Monday, December 17, 2007

Photographing & Videotaping

Photographing & Videotaping Dance Recitals

Taking photographs and videotaping dance recitals is a touchy subject with parents that one can talk about in continuous circles. If you are a dance studio owner or dance teacher, you know that it is impossible to make everyone happy. Hear are some thoughts about capturing those special moments in dance recitals.

How do you explain to parents why they cannot take pictures or video their child's dance during the performance? One issue is safety. In today's times, you do not necessarily know that every person videotaping in the audience is a loving parent. You never know exactly who is sitting in the audience and what their purpose of being there is. Another safety issue is that a flash going off in dancers' eyes can be dangerous. A flash can be disorientating, distracting, and could cause a serious accident. There is also the occasional safety issue of the audience. There have been stories told how parents got into fist fights in the audience over rude behavior. It is amazing how some people can be so distracting and inconsiderate, such as blocking other people's views, walking up to the edge of the stage during a show, making distracting motions to get their child's attention, or standing up in the row, aisle, or on a seat. If an out of control situation happens, due to people in the audience taking pictures or videotaping, it is appropriate to ban the privilege from future recitals. Many times after experiencing that kind of craziness, parents will thank you for taking efforts to make their viewing experience of the recital more pleasurable.

Other reasons to prohibit photography and videography is to prevent stealing of choreography. Sometimes it does happen that someone will buy a ticket at the door and come into your show to video your choreography and then later use it as their own. I have had this happen to me. One of my pieces I choreographed was performed by another dance school. This also happened to a friend of mine. I was judging a dance competition and happened to view her choreography being performed by another dance studio. You can also remind the parents of your studio that when you buy a ticket to go see any theatre performance, you almost always are not allowed to record the performance. This is teaching proper theatre etiquette. Parents will quickly point out that you are not putting on a Broadway production of The Lion King, but don't be afraid to let them know how hard you have worked on every year's show.

A fair solution to offer parents is to allow them to only take pictures or videotape during dress rehearsal. Most of the time this satisfies everyone involved. Parents will actually get better views of the dance to record, since the audience is not filled with as many people. It will also get rid of all those annoying distractions for the actual show night. Parents can then sit back and enjoy the actual day of the show without being consumed with cameras and camcorders. You can also remind parents that they miss a lot of the show when they watch it through a viewfinder of a recording device. Even if you allow picture taking and videotaping during dress rehearsal, you should still offer a DVD of the performance. Often there are parents that later realize that their movie making abilities aren't as good as a professional. I know from personal experience with my camcorder, that when taping a dance recital, the stage lights interfere greatly with the picture. A professional has the knowledge of working with the bright lights and other problems of videotaping in a theatre setting. If you decide to allow videotaping during your show, you may suggest that people only videotape from the balcony.

When hiring or choosing a videographer, there is a few things to remember. View samples of their previous work and get recommendations. Instruct the videographer to capture all the students in each dance. Make sure he or she tapes in a wide angel and does a couple pans of quick close ups. Make sure to warn parents that the produced videos are not recordings of "their child," but of everyone. Parents do forget this sometimes. Ask the videographer to use multiple cameras. You may also ask the videographer to have an option on the DVD to watch the dances all in widescreen. You can also ask for the dances to be filmed in widescreen and then in the corner of the screen have pop up windows of close ups of each child's face. Finally, make sure your videographer attends the dress rehearsal, so he or she knows the course of the show and can note entrances and exits. You may also request that the person also tapes the dress rehearsal, so that if there is footage accidentally missed or equipment malfunctions, you have a backup. One year during one of the dance recitals I produced, the first dance after intermission was left off the video, because the guy went outside for a smoke. It is ok to videotape the recital yourself, if you have the capabilities and knowledge. It is also easy to burn copies of the DVD's yourself. Just make sure you do a really good job and provide a superior end product.

Don't feel bad about telling your customers about how most of the money goes towards paying the videographer for their time and production work afterwards. Parents must understand that it takes lots of money to produce a recital. Often dance studio owners hardly make a profit, if not at all, on recital DVD's and/or the entire show.

A word about professional rectial photographs. Almost all dance studios arrange a picture day before their recital, where students can have a professional photograph of themself and their class taken. Choose a good photgrapher that delivers quality products, but doesn't cost an arm and a leg. Make the picture process quick and painless for families and offer preordered packages to make the process on your end easier once the photos are finished. Make sure students receive their pictures before the end of your recital season. As far as videos, there is no choice but for students to receive their DVD's after the recital is well over. Announce a pick up day and time when families can pick up their videos at the dance studio.

Lastly, the recital videos and professional photographs should be remembered as a lasting memory. Parents often comment that students watch the DVD all summer. I know I like to go back and watch myself as a child on my old VHS recital tapes. My own children enjoy my old dance recital videos as well as their own. As children grow into adults, they will appreciate the photos and movies of their younger dance years to look back on.

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