Ashley Lindsey’s " Triune"
The process of shooting dance and choreography has become a growing aspect of our video production work over the last few years. We’ve shot an array of short dance concepts as well as longer narrative dance pieces. We’ve become accustomed to shooting movement in a way that captures the physicality of it while adding a cinematic feel to the overall final piece. It can be a bit tricky, but if you understand what you need to show, you can really be creative and inventive.
So when choreographer and dance teacher Ashley Lindsey approached us to shoot a dance concept piece he had been developing, we felt confident and familiar with how to approach it.
Ashley was looking to do a piece focusing on three dancers playing off of each other. “They are communicating, talking to each other, without words, but instead with movement and expressions,” Ashley told us. Right away, we started to think about how we could shoot this in a way that would signify his overall concept. Since the three subjects would be in close proximity and talking to each other through hand and body movements, we decided to shoot with a lot of wide establishing shots and then move in closer with over the shoulder shots.
The over the shoulder shots, we felt, would give it a more intimate feel as well as a familiar “film” like the style. The dance would be sectioned off into different portions with each dancer leading one of the three sections. The main props on the set would be a couch centered in frame with two chairs placed across from each other. The dancers would perform most of the choreography using these main props but eventually moving out of that setup and into am more open space in whatever studio we decided to shoot in.
Ashley had settled on a studio in Brooklyn, NY. The feel of the studio was that of an industrial loft space with large warehouse-like windows where natural light could bleed through and fill up space. The walls had a degraded look, which gave the exact personality we needed. The studio was also able to supply the necessary props for the dance sections. So we were all set and ready to move forward.
With some preliminary planning between Ashley and I, we were able to settle on an exact plan for the shoot that would guarantee the execution we were looking for. Ashley had several rehearsals leading up to the shoot and was able to send videos to show what the choreography was developing into. That in the end, was the most helpful piece of information for us. To see the dances played out juxtaposed with the image layouts of the studio space was beyond beneficial.
For the shoot, we decided to go with a combination of a Sony a7rII on a DJI Ronin S for the main shots. Moreover, for slow motion and a second camera, the Black Magic Pocket Cinema Camera 4K. This set up would help us to maneuver between two cameras easily. On the Sony, we would use the 24-70mm zoom that we could easily adjust between different focal lengths on the gimbal without having to re-stabilize. The pocket 4K would alternate between a set of Zeiss primes, mainly a 21mm and 35mm. We used minimal lighting just to give some fill for specific areas of the room. However, mostly, we would capture all the footage using the natural light from the large windows. It gave us a look we wanted. This combination turned out to be a powerful punch. Capturing both cameras in their native 4k resolutions, gave us the flexibility to match cameras and use as much of the frame as possible in post. We are still warming up to the pocket 4K as this is only our second professional shoot we’ve used it on. However, this is very quickly becoming our A camera.
A few days before the shoot, I met with Ashley to finalize any lasts details. He also requested us to have a photographer on set to capture any behind the scenes photography. So we enlisted our primary photographer, Patricio, to accompany us on the day. It would be a perfect meld of Site B’s many offered services. For video, photo, social media, etc...
We arrived at around 10 a.m. as did everyone else. Ashley and his dancers did their initial warm-ups while we set up our gear. With such a compact set up, we were able to get things up and to run within half an hour.
Once everyone was close to being ready, we ran through a few of the dance sections to get a feel for space. We moved around some of the furniture to best fit the dancer’s movements. Once settled, we went into our first official take. Starting with a wider angle on the Ronin S, we were able to play around and adjust to the dancer’s momentum. Moving in when needed and still capturing all the movement in a wide frame. A lot of the camera movements we went with organically evolved on the moment. This is sometimes the best way to work, not knowing precisely what the best way to capture at first but then eventually letting the energy of the take dictate it. Before long, we had figured out a visual language for the video.
Like all shoots, we had to make some adjustments to account for the size of the room. Although roomy, there were some limitations to how much the dancers could roam around freely. Ashley was able to adjust the choreography on the spot. That helped us to work out our framing and make it easier to capture every moment.
For some extra creative stimulation for the dancers, Ashley had mood music continually playing in the background. This not only helps the talent but the crew as well. It lets you fully immerse yourself at the moment.
Once we captured the master shots of each section, we would move in for more detailed tighter shots. Over the shoulders, etc…
We would shoot the takes at least three times to be able to get all the footage we needed. We would alternate from the Sony to the Pocket 4K when it felt right. Mainly using it for slow-motion footage giving us the dynamic feeling we were looking for.
We moved through each section, working out the best way to shoot and adjusting when needed. Patricio, our photographer, would roam around capturing the candid moments as well as the moments in full shooting mode. He almost seemed invisible, but that’s the best way to be in these types of situations. Capturing the flow as it occurs.
Once we were confident that we had captured all we needed, Ashley wanted to capture solo improvisational portions with each dancer. We shot these with both cameras going at the same time. The Sony and Ronin getting a full gliding shot and the pocket 4K capturing a closer slow motion angle on sticks. This combination worked extremely well throughout the shoot, and we were looking forward to using it again.
The final verdict, this shoot was a total success. Working with great creative people and being able to capture a beautiful, unique piece that we will no doubt be proud of. This was also a great example of Site B’s creative power coming together to capture both video and photography, an excellent combination for us.