tips for creating promotional dance videos for the internet

Doug Fox, of GreatDance.com, offers these tips for creating dance videos for the web. While he is speaking specifically of promotional videos for dance companies (not necessarily tango), many of his tips apply to any kind of dance performance intended for internet broadcast.

1) Optimal Video Length
3-5 minutes is a good video length.

2) A Good Tripod is a Must
Use a tripod to shoot your video. You'll end up with a much smoother image, which can make a big difference when you convert your video file to a compressed format for the Internet.

3) Use Semi-Professional Video Camcorder or Better
If at all possible, use a semi-professional video camcorder. The recorded image will be better than that of consumer camcorders.

4) Videographer Should Know Choreography Upfront
The videographer should have a good idea of the choreography upfront - they usually don't. And the videographer should know which sections of the dance piece you want to include in your promotional video. The problem with many dance videos is that the videographer is always guessing what will happen next. This approach leads to many bad videos. The most common mistake is that a videographer zooms in for a close-up and then says "Oops" as the dancer raisers her arms, and her limbs are cut out of the shot. Then the videographer zooms back out in a hurry and the final result looks amateurish.

5) The Perils of Theatrical Lighting
Theatrical lighting is a major contributor to making dance videos look terrible. If at all possible, videotape your performance when there's no audience. Increase the stage lights, limit spot lights and limit multi-color gels. Just simple even lighting that is bright enough for your camera but not too bright. Since shooting in audience-free theaters is not usually possible, work with lighting designer to see if you can make slight changes in lighting to improve video quality. And also experiment with exposure settings on your camera. (I'll be writing about exposure, focus, zooming, white balance and other important camera settings in detail in my publication).

6) Get Full-Frame Shots of Dancers
You'll probably want a combination of a) full stage shots and b) full-framed dancer shots. For example, you'll want a wide shot of the stage to give viewers the big picture. But when it comes to the Internet, you want a lot of video shots that feature a dancer or dancers taking up a large percentage of the video image. Video on the Internet is usually watched in a small window. If dancers only take up a small percentage of your video clip, then they will appear like ants when they are watched on the Internet. So full body shots are ideal as long as you're not cutting-off any limbs - although cutting-off limbs is a creative choice and I've seen some good creative videos that don't always capture entire arms and legs.

7) Close-Ups Can Work Too
Close-ups of specific parts of a dancer's body can work in certain circumstances. For example, doing a close-up of a dancer's legs will easily work for Celtic dances. It just depends upon the type of dance and the choreography.

8) Make Introductory Text Short and Sweet
Keep introductory text slides or overlays real short, real simple and include a soundtrack from the beginning of the video. Of course, you can ignore my advice and be more creative. But if you decide to be creative, it ought to be very compelling to avoid problem in following item.

9) Get Right to the Action
Don't go for the slow build-up when editing your video. Internet users have itchy trigger fingers. If they're bored they'll stop watching in a fraction of a second. So start your video with some energy and show your dancers having fun (if appropriate).

10) Intro Video Interview with Choreographer and Dancers
Better yet, do simple video intro of choreographer and/or dancers talking about what viewers are about to see. This could be 15 to 30 seconds. There's nothing like personal touch when it comes to the Internet.

11) Don't Make Shots Too Short
There seems to be a tendency in the promo videos I've watched to cut very quickly from one shot to the next. For example, a video may include 2 seconds of one performance and then 2 seconds from a different performance. I find this very irksome. Why not let me see at least 15 seconds or more of each performance so I can enjoy the dancing just a bit?

12) Skip the Transitions
Don't use corny transitions in between each shot. Just edit your video so the viewer is taken from one shot to the next without any fades, wipes, page peels or other transitions. And definitely, don't do any split screens - this very rarely works on the Internet where viewing space is at a premium.

13) Use One Sound Track and Cut on the Beat
Whether your promotional video includes footage from one or multiple dance pieces, most video clips I've seen include only one sound track. This makes for a less jarring viewing experience. And on the subject of music, cutting from one shot to the next while synched to the rhythm is often a pretty good idea unless there's some creative reason that you don't want to do this. (This only applies to performances with more than one video camera or when you're editing a video that features multiple dance performances.)

14) Upload Videos to Popular Video Sharing Sites
Upload your videos to popular video sharing sites such as YouTube. YouTube offers three important benefits: 1) It gets a huge amount of traffic, 2) you can embed your YouTube videos on your own site or blog, and 3) other people can embed your video on their own websites and blogs, which means you'll get more exposure for your video.

15) Convert Your Videos Properly for YouTube
It is very important that before uploading your video to YouTube and other video sharing sites that your video is properly converted to the appropriate file format. For example, YouTube has specific recommendations for how to convert your videos that you can read here. If you follow these guidelines, your online videos will look significantly better. I've just started experimenting with YouTube. I uploaded some dance videos pretty much following the YouTube recommendations and there was usually very little degradation in the quality of the videos.