I direct our video content – this includes STEEZY Studio classes, concept videos, commercials, and more. It’s a freaking amazing job, one that I never expected to have.
I started dancing at Diamond Bar High School’s Freestylerz Club and All Male Dance Team. I trained in Popping, along with Ballet, Contemporary, and Jazz.
I was on GRaVy Babies and later joined Family Bizness.
My father works in the film industry, so I’ve been exposed to this art form my entire life.
I originally wanted to be an actor, so I grabbed my mom’s MacBook and used the webcam to film videos with my neighbors, just for fun.
At the time, I knew nothing about camera techniques or lighting, but I had a good sense for what I liked in a video: shortform, comedy, lively camera movements…
I didn’t have to think of these things; they were just what I naturally enjoyed. That intuition is, to this day, one of the most important tools in my work.
The first dance video I shot was for Gina Hong in 2010. THEE GINA HONG! That’s how I felt the whole time I worked with her.
Since Gina's video, I’ve made hundreds of dance videos for different dancers.
Through my work, I learned that one of the most important parts of being a dance videographer is the trust you build with another creator.
The choreographer took a song, and added a layer of art to it: dance.
Then, I have to take those layers (music + dance), and add more layers: + cinematography + editing.
I have the ability to make their video look like utter crap, or way better than even they expected. And this requires for the choreographer to trust me as my own artist.
One thing that’s helped me earn this trust with dancers is simply: communication.
When someone asks me to make a video for them, I always ask these base questions:
1. What song(s) are you using?
2. Do you have a general concept? *I make sure to include “It’s okay if you don’t.”
3. How many dancers will be in the video?
Based on their responses, I give options for how their video can turn out, and we move forward to hash out details and logistics.
I’d say the most important part of making videos isn't the shoot itself, but rather the pre- and post-production.
I mean, I can’t say that I’m gonna make a turkey dinner… without bringing the turkey
!For example, if I want a giant “eye of Sauron” light in the back of a video, I have to find it, rent it, and get it to the shoot location!
SPEAKING OF THE EYE OF SAURON, this trust/communication was so important in making the Lyle Beniga’s concept videos for his Field of Vision program.
For each video, I asked those base questions, and he explained his intent, vision, and what he wanted to communicate.
Then Lyle, Kevin (STEEZY’s producer), and I created moodboards, bought and rented props, planned lighting set ups, styled costumes, and planned itineraries for each shoot day.
We looked at hundreds of different location options (shoutout to Peerspace and AirBnB), and even had some cancel on us – but thanks to well-organized pre-production with Producer Kevin, we were already prepared to go with Plan B, C, or D.
For the East Coast video, Lyle gave me the creative freedom to conceptualize the look of the video. I told him that I wanted to use (for lack of a better term) a gimmick.
I was inspired by the side-panning motion in Kendrick Lamar’s “King Kunta” music video:
– but this would require for him to adjust his choreography and blocking accordingly.
Many choreographers would be unwilling to hand off that artistic authority, but Lyle trusted my judgement and rechoreographed and reblocked his piece to fit what I envisioned in the scene.
You can see what I’m talking about (AND the giant 'Eye of Sauron' light in the back of the shot) here:
In our most recent shoot with Chris Martin, we again adjusted the piece and blocking to the environment.
The video was actually shot in the basement of STEEZY’s office building, so Kevin and I had the chance to go in there, look around, and come up with a set in advance.
I was telling Chris the kind of lighting I wanted to use, and he just said, “Cool, I trust you.” So we went ahead and made them. Like this.
This videographer - choreographer trust is something you need to build. But once a foundation is established, it’s very easy to work together.
So! Build a strong base as a videographer, understand your own skills, how you work, and be able to plan and communicate well.
Aside from this whole trust / communication dynamic, my advice is to make like Nike and just do it!
Go shoot stuff that you like! It really doesn’t matter how, or what equipment you use.
Just make something and ask yourself, “What do I like about this? What do I hate?”
Rather than trying to orchestrate the perfect video, be open to how it can turn out.
Imperfections are things that happen in the moment that make a video that much better or interesting.
It’s that flexibility that you have on set or in the moment that propels a video farther than what you thought it could be.
Videography is about getting the audience to feel what you want them to feel. And you can’t make anyone feel anything if you’re too rigid about the way to do it!
NOW, WHAT YOU’VE ALL BEEN WONDERING:
At STEEZY, we use the Panasonic Lumix GH4 digital camera.
It was a cost-efficient option for the quality it can produce. (But personally, I’d use a Sony A7SII over that. Santa?)
But seriously, don’t feel pressured to drop a load of cash on a camera.
You can make something incredible on an iPhone 6 camera, and you can make complete garbage on a fancy camera.
It’s about how you use what you have.
EVERYBODY SAYS THIS, BUT THEY STILL FOCUS ON THE CAMERA GEAR, NOT THE CONTENT. IT’S ABOUT THE CONTENT!!!!
Ahem, excuse me, sorry...
We also use a DJI Ronin stabilizer, and a Rhino Camera slider.
For lights, we have basic Came TV LED panel lights and a bunch of gels to manipulate the colors. I like to mix cool tones with warm tones to create more dynamic images.
QUICK LIGHTING TIP!!!
If you’re not trying to be crazy with your lighting and just want a clean, crisp looking video, then light the scene / dancers diagonally – from each 45 degree angle.
For example, one light pointing to them from the back left, and one from the front right. Yee.
If it’s not obvious by now, I absolutely love my job at STEEZY.
I love the culture that we’ve built, I love how dedicated and hard working each of my coworkers is, I love all the dancers I get to meet and work with.
Don’t get me wrong, everyone does a ridiculous amount of work. And trust me – the majority of it is not glamorous.
But we do it because we believe in our mission so much. We want to make dance accessible to the world.
For me, that means making dope and meaningful dance videos.
It also includes sharing dance tips, sessioning with other freestylers, talking to dancers from all over the world, teaching sprinkles of history and foundations in my classes, and more.
STEEZY is my full-time job, but it's also my lifestyle and my passion.
Because, like you, I'm just someone who loves dance and wants to share it with the world, using whatever I have.
So thank you so much for all your love and support, STEEZY Nation!
Please don't hesitate to message me if you want to chat about anything. Claydohboon, out.