So you’re a professional dance instructor. You know that you have what it takes to teach. How do you go about making lesson videos that rock? Here are some insights to help you stay on top.

There’s an energy built into live classes that doesn’t naturally translate over to video material. Not long ago I observed a fitness instructor who is one of the most dynamic people I know. Her live classes have always been full of confidence and energy. But when she hosted a video class, she looked like a deer in the headlights, stumbling awkwardly over her words and unsure of where to look. It made her look bad, just because she wasn’t properly prepared for this new reality.

With a little bit of guidance, you can create video content that’s just as effective as what you offer in person.

Start with the right equipment

Since video is a technology format, you have to use technology that works. This includes your camera, microphone, lighting and the video editing process.

Camera

Fortunately, camera technology has come a long way. Today’s smart phones offer better resolution and image quality than was possible in professional-grade video cameras just a few years ago.

If shooting in a studio, remember that light levels for video are not the same as what the eye interprets. What might look bright to the eye can cause your video to look dim and grainy. Cameras use a measurement known as ISO to react to the level of light. The higher the ISO, the more grainy your video will look. Try to ensure that you can shoot at ISO of 800 or lower, as higher levels will produce a great deal of grain that will make your video look muddy and hard to see.

GoPro cameras, good as they are, do not perform well indoors. Use your smart phone or a dedicated video camera, especially one that is well suited to low light situations.

Audio

Audio is another consideration, and it’s a big one. Dance moves in all directions. Without proper audio equipment, the instructor’s voice will get louder and softer as he or she turns or moves towards or away from the camera.

I’ve experimented with various methods to avoid this issue. Shotgun microphones are one option, but when you turn away it can still cause the voice to dim excessively. Lapel microphones attach to your shirt and can be quite effective. Just avoid turning your head downwards as your voice will suddenly get very loud.

My best results have come from using an over-the-ear headset microphone. I use a Line6 wireless transmitter/receiver with Apex 570 and Apex 575 headsets. These are reasonably priced, look decent due to the thin size, and offer great sound quality. Since the mic moves with my head, the voice is consistent no matter where I am in the room or where I’m facing.

Make sure your audio feed is properly balanced between voice and music as it enters the camera. I use an 8-channel professional mixer to ensure that all the feeds (including my wife’s mic) have equal levels of volume to avoid any unpleasant issues.

Think about your music

Remember that music is licensed and this can cause big problems in dance lesson videos. Automatic systems seek out licensed music and can put claims on your video content. We recommend minimizing the use of music for this reason and using royalty-free music as much as possible. Programs like GarageBand can generate music with the tempo you need. There are also sources where you can purchase royalty-free music. You can also modify the speed of commercial music to make it harder for these automated algorithms to match it, but as these systems get more sophisticated that approach may only last for a limited time.

Lighting

Unless your studio is exceptionally bright, it can help to apply additional lighting. This not only makes you look better on the floor, but helps to bring attention to you as the instructor rather than bringing equal attention to everything else in the room.

I use professional lighting banks made up of thousands of mini LED bulbs. The brightness and color can be adjusted to create just the right conditions. These are fairly inexpensive and can easily be mounted on tripods in just a couple of minutes.

Shooting Your Video

Know what you are going to teach and do it the same way you would in a live class. One thing we see a lot is teachers not being sure where to look. This causes the eyes to move all over the place, giving the impression of someone you can’t trust.

Instead, look directly at the camera. This makes the viewer feel as if you are looking directly at them, drawing them into your content the same way it does when teaching someone in person.

Another issue we see a lot is teachers being too far away in the frame. They often look like ants off in the distance. If you don’t have the luxury of a dedicated assistant operating the camera, make sure you are not too far away by testing the limits of where you can stand without being too close, then stick as close as possible to that limit.

If your dance moves, it can be helpful to use painter’s tape (it doesn’t leave residue) on the floor to mark the boundaries where you will no longer be in the frame.

Be yourself. If you like to joke in live classes, do so on your video. If you’re more serious, keep that persona on your videos. Anything else will come across as fake.

The studio setup we use for Delta Dance video classes consists of two Neewer LED lighting banks, a Mevo streaming camera with Mevo Boost for external audio input, two Line6 wireless transmitters with Apex 575 headset mics, an 8-channel mixer and a Bose S1 monitor. An iPad provides a visual guide to see where we are on the screen.

Look directly at the camera. This makes the viewer feel as if you are looking directly at them, drawing them into your content the same way it does when teaching someone in person.

Creating the Final Result

It helps to have a “stinger” or small 5-10 second animation at the start of your videos to give them a professional look. There are a number of resources available that can produce one of these for a reasonable fee. If leaving your logo on the screen during your title sequence, make sure it is positioned in such a way that there is room for your title, especially if it’s a longer title.

There are now some great tools for video production, including iMovie, Adobe Premier and Premier Rush, Final Cut Pro and many apps specifically designed for mobile devices and tablets. These can do a really good job of creating your final product, including adding transitions.

Videos should be produced in a resolution of 1920 x 1080 pixels.

Although it is possible to create 4K with today’s tools, it is overkill for dance instruction videos as the bandwidth requirements are huge. People watching content on mobile devices have limited bandwidth available and we don’t want to force them into costly data overages just because we wanted the best resolution possible.

Follow these guidelines and you can produce video content with a level of quality that would have stunned movie producers just a couple decades ago.

Author: George Pytlik

Partnered with his wife Wendy, George was the 7-time undefeated BC Latin Champion in the 30+ age category and ranked 3rd in Canada in both Latin and 10-Dance before turning pro in 2012. The couple run the ballroom dance school Delta Dance just south of Vancouver Canada. George blogs regularly on issues related to ballroom dancing at delta.dance.