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

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Old February 11th, 2009, 01:28 PM   #1
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Location: Montreal, Canada
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Experienced filmmaker doing engagement party for the first time

I've done quite a bit of short filmmaking, so I know all the technical aspects (camera, sound, editing, lighting, etc.). But someone asked me to film their engagement party and I'd like the benefit of the experience of others.

I'll be using a Canon XH-A1 with a shotgun mic and a top-mounted light, and maybe a Canon HV-20 for additional footage (if the client pays for it). The location is in a lounge club, with available light, and the party will last 4 hours. I have access to a wireless lav mic if needed.

I need to contact the client to get details as to the room (size, lighting), number of people, what they want exactly (DVD or Blu-ray), length of video, etc. What else should I ask about? Is it customary to get a deposit? What is a boilerplate contract to sign (including a waiver from all who'll be filmed)? Do you usually shoot 60i, or do clients prefer 24f (without having to explain the difference to them)?

As for price, I'd like to know what a ballpark figure is in the U.S. and Canada for a given length. I'll start from there and adjust for the particularities of this contract.


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Old February 11th, 2009, 02:42 PM   #2
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Having been asked to shoot something similar last year, my best advice is to get very detailed information on the event. You said it will be available light, will it be enough for your purposes? If not, bring extra lighting just in case. Unless the person booking you knows a lot about video they're probably overestimating the amount of ambient light. Also, find out if they're will be any "events" to cover. Like speeches, toasts, cultural ceremonies. It's will be really hard to give them a product if there is nothing going on besides idle chit chat and people eating. Weddings are great because they come with a long list of little events to cover; toasts, cake cutting, etc..

For price, I can't see doing something like this (unless it's for a friend or family) for less than $1000. The shoot will probably take at least 4 hours and probably anywhere from 4 to 8 hours of editing, depending on how involved you get.
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Old February 11th, 2009, 07:18 PM   #3
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Location: Montreal, Quebec
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Salut Jacques,

There may be a podium for speeches. If you can find out, you could put your own mic up there with either a wireless feed to your camera, or some kind of stand alone recorder.

Or you can find out if you can get a feed from the sound board. Otherwise you're stuck with on camera mic for speeches, which is never great.

I think William's figure of 1000 is about right for the job, though maybe a bit high in Montreal. A 4 hour party means a full day rate once you add setup time. Add your day rate (300-500 in Montreal) to whatever you think it will take you to edit and produce DVDs.

I would get a deposit for sure. Half up front to cover your shooting time at least. Don't hand over the DVDs without getting the rest.

I would shoot 60i. Only a very video aware client would ever know the difference, and 60i looks like "normal" video to most people. I wouldn't bother asking what they prefer.

Release forms? No way.

Even if the client doesn't pay for it, and you have the HV20 anyway, it would be useful as a safety shot and for cutaways during speeches.

See if you can get interviews from the guests. Clients love that.

Like a wedding, you should get shots of the tables of guests. Get them to say cheers or something. Especially immediate family tables (usually closest to the head table).

As for any event like that, get establishing shots of the venue, closeups of details (cake, decorations, flowers, etc). Get some kind of shot you can use to end the video (the happy couple dancing and waving bye to you, whatever).

Sorry if this seems like obvious stuff, but your post gives the impression you are not used to shooting events...
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Old February 12th, 2009, 07:25 PM   #4
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Thanks William (and merci Vitto). Your advice was extremely helpful, and not at all patronizing. I've e-mailed the client asking for some details, and offering that we meet to discuss the needs. I also asked about the club where the ceremony will take place, as I need her to understand what diffused lighting will mean to the image quality (I don't think they'll want hot movie lights blinding their guests).

That does worry me, actually. Not because of the XH-A1 (which works well in manual mode), but because the HV20 always tends to overexpose the image in automatic aperture mode. And using the automatic shutter mode would be so slow that motion would be jerky.

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Old February 12th, 2009, 07:51 PM   #5
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Location: Vancouver Island, Canada
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I would definitely start by asking the clients what their expectation is. Do they want slow and pretty or fun and funky? Maybe they don't know what they want, in which case - you can suggest some ideas.

In my mind this should be a light-hearted fun event. And if so, you're style should reflect that. What I mean is less consideration on absolute technical details and more on the flow of the event. If you're shooting it solo, then lock off or turn off the A1 for awhile and throw the HV20 on a glidecam, and have some fun. In four hours you will have WAY more footage than you would ever want to edit anyways.

Will the final version be edited to one or two favorite songs - with perhaps some dialogue voiced over some beauty shots? Which ever, I wouldn't take it any longer than 10-12 minutes, tops.

Maybe you want to start with some candid shots of them in a cafe (or whatever), walking along a lakeshore, or skating... Then include some shots from the engagement party. The choices are endless. What are there interests? Where did they meet? You can show them some of the excellent engagement/save the date videos posted here to give them some ideas. Maybe you don't need to shoot all 4 hours of the party.

Once you have a clear idea of what they want, then you can calculate the effort/time needed to shoot and edit.

I've just booked a couple of these myself, and look forward to having a blast shooting them. I just met with a couple last night and we were getting all excited about the different shots we could get...
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