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


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Old March 26th, 2007, 11:13 AM   #1
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Joys & Mistakes of Weddings

I just delivered my latest video to my clients and it reminded me why I love doing weddings. They didn't get all weepy (ok a little bit) but they were impressed, they loved the footage and were talking about all the people they saw in the shots. They couldn't wait to show it to their parents. See.... that is why I love this job.

It certainly isn't for the money (they were still part of the Introductory pricing so it was only $500 + travel) which is 1/2 my current price for the basic level production (just in case anyone was interested).

And it also wasn't because this job is easy. This project had horrible lighting (ceremony in front of a bay window) and horrible sound (next to a train track with a sitting train that hissed VERY loud every 5 minutes like clockwork). This one took about 80-100 hours to edit because I wasted too much time trying to work with color correction and a mismatch between two cameras (the difference between a single chip and 3CCD camera is amazing!).

This wedding was from June06 but was backed up because another ceremony (Aug06) had a tighter delivery schedule and was a much more straightforward edit. Since filming the Jun06 wedding I have shot 3 others and looking at my footage for the June06 wedding I cringe. I committed so many blatant errors that I knew better than to do....

Every time I went back to editing this wedding I would kick myself mentally:

1) Didn't check 2nd camera / backup status before wedding and it "timed out" and went to sleep instead of recording ceremony
2) Didn't use tripod enough.
3) Moved camera during ceremony for different shot angle (makes editing a pain because I had to find cover footage for L cut) but then again I also though 2nd cam was running
4) didn't have shock mounted shotgun so camera mic had lots of camera noise and was nearly useless
5) didn't cut down output from DJ board; output blew out on the Sony MD recorder (this seems to happen 3/4 of the time with this MD, it is probably a lot more sensitive than I think).
6) Was not familiar enough with this camera (was only 3rd/4th time shooting an event with it)

So here are some solutions and some gear (gotta have those right?) that might help solve these problems. Some solutions are obvious and others are hard learned lessons that have not been repeated since then but I'm including them anyway because they apply to this wedding shoot.

1) Buy gear and get familiar with it!
2) Don't shoot with out assistant (aka my wife)... it just makes things easier especially to get B-Roll shots
3) Get quick release for tripod
4) Use tripod
5) Find a good shooting position and stay put if on 1 /2 cam events.


But not everything was FUBAR on this shoot. I did some thing very well:

1) Lots of B-roll
2) didn't miss any shots (barely)
3) great interaction with couple & guests (but I knew the couple so I better have good interactions with them)
4) Worked well with Photographer who would recommend me (except he is from Spokane WA and I'm in Boise ID so we aren't in same market).
5) Planned shots as good as possible despite bad lighting.

So that is an anatomy of my most recently delivered production. I am still looking to buy that gear I mentioned (PD170 anyone?). Any comments?

Jason Robinson
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Old March 26th, 2007, 01:03 PM   #2
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Sounds like you learned a lot. It's very wise to learn quickly from your mistakes and let it smart a little!

The more you can bring in your wife, the happier you will be, generally speaking. I LOVE having my wife across the isle. We've learned to communicate nonverbally, and it has been beautiful for our marriage. Having her also increases what we can charge, which makes it increasingly possible for her to stay at home with our son.

Which brings me to the third thing -- charge appropriately when you get good enough. You may want to do your brides a favor, but if you don't charge what you are worth, you will not only sell yourself short but will cause other videographers to have to work for peanuts. Brides down the line will suffer because you can't afford good gear. We did five weddings for free before we began charging, but we charge $2,000 for a full wedding package. We also plan to raise our rates $200 per year.

Finally, sound is HUGE! Mic both the officiant and groom. Get a third camera with a tall tripod. Buy the right stuff. Fight for the perspective that eliminates windows & light bulbs. Always use tripods for ceremonies. Have fun at receptions. Make your meal part of the contract so you don't starve. Bring water. Write a master checklist and be anal about it. Get there early. Dress in black/grey. Use the ring to zoom. Get architectural and ambience shots. Get really good at it and kick butt!

-Dana
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Old March 27th, 2007, 04:56 AM   #3
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But 9 months to deliver the finished video?!?!?!?!?!?! 'Scuse my interjecting but that hardly seems reasonable. The bride could have had their 1st kid by now! I'm not in the wedding biz but just off of the top of my head 6 weeks seems a far more sensible delivery schedule.
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Old March 27th, 2007, 06:09 AM   #4
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this a post i put up on a bridal forum in regard to delivery times.. .

------------------

Price vs content provided vs types of edit (edit style) vs popularity (ie weddings per month) vs service before, on and after the actual wedding vs accounting vs management vs consultations vs sales and marketing vs filming vs editing vs processing vs artwork and packaging vs Having a life = Delivery...

like i said, many factors to consider when it comes to delivery.. the above just scratches the surface

As an example, if a company provides "full or documentary edits" (ie Raw footage) with a short highlights, they'd be able to turn their work around faster
If however theyre creating feature length edits with multiple cameras, plus highlights dvd's with motion menu's and image cd's... it will take longer

If they edit their footage, then throw a soundtrack in the background without any tweaks, its a no brainer, but if theyre editing their work to the pace of the music and using the music as the foundation for the pace of the edit itself, then it will take longer

If they film and edit their own work it will take longer to deliver as opposed to those who outsource their filming and or edit services. If theyre an outfit who have 3 or 4 staffers theyll deliver faster, but more than likely you'll be paying more for this.

If the demand continues for long edit types, with different styalisations and feature length presentations with multiple cameras, delivery times will increase... couple that with HDV editing and optical HD delivery options, the additional encoding required to deliver the work on Hi Def and Standard Def will also take a chunk of time away from the delivery.

Like i said, dont let delivery ruin your experience with a particular company... more often than not, the wait is worth it..

Delivery times of Photos and videos cannot be compared. They are two very different delivery formats and each requires its respective post production requirements for delivery
Despite the artistic filiming/shooting similarities, they are very different beasts. Despite these artistic similarities, cost is also an obvious factor, where most people wil pay up to 2 to 3 times for photos as they would for their video.
With these additional funds, many video companies could hire additional staff, but its not the case as many video companies are actually undercharging simply to score the job.

Either way, dont ever forget that these archives are with you for life... IMO you dont want to risk the integrity of the work in an attempt to satisfy the need to see the finished work sooner rather than later..
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Old March 27th, 2007, 07:23 AM   #5
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It would certainly be unreasonable to expect turnarounds in days or a couple of weeks but 9 months, Peter? Heck, that's more time than it takes to post a lot of theatrical features and waaay longer then an episode of an hour-long dramatic TV series.
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Old March 27th, 2007, 02:11 PM   #6
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Correct... long turn around

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Originally Posted by Steve House View Post
It would certainly be unreasonable to expect turnarounds in days or a couple of weeks but 9 months, Peter? Heck, that's more time than it takes to post a lot of theatrical features and waaay longer then an episode of an hour-long dramatic TV series.
But that is also because I encountered some very unique problems AND because of a situation my customers understood. The wedding was in June and I got married in August. All of August & September were no-editing months. I started a new full time day job as well. Getting hitched myself and a new job suck my time away and my customers were just fine with waiting till they got their product.

Now the unique problems I found were the bad backlighting. I had to teach myself lots of color correcting & contrast changes in order to solve those lighting problems. I warned the couple at our first meeting when they told me where the setup would go. They understood that the lighting would not be good but that was the plan and they were OK with whatever it took for me to get as good a product to them as I could. I also warned them that I had a 2nd client booked the first week of August and they were leaving the state in Dec. So that client would have a bit higher editing priority for Oct-Dec. Again they were fine with that.

I should also point out (like I did before) that this was a 1/2 priced production because I was still getting my feet wet so to speak. The couple also understood the deal they were getting for a full cinematic edit with motion menus, (progressive scan & interlaced) so they were willing to wait.

jason
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Old March 27th, 2007, 02:12 PM   #7
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It would certainly be unreasonable to expect turnarounds in days or a couple of weeks but 9 months, Peter? Heck, that's more time than it takes to post a lot of theatrical features and waaay longer then an episode of an hour-long dramatic TV series.
The other piece of the puzzle that my clients do know about is that I am not employed full time for them, so I have other M-F 9-6 responsibilities.
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Old March 27th, 2007, 02:36 PM   #8
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The other piece of the puzzle that my clients do know about is that I am not employed full time for them, so I have other M-F 9-6 responsibilities.
Amen. I'm a full time EE major college student with extra projects on the side as well, $600 for a wedding on my part is not enough for them to demand I edit their four tapes of coverage into a DVD within 6 weeks.
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Old March 28th, 2007, 05:04 AM   #9
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Amen. I'm a full time EE major college student with extra projects on the side as well, $600 for a wedding on my part is not enough for them to demand I edit their four tapes of coverage into a DVD within 6 weeks.
Sorry guys, I don't mean to be critical but if you're going to take people's money to do a job for them, you're obligated to do it in a completely professional manner regardless of your other obligations, and that includes trying to give them the same level customer service they would get if they went to the best in the business. The attitude of "what can they expect for $600 bucks" / "what do they expect from someone who's part-time" / "they realize I have other things going on in my life" just doesn't cut it. My day job presently has me working on contract as an independent computer trainer, very similar to the structure you're in when you accept a wedding gig except it's for business clients instead of retail to the public. My clients have every right to expect that they're going to get 100% of my attention and energy for the job they've booked me for. Back-burnering a client to attend to a booking from another won't cut it nor will delivering less than 100% quality to the job because there's something going on in my personal life. If there are distractions going on that will prevent me from doing the job properly, I feel obligated to decline the booking rather than taking the client's money and delivering sub-standard performance. If it's just a hobby and you want to do an occasional gig for someone, that's fine - charge for expenses and have fun. If you want to do it professionally and are going to try to actually make money at it, even if it's just a part-time business for you, charge professional rates and deliver professional level service 100% of the time. And the really bad news? If you're a student and the professor announces a surprise exam on Monday that you really need to study for but you have a wedding booked on Sunday that you've accepted a deposit on and need to prep for, guess what you have to defer? Hint ... it's not the wedding.
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Old March 28th, 2007, 07:11 AM   #10
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Be as clear as possible what you're promising, including delivery time, in your contract. If it's a low budget wedding than promise what you believe is reasonable in that price range.

What one sells for $600 may not be what one sells for $2500. There's nothing wrong with that as long as one makes it clear in the contract. I include delivery time in my contract.

I'll admit I made mistakes in my estimates in the "early" days and was apologetic but never had an angry client if I was off by a couple of weeks.

I'd NEVER used an unmanned camera. Way too much can go wrong.
In many cases mixing a one chip and a three, or any other serious mismatch in cameras, will cost you more money than you saved in not buying a matched camera. Time is money and if you cut your color correction time you can use that time to make more money or take time off or whatever.

I find, often enough, I have to move the camera at some point during the ceremony simply because some part of the "line-up" changes and blocks my shot. If you don't have a cut away and you keep the audio going, there's creative solutions. Cut out the movement keeping the audio. Slow mo the outgoing shot or even freeze at some point and transition into the next shot.

I always lav mic the groom. You didn't mention that but I assume you had useful audio from some source given your camera mic situation. Camera mics are not good for much more than ambient noise but I'm not sure why you had so much handling noise on yours. The shotgun that comes with my Sony PD-170 will pick up motor noise if the ambient sound is low and I can hear when I dismount from tripod but otherwise it works well even when hand held.

You mention MD (mini-disc). Some event folks use for additional sources but for me, like an unmanned camera, I don't trust what I (or someone else) can't monitor directly. Such devices might be fine for a 2nd source you can live without if disaster strikes but I wouldn't make it a primary source. Even as a 2nd source, you've now added another device you have to sync up so keep that in mind.
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Old March 28th, 2007, 07:13 AM   #11
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"Sorry guys, I don't mean to be critical but if you're going to take people's money to do a job for them, you're obligated to do it in a completely professional manner regardless of your other obligations, and that includes trying to give them the same level customer service they would get if they went to the best in the business. The attitude of "what can they expect for $600 bucks" / "what do they expect from someone who's part-time" / "they realize I have other things going on in my life" just doesn't cut it. "

I totally agree, however if the clietn is happy to agree to this compromise (keyword) in service, then its their decision. The issue at hand though is that the keyword at play here is compromise. With compromise comes risk.
Another issue with comromise is that many MANY companies start out this way. I too was part time, but i never let it affect the actual work, however it DID put a dent in the delivery schedule.
Now some people dont make enough money to warrant a career change into full time weddings. For me, i hit 45 wedings a year on average so for me it was worthwhile juming, for others though they might hit 12 to 20 jobs and that may not cut it for them.
Now even though i do it full time, my numbers are obviously higher, but these part timers arent puttin as many hours into it as i am either... so in the end, theres an equilibrium between the 2 when it comes to delivery..
his reasons may be becuse he doesnt spend that much time on it, my reasons are that i have many more jobs to get through than he does.

Theres no right or wrong, but the attitude of "oh its just a hobby" is what is killing it for alot of us. ))

"My day job presently has me working on contract as an independent computer trainer, very similar to the structure you're in when you accept a wedding gig except it's for business clients instead of retail to the public. My clients have every right to expect that they're going to get 100% of my attention and energy for the job they've booked me for. Back-burnering a client to attend to a booking from another won't cut it nor will delivering less than 100% quality to the job because there's something going on in my personal life. "
I have to disagree here. We will ALL backburn a job. I'll explain..
Here in aus, we have peak seasons.. lets say Feb through to May.. now in Feb, i have 6 weddings, in march i have 4 in april 3 and may i have 5
Now i might start editing the first job in february, however those other 5 jobs require my attention to plan and execute teh shoot. this means at least an entire day allocated to prep the equipment and manage the entrei shoot. Then there is the shoot itself..
to do this, i have to stop editing.
Now were looning at 17 weddings right.. ok... not including the first one which is currently being serviced...

OK, 17 weddings, at least 2 days to manage each shoot (itinirary meetings, equipment check, actual shooting day etc etc
thats 34 days

now, add in the email and phone queries which come through (lets say 5 queries a day and at least 3 phone calls) <at least 3 hours a day on emails>
(Thats almost an entire day within that week jsut on answering emails)

now add calls and emails from previous clients <bout 1 to 2 hours a day>

now add life in that mix...

You can see where im going with this as irrespective of what people may think, the job WILL be put on the backburner to accomodate these other clients needs.
The point here though is that EACH client must be given the same courtesy, so you cannot compromise one clients planning (as an example) to appease another clietns need for delivery
It wont work.. trust me.. ))

If there are distractions going on that will prevent me from doing the job properly, I feel obligated to decline the booking rather than taking the client's money and delivering sub-standard performance.
((Then you more than likely wouldnt take one job per month.. or more accurately, one job within the time frame it takes you to deliver... if it takes you 2 weeks to edit and deliver a piece, then you're pretty much saying you'd limit yourself to 1 job every 3 weeks... approx 17 jobs a year... average $2k a pop = $34k a year... is that worth it you think? ))

"If it's just a hobby and you want to do an occasional gig for someone, that's fine - charge for expenses and have fun. If you want to do it professionally and are going to try to actually make money at it, even if it's just a part-time business for you, charge professional rates and deliver professional level service 100% of the time. "
((Agreed))

And the really bad news? If you're a student and the professor announces a surprise exam on Monday that you really need to study for but you have a wedding booked on Sunday that you've accepted a deposit on and need to prep for, guess what you have to defer? Hint ... it's not the wedding.

((Thats the choice of the videographer i guess... in this game once your commited, yoru commited from start to end))
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Old March 28th, 2007, 07:32 AM   #12
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I have been following this thread with some interest and first let me say I'm not for or against anyone and I'm trying to be objective both as a businessman and as a client (I married off 3 kids and ALL had video done)
Let me say that a very smart businessman once told me to underpromise and overdeliver but he also said when you take someones money for a product or service THEY are the ONLY client you have and the only thing going on in your lfe (in thier minds) treat them as such-they could have gone to anyone to get this product or service but they chose YOU.
Now having said that I'm afraid I must agree that 9 months to produce a wedding video under any circumstances is far too long REGARDLESS of the price or what else is going on in life. As we all know life goes on and stuff happens-you either work with it or you find something else to do.
PRICE has no bearing on when you get around to it-they paid the money YOU asked for so you do the job in a timely manner and frankly a small job of say 4 tapes shouldn't take that long especially if someone doesn't have a large editing backlog.
NOW there ARE exceptions to everything-so the first one might be that you have already discussed the delivery time with the client and for whatever reason it is an extended time and the client is agreeable to that (preferrably in writing) and the other expection might be the actual shooting schedule-meaning you start about 9 months prior to the wedding shooting dress shopping, showers, parties, etc BEFORE the wedding AND then shoot a retrospective about 4 to 6 weeks AFTER the wedding and have say about 30 to 40 hours of tape to cull through. However I doubt that someone would be getting a fee of $600 to $1000 for that type of gig (well maybe per day)
I guess what I'm trying to say here is I understand you're busy, we all are, but this same very smart and pretty well off businessman once told me that 'if it's important to you you MAKE the time to do it' and since you got the money IMO you should make the time to get it done in a timely manner and to my way of thinking 9 months is not timely.
Just my opinion on this particular subject and again I'm not out to 'stick it to anyone' just loooking at it as a client also. When my kids got married obviously I took care of the video (or hired a good friend to actually shoot and I edited) but the still photogs were not people I knew very well and we had an issue with one regarding delivery time so I can say as a client that waiting a long time is not fun and takes a lot of the excitment away and doesn't do the reputation any good...'Hey ABC Video is good...BUT man they take a loooonnnnngggg time to deliver. I don't know if I could recommend them'. I've heard it happen.
Anyway that's my $.03 worth (adjusted for inflation)
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Old March 28th, 2007, 07:47 AM   #13
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I liked Peter's description of time so much I'd thought I'd add a bit.

As part of your business model you need to target the number of paid hours of work you can get done. In this biz if you're thinking of a 40 hour work week you may only have time for about 20-25 hours of paid work for example. Of course many of us work much more than 40 hours a week. If you think you're going to have 40 hours of PAID work time then expect to be putting in 80 hours a week to do all stuff Peter (and the rest of us) does to run the business.

You need to be able to make enough money to live on with your PAID hours. That should be the very minimum you charge even as a "newbie" or "hobby." The better you get the higher your profit margin can be but if at the end of the month you can't put kibble on the table and the the landlord (or mortgage or student loan) than you have a serious kink in your business plan that needs to fixed pronto.

BTW for those who think it's ok to do those first few weddings below your life survival minimum, you can dig yourself into a big hole. All those happy clients will make recommendations to friends expecting the same price. You'll either wind up working for less than you can live on (and that's a FAST way to sink your life) or you'll raise your rates and you'll get a lot of "but you only charged X to so and so who told me about you" and you'll lose those potential clients and kill your most valuable marketing tool (word of mouth recommendations).

I speak from this sad experience as I too undercharged for my first few weddings. Recommendations came in for years afterwards that I just couldn't take because of my price increases.
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Old March 28th, 2007, 05:24 PM   #14
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one ting i should point out is that YOU might not consider it to be a long time when youve waited for THEM to give you their goods (ie, i have many instances where clients take forever to get back to you.. ) but with the pressures of their famiies and their own finaincial pressures, they wont admit that theyre in teh worng when it comes to contractual agreements (ie conditional requirements of said agreement) so no matter how "right" you are according to your contract, you will always be the bad guy as -

1) you didnt harrass them enough, so they took their time, and now its over a year since their wedding. Its your fault

2) they beleive you didnt explain the conditions (even though theyre written twice on the contract and allocated 2 pages to offer "direction" and discussed at least 3 weeks prio to the wedding itself

3) they paid you in advance and you want to now rip them off (this is according to the families perspective)

4) youre lazy.. even though they know you work 20hrs a day as the emails they get from you are marked as being sent at 330am

5) to save face and to not feel ashamed for overlooking their requirements, in front of family you are "too busy" even though thats not entirely true

6) Family and friends wont EVER know the truth of the matter that it took the client this much time to fulfil their requirements

7) You might get a referal from a friend of theirs who saw and enjoyed your work, but that wont mean shit when these people already have a preconception of your business. This is where you explain to these new potentials that Client A simply didnt provide their music (or whatever) but even that wont mean much considering the emotional attachment CLient B has to Client A. Who are they going to believe?
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Old March 29th, 2007, 09:44 AM   #15
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.....
Just my opinion on this particular subject and again I'm not out to 'stick it to anyone' just loooking at it as a client also. ...so I can say as a client that waiting a long time is not fun and takes a lot of the excitment away and doesn't do the reputation any good...'Hey ABC Video is good...BUT man they take a loooonnnnngggg time to deliver. I don't know if I could recommend them'. I've heard it happen.
Anyway that's my $.03 worth (adjusted for inflation)
Don
Exactly my sentiments. Wasn't trying to put down anyone but just offering my opinion as to the level of attention to customer service that anyone in a service industry such as videography needs to achieve in order to be successful.
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