive. And also avoid copyright issues if they use the video on their web site. I think this would get pretty old after a while, but for the kind of short clips I'm thinking of, it might work pretty well.
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Old October 30th, 2007, 10:53 AM   #9
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Patricia,

Thanks - I was typing while you were posting so I hadn't seen your response.

I like the idea, but was a bit worried about how to pull this off as they're moving around. Maybe if I "nail their feet to the floor" so to speak it would be easier as I wouldn't be able to follow them with the lighting.
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Old October 30th, 2007, 02:02 PM   #10
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Work in a dark room. Use hard side lighting, slightly behind the dancers is the very best way to light modern dance. It's used in theatre this way, and as stated above gives the best shape and form to the dancers.

I've shot and lit complicated staged dances simply by having two assistant hand hold 500w fresnels using them as side-followspots. I had a video projector showing blue waves onto his costume for more texture in some scenes.

Here's a dancer on stilts painted silver hanging from the studio ceiling!
It been given an odd red grade by the web people however, anyway is was lit with the method above.

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Old October 31st, 2007, 01:52 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Duncan Craig View Post
I've shot and lit complicated staged dances simply by having two assistant hand hold 500w fresnels using them as side-followspots. I had a video projector showing blue waves onto his costume for more texture in some scenes.
Inventive. Makes me think of the opening titles of a James Bond movie where Maurice Binder would project titles on a girl. That's really a great idea on the fresnels as follow spots too. All thinking out of the box which is really required for capturing dance on video.
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Old October 31st, 2007, 03:45 AM   #12
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Hello Richard, I sent you an e-mail yesterday enquiring about shipping quotes. Nice to see you around.

Roll on Nov. 19th when all your new stock comes in!
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Old October 31st, 2007, 07:57 PM   #13
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Hi Duncan,

I got it but I just got back into town so I'll try to get to it today or tomorrow. Thanks!
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