Video Tips: Documenting Your Work

By Lindsay Gauthier

November 1, 2019, PUBLISHED BY IN DANCE

1. Communicate with your videographer. Let them know what specific preferences you have. The more they know, the better equipped they are to meet your needs. If there is anything out of the ordinary or unexpected in your performance, like dancers entering the audience, let your videographer know ahead of time so they can plan for it and make better decisions.

2. Think about camera placement. For instance, if the theater has a steep rake, a camera placed in the back row will be looking down onto the dance. This tends to create short bodies and a flat dance. A camera that is close will give the most dynamic and pleasing image, but it may not be wide enough to capture the whole stage. Maybe something in the middle is preferable. It is best to consider how you want to utilize your video in the end, and then make your decisions for camera placement accordingly.

3. Reserve a place for your videographer before you sell tickets. This way you won’t be forced to give them an unpleasing angle of view.

4. Try to avoid black costumes on black backgrounds. This can lead to dancers’ bodies disappearing into their environment.

5. Provide enough light for the camera to capture the dance well. Sometimes we design dark lighting to create a mood for our audience. It’s great for the live experience, and yet dark lighting can make it hard for the camera to capture a clear image. If you know you have a dark lighting design, try bumping up the lights a bit during the performance that will be filmed.

6. Cameras can also have a hard time with extremely contrasting light, either underexposing dark areas or over exposing bright areas. For instance, if you design a scene with a dancer in a spotlight in conjunction with other important dancers in semi darkness the contrast will be more extreme on the camera than it is to your eyes. Try balancing the contrast a bit more in these scenes so the camera can capture all of the dancers.

7. Negotiate with your videographer ahead of time to receive the raw files of your video footage and plan to store them properly. Highly compressed videos (like dvds) don’t make a good archival format. Ask for raw or high quality copies of your footage, and keep two copies of your video files in two different locations. This is the best way to make sure your archives are preserved and safe.

8. Video documentation of your work is important. Translating the energy of a live performance to a 2D video is challenging. Quality video documentation can make the camera disappear and the dance really come through. Having quality video can be the deciding factor in how an outside grant panel or presenter thinks about your work. Grant panels need to feel the work, not just see the work from a distance. So don’t sacrifice your video documentation. If done well, it can provide untold awards.

This article appeared in the November 2019 issue of In Dance.

Rapt Productions has been filming dance in the Bay Area for over two decades. Their mission is to empower companies, arts organizations, and educational institutions to best enhance and promote their work through compelling media content. Artistic Director, Lindsay Gauthier, is a retired dancer and choreographer turned filmmaker who has been filming dance for over eleven years, working with companies such as the San Francisco Ballet, Alonzo King LINES Ballet, and the San Francisco Ethnic Dance Festival. She also directs, produces, and edits dance films, promotional films, and documentaries. Her dance films have screened nationally and internationally, including in New York, Amsterdam, Los Angeles, and Vancouver. Gauthier is also the Creative Producer of the San Francisco Dance Film Festival's Co-Laboratory project, in which she guides and facilitates collaborations between professional filmmakers and professional dance choreographers to make short dance films. Lindsay Gauthier and Rapt Productions are dedicated to supporting the Bay Area dance community through archival, creative, and promotional dance video creation.