The making of an event documentary

25-years of Supadance National League
The story behind this event documentary

The making of the event documentary

It’s been a great year for Video Artisan and it couldn’t have ended better than by releasing the event documentary celebrating 25-years of the Supadance National League.

The brief for this Video Artisan film was straightforward… ish! “Produce a short event documentary to celebrate its 25th anniversary, convey the spirit of the event and the positive aspects of competitive ballroom dance, show the benefits of participation for competitors and dance schools and, ultimately, promote wider participation in Supadance National League.” Oh, and of course, I had to make sure that Supadance Shoes got a really good plug too!

Obtaining a clear brief is quite easy really and starts with a simple two-part question to the client, “Who is the audience – and what do you want them to believe after watching the film?” You’ll probably know the answers before they reply but you need to draw this out from them and then come up with a plan or treatment on how you are going to achieve it within a given budget.

dancing at the Supadance League
It’s all about dance

I’m not going to share the actual amount Supadance International invested in this event documentary but I will break it down into man-hours and kit for the way I produced this film. It consisted of a two-man crew for 2-days filming mainly on DSLR cameras followed by 3-days in post production – plus a day in pre-production. I say “mainly on DSLR cameras” because I was also testing out the JVC GY-HM650 camera which I was delivering a workshop on the following week and there are a couple of shots from that which are included in the final edit.

Pre-production and Archive Research

As the film was to celebrate the history of the event my first thoughts were in locating video or stills of previous years that would help tell the story. Thankfully, one of the league’s directors had a video of the very first event – albeit that it was 3rd generation VHS. A shout out through the Supadance National League Facebook page also brought in a handful of photos – so I had as much archive as I needed for this brief part of the documentary.

The history was interesting but lingering on it wouldn’t help me fulfil the remainder of the brief. Addressing these really had to come from capturing the thoughts, hopes and dreams of three groups of people involved at the event – namely the event’s board of directors, the principals of participating dance schools and the dancers themselves. The messages you should get from these interviews should complete the brief – plus of course the all-important plug for the sponsor which I hope doesn’t drift too far off the storyline.

Shooting the event documentary

Prior to the event the directors helped us spread the word about what we were trying to capture by way of interviews. They also hand-picked some key personal from dance schools and other officials who could offer a valuable contribution. They also helped us on the day by encouraging contestants to take part in the interviews.

Recording the interviews therefore became our focus over the 2-day shoot. It was virtually impossible to set a proper schedule for these as the organisers were busy organising and the dancers were busy dancing – so we had to take our chances where we could.

We managed to capture a handful of interviews on the first day plus the grand opening ceremony that evening. We spent the morning of the second day capturing b-roll footage of the dance action and general atmosphere shots. In the afternoon we had a separate interview area set up and grabbed people when we could. This went on all afternoon and finished around 9:30pm. When there was no one to interview we carried on gathering b-roll – even though we probably had enough by then!

Interview set on Supadance League
Ready to start recording interviews

It’s the second time Supadance International has sponsored me to make a film about this particular event. Last year’s film was a little less complicated in its brief, being a general introduction to Supadance National League – so I had plenty of general dance shots to fall back on if needed. But fashions change, people get older, become better dancers… so we knew we would need additional b-roll footage of the current event too.

Shooting Kit

It was pretty much a standard shoot stock for Video Artisan. A Canon 5DMkII and 550D – both running Magic Lantern. Lenses varied between the 24-105mm Canon, a vintage 55mm f1.8 Fujinon and an 11-16mm Tokina f2.8 cropped sensor lens (which I also used at 16mm here and there on the full-frame 5DMkII). There are a couple of slider shots where I used the Varavon slider (see review here) and though I did take a mini crane there simply wasn’t a safe opportunity to use it.

The interview audio was recorded using the Tascam DR-60D mixer/recorder (see review here). I wouldn’t go anywhere without this fantastic bit of kit.

Lighting was provided by my Ianiro 3-head kit with a 2-foot softbox. This worked well except for a couple of interviews where 3 or 4 people wanted to be filmed together rather than separately or in pairs. Despite my attempts to keep them within the lighted area they tended to drift apart as a group the moment they started to talk. I should have anticipated this really and created a bigger set – or simply took the time to re-light. But at that point we had a line of people waiting to be interviewed so were pressed for time.

In post

I spent the first couple of days in post picking the story out of the hour and forty minutes of interviews (Edius 6.5). The aim was to get it down to around 10-minutes – or less if I could. The first rough hack ended up about 12-minutes after taking out repetitions of the same point, getting one interviewee to finish off the point being started by another interviewee – plus a couple more brutal hacks. Final tweaking, giving it musical breathing space here and there (AKM Music again) and topped and tailed with graphics brought it down to its current running length of just under 9-minutes 30-seconds.

Opening ceremony
Opening Ceremony filmed on JVC GY-HM650

Launching the event documentary

A timecoded first-draft was supplied to the customer, signed-off a couple of days later and released on YouTube and Vimeo on 17th December – 10-days after filming was completed. By the following afternoon the film had been viewed over 500 times – plus additional views on a version which Supadance International released via their own Facebook page (which I don’t know the viewing figures on). Most of the views followed an announcement on the league’s Facebook page – which has been a massive bonus for reaching out to the audience. It will also be shared permanently by Supadance on their website and used by them at other dance events as part of the exhibition marketing efforts.

The real value of this event documentary will probably not be realised for some time. In the short term it should attract more schools to take part and, of course, ultimately make dancers think ‘Supadance’ when it comes to buying their next pair of dance shoes. But I also hope that in the longer term it will stand as a valuable historic document about a significant period in the league’s history.

Bring it on – I love event documentary commissions!


VOTM Award winning film for @supadanceshoes

Winner of VOTM for November 2013
Video Artisan’s VOTM award winning film for November

Another award winning film for Supadance

I had some great news last week. The documentary I produced for Supadance on the Same-Sex Dance Festival in Blackpool was voted as the winner of the IOV’s Video of the Month (VOTM) competition for November. Yay!

Like all competitions, sometimes you win but more often you lose! To me that just makes winning things that much nicer. However, winning the VOTM with this entry was especially pleasing for a number of other reasons. Firstly, it’s probably my favourite film to date. I’m the first to say that there’s always room for improvement on every film I produce (including my other award winning film for Supadance) but this was the closest I’ve come to date to having something I’m totally happy with as far as meeting the brief is concerned. It was also a double-bonus to find that the first draft was pretty much exactly what ended up being released as a final edit.

People to please

Supadance are great clients but there’s normally always more than one person to satisfy on their commissions. In this instance I also had to win approval for the film from the organisers of the Same-Sex Dance Festival, namely Bradley and Soren from the Sugar Dandies. Whilst Supadance wanted a film that would promote their shoes in a new and developing avenue of ballroom and Latin dance, Bradley and Soren were keen to have something that would explain and promote Same-Sex dance in general and promote participation in the event itself. This was especially important to them this year as in June 2014 they will be hosting the European Same-Sex Dance Festival alongside Gay Pride in Blackpool. This should result in a much wider attendance and participation in the event so there was a lot riding on me producing something that helped them achieve this.

Group at SSDF
Recognising the talent in Same-Sex dancing

I’m also really pleased about winning VOTM with this film as it was a challenge for me to make on a personal level. Working with Supadance for the past couple of years has really got me into ballroom dance. I’ve become an avid Strictly Come Dancing fan and, in recent weeks, have broken down under mounting pressure from my wife to take up ballroom dancing lessons. Having produced five films for Supadance now I thought I knew how challenging ballroom dancing was – but now I really know! I justify this to my macho mates by saying that it helps me interpret dance when I’m filming it but, the truth is, I really enjoy it (don’t tell the Mrs. that though).

Anyway, before making this film I was unsure of the value and need for same-sex dancing. The process of making the film, meeting the people involved and listening to the reasons why same-sex dance should have its own platform (or indeed incorporated into mainstream dance) has completely changed my point of view. I hope that watching the film does that for you too.

It is a shame that you never know what other entries your film was up against in the IOV’s VOTM competition but it is especially pleasing to have an award winning film that’s judged by your piers. I was a little bit sceptical about entering this film into the competition as the subject matter is not everyone’s cup of tea, which made it even more satisfying as the content and production values must have overcome any potential biases within the judging panel (if indeed there was any!).

My next award winning film – maybe?

Right now I’m about to complete the finishing touches on yet another film for Supadance. That will have to wait until next year to be entered into anything but once again I’m pretty chuffed with the way it’s turning out. Keep an eye on my blog as I hope to have this one launched before Christmas! I have entered something into the December VOTM competition though and my fingers are crossed. If you aren’t in it you can’t win it!

PS. A big thanks to Martin Baker for his help in making this film. As a relative newbie-shooter he spends most of the time at these events running the audio for me during interviews. But at other times I set him loose with the Canon 550D and a vintage f1.8, 50mm lens to get b-roll footage.

Martin shooting at the SSDF
Thanks to Martin for his part in this award winning film

As anyone who shoots with a DSLR with a wide aperture and shallow depth of field will know, it’s a real challenge getting usable footage – especially when the subject is moving rapidly towards or away from you. Each time Martin shoots footage for me I manage to use more and more of it in the final edit so this baptism of fire is certainly making a videographer of him. Thanks Martin – I reckon you own some of the ‘award winning film’ bragging rights.

PPS. There’s a little more info on the making of this film on a previous blog here.


Report on the JVC GY-HM600 Camera Workshop

JVC GY-HM600 Camera Workshop
Camera Workshop at JVC’s London HQ

The first Camera Workshop

I must admit to being more than a little chuffed to get asked to be part of a camera workshop on JVC’s wonderful GY-HM600 and GY-HM650 camcorders. Alongside Mike Turner, our aim for the workshop was to give existing users a better understanding of the many and unique features and controls of this series of cameras.

The first of these took place on a foggy day on 11th December at JVC’s HQ in North London and was attended by ten owners of the camera who were hoping to discover their camera’s full potential. The delegates included a complete mix of experience and familiarity so it was difficult to pitch the presentation so that everyone walked away better informed.

Having had this camera for the past month or so it was great to be able to share some of the things that I had learnt about the deployment of this camera in the field. It was also really useful to have feedback from more experienced delegates that have been using the camera for much longer. With such a feature-rich piece of technology it’s unlikely that anyone could know everything there is to know about it, but between us we covered all the main functions and controls in an information sharing and friendly environment.

Updating Cameras

One of the most revealing sessions of the day for me was the software update session. These days, like any other technology, cameras are software driven and updates to performance and additional features are introduced long after the camera is released for sale. The GY-HM600 series is no different in this respect and since launch there have been a number of software versions which have improved the camera and added useful features for the user. These improvements really only come to light once the camera has been used in the field and JVC have been quick to develop these and release them to existing users via their website.

Delegates were asked to bring their cameras with them to the workshop so that they could follow sessions with their own camera to help retention. When we came to the software update session the most surprising thing for me was that none of the people on the workshop had the latest software version installed – and at least one had the original version when the camera was first launched. Not only did these guys walk away better informed but they also had better cameras from when they arrived. JVC also learned that their system of informing users on software updates had room for improvement, so everyone was a winner.

Another one of the revealing sessions was on the use of the camera in low-light situations and between us we established the best working practices that enable users to attain the best possible pictures in difficult situations. We also covered the camera’s strengths and weaknesses in full-auto mode and established the best practices in attaining and maintaining correct focus using features such as Focus Assist, Expanded Focus and the Face Detection mode.

Advanced Camera Workshop Session

The day was split between my session on general camera use and after lunch a more advanced section by Mike Turner for GY-HM650 owners covering its streaming, remote monitoring and networking functions. This was great for me as I’d not really tested these capabilities; features which are unique on this model of the camera.

Mike Turner
Me and my co-presenter, Mike Turner

Post-workshop feedback was still coming in whilst I wrote this blog but the comments from delegates on the day were all very positive. As this was our first attempt there were some things that we’ll do differently on future workshops, but overall a good first attempt. We hope to announce the next workshop date very soon, but it’s looking like being the end of January at JVC’s London HQ again.


JVC GY-HM600/650 Camera Workshop

JVC GY-HM600/650 Camera Workshop

For the past few weeks I’ve been working with JVC on developing an introductory camera workshop for users of their GY-HM600 and GY-HM650 cameras and we have now announced details on the first date – Wednesday 11th December 2013 (yes only a couple of weeks away!).

GY-HM600 series camera workshop
GY-HM600 series camera workshop

Entitled, ‘Create better content with your new GY-HM600 Series camcorder’ this one-day camera workshop is aimed at getting users up and running quickly and enabling them to get the most out of this very versatile and feature-packed camera. It is being held at JVC’s London headquarters (JVC Professional Europe Ltd., 12 Priestley Way, London NW2 7BA) and is free to all recent purchasers of these cameras from one of their authorised dealers.

Other camera owners are welcome on the course at the normal £175 cost, but please bear in mind that the course is designed for these cameras and will cover its various controls and features.

Camera Workshop Content

  • Basic overview of camera functionality
  • Recording media and formats
  • General camera setups
  • Audio Connection & Control
  • Recording
  • Editing Workflow
  • Best practices shooting with GY-HM600 Series
  • Essential & Additional Accessories

Course details

The event starts at 10.00am and will finish around 1pm and will cover the GY-HM600 specifically with a second 1-hour session after lunch on the networking features of the GY-HM650, hosted by JVC Support Manager, Mike Turner. GY-HM600 owners are welcome to stay for this session if they like as it’s always good to understand the technology.

Booking your place on this Camera Workshop

You can book this workshop through your JVC dealer or by registering on the JVC website by clicking here.  Please note, places are subject to availability but the intention is to run this camera workshop on a regular basis. I’ll keep you posted on additional dates as and when they are arranged.

If you need any further information about the day, please contact or phone 020 8208 6219


Two new tracks for the Corporate Video Producer

AK159 and AK160
Two more additions to your corporate video music library

Two new tracks for the Corporate Video Producer

AKM Music have added two new albums to their extensive collection lately – ‘Leisure Lifestyles’ and ‘Cut to the Beat Vol.8’. Whilst both albums are aimed at the corporate video producer they’re both going to have an application within other production types too. You simply can’t have too much choice when it comes to your corporate video copyright-free music collection so these two will fill in where other albums fall short.

AK159 Leisure Lifestyles

AK159 Leisure Lifestyles
AK159 Leisure Lifestyles

This album contains ten tracks, each with an additional alternate mix and short version. As the name suggests these tunes are for helping to portray a more leisurely lifestyle with their cool, relaxing rhythms and easy-going beats. The album description suggests they’ll be great for corporate video producer specialising in property or location documentaries and promotional films – and I can’t argue with that. If you are producing hotel or resort promos then this is certainly one to audition and add to your collection.

1. The Perfect Accommodation 2:30
Bubbling synth sounds take us off to a warmer place – certainly warmer than the day I’m looking out of the window at right now! A medium paced track that you can imagine twinkling away under a corporate video narration telling you all about the holiday destination you’re about to experience. Track 2 & 3 are the alternative mix (2:30) and a short edit (1:20)

4. By The Pool 2:36
Slow funky sound which didn’t conjure up visions of lounging by the pool to me, but rather a cool dude striding through a 70’s fancy dress party wearing a dodgy afro wig, moustache and flared trousers. Wouldn’t sound out of place on an episode of Starsky & Hutch. Track 5 & 6 are the alternative mix (2:36) and a short edit (0:56)

7. Dressed To Impress 2:14
Get down to that that funky beat guitar again. Quite similar to the previous track though a little more purposeful and upbeat. It doesn’t go too far without another funky guitar rift so quite nice to edit to. The alternate version is a little less descriptive so might suit as a corporate video underscore better. Track 8 & 9 are the alternative mix (2:14) and a short edit (0:45)

10. Immaculate Design 2:18
We whiz forward a few decades with this track with a more contemporary slant to the funky medium tempo sound of previous tracks. There are more musical breaks in this track with swishy, swirling sound effects to edit to. Note the alternate mix is short this time too. Track 11 & 12 are the alternative mix (0:29) and a short edit (0:29)

13. Shape of Things To Come 3:07
Again this track has a more contemporary feel with strong drum rhythm and bass percussion driving the score along. Piano provides the main chorus with occasional orchestral stabs. There’s a strange whale-call sound sequence towards the end of the alternate mix so I reckon this would work well with a film with any link to the ocean. Track 14 & 15 are the alternative mix (3:07) and a short edit (1:06)

16. Ahead of the Curve 2:27
I’d call this one medium fast paced with a bit more of an electro beat to it – but still along the lines of a 70’s TV cop show with its funk guitar rifts. I think the alternate mix is a bit more useful this time as it’s a little more nondescript and intrusive. Track 17 & 18 are the alternative mix (2:27) and a short edit (0:25)

19. Designer Shades 2:12
A much smoother love-ballad sound to this medium-slow track. I can imagine Barry White laying his silky voice down to this. Swirling synth sounds lift it here and there mixed with another funky guitar chorus – but generally a steady tune throughout. Track 20 & 21 are the alternative mix (2:12) and a short edit (0:25)

22. Custom Build 2:37
Barry is back in the mix again as we stick with a smooth funky sound with orchestral swirls. Finding it hard not to confuse this with the previous track though – apart from the occasional break into castanets. Once again the alternate version might be a little more useful for corporate video. Track 23 & 24 are the alternative mix (2:37) and a short edit (0:34)

25. Catwalk 2:14
Out and out swing funk in a snazzy, jazzy kind of way. I feel cool just listening to this one. The reference to ‘cats’ in the title must be down to it conjuring up images of a cool cat dude striding confidently through your scene. It’s the kind of track that has you tapping your feet even though you might not want to. Track 26 & 27 are the alternative mix (2:14) and a short edit (0:43)

28. Life Imitating Art 2:30
Tubular bells meets echo-drum beat and funk guitar in this medium paced track. Once again I think the alternate score will be more useful as it’s less dominant than the main track and leans more on the tubular bells sound. Track 29 & 30 are the alternative mix (2:30) and a short edit (0:44)


AK160 Cut to the Beat Vol.8

AK160 Cut to the Beat Vo.8
AK160 Cut to the Beat Vo.8

It’s no wonder ‘Cut to the Beat’ has reached volume 8 as these alums will be the first ones you’ll turn to when you’re looking for something upbeat and driving on a corporate video. AK160 is a worthy addition to this range and will be ideal for corporate films, sports docs and anything where you want to create an impression of movement. Each of the six main tracks has an alternate mix and a sting – which is really handy for editing purposes.

1. Bright Light 4:22
Slow building electronic keyboard sound which builds in tempo. Flute swirls combine with electronic voice effects to give the track a very positive feel. Guitar strumming leads you on and upwards. The alternate score is upbeat from the start but is about a minute shorter. Track 2 & 3 are the alternative mix (3:19) and the sting (0:09)

4. Flyaway 4:23
Fast upbeat sound with slow keyboard passage underneath and lots of electro-pop drumbeats and edit points within it. You could imagine a night club scene with lots of fast cuts, lens flairs and erratic camera movement. It will have you reaching for the ecstasy – especially the alternative mix! Track 5 & 6 are the alternative mix (3:21) and the sting (0:15)

7. Firefly 4:11
This one is rapid – possible too much so. I found it quite difficult to listen to this one as its confusing – and that’s exactly the kind of story it will help you try and tell. I can imagine someone dashing here and there, obviously lost. There’s a hint of Blade Runner in there too and has that kind of futuristic sound to it. Track 8 & 9 are the alternative mix (2:11) and the sting (0:15)

10. Bigspace 4:20
Out and out euro club mix with swirling intro leading to heavier repetitive beat section. I almost broke out into my ‘big box little box’ dance routine listening to it. The alternate version is softer and half the length – and is a bit like the morning after the track before. Track 11 & 12 are the alternative mix (1:55) and the sting (0:11)

13. Stairs to the Galaxy 4:37
This one is upbeat again but a little more serious and urgent this time. It is very repetitive but breaks into a quiet segment halfway through which ends with a bang and back into the repetitive dance beat. Track 14 & 15 are the alternative mix (2:48) and the sting (0:12)

16. Prolever 4:08
Soft upbeat track with breaks into voice-effect sections. I can imagine the sun setting over some Ibiza beach scene listening to this one. Quite repetitive again but I guess most club-beat tracks are. There’s a swirling underscore to this which appears more prevalent in the alternative mix version. I can imagine shots of a production line in a factory working well with this. Track 17 & 18 are the alternative mix (2:48) and the sting (0:13)


Notes: You can preview both these albums on the AKM Music website –