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Old January 7th, 2012, 03:20 AM   #1
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Advice on Dance concerts

Hi all, Happy new year. I have just finished editing an end of year dance concert video and am looking for advice on what i did and did not do well. It is only short clips from four of the dancers.

Rachael Palmer Dance School 2011 Concert DVD Promo - YouTube
Sorry I am unsure how to embed the video.

The final edit is a mix of three concerts from the Saturday and rehearsal from the Friday afternoon. Any advice would be much appreciated.
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Old January 7th, 2012, 03:29 AM   #2
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Re: Advice on Dance concerts

The obvious thing I can see is in a couple of instances the cameras were pretty mismatched, and in one instance (third sample, maybe, not sure) one clip was seriously darker than it should have been.

I think for a school dance there were too many, too frequent camera changes, but there are those here that will have better advice than I can give, I've not done many school things.
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Old January 7th, 2012, 04:11 AM   #3
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Re: Advice on Dance concerts

It's not easy shooting from the audience David, is that 3 cameras? The colour match is not exact but I think it works as it is,
just lighten up a couple of the darker shots?

How did you take that clean music feed .. from the desk?

I like the Dutch angles and the zooms but I think you could re check the sync with a few of the dancers .. the cuts have to be exactly
on the beat make it.

I'd put up an opening credit saying what it is, there's an ideal 6 sec slot there and to add excitement tighten up the x fades just a few frames.

But great job, hope you make enough to warrant doing it again next year :)

30+ years with our own audio and visual production company and studios.
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Old January 7th, 2012, 05:36 AM   #4
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Re: Advice on Dance concerts

Hi David

I'm busy editing a dance concert myself we shot in late December. You were lucky to be able to get fairly close to the stage!!
With our one we had to use both cams right at the top of the theatre probably at least 150' back from the stage and probably 30' higher than it. (They wouldn't allow me a front camera) All my closeups were probably all at 12X zoom max!!! I would say it definately worth having at least one camera wide all the time My left hand camera just shot static video of the entire concert so any time I goofed up the CU shots I could cut back to the wide security shot.

We were however lucky with audio and got dual XLR feeds from the desk and absolutely pristine audio so I not only had easy to sync footage but also a good backup track too!!!

If you are going to intercut you really do need matched cameras and exposure needs to be spot on...I find that because ONLY the stage is lit and sometimes only the dancers you do need to tweak the iris a bit otherwise things do tend to get blown out a little.

Dances are pretty tough jobs as you have no control of the lighting and with audio can only hope the sound guy is good!!!

I'm sure all the 'mummies' will be delighted!!! That's who you need to please in the end!!

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Old January 7th, 2012, 06:16 AM   #5
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Re: Advice on Dance concerts

I've been shooting dance recitals and similar for several years now.

When I started out, I had a crew with 3 or 4 cameras and spent hours editing. Some of the recitals we did were for what I would consider pretty large studios with 300 or so dancers. The spring recitals were between 3 and 4 hours long... and there were usually 3 showings: Saturday afternoon, Saturday evening, and Sunday afternoon... so back before solid state I'd be capturing say 3 hours x 3 cameras x 3 shows = 27 hours worth of miniDV footage. Then came the editing!

Anyways, over time we found out that while it was definately more visually pleasing to watch a multi cam edited recital, what the studio and parents really wanted was what I refer to as a "wide shot" the whole time. This meant minimal zoom ins and basically keeping focused on as wide a shot as possible wherever the action is going on.

We had -complaints- from parents like, "On dance -x- you showed so and so's daugther and not mine.. my daughter is better than her" etc etc. Dance parents can be quite catty. lol

So for the past 3 or 4 years I've done a one camera shoot from the balcony and with my NX5U, can pretty much have the video done within a day or two. It works much better and haven't had any problems.

For audio I use only the on board mic to capture the audio and crowd.

As far as prices, we started out selling VHS copies for about $50 for a dual set, and then moved to DVDs for abot $40.
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Old January 7th, 2012, 07:17 AM   #6
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Re: Advice on Dance concerts

I agree a lot with Kyle. The teachers and older dancers want to see the whole dance for the choreography so certainly for the older dancers almost always full stage. For the little kids parents want to see their faces and they don't move much anyway so closeup pan across the line. The levels in between is a mix favoring full stage. May not be what one views as artistic but its a record for the dancers and parents not an art video. Having all dancers equal time is important. If you do any closeups make sure ALL the kids in that dance get a closeup !!!!

Ron Evans
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Old January 7th, 2012, 08:36 AM   #7
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Re: Advice on Dance concerts

Ron and Kyle excellent comments but I have found that the teachers and parents started out wanting a one camera shoot but over time they have changed to appreciate the multi camera angles. It would drive me crazy David if I had to shoot a boring one camera shoot.
David fading in sound and video need to be tighter and definitely use three cameras the same unless you are an excellent post color editor. David try to use only dance sequences of the highest quality.
One other alternative is to use only one piece of music.
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Old January 7th, 2012, 09:26 AM   #8
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Re: Advice on Dance concerts

You need to ask what type of video they want before you talk prices. They may not want a multi-camera arty product, and actually want nothing less than as wide as the outermost dancers. I've even had some request just a static camera framed on the stage, with just a title on the top and tail. Keeping the parents happy is VERY difficult.

Sound wise, I've always found the simplest solution is to simply ask for the CDs or usb sticks - then use those as the main audio and use the camera sound for the audience reaction. The only time I worry about mixer feeds for dance stuff is when they have singing, acting or a compere. If it's simply dance - the CDs work for me.
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Old January 7th, 2012, 09:30 AM   #9
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Re: Advice on Dance concerts

I actually use 4 cameras. 1 full stage fixed, one center focus on stage fixed, one closeup and one wider to follow group action. My comments are from both daughters , who are now grown up and the dance teachers I have know since my daughters were dancing. Yes they like some closeups but not at the expense of choreography.

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Old January 7th, 2012, 10:06 AM   #10
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Re: Advice on Dance concerts

I don't think anyone has mentioned this yet, but the aspect ration looks squished (as if it were shot in 16:9 but then displayed in 4:3). Is that just the YouTube? Or maybe I'm just forgetting that kids are skinnier than adults! (I usually shoot adult dance when I do dance)
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Old January 7th, 2012, 02:32 PM   #11
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Re: Advice on Dance concerts


The issue of what style to shoot in so that you can please your customers and make more sales is a beast in itself. I'll stick to the mechanics of the video.

A lot of the cuts were pretty jarring because of the similar framing between cameras. If you're going multi-cam, it's a big advantage to either decide ahead of time what general framing each operator will stick to, or to get on some headsets and communicate to each other during the performance. Either way, this will help to make sure the coverage is fairly comprehensive and that you're capturing a variety of shots for the edit.

There are some shots where I see most of a dancer's body but their feet or head are partially out of frame. This really should be avoided. If you want to get in tight, then push in to a waist-up shot. If you want to go any wider than that, pull out to a full body shot, but definitely get the heads and feet in there. In fact, always shoot a little wider than you would for a subject that's standing still. This gives the dancers some room to maneuver within the frame and it gives you some leeway in your camera movement to keep them in the shot. Note also that if you decide to go to a waist-up shot, you kind of need a really good reason. It's a dance performance after all, and going to a waist-up shot means cutting away from the feet…which means cutting away from the main action.

As mentioned, matching the look of the different cameras is critical…not just to make the edit look good, but also to mask the fact that you're watching a video. The old lesson still stands that the more you're able to let the viewer forget about the cameras, the more they can be absorbed into the content.

It's not easy at all to make perfectly smooth adjustments (pans/tilts) to a shot at 100% zoom from across an auditorium, but that doesn't justify including shaky camera movements in the edit unless necessary. Cut to another shot when this happens, if possible.

I have nothing against dutch angles. I've used them in the past on other types of shoots and I may use them again. As for dance performances though, I've never chosen to go dutch. It's just my preference, and the reason for this is that I feel dutch angles are really suited for a faster paced edit and/or a more raw type of performance (like a rock band or a hip comedian). It can be a subtle difference between an edit that uses dutch angles effectively and one that does not. If you like using them, go for it…but if you're not committed to the look, I recommend playing it safe and keeping your shots level.

The wider shot at 0:52 is an example of how a lot of camera operators who are newer to shooting dance performances will tend to frame their shots of a small group. Instead, tilt up a bit so that the subjects are in the bottom portion of the shot, giving them lots of headroom. I only saw this error a couple times in your edit, but I believe it to be the bread and butter shot of this type of shoot, so that makes these instances critical. There's nothing but black down low in front of the stage (or worse…LED screens from audience members) so the backdrop is a much more attractive option. Also, it looks strange to have the dancers perfectly centered (with open space on all four sides) in a wider shot like this. Don't tilt up as high as possible, but do so conservatively. There's a fine line to tread here that will make for a good looking shot and it's worth watching other people's dance films to note what works well and what doesn't.

I had a hard time determining whether each group's performance was a montage of shots from throughout their number or if you took one segment of their number from the final edit and laid it on the timeline. I got the same feeling I have when I see an ill-timed jumpcut…I felt like I was missing the point and instead of drawing me in, I felt shut out of the experience. Some wider shots mixed in at the right times can fix this if you want to set up each scene by showing who's on stage. This prepares the viewers for the closer shots that are about to follow. On a montage, you can cut back and forth between the different numbers to clarify that the shots are not chronological.

I hope there's something here that helps you out.

Alec Moreno
Wedding Art Films - Southern California - Los Angeles - Orange County - Video
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Old January 7th, 2012, 03:14 PM   #12
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Re: Advice on Dance concerts

Thanks for all the advice, This is the second concert I have filmed and while I am happy with the finished product I will definitely be taking your advice on board for next time. To answer some of the questions: We shot three cameras, with one manned camera half way down the theatre and the other two in the tech both at the back, one was locked off the other was manned. As for the audio, I multitrack recorded a desk feed, and two ambiance mics, I was also able to score the program CD’s off of the sound guy. The dance school wanted multi-camera, and having watched concert videos for more than a decade (My younger sister is a dancer and I have been watching her concert videos since I was 9) I certainly find them easier to follow, and more enjoyable to watch.
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