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Silas Barker June 18th, 2010 03:16 PM

Filming Dance Recitals & being paid by DVD orders (& Camera Placement question)
Hey All,

I shoot a lot of Dance Recitals, and I have a question.

1) For most of the events I shoot, I am typically told how many DVDs they think will sell and about half the time they are right. For clients I ve worked for a number of times I know what to expect. However, for new clients it seems to be a little crazy. I recently shot a Graduation with over 200 graduates, had a order form system PLUS a way to order online, and I got 25 orders of $20 DVDs. It hardly justifies the the cost of the DVDs, let alone shooting the entire event with 3 cameras.

2) I have had complaints before (and other videographers have as well I ve heard) about a 2 camera system for dance or play recitals....people complain when you cut to the wide shot (entire stage) but love the close up shots. Anyone have any ideas about this, or is the only option to add a 3rd camera? It might be possible to zoom the wide shot in to basically cutting the sides just slightly but I don't like the idea.
I typically shoot with both cameras from the back dead center.

3) How many and what do you sell your DVDs for and what does your contract look like in the case of not getting nearly enough sales?

Philip Howells June 18th, 2010 09:30 PM

Silas, I think you have to decide whether you're a programme maker or an entrepreneur. I've been seduced on a couple of occasions in 30 years into making programmes based on promises/expectations of sales and both times I've been burned - except that because I've always invested in kit rather then renting it, my losses have been my time.

Now I produce still programmes intended for retail, but for a fee. I earn my money regardless of sales. Of course, the entrepreneur who buys them adds his costs and profit - and some programmes have gone on to sell in thousands. Those programmes have been very good earners for our client whereas we earned just the quoted production fee and the additional duplication costs and our profit on those. But that's our client's job - and he also has to carry the costs of producing those programmes which didn't sell as well as he expected.

In my view these are jobs which are difficult to do together. As a programme maker you have artistic and technical considerations pressing you to invest more in your production; as a retailer your interests are best served by minimising your costs and maximising your profit. Those two positions are not easy to square off.

Silas Barker June 18th, 2010 09:57 PM

I believe I have already decided. I have a kit already.

My question was about the use of contract or handling matters such as this.
For that graduation I actually had the school agree to pay for the work if I received less then50 orders by a certain date....I just wondered if others do this or something similar?

Also regarding shooting that would be helpful as well.

Tom Sessions June 18th, 2010 11:56 PM

Here is how I handle the compensation aspects of recitals:
I have a minimum requirement of 200 DVD's that is paid up front by the dance company, ($4500). If their pre-order is more than 200 units, then I give them a 10% discount on the additions units only.

The dance company ALWAYS builds the cost of the DVD's into the lessons, plus a little profit margin for themselves. In other words, every dancer get's a copy of the show's performances. I make about 10K a year from the two recital companies I book.

Now for camera placement:
(1) unmanned camera at the rear of the theater in a camera perch (safe camera).
(1) Glidecam in the Orchestra pit (it is empty---no orchestra so there is lots of room to get some fantastic footage from that perspective)
(1) camera crane on the right side and in front of the stage, ( I own a 16' unit to get some pretty good shots from that perspective as well).

Robert Turchick June 19th, 2010 12:41 AM

Here's my take...

I did 5 different "school related" videos of various productions/concerts they put on this past year.
I always charge a flat rate for the shooting/editing as most of these events were 2 hours. I shoot 2 camera (lockdown wide and closeup/follow camera operated by me)
I charge $5 per DVD with color printed insert/amaray case and color on disc printing. All my billing is spelled out in a contract for them with delivery and payment terms.
Typically the school sells them to the parents/friends for $25-$50 per DVD. They sold between 50-70 copies of most of the shows. They pay me up front for the duplication as well.
Everybody's happy because they know getting to the master stage is a set price, and the DVD's are cheap enough that the school can make back most of the cost of the whole project. (unless they don't sell enough!)

But that variable is NEVER something to determine how much I will make for my hours and hours of work. I really don't care if they sell 10 copies or 10,000 copies. I make enough to cover my costs and then some.

On the business side, you might want to re-evaluate your billing practices.

As for shooting 2 camera, I have settled on using an HMC-40 for wide shots and always shoot 1080 progressive. The 40 is so crisp and clear that you really can zoom in during the post phase of the project without any noticeable loss in quality since you have to scale back down for the DVD anyway. I run my HMC-150 for closeups and that system works great for me.
The school and all the parents actually made a point of telling me how much better the quality was compared to the previous years that they paid virtually the same amount. I am already booked for next year's shows!

Philip Howells June 19th, 2010 01:07 AM

Silas, I'm sorry if I missed your point; given your clarification I think you're doing the right thing. It's good that your clients know what your work is worth - ie the base price which must be covered by whatever scheme you devise with them which will only enhance the deal you're giving them, ie if the programme's a huge success they'll reap the rewards and will only have the base cost to meet if the programme's a really slow seller.

Apart from recommending as always that you have a lawyer in your jurisdiction double check the actual wording, I think you've cracked it.

Good luck

Tom Sessions June 19th, 2010 01:14 AM

Click on the link below to see a clip from last year with just two cameras. When shot and edited correctly, you can produce some pretty good stuff that will make your clients very happy. We also overlaid the music from the Eagles CD with the camera audio to give it more depth.
You don't always need to go over the top, but if you want to make some real $$$ doing this sort of thing, you need to give your presentations a bit more punch.

Dance Recital - Blue Star Video Blog

Paul R Johnson June 19th, 2010 11:34 AM

I always specify the price for the shoot, depending on the time and the number of cameras - plus the edit. The DVD duplication is priced as a separate item. Some people want me to do it, but schools often have an IT dept who can duplicate DVDs, and an art department who can do the printing.

For music events, then I tend to set a minimum of 200 DVDs, with no shooting charge at all, but if they sell the DVDs for $15, they make a small profit . The DVDs in these projects are sold at gigs as merchandising, and the agreement I come to is that after this initial order, we can repeat the duplication - but this time I charge them just $7.50 (5 UKP). If I sell any direct - not that common, but I do a few, then I pay them - $7.50 for each one I sell, and if they run short, and duplicate any themselves (or even get others to do it), then they pay me $7.50 for each one. Both sides agree to this, and as we both know the kind of sales that take place at gigs at specific size venues, it's fairly transparent. Of course, there's a chance I get ripped off at some point, but after a few months, I consider any extra income a bonus, and don't get too worried by it.

Trust seems to work here - and they don't have to pay for the shoot and edit - but this works for me. The only time it has ever gone wrong is where the venue lighting was dismal - and it looked flat and lifeless. In this case, we just agreed a kind of compensation fee - which covered the camera ops pay, but not a lot else - but they couldn't use the product. We'll probably do it again at some point.

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