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School Video that Doesn’t Suck

In my job, I’m expected to shoot school video of many programs (musicals, plays, etc.)

How can I make these videos not suck and please parents who want to see their children performing with the group?


Parents are tough, and any video that doesn’t feature their little Deshawn or Tania totally sucks– by definition.  And any video that holds too long on a close-up of Tania sucks for the other 58 parents in the class.

Have you considered dentistry?

But no worries– I’m here to answer the tough questions, though you may need to prioritize.

If your main goal is a complete record of the performance, the biggest mistake most people make is shooting from far enough away to see the entire stage.  The distance means you can’t see faces, which will likely rile Deshawn’s parents.

Luckily, cameras are cheap and readily available these days– use two or three.  If you have the staff to run them, great, but they can also be be on tripods.  Keep them close in and point one toward stage right, and one toward stage left. They should overlap a little just in case.  (If you have three cameras, you can add a wider shot).  Shoot the entire performance and then edit simply between the two cameras.  Nothing complicated– maybe you switch cameras for each musical number, depending on which has the best overall angle.

Use external microphones close to the stage and wired to the cameras.  Or if the show is miked, run a feed from the mixing board into all your cameras.

If your main goal is to capture the kids and make sure everyone gets seen, try interviewing them individually backstage before the show or after, and editing their comments into your performance video.  A cute shot of little Matthew talking about his role in the chorus during “I’m a Little Teapot” may make up for the fact that you only see his face for a moment behind the lead pot.  Read more on this kind of storytelling for a student recital here.

The more important and/or memorable the presentation is, the more in depth you can get.  A great high school musical with some serious talent might merit 4 cameras and an elaborate backstage story, a preschool holiday song sung in the classroom might be less elaborate.

Or not. Preschool parents can be vicious.

You can also train parents to shoot their own videos– check out my free Video Bootcamp for Teachers.


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How To Shoot Video That Doesn't Suck: The Video Course

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About The Author

Steve Stockman

Steve Stockman, president of LA-based Custom Productions, Inc., is a prolific producer, writer, and director, known for over 200 diverse media projects. He is also the author of the best-selling book "How to Shoot Video that Doesn’t Suck," taught globally from middle school to graduate level, and available in 9 languages.

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