Five Simple Tips for Shooting Better Dance Studio Videos

By Jon Koerber, President of ClassJuggler Dance.

We have written articles on our ClassJuggler blog about Why You Should Be Using YouTube to Promote Your School and How to Promote Your Business With YouTube that, together, beg the question, “But how do I make my school’s videos worth watching?” Indeed, the next step after setting up a YouTube or Vimeo channel for your dance studio is to start shooting. If you’re not a professional moviemaker, the following five tips will start you on the path to making videos that will be more professional, that look good, and that others will want to watch.

Tip #1 – Remember that content is king.

Here’s the most important thing of all – the thing that will make your videos more watchable than the slick work of a professional video director-editor. It’s this: Content matters. What you shoot is more important than how you shoot it.

Sure, great production values (like good lighting, good camera work, a great location, etc.) can make your video look better, but does it matter how amazing it looks if no one cares about the video’s subject matter?

So, start by thinking about your viewer; who are they and what do they want to see?

For most studios, you have three primary audience groups: students, the parents/family of students, and prospective new customers. Good video content for these audiences might include such things as a tour of the facilities (good for prospects), recitals, and competitions.

Regarding those last two: most people like to see videos of themselves and of their kids, so you’ll at least have virtually guaranteed viewership with these kinds of videos.

Tip #2 – Give your video basic structure 

You can make your videos much more appealing by providing a sense of introduction to your “story” and a sense of closure: an exit.

Sometimes, you can introduce your content within the video, such as a short explanation (On the teacher: “Here’s Haley’s recital showcasing what she learned in her level-two tap dance classes!” and then pan over to Haley’s performance). But you can also take advantage of videography conventions to introduce or exit from your video:

· Fade in/Fade out – This is coming in gently to your video from a black screen and fading the final image to black again.

· Titles – This is the lettering you can edit into your video after you’ve shot it to introduce your video subject matter, as this example shows. A good closing title is something that “brands” the video as part of your school – such as your logo – or even a short advertisement: “Learn more about Brooklyn’s On Your Toes dance studio at (555) 555-1212” for instance.

· Transition effects – If your video has a few “scenes” – different locations or different performers, for instance – that follow one another, you can easily create dissolves, wipes, or other effects that smoothly take your viewer from one scene to the next.

All of these video effects are available in just about any video editing program, even free video editors, such as iMovie, WeVideo and Windows Movie Maker.

Tip #3 – Be concise

Just like a good story teller does not bore you with details that make the story unnecessarily long, be concise in what you leave in your video. Get right into the content by cutting out the boring, unnecessary parts, like the 30 seconds of audience chatter while waiting for the next performer to actually get on stage.

Tip #4 – Show, don’t tell

Take full advantage of the inherently visual medium of video. A picture is worth a thousand words, right? This applies to making a video.
For example, if you’re making a video to introduce your school to potential new customers, don’t sit in front of the camera and talk about how great your school is; show it to them! Get shots of the facilities and some of the class sessions. Or, rather than talking about your great ballet instructors, create a videotape introduction to them.

Tip #5 – Make it human

People like watching people. So, make certain that they can see the people you’re shooting.

Sure, start wide to establish the “scene” – to give your viewer a sense of the venue. But, then get in tight on your subjects. The parents and family members want to really see little Billy bustin’ his moves, which can be nearly impossible in a wide shot that captures all 35 performers at once, along with the audience and the ceiling. The dancers are just fuzzy dots, nearly unrecognizable to even their parents if you don’t get in closer.

After getting the wide shot, cut or zoom to smaller groups of the performers, or even pan from one performer – stay there a bit – and then pan the view over to the next performer, so that each one gets their big moment as the star of that moment.

But, by all means, get shooting!

If there’s one thing you know as a dance studio owner or dance instructor, it’s that practice makes perfect. Apply this to video shooting. Get used to capturing moments on video by shooting a lot. Maybe the bulk of what you shoot initially will not be very usable. But practicing with your camcorder will help you become comfortable with it so that, when the moment really counts, you will be giving your attention fully to the content of your shot rather than on the mechanics of the camcorder.

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