Quick Lessons – DSLR Live Music Filming at Dance Venues

A few very quick lessons that I learned about filming where dancers and musicians meet.

Lesson 1 – Watch out for flailing limbs/Let dancers know you are there. As photographers, we often do not have hulking gear as videographers do to warn dancers flailing dancers. When you see me from the back when I’m filming, I’m pretty sure I just look like my ordinary self schmuck self standing awkwardly (not unusual in my day to day habitat). In actuality, I’m trying to hold a very expensive but fragile camera very, very still WHILE keeping my peripheral vision aware of incoming bodies and arms.

What I’ve learned from those first wallet-defying experience is that instead of starting your recording then moving out of the way of dancers while filming, I now try to stake claim to a piece of dance floor real-state and making eye contact with the dancers around me. This let’s them know that, “hey i’m here”, and that I’m attempting to film around them. Doing this the hope is that dancers make a conscience effort of not crashing on top of me. Most of the time this is just enough to start filming without having to move so much.

The following video of Patrick Tevlin starts off with me tilting my head and torso (and therefore my arms which is attached to my camera) trying to avoid a not one but two couples.

Patrick Tevlin – Toronto Blues Dance – Blueberry Hill from Hamfats.ca on Vimeo.

Don’t stand so close to the speakers. Unless you have a directional microphone attached to your DSLR, more than likely you are just using your on camera mic. Here’s a very easy lesson that I seem to have a hard time remembering – don’t stand right next to the speakers. 🙁 Just don’t do it.

Tyler @ Dovercourt Blues from Hamfats.ca on Vimeo.

Ginger St. James @ Cadillac Lounge

Ginger St. James @ Cadillac Lounge from Hamfats.ca on Vimeo.

Take some time and frame the shot. This is my curse and dilemma – I want to dance AND take photos AND take videos. Sometimes you have to sacrifice some time away from one of those activities so that you come out with something of quality.

The following video is of one of my favorite bands of all time – the Asylum Street Spankers. I was so AMPED just to hear them live that I just kind of ran up and pressed record on my camera without even thinking of what I was filming. This could have been a really great video memory of a memorable weekend experience but instead it’s below mediocre in terms of quality.

BluesShout 2010 – The Asylum Street Spankers from Hamfats.ca on Vimeo.

The right lens. Most dance venues are badly lit. Because of this, you need some great lens which will allow in some light without a direct source on the subject. Your best bet really are prime lens such as 35mm or 50mm in the 1.4/1.8 variety. I have not use a super wide angle lens but I assume they would be just as great (24mm 1.4). Trust me, your zoom lens will not cut it for most dance venues for video.

Guitar Playing @ Cadillac Lounge from Hamfats.ca on Vimeo.

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