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Ballet Talk for Dancers

DVD/Videos: Video taping Skills & Nightmares

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To do closeups well, you have to know the choreography, and also know what's important to show in the choreogrpahy. For example, you need to know when a jump or a lift will happen, so you can zoom out just before it. You can't get that just from watching a couple of dress rehearsals. The camera angles to use should ideally be as well planned out as the lighting.

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---- i edited out what i had originally said because i realised it had already been covered by some of the other posts----

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... and regarding the zooming... it, too, can be distracting. A good dance videographer (if you're lucky enough to work in an area that has such professionals) will use the music or choreographic catalysts to open or close in the shot... constant adjusting to minimally improve the picture is not usually a good idea, but a videographer who is afraid to zoom is deadly as well. While dress rehearsals can be a problem if they aren't a true dress, they can still be good for the wing-to-wing lock-down reference shot... even if not useable as a source to cut to when the close-up camera gets "trapped" (I love that expression! So true!).


Another thing you can do to help is to introduce your videographer to your technical staff ahead of the shoot so that the video needs can be dealt with in a timely manner rather than in the last-minute make-it-work style. News crews tend to work this way, stage crews prefer not to. Sometimes you can get someone very professional who is just not used to the back-stage culture and they can make a lot of unnecessary trouble.


Also make sure the video crew has clearance from the front-of-house staff as well, so that there are no issues of blocked visibility for the paying audience, fire law infractions, etc. The video crew should be informed that they need to be set up with all their cables dressed before the house opens, and they should realize that they'll need to work in the dark, without distracting the audience with their flashlights, conversation, etc. It all seems obvious, but it's not typical in the standard video production culture where the video production is usually the most important thing happening and whatever it can do to attract attention to itself just adds to it's publicity value.


And then, afterward, if you need to leave the theater quickly (to avoid additional labor charges), it helps to get the house cleared quickly and to let your stage crew know the video crew could use full work lights in the house to pack up. Striking by flashlight is one of my least favorite "dues" to pay.

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The over-arching theme of this entire thread is that good video costs money. It is unrealistic to expect that a parent-shot production is going to come close to professional quality. Buying a video camera does not turn you into Laslo Kovacs.


The secondary theme is that all video professionals are not created equal. Specific dance experience is necessary to achieve the best result. A guy might do a fine job with news, sports, documentaries, weddings, or anything else and still not be able to do a decent job on your production.


Finally, coordination with the theatre's technical crew is necessary. The human eye is very good at adjusting for dark spots on stage and strange colors. Cameras faithfully reproduce these flaws.


For example, in our recent production of Giselle, the theatre tech was having a bad week and everything suffered. The lighting in front of Giselle's doorstep must have been a full f-stop below the surrounding areas. A lot of mime and other action goes on there, but it was lost to the video. The lights were not set to accomodate high lifts, and every time Albrecht lifted Giselle, her head disappeared in the dark.


I don't want to turn this thread into a rant about theatre tech issues, because both of these issues should have been spotted during the tech rehearsal and it is the responsibility of the ballet company to get past the house staff's "bad week", but it is illustrative of what can go wrong if you don't pay attention. The shame is that this production was the best our organization has ever staged and we shot it with 4 cameras for a fall airing on the local public TV station.


A couple excerpts are available on our website and I'll post more when the edit gets completed. (I might even do one concentrating on the flaws, so everyone can see what I'm talking about)

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Link please?



And where is the smiley for finger-nail biting?

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I just added a couple more video clips from GISELLE to the Academy of Classical Ballet's website, and the guy who is pulling the clips from the edited TV show says he'll have 2 or 3 more available later this weekend. I'll try to add them to the site as soon as he sends them to me. Since the school is in hiatus until at least September, I might as well do something creative with the bandwidth we are paying for!


In my last post, I promised a clip that shows technical flaws. The best/worst example is the "peasant pas de deux". Every time the ballerina gets lifted, her head gets lost in the dark of the bad lighting. At the very end of the clip, check out the black hole in front of Giselle's house where Duke Courtland is miming with Giselle's mother. (If you can see in the dark, that's me playing Duke Corpulent, ... uh I mean "Courtland".) :shrug:


Go to the website:


and click on "video clips"


Technical information:

-Shot on DVCam

-3 cameras:

- - centered, in back of the last row of seating

- - low angle, row 3 center audience

- - high angle from the sound booth

-edited on Adobe Premiere

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  • 6 months later...



Although I am the executive producer of our ballet performance videos and responsible for getting them shot, edited, and produced to broadcast standards, when I dance I pass off the daily duties to others.


Some background: Last year my partner and I did a free standing pas de deux SECRET GARDEN prior to the beginning of our main production of GISELLE. The artistic director realized there were no real dancing roles in GISELLE that were appropriate for us, but wanted to show off her most senior dancers (and hook us in to doing character roles in the main feature). The GISELLE video has been finished for awhile and is awaiting approval to air on the local PBS station, but our pas was cut from the TV version due to time constraints. So yesterday I decided to edit the piece...


Imagine my surprise to find that 4 of our 5 cameramen didn't bother to hit the RECORD button during the blackout, which meant they missed the curtain opening and first few notes of music. Even more amazing is that they recorded both days of performances and didn't learn from their mistake the 2nd day. With all the pre-planning, discussions of expectations, and review of previous ballet videos we do, I thought my productions were exempt from this kind of stupidity.


&%$!@* cameramen!

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That is quite frustrating, BarreTalk, and I'm sorry that it happened.... :yes:

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