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How to film and edit dance

How to film and edit dance to convey spatial continuity

Why do dance-centric films and television vary so widely in their ability to engage viewers? What principles can we follow to better convey the energy, beauty and athleticism of live dance, even though audiences will view the film in conditions that are highly detached from the live experience?

This topic merits a long book, rather than a blog post, and I’m purposefully ignoring many aspects of dance on screen, including the arts of choreographing for the screen, creating or choosing a set that works well for filming dance, staging dancers within that set, costuming dance for film, and varying techniques of lighting dance for film. For today, my emphasis will stay on two aspects: the camera and editing.

I will add to this post over time, so if you have any questions or suggestions, please leave a comment below.

Filming Dance

1. Lens Choice

I have read a lot of discussion in the academic community about the supposed difficulty of translating a three-dimensional art form (dance) into a two-dimensional space (the screen). While those challenges would in theory apply to any performance art displayed on the screen, I suspect that this discussion stems from a generally-perceived flattening of 3D space and loss of location reckoning when audiences see dance on screen.

“Matched” (presented by The LXD, directed by Charles Oliver, DP Alice Brooks), was originally filmed and presented in 3D. Is its impact lessened in 2D?

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