How to shoot videos of you dancing – 2015 version

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I watch a lot of dance videos. And I take a lot of dance videos. So I have a very educated opinion about this. If you’re wanting to shoot videos of yourself, this post is for you.

Why shoot videos of you dancing? Because we’re all narcissistic beasts and can’t help ourselves….well not true…well sort of true. But really it shows where you can improve. Sure you can look at the mirror but honestly videos provide way more to analyze. You’re able to see detail and texture in ways you would not see while looking at the mirror.

And if I’ve learned anything from the classic 1995 movie Clueless, seeing yourself in a non-live setting shows so much. There is a difference when you try on a new dress and look in the mirror vs. when you see a polaroid of yourself wearing the same dress.

What do you need to shoot videos of you dancing?

1. Permission
This is the most critically important step. If you’re wanting to shoot videos of you dancing in someone’s class, ask the teacher first. Most teachers will say yes and have no restrictions. Some will say yes but you can’t post online. Some will say yes but you can only post still shots. Some will say NO. And that’s their decision. Teachers have spent alot of time creating choreography that’s amazing. That is their intellectual property. Respect their intellectual property. Some believe taking videos takes away from learning and they would prefer you just focus on being present. Respect their decision.

Sure we can have philosophical debates about sharing and whether or not one really owns the move of a chassé into a bootie drop. But you’re taking a class that has choreography designed by a teacher. It’s their house, it’s their rules. If you’re taking classes in the city you probably already know which studios are more open to recording than others. When in doubt, just ask.

2. A camera
Luckily it’s 2015 and most of you have smartphones that have cameras. Perfect. Done. That’s all you need. Sure you can buy a fancy DSLR or a GoPro. But honestly the smartphones these days are impressive and people are shooting amazing quality movies on their iPhones. So seriously, if you have a smartphone, you’re done. If you are one of the rare people who have a flip phone and you want to shoot videos of yourself….well let’s talk separately why you’re on a flip phone. That’s a whole other conversation. If you refuse to get a smartphone, get an iPod Touch. It’s got a great camera and it’s got practically everything else in an iPhone except….the phone.

3. A wide-angle lens
If you have a friend shooting you then you don’t need a wide-angle lens. If you’re at Snowglobe Perspective you definitely don’t need a wide angle lens. They even use a dolly.

But if you’re like me and usually all my friends are dancing with me, we don’t have anyone to shoot us. A wide-angle lens captures more in the frame. Below are old videos of my iPhone 5 and it’s with a fisheye lens. But fisheye lenses provides similar view as wide-angle lenses. Just more rounded. Both fish-eye and wide-angle lenses capture more in the frame. Which is important because if you’re in a group and you’re moving side to side alot you need a lens to capture all of that.

Here is what my iPhone 5 was capturing without a fisheye lens

Here is what my  iPhone 5 is capturing now with the fisheye lens. Note: different day but same location. And I used Videon filters on this one.

There are definite pros and cons to using a wide angle lens. But overall I’m a big fan of the wide-angle lens.

Which wide-angle lens should you buy? For me, there’s only one choice and that’s Olloclip. Yes, there are way cheaper options. If you search for “iPhone wide angle lens” you will find $20 and under options. And that’s fine. That’s your choice. But I shoot videos probably 4-5 times a week and i wanted a very durable, reliable wide angle lens and honestly Olloclips are those lenses. Yes, it’s $79.99. Yes it’s worth the money. Yes, when I update my phone to a new model I have to go out and buy a whole new Olloclip…and case. It’s frustrating but I’ve gotten so used to the high quality images that come from these lenses I can’t settle. (And yes I have the Olloclip iPhone case. I got tired of having to take off my case every time I wanted to put on the Olloclip.)

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4. A tripod
I gravitate back and forth between the Joby Gorilapod and the iOttie. The Joby is great because it’s on the ground but just know you have to spread the legs wide especially for big phones or else you will get a shaky video.

The iOttie from Amazon for $14.95 is great but some studios are not cool with you sticking things on mirrors. So check to be sure it’s ok before you start sticking this anywhere.
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It doesn’t fall. It is tricky to take off but with some practice it’s no problem.

What is even trickier is shooting the video. If you’re using the iPhone, I highly recommend you use the rear facing camera (the side you don’t use for selfies). This is definitely harder to frame your shot but I’ve found the rear facing camera has higher quality than the front facing camera. How do you set it up then? Below is a video of how I do it.


Basically you hit the Video Record button, place it on the tripod, and in the mirror you can see how your video is shot. This is also how you can see where to focus. This is also where you can see if the Video Record button is still on and counting up.

5. Shoot horizontally. NOT VERTICALLY.
This is a huge pet peeve of mine. Because it really doesn’t take much effort to TURN YOUR CAMERA TO THE SIDE. Seriously just horizontally, not vertically.

Why? Glove and Boots explains it best.

6. Edit
Seriously. Edit. No one wants to see you a two minute video of you practice dancing….unless you’re Yanis. (And you better believe that master of dance has edited down to the most perfect 2 minutes). There are alot of video editing tools but I like iMovie for iPhone. It has good transitions, splicing videos together is a breeze, you can put create videos side by side, and it’s just an overall solid video editing tool.

Viet Dang class 9.24.2015 from Elaine A on Vimeo.

7. Post
It’s scary. I know. No one wants to be judged. But I would say the majority of feedback is going to be positive. Especially if you’re in the same dance community as I. If you want critical feedback, we’ll give critical feedback. If you want a cheerleading section, you got that too. We’re all here just learning.

One last tip: If you’re uploading videos to Facebook on your iPhone make sure you’re uploading in HD. Hit Settings > Facebook > Settings >Video Upload HD make sure that is on. If you don’t your videos will look pixelated. And honestly we need HD quality when you do a death drop. That’s critically important in my world.

That’s it. Go forth, record, and post so I can watch and be in awe of you.

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