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Wedding / Event Videography Techniques
Shooting non-repeatable events: weddings, recitals, plays, performances...

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Old September 15th, 2010, 01:26 PM   #1
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school perfomances

Here is my plan: Do a multicam shoot of the local school's performances. Offer DVDs at a low price, maybe 10-15 dollars a pop. Part of this is cheap advertising. the other is my market is notoriously frugal. Perhaps use a percentage of the proceeds to donate to the schools PTA or such. Comercial photographers come in and make a profit off of the school. I am also certain that when the book fair hits, not all proceeds go directly to the school either.

Has anyone done this before? My main concern is copyright. My kids school uses a VHS camcorder that gets played on the local cable chanel. mic on camera in the back of the gym. Painful. There seems to be no issues with that, and I suspect that the school uses royalty free material. I have not yet spoke to any principles or music directors yet. Is there anything to ask or bring up in conversation? Any advice over all?

thank you
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Old September 15th, 2010, 01:46 PM   #2
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Hey Richard. What is your end goal with this idea? Is it for marketing or for money? Reason I ask, is because at $15 a DVD you will be really hard pressed to turn a profit that is worth your time. I have done a few dance recitals for $30 a pop and even at a large studio it comes out to be a pretty low rate per hour.
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Old September 15th, 2010, 04:28 PM   #3
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I plan on using this as a one of my vehicles for advertising and also for some profit. last year I made $ 10,314 in retail. I live in a frugal area and I know the people here. I can, in theory sell ten 10.00 dvds before for each 30 dollar one sold. lets say in my kids school with about 300 kids, I sell 100 dvds to parents for $15.00 I donate 5.00 to the school to build rapport . that is 1000.00 left over with what at most 30-40 hours of my time. minus the cost of the dvd and case, I would still be around $20-25 an hour. this is for an hours worth of footage that edits to about 30 minutes. I have done this before for my own famillys use. In the end I see it as a facet of the services I can offer. I know my market. they will not go for a 30.00 dvd of the kids cheap no talent school show. These are not privilged children and I am not in a affluent market. I re-ask of any legalities or gotchas I should know about.
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Old September 15th, 2010, 04:54 PM   #4
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Things that come to mind:

One, as noted, does the school have rights to record and re-distribute VIDEO of the performed music/plays/dance/whatever. That was a sticky point when I looked into doing this for basically the same reasons. I have my views on the copyright question, especially when I see a bazillion cameras running in the audience... my personal take is if anyone can have a sea-sickness inducing shaky-cam version, the horse has left the barn, and producing a top notch slick production of the exact same thing shouldn't "in theory" produce liability, but don't count on it, you probably don't want to end up trying to defend it in Court, even if you won... better to clear it in advance.

The second is whether the school has parent permissions to video the performers - this might seem silly, but nowadays there are a lot of weird creepy people, and schools are sometimes rather touchy. I haven't met such weird creepy folks, but...

There was also a thread here a while back about someone video-ing a performance, and the actual performance was very very (think Titanic) bad, at least according to the performers, and copyright issues suddenly sunk the whole project... I like to think a good editor can save such a performance, but...

In the end I just did the plays for my kids, 4 HD cam shoots, which given the way the staging was done, was a virtual necessity. Much better than average production. Word does get around, and I've had a few peopl approach me for a copy of MY version of the video, and I accomodate, but it's lunch money and hopefully marketing... Since I produced the video for my kids anyway, burning a few copies is not a big deal. I always give the teachers a copy to play for the class - they love it!

Best of luck convincing the powers that be on the idea - the copyright thing is probably going to be the sticking point, but since they are already broadcasting on local cable...

Frankly in these budgetary times, I would have thought the school would jump at a fundraiser of this sort, but at least when I ran it up the flagpole, no one saluted, you have my best wishes that you will find a better reception!

You may want to consider a slightly higher price, new releases at Wal Mart are $16-20... I know $10 sounds inviting, but if you're doing a top notch job, I'd go a tad higher. If your costs are low enough, it should work out OK, I found using some verbatim disks that have an old style movie reel graphic pre-printed, and then using the sharpie actually looked great and everyone loved 'em... I wouldn't go all out and print custom disks/graphics, although I have in the past.

How many cameras will you run? If you'd like I'll take a picture of my 4 cam "camera tree" and send along instructions of how to duplicate it on the (relatively) cheap. I run a wide, stage left, stage right, and the center is on the panhead to follow any action and catch mid-stage.

With my small cams, I can come in, one hard case, tripod, set 'em up and be ready to roll in less than 10 minutes, load out is even faster! It can be done economically... just have to think differently!
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Old September 15th, 2010, 08:33 PM   #5
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Several years ago, when we started filming dance recitals, we were approached a couples times by parents wanting us to film school plays (5th grade elementary in one case, high school in the other).

At that time we were open to filing just about anything, and so we agreed to do a 3 cameras with 2 operators shoot on the first one at the elementary school. The play was about 45 minutes and we charged $15 a copy. I think we sold something like 10 copies.

On the second one, I used 2 cameras by myself in the back at the high school. The play was about 1.5 hours and I sold copies for $10. I think we sold about 20 copies.

After those 2 experiences... no more school plays for us. haha.

Now, for dance recitals and marching band competitions: those can be money makers.

For dance recitals, there is one studio we do that has about 250 students. Videos are sold for $40/each and the studio gets a $5 cut off each one. Also, parents are not allowed to bring cameras into the theater during the actual show, so that helps with sales as well (Dance studio policy, not ours).

Marching band competitions can be worthwhile if done right. I know when we would do Vanderbilt's it wasn't uncommon to bring in several thousand dollars in 1 day. (think 20 - 30 bands of 100 students on average @ $25-$40/video) The downside to those things is MAJOR logisitics and record keeping issues. We are talking several hundred orders to keep up with, addresses to make sure you have right, and then POSTAGE for shipping.

Anyways, as mentioned before, you gotta place some value on your time. If you're single and have nothing else going on, these avenues can be moneymakers. However if you're married and have a family to take care of etc... you can make more with a wedding video probaby and have a lot less hassle (potentially lol)
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Old September 15th, 2010, 09:09 PM   #6
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Kyle brings up a good point about your math being wrong. What kind of performance & grade is this? (High school, elementary etc). If the school has 300 kids what makes you think 100 parents will want to buy a DVD? I ask because typically of a 300class school, how many are in the school play or whatever?! Myb things changed since 1991 but I'd gues 30-50. Of those, how many parents will buy a DVD?! 50%.

I think you need to base it more off of how many kids are in the production rather than kids in the school.
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Old September 15th, 2010, 10:18 PM   #7
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the events at our local elementary have all the student body involved. These are not the school play but the Christmas Concerts and such. So if one out of three parents purchase a DVD I would not consider it a failure. The local high school has a broadcast ENG type setup that few here could compete with. The high school gets the graduation ceremonies and football games. I try to under-estamate but not plan for failure. Not saying it can't happen.
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Old September 15th, 2010, 11:42 PM   #8
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You know your school and community better than any of us do, but I think your numbers are a bit optimistic. The size of your potential client pool is not the number of kids in this school, nor even the number of kids in the show. It's the number of families represented.

So in our school of about 600, we could have 65 or 70 kids in a show, representing about 40 to 50 families, max. So that's our potential client pool. No parents are going to order anything their kid isn't in. And many of those parents, even though they've been told not to, will bring their own cams and tape just their kids for the whole show because that's what they're interested in. They don't want a professional show they way it'd be presented on HBO or PBS.

But even if every show features every kid in the school, I think a one in three order rate is optimistic.

And of course you still do have all the copyright issues to contend with. If your school is trying to set an example for ethical behavior for the kids, it's tough to explain why it's okay for you to steal other people's material when they're not allowed to. And for some reason schools do draw a distinction between crappy handheld parent cam video and a more professional production you can do. It's like they think they have less chance of getting caught if they do it poorly, and that somehow makes it okay. Many feel that doing it with four large professional cams raises the profile of this activity to a level they're not comfortable with.
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Old September 16th, 2010, 12:02 AM   #9
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I concure with the copyright comment. I do not want to get into that trap.
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