Filming a three-day ballroom dance competition

I have to admit that I’m still in recovery after filming the Supadance National League finals in Blackpool.  Starting on the evening of 30th November and ending on 2nd December, this was a massive filming assignment during which I was filming for more than 15-hours a day and then having to retire to my hotel room to charge batteries and back-up cards.  Needless to say I slept well – and have been doing so ever since!

Filming at the Supadance National League finals
Filming some exceptional dancing at the Supadance National League finals

The original brief was to produce a short 3-minute piece to give a flavour of the event. With all the best intentions in the world plans often change.  By the time I was well into filming the brief expanded to include an explanation of the history behind the event, how Supadance became involved and how participants can enter the competition. In reality this meant two different films (ka-ching!) and what you’ll see below is the longer 10-minute version giving an overview of the event.

Supadance are still to decide on the future and format of the shorter version but I can understand why there is another story to be told here.  Whilst there are some obvious reasons for them to sponsor dance competitions the more subtle benefits are what keeps them as the world’s number-one dance shoe manufacturer.  Meeting and interacting with competition dancers face to face, hearing their wants and desires in dance shoes and apparel, having first-hand experience of the conditions and demands of dancers and keeping abreast of the standards of dance sport in general enables Supadance to continue to innovate and improve dance shoe design and manufacture.

It’s great to work with a British company that still understands these values.  It’s also great to work with a company who understands the need to demonstrate their commitment to excellence by using video!  Of course I would say this, but I think there really is no better way of demonstrating these values than by using video.

Filming ratio

This project has really shown me how things have changed – especially in relation to people’s attention span.  At 10-minutes this is the longest film that I’ve made since launching Video Artisan back in February this year.  The filming:edit ratio on this was quite staggering – even with the longer version.  Cutting around 400 minutes of recording down to 10-minutes was no easy task.

Because a lot of this was shot with a shallow depth of field (DoF) there was tons of wastage.  Shooting a dancing couple quickstep at pace from one end of a dance floor to another whilst shooting with a DoF of only a few inches is not the easiest thing to do.  It looks fab when you get it right though.  More often than not you are letting the couples dance through the focal depth so the ratio of “useful” to “useless” is incredibly high – hence me having so many hours of rushes to wade through.

Other filming challenges on this shoot was the constant colour changes due to horrible sodium house lights that had to be on all the time in order to enable the judges to see every move of every dancer.  In addition to this there was an LED stage lighting rig which really only covered certain parts of the dance floor. The end result was light colour that changed throughout the dance floor.  Why do venues still have these horrible lights?

Anyway, next year you might see us take a completely different approach to covering this event.  The amount of interest from the contestants in obtaining a copy of the video has been quite staggering.