Stage and Dance Recital Video Panel

Stage and Dance Recital Video Panel

By Cory Bretz

It’s Show Day and backstage the performers nervously check their costumes, mentally rehearse their moves, and visualize their hopefully stunning performances. Besides the usual pre-show jitters, they know they only have one chance to do it right when the curtain goes up.

And they’re not alone. Also waiting patiently are BCPVA videographers, cameras poised to capture the moves, the dancers, and the excitement of the entire show. But unlike a Hollywood dance number, these digital moviemakers know that they too have only one chance to get it right when they shoot this performance. The performers and their families are counting on them so they can later relive today’s performance again on TV in the comfort of their own living rooms.

The cameras roll, the MC says, “Ladies and Gentlemen…”, and these shooters get ready for several hours of active dance routines. But already the videographers notice a problem on stage.

BCPVA Dance Video Panel

Photo: Stage and Dance Recital Video Expert Panelists (L-R): John Romein, John Lenihan, Ryan Catherwood, Shawn Lam, and moderator David Cooperstone discuss how they produce high quality dance videos for their clients.

The high intensity lights pour down onto the stage floor creating a patchwork of white circles surrounded by pitch-black darkness. The first dancer stands between the pools of light, oblivious to the fact that they are almost invisible in the darkness. To an amateur video operator with a consumer camcorder, this would be a disaster and the tape would be almost black with nothing moving. But to these pros, it’s simply a matter of managing exposure controls on their professional digital video cameras. “We always use our manual controls for dance shows because the lighting can be so uneven. That way, we can still get a great shot of the dancer, even in situations where the lighting is beyond our control”, says John Romein from Techno Monkey Video.

Sound is another area where there are multiple challenges. BCPVA president Shawn Lam captures a variety of sound sources, all balance through a mixer and recorded simultaneously to ensure that performances sounds as good as they are going to look on DVD. “We even use a special microphone to pick up tap shoe sounds because others mics further back will create an out-of-synch delay effect”, says Lam. “It just won’t seem right otherwise.”

Depending on budgets, clients may opt for either single camera or multiple camera configurations. Pro videographers know that for seasoned dancers they need to capture a certain mix of wide shots that show the dance choreography and closer shots that reflect the dancer as a person. When there’s young children dancing, the parents always appreciate more close ups and BCPVA shooters adjust their style. Multi-camera pro videographer teams will have worked this out in advance and each shooter will know whether to catch the wide shot or the close ups. Single camera shooters have more pressure because they need to intuitively know when to get the wide shot and when to go in for the close up. BCPVA member John Lenihan has 25 years experience and does many single camera dance shoots. “Besides experience, the reason my dance studio clients are so happy with my work is because I love dance, I dance myself, and I when I’m shooting, I can usually anticipate a dancer’s next move so I frame up the video perfectly.”

Back at the video studio, Ryan Catherwood uses Final Cut Pro to combine the various camera angles together. Other videographers use editing solutions such as Sony Vegas, Casablanca, Adobe Premiere Pro, and Edius. These pro editing solutions are designed to handle multiple camera footage in a synchronized way so the final product looks great. Editing styles can vary from one videographer to another so BCPVA members ask clients lots of questions about how they imagine the completed video will look. Says Catherwood, a progressive new video artist, “I cut footage both to the beat of the music and the natural transition points in the performance.”

Once the video is edited, authored to DVD with a chaptered menu system, it gets duplicated, with some orders numbering in the thousands of copies. The DVDs are packaged in stylishly labelled cases and sold directly to dancers and fans or through the respective dance studio. These pro videographers know that their product is meeting their customer’s needs initially because of positive feedback and compliments and also later because satisfied dance studios will book them again for next year.

When you’ve worked your buns off getting ready for the show of your life, make sure your videographer takes their performance as seriously as you do. Get a BCPVA professional videographer. For more information about professional videography visit or email

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BC Professional Videographers Association is a non profit organization that exists to support the professional development, creativity, and entrepreneurial growth of its members; while serving the growing need for professional video production.