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Behind the Scenes of Coach Nicole's DVD Shoot

By , SparkPeople Blogger
I'm so excited to officially make this announcement: SparkPeople will be releasing a new workout DVD later this year! And this one is going to be bigger and better than ever before.

Just four years ago, my co-worker Paul and I decided to shoot a few workout videos right here in the office and upload them to YouTube. We set up an inexpensive video camera on a tripod, and I shot every video in a single take, slowly but surely building the library of fitness videos offers today.

We've come a long way, baby.

A couple weeks ago, I flew to New York City and spent a week shooting two new workout DVDs in partnership with the awesome DVD producer Acacia, a leading distributor of original and award-winning yoga and fitness DVD programming. You may have heard of some of their popular titles: exhale spa’s best-selling Core Fusion workouts; innovative yoga practices from the top female yoga teacher in the country, Shiva Rea; the leading dance and Pilates barre workout Xtend Barre; and workouts from Bethenny Frankel, Joy Bauer and Kathy Smith, to name a few.

We had a set designer, wardrobe specialist, hair and makeup, a seriously credentialed director who has worked with many of the biggest fitness "stars," including Richard Simmons. We had original music produced especially for our workouts. We even casted two background exercisers to work out in the video with me! There were at least 15 people on the set from hair and makeup to wardrobe to assistant directors, three camera operators, and production assistants. This was far bigger than anything SparkPeople has done to date.

Ever wonder what really goes into the making of a workout DVD? It's no small feat! It takes a small army of people to make it happen—and lots of sweat. Here's a behind-the-scenes look at my recent DVD shoot, plus some EXCLUSIVE details about my upcoming workout DVD!

Before the Shoot
I spent about one full month working on the content for not one, but two new DVDs. From surveying our members about what they wanted to see, to designing workouts based on that feedback, practicing the workouts, and continuously tweaking the choreography, I lived, breathed and sweated over these workouts for several weeks. As the DVD shoot approached, I spent two weeks practicing all the workouts for several hours a day. This was so that shooting could go as smoothly as possible, but it also helped condition me for 12-hour days on set.

I traveled to New York a few weeks before the shoot to cast for background exercisers. This was very cool. We wanted to pick a couple other women who looked inspiring and real—not unattainable. We found Lindsay and Jewel, both of whom are not only trained dancers but also certified trainers and instructors. That means they knew how to do the exercises and do them well—and "in sync" with me. These ladies were SO FUN to work with and put so much hard work into the videos. In every single workout, Jewel shows a modified version for beginners, although Lyndsay had it the hardest. While I do show some of the advanced exercises, it was Lindsay's job to do every advanced move in every workout—with a smile on her face. I'm so happy to be able to share workouts that people of all levels can follow along with. These two made that possible!

Lindsay, left, and Jewel, right. These flexible dancers are good kickboxers, too!

Lindsay, Jewel and I rehearsed for two days before we shot the DVDs. This allowed us to tweak final things, like which leg or arm to start with on a given exercise. There is a lot of detail and planning that goes into a workout DVD. Everything from how you sit down on the mat or pick up your weights has to be planned and choreographed—it's a lot to remember. But it all pays off in the final product. That's how everyone in the video looks so put together and "on." Practice makes perfect!

Reviewing my cue cards before shooting another segment

I also made my own cue cards that were hung (or sometimes held) by the camera during the shoot. These showed a quick rundown of each exercise progression and the # of reps we needed to do. In addition, I had the greatest tool ever on this shoot: a fitness tech named Monique. Her job is to oversee the workouts as we shoot, count the repetitions of every exercise so I can focus on the exercises, and even help us on our form. So if Monique noticed my arm wasn’t straight enough on a certain exercise, she'd be off camera giving me visual cues to straighten my arm. She also helped with little things like giving me a preview of what exercise was next so that I didn't have to look away from the camera at my cue cards so much. I was used to doing videos all by myself and having to think about all of this at once, and it was so different—and helpful—to have other people helping me do all these things. Wow!

Monique and Lindsay reviewing the workout cue cards before shooting

The DVD Shoot
We arrive to the set around 7:30 a.m. to get dressed and get our hair and makeup done. We had one full-time wardrobe stylist and two hair and makeup artists between the three of us.

Before we'd start shooting, Lindsay, Jewel and I would "block" out about 10 minutes of a workout along with Monique's help. We'd talk it through briefly, say a few reminders, and give the director a sense of where we'd be moving so they could be sure to capture it. The goal is to shoot 10 continuous minutes of exercise without stopping, and to do it as perfectly as possible. I was mic'd up, our music would play in the background so we could all be on beat, and off we'd go! After we'd get to a natural stopping point between exercises, we'd cut. That’s when the fun began!

"Blocking" the workout before shooting it

During every break, about six people would rush up to me all at once to fix my makeup, blot sweat away, dry my shirt with a hairdryer, offer me water, bring me a fan, hold up my cue cards so I could think about what was coming next, give me notes from the director, offer me a snack. They did this for Jewel and Lindsay, too, of course. It was the real star treatment! Funny thing is that it all seems really frivolous, but every single one of these people was completely necessary. After all, we have so much to get done in a single day, and multitasking and getting it all done as fast as possible during each break is essential. After final touchups, we'd repeat the same segment we just shot one more time, then move to the next 10-minutes and so on. It went on like that all day (with one longer break for lunch) until we had sweated our way through more than 12 hours on set. And after that? We got up the next day and did the same thing all over again. Exhausting? Yes. But totally worth it. The fun far outweighed the fatigue for me. I think I was running on adrenaline all week long.

My amazing hair and makeup artist Fern doing final touch-ups

About the DVDs
Now for what you've been waiting for: DVD details! I can't tell you everything just yet, but what I can say is that the first release should be available on December 27, 2011. It's modeled off of our popular "Bootcamp" workouts on SparkPeople, but with new twists that you are going to love. The title? 28-Day Boot Camp.

I'll be sure to share more great details about the DVDs as we get closer to releasing them. I am really proud of this project and happy to bring these great workouts to you. The production may be bigger, but I'm still the same Coach Nicole you've always worked out with, which means you know you're going to get great workouts, real encouragement, and plenty of tips and cues to help you do them all safely and effectively. Are you excited?! I know I am!

It's a wrap! Monique, Lindsay, Marie (executive producer), Jewel, and me

All photos taken by Arthur Cohen.