You’re making a dance video. What’s your look?

by | Jul 20, 2016 | Performance Video, Video Tip

In my many years of creating video with dance companies, venues and choreographers, I often hear the same questions. Or sometimes, it’s the lack of questions that lead me to ask more about a new video project!!

I totally get it. It’s hard to know exactly what kind of film shoot you’re looking for (especially if you are new to video). Our job at Nel Shelby Productions is to create the best dance video we can for exactly why you need video in the first place, so let’s talk video footage!


The first and most important thing to ask is: what are you using your video for?

Do you need a clear, quality archive of your choreography to teach future company members? Do you need a video excerpt of your dance to include in grant applications? Maybe you’re looking for a flashy promotional video to share with presenters of your tour or link to ticket sales from social media. Some of you might be making a dance specifically for film and want more of a cinematic look and feel.

It is so important to start by imagining what you’ll do with the video at the very end of our work together, and here’s why:

All of these video products require different strategies for actually filming your work!

Just like different gestures, movement styles and spacing communicate different choreographic ideas, different kinds of video shoots, locations for filming, equipment, and camera set-ups communicate differently in your final video.

Below are some starting points for determining what type of videography you need and why. Please feel free to contact us at if you have any questions or want a free 15-minute phone consultation!!

Wide Camera

This camera angle stays as wide as the action and captures all of the movement at your event: entrances & exits, set pieces, the overall choreography, all dancers, all the time. This kind of shoot is best for archival purposes and for grant applications – when presenters and grant-makers need to see the whole structure of your piece.

Close Camera

Typically edited with a wide camera angle, the close camera comes in closer to the action to highlight solos, duets or just zoom in on what’s happening in your dance. Close camera is perfect for capturing details in the choreography and makes for exciting sequences in promo videos. Mixing wide and close cameras is our top recommendation for sharing your work with presenters, VIPs, and booking and touring agents. Without a close camera angle, promotional videos for selling shows can sometimes lack excitement.

Half Body

This angle moves in even closer to capture emotion on the performers’ faces, subtle gestures, significant port de bras and more. You will not see a dancer’s full range of movement with this camera angle – but it’s great for emphasizing the emotional context of your work and helps create a cinematic quality.

Location, Location, Location

It’s also important to think about where you’re planning to film. Studio shoots are best for audition videos and in-process promo videos. For grant work samples or video for presenters, you’ll want to be in a theater or site-specific venue with professional lighting to capture what your work looks like onstage. And if you’re looking to create a dance film, you can get really creative with your venue.

Interviews & Voiceovers

A lot of people think about interviews as just a talking head onscreen, but there are a variety of ways to capture them. Think about what you’re looking for. A personal explanation of the choreographer’s vision might do well against the backdrop of an active rehearsal. An introduction to a new institutional program might be best with a still, well-lit background. Are you capturing an on-stage panel? Maybe you’re just looking for a voiceover that educates the audience about an upcoming show – and the setting isn’t important but the sound quality is…

We’re here to talk you through all of the options.

So don’t hesitate to contact us!

Nel Shelby is Owner & Filmmaker for Nel Shelby Productions, her New York City-based company dedicated to dance videography and editing. Nel shares her mission to preserve and promote the art of dance with her husband, Christopher Duggan, a dance and wedding photographer. They collaborate on projects with dance companies of worldwide renown, up-and-coming choreographers, dance educators, dance schools and more. Nel is Video Producer at Jacob’s Pillow and Vail Dance Festival and is also the proud Director and Producer of PS DANCE! — a New York Emmy-nominated documentary about dance education in NYC’s public schools.