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Old June 5th, 2008, 10:45 PM   #1
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Dance Recital - Any quick tips?

My kids got me an early Father's day present HD1000U. (My DW looked at my B&H catalog...)

Anyways, this weekend they have a dance recital. It's a small dance studio, so there is no Pro videographer. Also, there is no dress rehearsal, so I can not do any test shooting. Anyone care to offer any advice for camera settings?

Scene Select, WB, Shutter, Iris, Exposure?

Even though I only own DVD quality (Standard Definition) equipment (DVD Burner, Regular TV), I was planning on shooting in HDV 1081i format, then down-converting during post production capture. Does this sound right? In the future I can always make a true HD product.

During conversion, should I choose Squeeze (black bars on top/bottom), or crop? I suppose it depends on how well I follow the action. I can always switch back and forth, although this might make for awkward viewing.

I was planning on using a second miniDV camera for a static wide shot, and then combining the clips in Post
On the Sony, how close should I zoom into the dancers?
Entire body, torso, etc?

Thanks in advance for any other helpful tips.
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Old June 6th, 2008, 06:53 AM   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Vince Pachiano View Post

Scene Select, WB, Shutter, Iris, Exposure?
Shutter not less then 1/60 to eliminate blur. Set your zebra at 100% and try to keep the exposure down to eliminate the zebra lines. Some zebra is going to happen no matter what you do because some things are just to bright (lights, glare etc). If you overexpose the faces you will have no detail in them so make sure the zebra stays off the faces. You can correct underexposed problems much easier then overexposed. I'm hoping William Hohauser jumps in here and talks about using the screen for spot focus. I would use the ring for exposure.

Yes shoot HDV, then I would crop instead of squeeze but that doesn't matter because you can always recapture either way.

I'll let someone else jump in here and give you more thoughts.

My 2 cents,

John
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Old June 6th, 2008, 12:49 PM   #3
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Hello, I'm here.

Dance concerts can be a problematic. From the lighting to where you might be forced to place the camera.

1) Shutter - Like John says don't let the shutter go below 1/60th or the dance might not look right. 1/30th could work with slow dances but it's pushing it.

2) Exposure - Set the exposure to manual and control it with the lens ring. Use the zebra strips to tell you when the lighting has changed and the faces are getting overexposed. Some stages are very uneven with the lighting so you might have to compromise.

3) Focus - The spot focus might not work with dancers moving around as it takes a second or so to set. I suggest using the auto-focus unless the stage is very dark all the time. Low light can cause the auto-focus to go off. You might set the focus using the spot focus at the center of the stage floor before the dance starts and leave it. The more the stage is lit the better this works.

4) Editing - Play the tape out of the camera in anamorphic mode when you down-res it. This makes a vertically squeezed picture. You can letterbox it later if you want. If you run it straight to a DVD recorder by firewire, the DVD with recognize it as SD 16:9 and play it back in widescreen.

5) The second camera - This is a problem if the camera shoots in 4:3 SD only. One way you can mix them is to crop the HD video into 4:3 full screen. That sort of loses the HD quality. You could set the HD1000 to SD and you'll get an excellent SD video. I would skip mixing the second camera.
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Old June 6th, 2008, 02:31 PM   #4
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Regarding framing: having shot or directed/switched 7 years of the Royal Dance Conservatory school here in Winnipeg, my suggestions are:

-For older groups (5 or 6 years old and up), make sure to stay at least head to toe and include the entire group if only shooting one angle. Dancers want to see movement and steps, not faces per se.

- For young kids (preschool) you can probably get in closer as they probably aren't following the steps anyway and they are so cute when they look back and forth at each other making faces and falling down (ok, so that's more of a three year old thing but you get the idea).

Of course, every PARENT wants only their child focused on but I've found that most dancers want to see the movement of the group.

I used to do 3 camera live switched and most dancers preferred the wide shot over the tight technical step camera or solo camera. It's actually a lot like shooting football or hockey: show everyone JUST enough so that they know what's going on.

My .02
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Old June 6th, 2008, 04:41 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Shaun Roemich View Post

I used to do 3 camera live switched and most dancers preferred the wide shot over the tight technical step camera or solo camera. It's actually a lot like shooting football or hockey: show everyone JUST enough so that they know what's going on.

My .02
I used to shoot a lot of professional and college dance companies until home video cameras locked in a wide shot became more cost effective than an experienced cameraperson. The dancers really do want to see the moves over any facial detail, parents want to see faces. Sometimes the choreographer wants to see faces. I would zoom in during slow parts to get a medium shot of of one or two dancers. Sometimes the only time I could get a decent face shot was at the end when the dancers bow. Dances are choreographed to the stage, not the camera frame. The nice thing about HD is that the faces are much clearer on wide shots.
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Old June 10th, 2008, 03:21 PM   #6
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I have a dance recital coming up as well. This will be the first one I have shot. I typically am an outdoors shooter. However Im helping a friend with this one.

The tips above are great but i was wondering about some advice on camera techniques. Anything would be greatly appreciated.
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Old June 10th, 2008, 05:51 PM   #7
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Don't lock the tripod. Dancers are usually loose and it's hard to predict where they are going next.

Keep your hand on the zoom so you can follow the movements when the dancers spread out across the stage.

Try to use both eyes to see if a dancer is entering from the sidelines unexpectedly. It's sort of like driving.

Favor the backdrop when you pull out to a wide shot. It's better than looking at the back of the audience.
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Old June 11th, 2008, 10:42 AM   #8
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Great thanks William,

My cam is going to be the follow cam. He is using another cam locked down for the wide shot. He wants mine pretty tight on the dancers(head to toe shot)
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Old June 11th, 2008, 12:26 PM   #9
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I just finished shooting a dance recital for a local dance school. These have been a great deal of what I've been doing lately. This is only a "hobby" for me but it quickly became another job (at least it's one I enjoy).

If the studio is doing more than one show shoot every show then mix the best performances/shots from the shows to make one performance. The studio I shot for in this last show did a total of 4 shows with most numbers in all four shows. In every show there were performance goofs and or technical glitches. By covering all shows I can produce what appears to be a show that went off without any problems.

As far as shooting the show I have at least two cameras rolling at all times. One for tight shots and one capturing all dancers plus about 5% to 10% more of the stage. Most choreographers think in terms of the visual impact which includes the effect of the dancers against the background. If possible talk to the dance instructors and choreographers ahead of time to see what there thoughts were when they staged the dance. As already mentioned, for the older kids (generally teens and older) I don't zoom in anymore that full feet to extended body part (remember the arms and hands are a very integral part of the dancers visual effect). Usually for group numbers I try not to zoom to just one person. Again the effect the group gives is generally what I try to capture. If there is a solo dancer with others in the background I might zoom in on them for about 10 seconds then slow zoom out so they are about 2/3's of the frame. This gives a good balance of seeing the dancers movements without making them look lost in a huge stage.

Remember that most TV's overscan so if your camera can put markings for 90% safe use them so that someone doesn't get cut off when watching them on the TV.

I try to follow the rule of thirds and this is where getting to see the numbers ahead of time really helps. Nothing seems more strange to me than a dancer moving in the 1/3 direction with 2/3's of the frame trailing behind them. When this happens I usually cut to a different angle.

Young kids are the easiest to shoot because they generally don't move very much and they don't have formation changes. I try to spend about 1/4 the time of the dance where you see all of them, 1/2 of the time focused on about groups of 3 to 4 kids full head to toe, and about 1/4 of the time with individual close ups. This is more of a marketing tool since every parent wants to see their kid close up. They'll buy multiple DVD's to give to Grandma and Grandpa if their child is highlighted even if only for one dance in a two hour show.

As far as settings on the cam, I use a Canon XH A1 so I shoot full manual. I manually WB all cams ahead of time using a WB filter (much easier than using a WB card). I set my zebras to 90% and just really focus on making sure the faces don't get blown out by adjusting the iris. The spot lights, sparkling outfits, and stage makeup make this a real challenge but after doing these dance shows for about 4 years it's become much more automatic and has allowed me to focus on the framing rather than the technical operation of the camera. Don't rely on auto focus as the uneven lighting and the quick movements of dancers coming in and out of the frame causes an HD camera to hunt.

I do some freelance work as an additional camera person for local producers and I got to do a shoot with a "real" professional camera operator. She shoots for a local TV station and covers everything from sports to ballets. She gave some great advise. She said to step back from looking into the veiwfinder and imagine you are watching it on video or TV. When you do that you're eyes are naturally drawn to specific things. If the dance is very energetic and there is a lot of movement you naturally wouldn't focus in on just one dancer or zoom in on there face. If a particular dancer has very expressive and unique body movements you wouldn't zoom in any closer than a full body shot, and conversely if a dancer's facial expressions are what draws your attention you might want a tight shot of just their shoulders and head for a couple of seconds. Watching this lady work the camera was a real eye opener and a treat baceause there were so many things I never thought of.

Sorry for the long post, I tend to ramble and keep in mind that this is only my opinion but it seems to work for me. Out of all the types of shows I shoot I actually enjoy doing dance recitals the most because of the artistic quality and the action involved. For me they pose a great challenge technically as well as artistically. In the end just have fun with it!
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Old June 11th, 2008, 01:24 PM   #10
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Sorry I didn't read this sooner...

All of the information has been great. One problem I didn't see addressed: signed releases from the parents. You'd be surprised at how that can come back and bite you. I am sorry I hadn't read this post sooner.
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Old June 11th, 2008, 01:32 PM   #11
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Thanks for all the info Garrett,

I actually shot with an A1 and the other cam is a HV30 locked down on the tripod for the wide. It has the WD-H43 wide angle adpator on it. I was going to use it in spotlight mode. It will also have shotgun attached for ambient noise. I get a copy of the recital mix CD music for post.

On the A1, I plan on using HDV 60i, 1/60, Panalook 2 preset and full manual then ride the iris for lighting changes. I will be able to white balance on the stage before hand with the lights on and a white balance card.

The dance studio informed me that they include in their contracts when the students sign up for classes, a release informing parents that performances and practices my be taped and if parents do not want their kids taped they must submit a letter saying as much.
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Old June 11th, 2008, 02:17 PM   #12
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Hi Adam,

That's about the exact setup I usually use except I have an HV20 instead of the 30. Also, instead of using my shotgun (Sen ME66) I usually go with the onboard mics and then I also capture additional ambient with a pair of Rode small diaphram mics going into an Ederol A/D then into my laptop. For this last show I aquired a Sony PCM-D50 that I put up close to the stage to capture the stage sounds such as the tap shoes. I have to say I'm really impressed with the D50. Also, there's usually enough light for me to keep the gain set at 0 but when the lighting gets really low I have had to push it to +3 or even +6. With the A1 even at +6 there really is not much noticeable noise so it's still very acceptable.

On the release note that is one thing I'm really diligent about. I also own a martial arts school so having signed releases to CYA is a must. Very good point Greg.
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Old June 11th, 2008, 04:30 PM   #13
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Yeh garrett all I have is my Rode NTG2 and a pair wireless Sennheisers. I will probablly just use the onboard mic ont he A1 for ambient.

For gain I figured to start at 0 and bump up from there if need be. The director told me there was not to many lighting changes and nothing very dark. But that could be in her terms not video.

Do you run your HV20 in spotlight for your shoots?
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Old June 12th, 2008, 09:04 AM   #14
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Sorry to come a little late to the party here. But have a look at our stage show "sticky" thread in the events forum; lots of good info: http://www.dvinfo.net/conf/showthread.php?t=60275
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Old June 12th, 2008, 11:25 AM   #15
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I usually lock down the exposure in Cinema mode. That way I get a gamma curve that more closely matches the A1 and I can control the gain on the HV20. This last show I did try the spotlight and it did do a pretty decent job. It seems a little dark but I think I can adjust that in post pretty easily as well as play with the gamma. The only thing was that in spotlight I didn't have the ability to push the gain out of 0. There were two numbers that were super dark and it would have been nice to be able to get a little more gain. I luckily was thinking and remembered that I wasn't going to get any usable footage from my HV20 so I framed my A1 as if it were the only camera.

You're right in being a little suspect of the director's interpretation of lighting. Unfortunately one of the drawbacks of HDV is that it doesn't have as much dynamic range as film or even SD. The A1 should do fine but if the theater your shoot will be in is like most of the ones out here the lightly will be really uneven. Each spot seems to be different and when the dancers go under certain lights they just brighten up. As far as low light the A1 is way better than I expected. I had read a lot before buying mine and there were so many mixed reviews about low light performance I was a little worried. But I have no regrets. I do a lot of shooting in 24F so I can get a little extra light by using a 1/48 shutter. Here's a link from a shoot in a very darkly light stage. The use of a slightly slower shutter was actually good. The movement isn't as crisp but the slight motion blue during the fast moving sections really gave that feel of quick motion.

http://www.vimeo.com/865327

Sorry I can't seem to figure out how to actually insert a link.
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