During the filming of our dance commercial, we came to realize that making a dance video presented its own set of challenges. The whole process is different, and certain elements that generally stay in the background become the main focus. That’s why we thought it would be a perfect opportunity to talk about how to plan and shoot your own choreographed video and deal with all the issues that tend to arise in this type of project. Shall we?
Work with references
Making dance videos can be done in many styles, so make sure to browse the web and watch different videos and ads that are made with choreography. That will help you get a clear view of the style you need, like whether to make a one-shot video or with different takes and cuts.
Music is the core
The next step is choosing a song. A dance video revolves around music, so you need to choose your music in the pre-production stage.
Frame blocking & staging
Shooting a choreographed video is like a dance between the character and the camera. In this dance, the lead is the movement of your characters through the scene, aka blocking. The 'follow' is the movement of the camera in relation to blocking, also called staging.
For example, in our production, as the dancer moves across the apartment, we follow him with a tracking shot to match his fluid movements and add excitement to the shot.
For our production, we used a Steadicam operator with a full Steadicam rig, but if you’re on a budget, you can go DIY and use a gimbal.
Your staging should also take into consideration the camera angle since it has a lot of impact on the final result. If you shoot from a higher angle, you can catch the excitement of the movements, while a low camera position lengthens the legs and makes elevation look higher.
If you decide you're going to film in several locations, you should figure out which parts of the song your dancer switches locations. You can do it with a simple cut, a practical transition, an in-camera transition like a whip pan or with your actor stepping in and out of frame.
Set action points
Now that you have your song and you know your frame blocking, it’s time to plan out your shots. Listen to the music and try to find “action points”, moments where there’s a change in tempo, instruments or vocals.
Think about the action or dance moves that you want your dancer to perform at that moment. Utilize the different rooms, structures and furniture in the space to motivate the dance. Play around with the environment to really bring everything to life. This process is better done together with your dancer or choreographer (or both) because they can give you excellent ideas that could improve the choreography.
Rehearsals, rehearsals and more rehearsals
It’s essential to take the time to sit down with your dancer and communicate your vision. Talk about the general feeling you want to convey through the dance, the energy, the mood and the pace. Go over the marks and action points you’ve planned and start building and rehearsing the choreography together. A choreographed video should be meticulously planned.
Take some cutaway shots of the dancing to have more flexibility when editing. You never know when you'll need to cut away from your planned shot.
A good creator is always flexible, so try to be open for changes on set, listen to your dancer and fellow creators to get the best results when things don't go as planned.
That’s a wrap
Hope you found these tips for shooting choreographed videos useful. Join us for more advice and helpful suggestions that could improve your filmmaking skills. Until then, stay creative!