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Shooting non-repeatable events: weddings, recitals, plays, performances...


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Old August 12th, 2007, 09:42 PM   #1
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Overwhelmed by technical...

...how to get your mind back on the moment?

Let's face it, video is a highly technical endeavor. I did a wedding yesterday and checked how long it took to set up my camera and wireless system. It took 25 minutes to get all the wires, filters, tape, etc. all in place. After all that time setting up and then shooting the ceremony, all the while concentrating on focus, audio levels, exposure, and composition, I had some time with the couple to take some portraiture shots. I had them do a walk on the beach and did some pictures silhouetted by the sunset, but I started to draw a blank after a few shots. I think sometimes all the tech stuff clogs my brain and I don't feel as, for lack of a better term, "emotionally" creative.

How do you guys (and ladies) get back in the creative frame of mind after dealing with hundreds of technical details? Also, any tips on posed shots that usually look nice enough to include in the video?
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Old August 12th, 2007, 10:28 PM   #2
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Originally Posted by Marcus Marchesseault View Post
...how to get your mind back on the moment?

Let's face it, video is a highly technical endeavor. I did a wedding yesterday and checked how long it took to set up my camera and wireless system. It took 25 minutes to get all the wires, filters, tape, etc. all in place. After all that time setting up and then shooting the ceremony, all the while concentrating on focus, audio levels, exposure, and composition, I had some time with the couple to take some portraiture shots. I had them do a walk on the beach and did some pictures silhouetted by the sunset, but I started to draw a blank after a few shots. I think sometimes all the tech stuff clogs my brain and I don't feel as, for lack of a better term, "emotionally" creative.

How do you guys (and ladies) get back in the creative frame of mind after dealing with hundreds of technical details? Also, any tips on posed shots that usually look nice enough to include in the video?
An absolutely great question!

I've spent most of my life as a roadie, techie, general fix-it person as well as camera operator or operator of whatever had to be operated with the heads of Fortune 500 companies ready to take my head off if anything went wrong. I've had more than my share of stressful moments when the simplest audio connction seemed to take forever to identify and fix, almost always leaving me no time to reset my mind.

My solution was to always save something in my workflow to be exclusively mine, and let it be known that no one, for any reason, could interrupt me once I got to that point. Video jobs were probably the best escapes for me because once I "glued my face" to the viewfinder it was very easy to forget anything around me.

Look into the viewfinder and allow yourself to be be completely captured. Take control of the situation and ignore any outside influences. When you have accomplished what your wanted to accomplish, you can return to the reality of trials and tribulations. You will see the same issues with an oddly new and less stressed perspective. Somehow, those issues are always easier to resolve.
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Old August 12th, 2007, 10:30 PM   #3
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...how to get your mind back on the moment?

((Never take my mind OFF the moment to begin with...))

Let's face it, video is a highly technical endeavor.
((Yes it is and sadly there are many out there who have been in this business for long enough and are still yet to understand the funadamental elements behind the technicals of what we do))

I did a wedding yesterday and checked how long it took to set up my camera and wireless system.

((Takes me 7 to 9 minutes max to offload the car, set up a tripod with 2nd cam, calibrate first cam with second cam save the setings/WB exposure etc, say hi to the officiant, setup wireless mics on podium, officiant and groom and run a quick sound check.
That happens within the first 7 or so minutes of arriving to a ceremony and taking the keys out of the ignition.

From ther, once B roll cam is setup, i switch A roll to a differetn WB preset, shutter etc etc and take A roll to get my cutaways and scenic shots. Mngling, arrivals, groom etc etc
Once the boys are in the venue, i hang outside til bride arrives. She arrives i get my shots, i then ask teh photog to baulk for abotu 2 mins or so. I go in, reset my A roll to my previous calibrated settings and WB hit record, and click my fingers 3 times to sequence later in post.
I go to groom, tell him whats going on and let him know that were abotu to start. At thsi time im turning the mics on.
I then take my place at the front of the aisle (shootin back at the oncoming processional) and wait for photog to give the go-ahead

Have a sequence and stick to it.. trust me its fast and it works. ))

"It took 25 minutes to get all the wires, filters, tape, etc. all in place. After all that time setting up and then shooting the ceremony, all the while concentrating on focus, audio levels, exposure, and composition,"

Wires? filters? i dont see how these would be needed for a church ceremony, outdoors might be different, but if both cams are identical u shoudnt have a problem.
As for audio.. one word.. headfones.. noise cancelling headphones at that. Redundant audio also helps. Exposure.. well IMO once u have exposure locked, you shouldnt have to shift it save for about 1 stop at the most.
As for compositon, if youre a one man band, keep it safe. If 2, ensure you have one shooter who shoots the entire thing as though you dont even exist. 2 cameras makes for good work, but theres no point if only half the footage is usable. in turn, its always best to shoot each camera as though the other isnt there. Aside from that, once u get afew jobs under your belt, your workflow will come naturally whereby you wont even need to think about it, youll jsut do it.))


I had some time with the couple to take some portraiture shots. I had them do a walk on the beach and did some pictures silhouetted by the sunset, but I started to draw a blank after a few shots. I think sometimes all the tech stuff clogs my brain and I don't feel as, for lack of a better term, "emotionally" creative.

((OK, a couple of htings (and im putting these in my book, so this is a freeby LOL)
Ask yourself these questions, as the answers will change with EACH wedding and each couple will respond differently

Why are you there? What depth of archive are you creating? What style of edit are you wanting to achieve?
WHERE are you? Whats your location? Whats in your surrounds?
WHAT are you? Are you a tripod or are you a cinematographer?
What are THEY doing? or more precisely as a newly married couple what SHOULD they be doing? What level of intimcay do you see? What level of intimacy do you WANT to see?

The questions above are basics when it comes to handling a live event in an unknown environment.
The paramount trick to achieving the answers YOU want to see is interaction with the client and the surrpoundings. Once you learn how to interact youll have the couple eating out of your hands and your shots will reflect this.
The intimacy in which you initiate with the couple is a trigger. Once u begin the domino effect of that interaction with people, KEEP ON IT. Egg them on, push forward and continue motivating them.
I wont go into any more detail, but once u can get a couple to snuggle in together, will u have the ability to "keep on it"
In the end, the photog will also love u coz ur setting up shots which look natural and your initiating a positive response from the couples interaction with each other and with the camera.))

How do you guys (and ladies) get back in the creative frame of mind after dealing with hundreds of technical details?

((First of all, i try not to lose the artistry behind what i do. Theres a time and place for the artsy fartsy stuff and i dont let it get in the way of the fact that in reality, im only there to archive teh day.. the artsy fartsy stuff is secondary IMO, as without an archive, the art itself wont work.
Second, it helps if you have a photog who knows what theyre doing.
I EXPECT at the very least for a photographer to be as technically proficient and artistically mindful as i am.
If they are not, i make a point of taking the couple aside for a short video shoot while the photog deals with the bridal party (and vice versa) This way my work doesnt clash with his. I have my methods and teh means, but in teh end, it all comes down to the couple and the location .))

"Also, any tips on posed shots that usually look nice enough to include in the video?"

Agan, ask yourself teh kind of questions i have noted above. You will have answered them on your own without thinking, in turn answering your own question.
I personally HATE IT when people look at the video camera. its unnatural and looks cheesy unless something is actually happening which bring the video element of their acknowledgement to the fore (hard to explain, lets just say i dont like it when ppl look at teh camera if theyre wanting to pose.. thats what stills are for.. )
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Old August 12th, 2007, 10:43 PM   #4
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Try keeping a notebook of shot ideas. I try to keep a collection of ideas on hand and add to them whenever I see something I like or want to try, then, read through your notes when you have a chance.
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Old August 12th, 2007, 10:55 PM   #5
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My setups are probably different than yours.. I do C-Span like live recording in hotels all over California. But have faced the same situation. After sweating to set up and debug technical glitches, I am supposed to be Monet with the damn Arri's?

Now I arrive on location the night before and run the audio snake and power, place the sticks and stands. Get all the arranging and stage taping done. Then I go get dinner, come back and play around with the lights, back ground and camera angles. It's kinda fun late at night, with no one around. Security opens the room for me and I lock up when I am done. Then the next moring I just plug in my mixer, wireless receivers, microphones, camera and record. I have been gettng pretty good results with this system.
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Old August 13th, 2007, 01:56 AM   #6
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Originally Posted by Marcus Marchesseault View Post
...how to get your mind back on the moment?
This book has nothing to do with videography, but everything to do with staying focused and completely tuned in to what you are doing right now.

The Power of Now, by a German writer, Ekhart Tolle.

Give it a read, I found it to be brilliant.
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Old August 13th, 2007, 02:14 AM   #7
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Wow, that's much more response than I expected. Questions to ask, preparation guidelines, a book to read...very nice!

Regarding the list of shots to review, does anyone have any "must do" shots that aren't a patented trade secret?

"Wires? filters? i dont see how these would be needed for a church ceremony, outdoors might be different, but if both cams are identical u shoudnt have a problem."

It was an outdoor, single-camera shoot at the beach. I used a polarizer and I've been trying an ultra contrast filter to try to get the best possible exposure latitude. I brushed the dust off both before starting. The wires I refer to are the mic connections to the cam. I also needed to label a tape and put everything away in the truck before going out to shoot. I don't want to leave things around outside as I will likely forget them.

"Now I arrive on location the night before and run the audio snake and power, place the sticks and stands. Get all the arranging and stage taping done."

Preparation is an obvious answer to staying in a less technical frame of mind. Per my previous paragraph, I probably could have labeled the tape and cleaned the filters I knew I would use the night before. For some reason, I was more worried about forgetting things than to actually getting them ready in advance. I plan to show up to the next event with the camera ready to go the second my feet hit the pavement. Having tape in the camera and the filters in place will also reduce the likelihood that I will forget something as it will already be in place.

"Look into the viewfinder and allow yourself to be be completely captured. Take control of the situation and ignore any outside influences."

I am pretty good at clearing my mind of unimportant details once an event begins, but I tend to start narrowing my focus. I think I need to get my second eyeball looking at the big picture a bit more. It's that duality of focus that is challenging.

"The intimacy in which you initiate with the couple is a trigger. Once u begin the domino effect of that interaction with people, KEEP ON IT. Egg them on, push forward and continue motivating them."

That's some good advice and a concept that I hadn't considered. The sort of Who, What, Where, Why, and How is something I usually do, but I don't always know those things. This particular couple was from Sweden and communication was a bit minimal. Their English wasn't bad, but if sentences became paragraphs their eyes glazed over. I think if I had more of a plan that they would have been able to follow me. I just couldn't feel a story unfolding at the same time I ran the camera. The individual shots are very nice, but they may be difficult to edit with a nice flow.

Mahalo (thanks) for the great advice. I'll be better prepared technically and mentally next time. That was one of a few jobs where I had lots of freedom. I think I would like to work that way more but I just don't want to feel lost. As it was, I got great shots and will deliver a nice video for a very affordable price. I want to be able to also tell a great story and get even better shots so I won't always need to be affordable. I want to go from just documenting the moment with technical proficiency (I'm a total tech-head so that's not really a problem) to using technology to tell the audience a story about the subject in the most interesting way possible.
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Old August 13th, 2007, 08:19 AM   #8
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Originally Posted by Peter Jefferson View Post
...how to get your mind back on the moment?

((OK, a couple of htings (and im putting these in my book, so this is a freeby LOL))
Can I get a signed copy?
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Old August 13th, 2007, 09:31 AM   #9
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Originally Posted by Peter Jefferson View Post
I personally HATE IT when people look at the video camera.
Not only that, a lot of people can't tell the difference between an video of photocamera. Often at a reception when I film a group of people at a table they all look at the camera, raise their glasses as some kind of toast to the couple and then freeze, they only start moving again if I lower my camera. :D
When I'm looking through my viewfinder seeing all those people standing absolutely still, I have been thinking about trying to wait as long as possible to see when they figure out that I'm filming and not taking photo's. :)
That is one of the reasons I also use the camera's zoom so they don't see me, that gives the most natural behaviour.
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Old August 13th, 2007, 07:10 PM   #10
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Noa, that is exactly the kind of thing I'm trying to avoid. I want natural behavior, but I also would like to get the visual quality of a few staged shots with the couple. It's impossible to get perfect camera settings, composition, and placement when shooting entirely incognito. I want to add more quality shots where I can set up the composition and light just as I like. I think this is part of the formula to get wedding/event video to get paid like still photographers. People want the glamorous shots and pay big bucks to photographers for doing even less work than videographers. What seems to get in my way is the excessive technical load on my brain and the fact that it is more difficult to get planned motion shots than planned still shots.
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