Updated: Feb 11
Ho, ho ho!
The festive season is around the corner. It won’t be long until supermarkets start stocking their advent calendars in November and everywhere’s filled with tinsel and overplayed Christmas songs. But what's the most wholesome and magical aspect of Christmas for families? The School nativity of course!
Over the last few years, we’ve spent each Christmas going into schools across Sheffield and South Yorkshire to film their Christmas plays and nativities. We have an absolute blast capturing performances for parents to watch on DVD for years to come. Through our experiences filming for a variety of different schools, we’ve created a checklist for the perfect way to film your own show.
Below are the five ways to film a knock out school nativity, but before we dive in let’s discuss the benefits of getting it right.
The Benefits of Filming Your Nativity Right
If you’re considering filming your school’s nativity, as a parent, or as a school, it’s first important to consider why. What benefit does you or your school receive from filming the show, especially when you get it right.
The obvious benefit of filming your nativity is capturing the memory of the performance for years to come. These films can be perfect presents for friends and family, or even keepsakes to show your children when they’re older.
Filming your nativity can also be an incentive to the children performing. Whether you’re filming your little treasure, or you’re filming the production for your school, children are receptive to being filmed and will rise to the occasion.
Tips to Help You Film Your School Nativity
Now we’ve discussed the benefits of filming your nativity, let’s discuss how to do it right.
Step 1. Using a Decent Camera
We’re a video production company, it goes without saying our first point is going to be ‘film with a proper camera’!
It doesn’t have to be the latest or greatest, but using a tablet or phone simply won’t cut it. Anything that will record footage to a high quality (we’re talking at least 1080p) where all the children can be seen is essential.
Parents don’t want to be watching this 5 years later, unable to see anything more than a pixelated video. So make sure to invest in the proper equipment to film your show.
Step 2. The Levels of the Children
This may sound like something that’s only needed when taking photographs but it’s also important when filming so that the children aren’t physically blocking or masking each other.
If they’re standing in a group it’s surprisingly easy for the camera to muddle them all together. So after the first row, you can’t see any children at all.
Parents want to see their child above everything else and the best way to ensure this happens is by using levels.
The easiest way we’ve found to do this is to have some children standing, some sitting on a bench or chair and the rest on the floor. It’s a bit more challenging when the children are moving around the stage but it’s always important to ensure everyone can be seen when they’re under the spotlight.
Step 3. The Width of the Play!
This step is very similar to the second but just as integral. When staging your nativity make sure the children aren’t spread out too wide or you’ll have to zoom out with your camera losing clarity of the performance.
When the camera lens is at its widest you’ll see the least amount of detail as it tries to include everything in the shot. When you’re more zoomed in, the camera can work on closer details like children’s faces and actions.
Make sure when you stage your play that you consider how wide the performance will be, and if possible, bunch the children together as much as possible. This way parents and families will be able to see the finer details of their children’s performances - the drama, the jokes and everything that makes a great nativity.
Step 4. The Speakers!
Another useful consideration to filming your school's nativity is deciding how you’re capturing the sound and more importantly the quality of the speakers.
Most nativities optimise speaker systems for playing sound effects or soundtracks for musical songs. Make sure you have a discussion with the operator (the person playing the tracks) before you start the recording to ensure the speakers aren’t too loud to drown out the children’s voices or singing.
We advise even taking 5 minutes before the show to test levels against the children and their singing/dialogue, this way you can be sure you’ve found the perfect balance.
Step 5. Final Delivery
Before filming your nativity it’s also worth considering where you want the final video to end up. Are you planning on creating a DVD or uploading it to an online platform for parents to download?
Organising this can be quite a time-consuming process and with most nativities being filmed in early December, parents want to see a recording before Christmas Day itself.
Making sure you have this organised and ready to go in advance is a surefire way to jump ahead of the curb.
Other Notable Mentions for Filming Your Nativity
Now we’ve been through our top 5 tips for filming your nativity or school Christmas play, we have a few others to ensure your films are seamless.
When you’re filming your nativity, stick to either horizontal or vertical (preferably horizontal) so it’s consistent.
When filming, make sure you have enough storage to film the entire nativity (and more), so clear storage on your phone or carry an additional SD for your camera just in case.
There are various free editing software out there, with lots of troubleshooting videos on YouTube if you get stuck, alternatively, you can hire our professional video editing service.
Setting up the camera and equipment can take longer than you think, allow yourself time (such as an hour or so before) to ensure you’re ready to film when the curtain is drawn.
Make sure to get the right angle and set up, but don’t block anyone’s view of the nativity.
Keep the shot steady, using a tripod to capture the nativity if possible - this way you can watch the nativity instead of worrying about filming it.
Consider the lighting, make sure the nativity and the children are lit from the front, not behind.
Add a credit scene, helping to credit all those helpful humans out there including children and their roles, staff and even last-minute swoop-ins from parents.
Start Filming Your Movie-Quality Nativity this Christmas
So, those are our top five tips for filming your Christmas nativity this year! There’s no better opportunity for parents to watch their children all dressed up and performing. And better yet… families and friends will be able to watch the show back years later and still treasure those special moments. We can’t think of a better Christmas present than that!
We hope you’ve found our tips useful and you can now go out with confidence to capture your school's nativity show this year. Alternatively, if you’re a school looking for any type of event filming, contact us for more information to see how we can help.