Recently on social media there has been a lot of discussion in pro/am groups about private videotaping. A lot of frustration is being expressed and there is even talk of organizing a boycott against competitions or vendors who do not permit it.
So what is the big deal?
Many competitions contract a video vendor who then has exclusive rights to videotape the event. Any competitor who wishes a video of their performance can only obtain one by purchasing the video from the vendor directly. Typically, dancers fill out a form listing their heat number, competitor number, and dress colour for each event they would like filmed, paying for each video separately. The vendor then works to capture the video based on the information provided, compiles all the heats together and either provides a memory stick, DVD or online link to the videos, usually after the event concludes to allow for processing and sorting. Any private videotaping by anyone in the ballroom is then not permitted.
What are the complaints?
The most frequent complaint with this process seen on social media is from dancers who receive videos that either don’t actually feature them, or they are told after the fact that no cameras were available for their videos. Another common complaint is that the quality of the videos provided are much worse than what a friend could have captured on their cell phone. The cost of these videos is also another point of contention. Usually paid per heat or event, price ranges can vary, although it is quite difficult to find any pricing online. The last competition I did where videos had to be purchased they were $35 per event. When you add that to the entry fees, ticket prices and packages, in some cases the price of videos starts to seem like a bridge too far. Another common complaint is that when issues are identified, it becomes difficult, if not impossible to secure a refund for videos that are not up-to-snuff. Some vendors in particular are mentioned as being more difficult to deal with.
Thankfully, this does not seem to be as much of a problem in Canada as in the U.S.
Beyond complaints, a lot of frustrations are expressed with this process. Many dancers have specific preferences for what they would like in their videos to ensure it meets their intent. Competitors will often use videos as training aids, some will use for showing to family and friends after the event and others like them as souvenirs. With a private vendor, you are more or less stuck with accepting whatever video they provide and are limited in the direction you can provide.
Why are videos important?
Personally, I use videos for training. I prefer them to be zoomed so that I can be seen from head to toe with a little extra space on each side, and then have the camera track my coach and I as we dance. I do not like videos that zoom in and out, and I have received videos that cut off the feet or in which my coach and I are blocked the entire time by another couple, making the video almost unusable. I have also received videos that followed another couple for 45 seconds of a 1- minute heat before finding me on the floor. Considering the cost of the videos, I find it quite frustrated when what I receive is not helpful for me, or I have paid for something that is not what I was promised.
Is there a solution?
I don’t know. I do hear many students complaining and wanting to do their own videos. Some students appeal to organizers directly to ask for permission to do their own videos. Others have their own made despite the prohibition. Some have expressed frustration at having to just accept videos that don’t meet their needs. If all comps allowed private videotaping, would there be no use for vendors? Personally, I don’t think so. The problem with making your own videos is that you cannot film yourself while you dance. If you travel to a competition on your own, it is possible that you will not have anyone to film your heats for you. I also believe there will always be those who prefer to use the vendors and not have to worry about arranging for their own videos.
How common is it for competitions to allow private video?
In Canada, it appears to be about half. In our research for proamdancecanada.com, of the 21 CDF sanctioned competitions that include pro/am on our website, as far as we can tell 13 permit private video taping and some openly encourage it as well as posting and tagging photos and videos on social media. Of those who do permit it, several of them also provide a vendor. Of all those that require the use of a vendor, our research has not been able to find cost information.