Updated: Apr 4, 2021
I've written previous posts addressing the basics of recording pre-screens and video auditions with the benefit of access to dance studios, accompanists and other resources. Because EVERYTHING is different in 2020, adjusting suggestions for recording pre-screens and audition videos seems like a no-brainer.
Keep in mind that best practices shouldn't go out the window just because you are stuck having to record from home. Here are a few suggestions for making your pre-screens and videos look their best with the limitations presented by at-home recording.
A neutral background with few to no distractions will immediately help the viewer focus on you and your performance. A bare wall, solid curtain or repeating non-distracting pattern will do the trick. Make sure you wear something that contrasts with whatever background you have available. No "black shirts with a black curtain background". In the recording that equals a talented floating head and hands.
If the college program doesn't indicate how they'd like shots framed, here are a few suggestions for contemporary monologues, songs, classical monologues and dance. Note that in these examples the top of the performer's head is not cut off.
Contemporary monologues: "Close-up" = chest to top of head. Record in landscape mode.
Song: "3/4" shot = knees to top of head. Record in landscape mode.
Classical monologue & dance: "Full-body" = top of head to below feet. Landscape is better but it's often necessary to film this in portrait mode to keep the full body in the frame. If you don't have access to a studio at this time, it's okay to film outdoors, in a garage or on a deck if that's your only suitable space. Yes, this increases the possibility for more distractions, but many of the programs understand that dance-worthy options are limited in the current environment.
Eye level is the most appropriate level for filming these videos. An angle that shoots up your nose or brings your chest closer to the camera isn't flattering. Don't forget, the audience cannot see what the phone or camera is placed upon when you do your recordings, so get creative. When a tripod wasn't available, we've found success using a table with a chair upon it, stacked cardboard boxes with books and even a step ladder to achieve the right camera height and stability.
Perfect lighting might be difficult but "pretty good" lighting is quite possible. All you really need is decent front lighting that isn't too bright and no intense backlighting.
Be sure you watch takes before packing everything up.
Here's the first of a few videos highlighting some of the frequently encountered video audition submission issues.
More prescreen and video tips to come so subscribe to my youtube channel and stay tuned!