Stage to Screen: Mastering the Stage Event Market, Part One
Posted Jan 9, 2008

Potential is the capacity for growth, and in the event video production world, a market with potential is one that you can build a business around. Although my original business plan overlooked this growing and lucrative niche market, as luck would have it, my first job was a dance recital. In a way, you could say that dance found me. Since that time, I have increased this segment of my business to the degree that it now accounts for 25% of my total sales while taking only 15% of my year to film and edit. If all of my markets had a similar sales-to-production time ratio, I could increase my sales by 50% without working any harder.

I have experienced growth in my dance recital DVD productions through an increase in the number of recitals I film, the number of DVDs I sell per recital, and the price at which I sell the DVDs. If these were the only economic factors that I have benefited from, I would still consider this a growth market. But technological advances have allowed me to deliver a better edited product in less time at a lower cost. With a multicamera shoot, the multicamera editing feature is one of the most important for a nonlinear editing software solution to have.

The old-fashioned way of editing multiple camera angles was a time-consuming and largely redundant process that involved watching each angle independently and then selecting cut points to switch between the angles. In early 2006, I experimented briefly with United Media’s plug-in for Adobe Premiere Pro 1.5. I concluded that multicamera editing was a feature that I needed, but the United Media plug-in was not the solution for me.

As I started my research for a new NLE that had a better—and preferably native—multicam feature, I came across a press release from Adobe announcing its new Premiere Pro 2.0 NLE that featured a native multicam solution. I immediately downloaded a trial version. I was so impressed by the ability to see both of my cameras’ angles at the same time that I ordered the upgrade that same day. In no time, I was cutting through my dance recital editing backlog and delivering DVDs.

Fast forward to 2008, when multicamera editing is included or available in most current NLEs. I can’t imagine editing a multicamera shoot without this one feature that has enabled me to make better editing decisions in less time than I could previously—two birds, one stone. Now for the lower-cost part. With every passing season, the cost of inputs gets lower and lower. In 2001, my first batch of blank DVDs cost $8 each. Now, a Value line spindle of 8X Taiyo Yuden DVD-R costs less than 2 bits (24 cents from with free shipping at this writing); add another 4 cents, and you can afford the Premium line. Hardware costs for CPUs, RAM, and hard drives have also dropped, and these products get cheaper and more powerful on an almost weekly basis. What all this means is that with less effort I can make more money. Now, that is a trend I like to see. For a great study on the increase in affordable computing power for video editing, refer to Videoguys, who, since 2004, have been researching and sharing system specs for video editing stations in a series of do-it-yourself articles.

What prevents the dance recital market from being one that you can build an exclusive full-time business around is the seasonal nature of the market. Aside from the occasional recital that occurs outside of the relatively short recital season (6 weeks in my market), most schools have their year-end recitals at the end of May or June to coincide with the end of the school year. For businesses that want to grow outside of this short season, the dance competition market is another option. It typically starts in January and runs right up until the year-end recital season starts.

While both markets involve filming dancers on stage, competition video production is more about capturing an overview of the choreography on an evenly lit stage. These are generally single-camera shoots with an emphasis on quick delivery so that the dancers and the choreographers can take the DVD back to the studio to learn from. Many video production studios deliver DVDs onsite using set-top DVD burners coupled with with inkjet printers and replicating towers.

Dance recital video production increasingly is becoming a two-camera production. Filming dancers on a stage with lighting conditions that change with the music and choreography requires continual iris adjustments. Quick delivery is not as important as skilled editing (timing the switch between camera angles to the music or the dancers’ movements). Yet students want to take the DVD home to appreciate the choreography, while at the same time pointing out themselves and their friends during the insert shots taken from the second camera that pans back and forth across the stage every few musical bars.

And for for those who are firmly entrenched in the wedding video market, the dance video season ends just as the wedding video season is beginning, creating a very simple one-two market punch.

Shawn Lam (video at is an MPV-accredited videographer and business owner based in Vancouver, British Columbia. He specializes in stage event and corporate video production has presented seminars on stage event video and business at WEVA Expo 2005–2007 and the 4EVER Group’s Video 07.