How to professionally film a dance show or school play

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Stage shows and theatre productions can seem a tricky thing to film. There are issues to contend with such as face moving action, stage lighting and sound recording problems.  So when you are faced with filming a more amateur type show, these issues are only magnified.

The first thing you should do is get your hands on the best camera possible. Things to look out for are the ability to manually control the focus, white balance and exposure of the camera, another great thing to have is continuous recording, as some photography-based cameras (DSLRs and mirrorless) are limited to a 30-minute record length.   Also if your camera has sound inputs, this will enable you to take a feed from the sound desk.  You will also want to beg, steal or borrow a tripod with a fluid video head.

Then thinks about the positioning for your filming.You want to be able to see all the action and at the same time not be too far away from the stage, as the further away you are the more you will have to zoom.If you can be raised to at least the same height of the stage, this will help you look over the heads of the audience (just in case they are  standing or holding up phones, etc)

Before the show started, try to find out as much information about the show as you can.  Things may include if there are any narrators?  Where will the main action take place?  How long will the show be? Will any of the action occur off-stage? The more you find out, the better prepared you will be to capture the show smoothly and professionally.

You are almost ready to film!  Just a few more considerations before you start.Make sure you have enough capacity on your memory cards to film the entire show and make sure they are formatted in camera and ready to use. Check you have enough battery power or preferably plug the camera into the mains.

Last thing, how are you going to capture clean professional sound?  Is there a sound desk and who is wearing microphones?  It is always best to run your own microphone to a prominent position near the stage if you can use several discreet microphones or sound capture devices that are even better.  Afterward the more sound options you have the better, as you can chop or mix them together for the best sounding production.

Now is the time how to film a school play show. If you can use a second static camera to capture the entire performance area, this will enable you to zoom in on the main camera for tighter shots of the action. If you miss anything on the operated camera,  everything will be captured on the second camera. Make sure you pan, zoom and tilt smoothly and slowly throughout.  Always slightly underexpose the image rather than making the image too bright as the thing is easier to fix in post-production.  Another great tip is to use an external monitor rather than the onboard camera viewfinder or LCD screen, the larger the image the better (obviously not a 50 inch TV!) As you will be able to clearly keep an eye on focus, exposure, color, and framing.

Editing and delivering the show is the last thing to do. Keep the editing simple, cutting out any long periods where nothing happens and generally tidying it up.  Delivery can still be on DVD if required, however, to make the most of 4K or HD it is best to provide the copies either on a USB memory stick or as a download.  This will depend if you are charging the parents for the copies of the show and whether you are able to offer technical support for any parents with problems with playback.

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