Filming live performance

by Wayne Sables

Before we delve into this I probably should tell you a little bit about who I am. As you already know my name is Wayne (you are looking at this blog on my website after all) I originally began my career as a contemporary dancer before moving into film and digital technologies (coding, projection mapping et cetera) in 2006. Since then I’ve worked loads in the dance sector with companies, independent artists, and making my multimedia dance installations.

When filming dance the first few things to figure out is are you filming somebody else’s work? or are you filming your work? is it a recording of a live work? Or is it specifically a dance for the camera?

In this blog, I will be specifically talking about filming live work for example a performance on stage. Don’t panic though if you’ve come to this blog for advice on filming dance for the camera I promise my next blog will be on that subject. In the meantime crack on reading this as there is a lot of similarities.

If you are filming a live work you must get a range of coverage. My advice (if your budget will stretch to this) is to do a multi-camera setup. That’s one camera at the back facing the stage locked off on a tripod, this will be a long shot (LS). That will give the film context it will tell the audience where we are, and as it’s locked off it will be our stable cut to the camera.  

The second and a third film camera want to be along with the 180 rule. 

If you only have two cameras don’t worry too much about it because the 180 rule is still relevant and let’s be honest it is less work you’ve got to do in post.

I would have camera 2 as a mid shot so it still catches all the stage but it’s a little bit closer than the one center stage at the back. And the third camera I would have close up tracking the movement. This would give an element of excitement to the screen when the audience is watching this bad. It’s almost like your replicating the atmosphere of live.  

It’s worth noting that you should wear possible record of the same cameras. Make sure that your ISO and shutter speed are the same. Don’t forget your shutter speed should be double your frame rate which if you’re in the UK it is 25 frames per second in the USA 24 frames per second, meaning your shutter speed will either be 50 frames per second or 48 frames per second.

Okay so all you can do is match or your settings are the same you’ve done a lighting check so you’re not over-exposing or under-exposing. Now you need to catch a sound.

How do you catch a good sound in a live environment i.e. a theatre?

By far the best way to do this is to take the line out of the sound desk and patch that straight into your camera. Usually, that will be either XL Jack. I would always recommend having a decent microphone onboard your camera so you can catch ambient audio. It’s always good to mix a clean feed and ambient sound to reinforce the sense of a live show. The bonus of this (and this has happened to me more than once) is that if the clean line from the sound desk fails for whatever reason you can always use the audio recorded onto your camera.

I usually record the sound from the desk into a specific sound recorder such as his zoom H6N. Zoom is designed for audio and has good preamps whereas a lot of cameras don’t have great preamps so you get a very compressed sound. I then mix them in post which I’ll discuss in a minute. 

Okay let’s assume you filmed your live show everything went well you’ve got your clean feed, you’ve got your ambient feed, you’ve got some great visuals, you just now need to mix them all to create one film.

There are loads of different editing software you can use, I use Davinci Resolve and Adobe premiere pro (although I am trying to move away from Adobe premiere pro because of the massive subscription fee every year).

I’m not going to tell you how to import all of your media etc instead have a look at this tutorial (it spares you listening to me waffle on).

Note. If you recorded your audio separately you’re going to need to sync it with the video clips. You can do this in premiere pro but it’s a little bit cumbersome and it’s a little bit time-consuming and it will drive you insane. However, if you don’t have a budget for additional software make yourself a cuppa grab distressful and I’ll put a link to a tutorial of how to do a multi-cam edit.

I have a program called pluralise by red giant, all you do is drop all your files into it, click sync, and boom as if by magic all of your video and audio is synced. You bust export timeline an import into premiere pro or Davinci resolve. 


Multi-cam edit Premiere Pro

Multi-cam edit Davinci resolve

Sweet, once you’ve edited your live show all you need to do is export it. Depending on where you want to share it there are lots of export preferences you can use such as YouTube or Vimeo and they just put it in the correct codec for you.

Honestly don’t worry too much if you don’t get it right first time. A lot of this stuff is about doing the more live work you film the better you will be and you’ll find a way that works for you.

If this has helped/inspired you please do let me know. I can be found on all the social media @waynesables or via the email at

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