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Ballet Talk for Dancers

DVD/Videos: Video taping Skills & Nightmares

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I just got our showcase DVD's today. I was watching the dances and it makes me wonder what the video taper was thinking. They did so many close ups on the dancers faces and upper body during a hard petit allegro section! They did a close up on pointe shoes when there was a beautiful Port De Bra section. Sorry I am sitting here venting, but do other schools also run into this problem? I want to see the actual dancing and formations, not a close up on someones sweat dripping down! :wub: Oh by the way, it was my brother first performance and it didn't show him dancing for half of it. They did close ups on the other side of the stage, so they missed my brothers dancing. He is a tiny bit upset about it also! They also kept jumping around, so they missed big parts of choreography here and there. I also nailed the ending part of one of the dances, but I was unable to see it, since they focused on ONE dancer the whole 8 count ending.

I wanted to use this DVD to critique myself and improve, but they missed key points ( like a turn sequence) that I can use it for NOTHING to improve!

From what I understand, it is parent volunteers doing the work, so I can't really sit here and complain about it. The only problem is the DVD's were not cheap at all, and if we would have known how much dancing WOULD NOT have been shown, I probably would not have bought doubles for the grandparents. Needless to say, next year, we are going to stick to only one set!

This is SUCH a shame since our performance from what I hear, went really really well. I know that the dancers danced very well ( I was watching from the wings) and it is so sad that is wasn't able to get showcased into the DVD. I guess it doesn't really matter for non dancing parents/friends, but as a dancer myself it peeves me out SO much.

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Call me crazy but i'd rather just see a view of the whole stage the whole time. no camera work needed, versus a bunch of different angles and close ups. ballet isnt choreographed for film (typically) so i prefer to watch ballet films from an audience goers perspective.

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There was a long discussion about this earlier, under a title something like @!**** cameramen!


I think the outcome was that the camera-persons do not know about dance. The shoot it like anything else - to show some human interest, which means closeups of faces, and focussing on visually interesting things (like flapping clothing). The conclusion is that video-makers should be educated ahead of time about what is required in photographing dance, so that they show what you want. In other words, its lack of familiarity with your needs, not perverseness. If I remember correctly, it was all well and constructively put it one of the later postings in the thread.




PS - at some of the dance competitions here, as well as getting a fully-edited DVD of your piece, done with 2 or more cameras (several weeks later), apparently you can get (immediately after) a straight unedited static full-stage shoot of the piece on videotape from a single camera. This seems a very good solution.

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Maybe you could ask someone who knows your dance to take the camera next time, if it's all volunteer work. Maybe you have a sibling or parent who wouldn't mind coming to rehearsals and discussing what should be done with the camera.

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We used a company a while back that set up 5 different cameras around the theatre to capture different angles. When the AD came in for the second dress and saw them... oh dear! She explained that as "picturesque" as his footage may be, we were not paying him to make a movie, rather, a memory for people to enjoy and that we would prefer him to only use 1 camera. He obliged and it was probably the best video of a performance I have seen. No real close ups, a wide view from the center of the theatre (he filmed on second dress so he basically sat in the money seats). It was really lovely!


I completely feel everyone's moans about bad videoing though. One Nut, the videographer decided that getting a closeup of the falling snowflakes was more important than catching the final lift sequence of the snow queen pas de deux. Arg....

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A couple years ago when we were doing Nutcracker at my old studio, the camera dude fell asleep or something during the beginning of Mouse Scene, because the camera was focused on the green couch onstage. :o Nothing else. :green: My parents and I were disapointed because I was onstage by myself doing the little Mouse Queen dance (:wub:) on the other side of the stage, and during my music, the video showed the green couch on stage right. :rolleyes: Brilliant. :offtopic:

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I think this is big problem for any school... Cause we can't afford camera men who are specialized in dancing!!! :offtopic:

I was also quite disappointed last year, because exept during my solo part, I almost couldn't see me on the video... :rolleyes::wub:

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Also they took a video on dress rehearsal night. ( Which I didn't know of) I realized this since I walked on with my partner twice in the same dance doing the SAME EXACT movements .

( they merged the videos from dress rehearsal and performance together, so it did a double take. Haha.

Well on the video, they put the Dress Rehearsal night one ( AKA no makeup and marking the big steps because on an injury) It was only for my small partnering part. On dress rehearsal my arabesque was at 45 degrees! on the performance I had them higher! since I was marking the dress rehearsal night.

The good thing is they edited my fall, so it didn't show it at all. I kind of wished I saw it, since I wanted to see how quickly I recovered.

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I suggested videography to DD as a "plan B" but she wasn't keen on the idea. There's a broadcast studio at DD's school and the manager does a good job filming the performances. One of the dancers that graduated two years ago worked in the broadcast studio through all four years of high school. He should be fine with a "plan B" eventhough his plan A is going well.

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132, I really do feel for you because it is nice to look at the video afterwards and see where you can improve. Surely out of all those parent volunteers, there has to be one mom/dad who had ballet years ago. She/he would ideally be the best person to shoot the video. Why not talk with your AD about your concerns before the next video shoot. The AD could decide who to ask and make the request in how she wants the performance to be shot.

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The best thing would be to have at least 3 cameramen (3 cameras and 2 people filming). One camera would just take the whole stage, one for feet and legs and another one for arms and heads (both close up). And then you would need someone who knows ballet very well and cut everything together.


In my school we are lucky. We have a guy who knows how to film and because he can't devide in 3, he films at all the three performances and the dress rehearsals. Then he has enought material and cuts it together with my teacher. She can say what he should kick out or leave in and he has the cutting skills.


I am sorry to hear that your DVD obviously is not what you wanted.

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Here is the thread titled ^^%%$#*(&^&Cameramen


Towards the end of the thread, someone who is a pro camera person comes on and explains some hints on how to get the best out of the people you hire to film.

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The best thing would be to have at least 3 cameramen (3 cameras and 2 people filming). One camera would just take the whole stage, one for feet and legs and another one for arms and heads (both close up). And then you would need someone who knows ballet very well and cut everything together.






I'm sure this seems a good idea, but I cannot agree.... particularly not "one for feet and legs and another one for arms and heads (both close up)"


And don't assume that an un-manned camera can manage the wide shot either... even if there is no framing involved, stage lighting tends to require a lot of attention given to the iris or you may end up with some dancers "radioactive" while others are lost in the shadows.


I strongly advise having a videographer shoot the dress as a wide shot and then come in closer on subsequent performances as s/he becomes more familiar with the choreography. Don't forget that editing takes a great deal of time and aesthetic expertise as well as additional funds. Without much effort, one can very quickly make very ugly and extremely expensive videos with multiple cameras. Mulitple camera is not a panacea for bad dance videography. You'd be better off spending that budget getting one videographer to learn the piece.


If money is no object but time is, then do a two camera shoot with a wide shot from the first balcony and medium close-ups shot from the orchestra, and make sure your close-up camera man understands that a close-up in dance does not cut off any extremities!


My apologies if I seem dismissive of Claude_Catastrophique's thinking here, but I promise my views evolved over years experience of shooting dance for companies & choreographers in major metropolitan areas.

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Please allow me re-post my comments from the ancient thread called &%#@%^cameramen!. I second Amy Reusch's views. However I would also say that if my performing group's dress rehearsals have any similarity with other groups, I would NEVER pay to tape them. We have a tendency to have really bad dancing, missed cues, and half sewn costumes on dress rehearsal night, nothing worthy of being immortalized on video tape.


Now, on to my previously written comments:



As a person who makes my living as a TV producer/director/cameraman, as well as an enthusiastic adult ballet student/performer, I am a good person to understand both sides of this controversy. I do NOT shoot school performances, but have acted as the interface person with the guy who does shoot ours.


There are two distinct versions of ballet video shooting, and it's important to understand the difference. One is a full commercial production with a director in a truck who instructs several cameras on what to shoot via headphones. These are the videos of big company performances and you should expect and demand excellence in them. The other is hiring a local guy to do his best shooting a school performance with one or two cameras. Since the only way to affect a big-company video shoot is to boycott the product if it is terrible (and tell everyone here to do the same), let's talk about how a local company or school can get the best video for their money.


-First, you can generally assume the camera person you hire wants to do a good job for you. The disparaging remarks in this thread of how they are shooting for their peers rather than their client, or how they think they are shooting a football game are inappropriate. If you really feel the video professional you hire is acting that way, fire them and start over. However, it is rare to find a video shooter who specializes in dance, so be prepared to meet with your chosen cameraman in advance and educate them about your expectations.


-Before you meet with your cameraman, decide what those expectations are, remembering that the physics of lens optics must be respected (a shot can't be both wide and tight at the same time). A normal TV frame is 4 units wide for every 3 units high. That means if your frame covers the entire stage, a lot of extra height will be incorporated and lots of empty space within the frame. A wing-wide shot will not show the detail of a dancer's pointe work. If the corps de ballet is onstage posing in B-Plus or gently waving their arms while the principal dancers are doing a pas de deux, do you want the camera to include everyone or concentrate on the couple actually dancing?


-Dance is the only activity I can think of that features feet, so be very clear in conveying the message that the tightest shot you want incorporates a head-to-toe view of everyone who is actively dancing. If that is a solo, that's easy. Couples doing a pas de deux are a bit harder because choreography might lead them to opposite sides of the stage, then come back together. Cameramen are taught "don't play the trombone" which means don't keep zooming in and out. Dance frequently requires lots of zooming to keep the frame as tight as possible when two dancers are together but also include them as they separate, so tell your cameraman its OK to zoom as much as he needs to.


-Although it would be ideal, it is unrealistic to expect your cameraman to attend rehearsals unless he is being paid to do so. We have ours shoot the final dress rehearsal plus all performances. Since our dancers always seem to get better with each show and the cameraman learns the traps we've set in the choreography, generally the final performance becomes the base for the finished video. The artistic director reviews each taping so she can suggest solutions to problems and make sure the camera is capturing the dances as desired. Also, sometimes an earlier perfomance of a certain number must be cut into the finished production if someone flubs something in the final performance used for the finished DVD.


-Unless you can afford a true multi-camera production (with director and video switcher), you need to be aware of the technical limitations of shooting with only one camera and perhaps consider adjusting your entrances and exits to accomodate that reality. If the camera is pointed at a couple taking their bows and exiting stage-right, perhaps the new dance entering stage left might start as a pose without music to allow for a quick camera reset rather than immediately rocketing onstage from the left wing. The camera can only do one thing at a time.


-Discuss how long each act is so tape changes can be planned in advance. Tapes should be changed at intermissions or during extended blackouts. Depending on what format is being shot, modern video tapes are always at least 30 minutes long, so this should be relatively easy to accomplish.


-Don't forget audio! If a camera is only plugged into the sound system, you'll miss audience ambiance, noisy pointe shoes, and applause. A separate mic is needed to capture those elements, but will not be very good acquring the music so the two sources will need to be mixed together.


-Talk to several potential video contractors before selecting one. Don't choose strictly on price unless quality doesn't matter to you. Be sure to look at all aspects of the service provided. Our shooter delivers a quick turnaround DVD immediately after each show so dancers can check their performances, the artistic director can look at both the dancing and quality of shooting, and we have something to view at the cast party. He uses 2 cameras, one locked off on a proscenium wide shot, while he actively shoots the other camera as tight as is appropriate. He records both cameras for insurance, but runs them through a small video switcher into what we hope is the final mixed recording (editing later costs money). Whenever his tight shot gets him trapped, he can dissolve to the wide shot to recover. That system works really well for a small budget production.


-Once you find someone who respects your wishes and shoots in the style you want, cherish him, praise him, and hire him again! It is far easier to have someone with experience learn the nuance of your desires than to start from scratch each time you mount a show.


There are lots more elements in creating a wonderful video, but this should be a good starting point. I look forward to moving this thread in a positive direction instead of a rant against cameramen.


This post has been edited by BarreTalk: Dec 2 2006, 01:07 PM

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