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Wedding / Event Videography Techniques
Shooting non-repeatable events: weddings, recitals, plays, performances...


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Old October 25th, 2008, 11:31 PM   #1
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Just shot my first wedding...wow, I'm exhausted!

I just shot my first wedding with another guy running 3 cameras. I have a new found respect for those who do this for a living. My left arm is about to fall off after holding it up to the lens of my XHA1 for an hour straight during the ceremony. We had to hussle to get the shots and I see you have to really plan your every move beforehand. I think it went pretty good and I'm sure I'll do better and get more comfortable next time around.

Key learnings:

1. There is a place in this world for $2,000+ tripods.
2. Organization and planning really pay off.
3. The "people" part of this is huge. You really need to know who the key players are in each family beforehand in order to get the right shots.
4. Lighting and white balance are really tough, especially when many of the places have mixtures of daylight, stained glass windows, fluorescent, and incandescent lighting in the same spaces.
5. Understand the flower arrangements during the rehearsal period to figure out what shots will be blocked.
6. Good shoes are worth whatever they cost.
7. Live events are very different from staged events. The inability to "Let's do that one again" makes intuition, reflex, and flexibility (compromise?) essential.

Last edited by Roger Shealy; October 26th, 2008 at 08:31 PM.
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Old October 25th, 2008, 11:41 PM   #2
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just got home from my 1650th wedding or there abouts and you are 100% correct in all of your assessments.
Weddings are a 1 take event, no re-dos. To me it's always been like shooting a breaking news story. You have to be quick, fast and on your toes at all times. I still to this day liken it to my time in Vietnam. Hours of boredom, moments of terror BUT they do get easier as time goes on. The more you do the easier they get. Here's a tip for you. IF they have a program or printed bulletin get 1 and use it as your guideline to the players and the oreder of events. I can practically perform a Catholic mass ceremony, for all the times I've heard it, and I'm not Catholic, but I still get a program and use it as a guideline.Oh yeah, a good tripod is very very helpful, along with a bunch of other stuff you'll find you need to make it easier if you intend to pursue weddings as a profession.
Glad you got thru it.

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Old October 26th, 2008, 01:09 AM   #3
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Agreed, planning is huge- and backup planning is more huge. Shot my first a couple of months ago, outdoor wedding in the evening... As you're probably already guessing, the reception started more than an hour later than planned, night had fallen, the only real lighting was the tiki torches spaced out around the edge of the yard, and me without a video light. Needless to say not the quality you want to bring back to your clients. Always hope for the best but prepare for the worst.
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Old October 26th, 2008, 07:44 AM   #4
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Fortunately I had a camera mounted video light (VL-10i) which was worth its weight in gold. It really helped make the faces pop in the dim lighting at the rehearsal and reception (although it's a little harsh for those in front of the camera in a dark room).

Biggest challenges were:

- when to use manual, and when to use auto focus. In manual, it was difficult to make all the adjustments on the run while manning all the other rings. In auto the camera would sometimes tend to focus on the wall behind the subjects if I didn't have them framed dead center.

- The best shots required 20x zoom at points, and I couldn't keep all the wiggles out of my work; especially after the arms got tired!

Kinda fun, but a lotttttt of work.
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Old October 26th, 2008, 02:13 PM   #5
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an on camera lite is an absolute must in your kit and too bad if people don't like it. It's either that or a very bad image. You might try something like a dimmable and/or some diffusion on the light to help soften it up a bit.
Here's something I learned about 25 years ago but it's especially true today with small form factor cameras. When at the long end of the lense, keep the camera on a tripod, monopod or some other type of support other wise keep the camera on the short end of the lense. NOONE can hold a small camera that steady that long (more than a minute or so) at the long end of the lense without shake and jiggle. A movement of 1/8th of and inch at the camera will become violent movement on the screen.
Invest in a good tripod, a good light and keep in mind that in MOST cases at a dark venue you're going to be working at 1 exposure and won't need to be changing it much if at all. Dark is dark, use the camera light,set WB and exposure and go for it. That way all you need to worry about is keeping it sharp.

Don
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Old October 26th, 2008, 08:35 PM   #6
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I was on a tripod, but not a very good one. At 20x every adjustment left a wiggle. As my arms got tired they got less steady as I panned the pod.
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Old October 26th, 2008, 09:43 PM   #7
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I'm an old wedding photographer from film-only days, and based on my experiences there, I made a conscious decision NOT to be a wedding videographer. There just isn't enough money in the work to be worth the effort. Photographers have it easy -- they only work about 10-20% of the time. The videographer is on the go about 95% of the time, plus with post, the hourly rate works out to minimum wage or so. I much rather would shoot special events than weddings.

I've done 14-hour long shoots for documentary work, and, yes, a good tripod is worth the money. By the end of that day, the tripod was holding ME up as well.

I hear of people shooting wedding videos single-handed, and I wonder how they do it. I couldn't see handling a wedding with less than two people, more like three. Throw in sound issues, keeping a second camera loaded and running, and coordinating with the photographer to keep out of each others' line of fire , plus dealing with the usual emotional wedding meltdowns, it's too much of a high-stress environment. I'd rather be wading waist-deep in scummy water, camera on my shoulder and towing the rest of my gear behind me on a small raft trying to get wildlife shots in the cattails, while looking out for snakes.

Regards;
Martin
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Old October 27th, 2008, 06:57 AM   #8
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Martin,

I haven't chosen wedding videography as a career but have considered getting my kids into it to help them pay for college and provide additional income. I would help them get started and I already have the gear. My oldest son is in film school, so this would be right up his alley. I shot this one for a relative to see what it was like.

I hear most weddings fetch $2,500 - $4,000. I imagine it will take approximately 20 hours to plan & capture the event, plus about 30 hours to edit and output. That puts us somewhere in the $40 - $65 per hour range after expenses if you own the gear, hire a helper, and the gig is in town. I'm not editing this one, but I feel confident I could put it together in 30 hours. I don't know if client "rework" at the end is a big gotcha.
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Old October 27th, 2008, 07:26 AM   #9
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I hear of people shooting wedding videos single-handed, and I wonder how they do it.
Probably 80% of the weddings I do are single-handed, one camera. It's not as bad as you think. Just takes experience and attention while you shoot to make sure you are getting the needed material for the editor.

In our market, people just don't see the need for a second camera, and it's a struggle to get them to go for it.
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Old October 27th, 2008, 10:48 AM   #10
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Vito,

Interesting. I always thought I'd have two cameras for the ceremony, one in the balcony with a wide, safe shot to use as fill and a manned camera bouncing around for the best shots.

Do you typically provide a continuous version of the ceremony or an edited "highlights" of the ceremony? The reason I ask is I can't imagine capturing a continuous shoot of the ceremony with one camera swinging back and forth as people walk down the aisle, light candles.... and it being presentable without either a 2nd fill camera or editing out the camera swings.
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Old October 27th, 2008, 11:06 AM   #11
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I've been a solo shooter for years. Generally 2 cameras, 1 on the altar if I can (if not it goes where I can get the best shot possible.) and 1 manned. Once I start the cameras I don't stop them. For my short form edits I use the footage that works the best but here's an old saying I go by; 'you can't edit what you don't have'. Keep the camera running and if you have some wild pans then edit around them. That's what the 2nd camera is for BUT again an old saying I go by; 'shoot as if the 2nd camera isn't there'. Too many times we get so dependent on it and what happens IF, the camera craps out on you or the shot gets blocked or or or... Things can and do happen so my rule is to shoot like it (the 2nd camera) isn't there then when I edit and find I have a great shot there, terrific. More good stuff to edit with.
BTW, I prefer to shoot solo although I will admit If I can have a 2nd operator and they know what they're doing and the camera is in a good position to get a good shot, great. Otherwise I work like I have for many many years and do the best I can under the circumstances.
But that's just me.

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Old October 27th, 2008, 11:07 AM   #12
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I regularly do single camera shoots and do a full version of the ceremony. You just simply lock down the camera, do a few very subtle zooms. Then I just cut out the sections where nothing is happening and put a dissolve on it.

The type of people who I shoot and the company's I work for are just happy if everything is there, and they aren't looking for anything fancy during the ceremony. If I'm shooting for myself, though, then I do at least three cameras and two operators, but it is possible to do one camera assuming they specifically want a lot of cutting.
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Old October 27th, 2008, 02:43 PM   #13
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Thanks guys, great info to see how others do it. If it was only one camera, editing would be a breeze.
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Old October 27th, 2008, 03:46 PM   #14
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I was on a tripod, but not a very good one. At 20x every adjustment left a wiggle. As my arms got tired they got less steady as I panned the pod.
I just finished my first multi-cam live mix webcast (say that 5 times fast) and even with a Libec & Matthews tripods, my two GL2s were wobbly when zoomed in to 20x. No panning motion was smooth. Even with all the slack parts removed fro mthe system (no beachtek, multirig, etc on any of the systems.

The shoot that far out and get smooth footage really must require an amazing tripod. With an equally astonishing price.
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Old October 27th, 2008, 03:54 PM   #15
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If you're doing a full ceremony , sure you could in theory do a boring locked down one angle shot... with minimal editing. A short form edit with one cam leaves you room to cut, as long as you get the key shots...

Most of the weddings I do aren't the hour long mass type thing, but are more a 15 minute whiz bang affair - you can't really edit a whole bunch without missing it altogether!

I'm in the "4 cams running" camp, with careful preset zooms and angles so I can start wide and tighten up each cam quickly as I pass by - the majority of the time 3 out of 4 cameras are "unmanned", and there's only 1 or 2 zooms on each. If I botch a "creative" shot (and I do more than I'd like), I've got another angle most of the time.

I also did some ceremonies early on with 2 cams, one in back manned and one in front as Jason describes. That setup works, but it's tricky to get a good angle on the front - now I cross fire cameras from the wings - one facing bride, one facing groom. Bride being the more important...

For me it's faster and easier to edit 4 cameras and pick the best shot than to sweat the "missed" shots. I'm realizing I've developed a bit of a different approach though...
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