Three Mistakes of a Bad Videographer, and What We Can Learn From Them

Published on May 10, 2011

I don’t know who was responsible for the bad videography decisions — the videographer or the client — but two weekends ago I watched my daughter compete in a dance contest where the videographer made several mistakes. Weird videographer

My goal isn’t to hurt anyone’s feelings, so of course I won’t name the company doing the videography. But I think we can learn from others’ mistakes, so let’s explore them and see what you and I might do differently.

Their first mistake was the biggest one…

Mistake #1: They Didn’t Use Enough Video Cameras to Cover the Event

They only used one camera.

Anyone who has ever tried to shoot video of a dance performance with one camera knows the dilemma here.

On the one hand, you want to capture the dance team’s formations. Formations are a big part of the overall art form, and it’s impossible to see formations if you’re zoomed in on one person. You need to use a wide shot to get the visual impact of the formations.

But as a parent, I don’t want to purchase a DVD of only the dance team’s formations. No, I want to see the face of my daughter too. I want to see her individual performance within the greater performance. And you can’t see her face, or any of the faces, within the wide shot.

So we need medium shots and close-ups too.

And that leads us to mistake #2, which is caused by the first mistake.

Mistake #2: Abruptly and Constantly Zooming In and Out

I realize that I’m a video shooter, so I’m more sensitive to constant zooming than what most people are.

The videographer only had one camera, so they really didn’t have a choice. They would be wide on the action for a moment, then someone would dance out to the center to do a solo, so the camera would quickly (too quickly and abruptly) zoom in and try to follow the solo performance.

Then the soloist would join the bigger group’s formation, and the camera would zoom out, but by then the formation was breaking into two parts, so the camera would try to go wider to capture it, and then a different soloist would break away, and the camera would zoom in…

Are you getting a feel for the camera chaos? It wasn’t like the camera person had a chance to practice timing their moves with the choreography. This was probably their first time seeing the performance. This meant the videographer was constantly behind the action, trying their hardest to catch up to what was happening now.

The constant zooming led to the next mistake…

Mistake #3: Too Many Miniature Pans and Tilts to Recompose the Frame

After each zoom the frame wouldn’t be just right, so the videographer would do a quick small pan to the left or right, or a slight tilt up or down, to get a nice composition. All of these little adjustments were visible, distracting, and frustrating.

All the camera movement added up to too much visual chaos: panning, tilting, zooming in, zooming out, always behind the action.

The Solution

Use the proper number of cameras.

This dance performance would require at least two cameras to cover it: One for the wide shot (locked down to cover the entire performance area), and one medium shot (to capture individual performances within each of the numbers).

It would be better to have three or four cameras.

One camera would be wide to cover the entire stage. Another camera would be semi-wide to cover smaller clustered formations. Another camera would be medium to capture individual performances. And finally another one would be close to capture the dancers’ faces as they perform.

My daughter is 11, and I’d love to have a DVD of her dance performance where I sometimes get to see her face as she performs. It would have been so much better if they used four cameras!

Of course, this would be much more expensive. It’s expensive to have four cameras. The cameras themselves are pricey, but then you also need a separate operator for each camera. And they’d need another person operating the video switcher for the live video feed that was projected on either side of the stage.

This is why I suspect the single-camera decision might have been the client’s fault. It’s possible that they chose to save money and go with only one camera.

If that’s the case, it’s unfortunate because it really hurt the final product.

Should the videographer have insisted on more than one camera? Maybe. I think they probably should have.

If I was in construction, I would be frustrated if someone asked me to build a house by myself without being allowed to hire other workers. I might refuse to do the job because it wouldn’t be done right.

By the way, I had a video camera with me but I wasn’t allowed to use it as an audience member. That’s okay because I would’ve had the same issues. I only had one camera, and I was the only operator, so I would’ve been zooming, panning, and tilting the same way the videographer was. I couldn’t have done any better by myself. In fact, it would’ve been worse because I only had a monopod, no fluid head tripod, and the camera was a consumer level video camera: Canon HF-S200.

But because video cameras were strictly prohibited, I was able to watch the videographer and think of how I might do things differently if I were the one shooting.

Of course, when my daughter was dancing, I watched her, and the videographer was the last thing on my mind.

This article was last updated on March 28, 2019


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