As the school year nears its end, it is common to encounter an abundance of performances where your children or siblings will be front and center in various displays of personal talent (this same phenomenon also occurs right before Christmas break). Whether it’s a choir concert, a play, a dance or any other thing you could possibly think of, you will probably want it on tape. Now you could buy the professional DVDs that they sell in the lobby if you have $25-35 to spare and don’t mind seeing more than just your child or sibling for a good hour to two hours of video, but you could also film it yourself. I chose to do this for my sister’s most recent dance recital (which was, coincidentally, today). Of course, I’m no expert; in fact, I’m about as much an amateur as most of you reading. However, I do have some experience in trying to get that ‘perfect’ video and would like to share my experience with you. So, while this will by no means be your guide to making professional performance DVDs, I hope that you can use it to treasure your child or sibling’s big moment on stage no matter their level or desired skill.
The first thing you’re going to want to remember is that this is amateur filming. You’re not going to get television or movie quality stuff here. If you have a lot of home videos already, you’ll understand, but it’s always good to remind yourself (I know I have to)! Next, I always like to be prepared. Ask your child or sibling for a program or schedule before you get to the actual performance. See if you can go to a dress rehearsal first. Ask when your child or sibling has a solo or a big part. Coming prepared will make for smoother filming so when your quality is a little out of whack, you don’t have to keep watch for your little star and adjust your focus.
Now that you’ve come prepared, it’s important to also come early. The early bird gets the worm or, in this case, the better seat. You don’t have to be sitting front and center; in fact, it’s probably better to avoid sitting in the front row at all (unless you enjoy craning your neck to see the stage). Truth be told, the best place to film is in the back or in the balcony. Zooming with your camera will allow you to see what you can’t with the naked eye at such a distance. It also gives you to opportunity to film without disturbing other audience members who are more interested in watching the show than recording it. You can choose your side based on the knowledge of the show that you attained from you child or sibling, but I enjoy filming from the center as it gives me more freedom to adjust to movement and change (something much more common in a dance recital than say a choir concert).
For the more advanced videographers out there, it is important to remember that the lighting used for stage production is done specifically to please the eye, not the lens. You’re going to get places where parts of the stage are either underexposed or overexposed while other are at a proper exposure. White balancing is easiest if you just set it to a specific setting and keep it that way. I used one of my preset indoor white balances on my camera because there was nothing white available for me to balance it manually. Anything that involves movement will be hard to stay in focus. You might try and put your camera in auto-focus so that it will change as the performers do, but DO NOT DO THIS! You camera will pull in and out of focus to find the right adjustment and a large part of your film will be the camera adjusting and not the performance.
A lot of this may seem like obvious information to some. To others, it might seem a bit incomplete. This is my personal learning experience that I’m sharing with you, so it is definitely incomplete. As I said, I’m learning, and I love to share what I learn with others. If you do too, be sure to send me any of your performance filming tricks and tips. You can leave a comment below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I hope this was somewhat helpful, and I hope one day I can look back on this and see how much I’ve grown. AND if you’d like to see me explore anything else in the film realm, you can comment or email me as well!!