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


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Old June 25th, 2009, 09:54 PM   #1
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First wedding advice

I'm shooting my first wedding Saturday night. It's a favor to the bride (i.e. free). I don't know what she's expecting, but I know what I want to deliver. I've been reading this forum for a few weeks now, and viewing a lot of your clips. I appreciate all of the information everyone shares here.

I'm not sure what I'm looking for, and I don't really know what to ask. I tried to plan out different possible camera positions, etc., but tonight was the rehearsal and all those plans got thrown out the window when I saw the church. It's long. Very long. So long in fact that the pews are divided into two groups with a horizontal aisle and doors in the middle of the church. The ladies (and bride) will walk the entire length of the church, meeting their groomsmen at this mid-way split. So I plan to have a stationary camera behind the first group of pews trained on the back of the church to capture the ladies, but wide enough to also capture the guys joining them. I'll be all the way up front, so I can capture from that point on myself.

Then I hope to have an opportunity to leave my camera long enough to reposition the stationary one to the very back of the church, shooting the entire length of the church up the center aisle to capture the readers, the singer, and the bride and groom exiting the church.

The bridal party will have their back to the congregation almost the entire ceremony (which upset the parents a bit), but luckily I will be on the other side with them facing me. But in order to be up there, I have to remain stationary and as hidden as possible (but I can sneak out for the rear camera switch).

And since I'm an extremely technical kind of guy, here's a nifty diagram I drew of the church, the bridal party, their paths, and my camera placements. The green dots are my cameras, with the yellow dot showing where I hope to be able to move the middle camera mid-ceremony.

http://sonanfiles.home.insightbb.com/images/wedding.gif

So any advice or simply well wishes are greatly appreciated.
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Old June 25th, 2009, 10:18 PM   #2
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Kevin -sounds like you've done your homework and have a good vantage point for your main camera. Be sure to let the photographers know where you'll be setting up your second camera so they can avoid getting in front of it. Good luck!

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Old June 26th, 2009, 12:27 AM   #3
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Congrats and have fun. I shot my first full cinematic wedding in March and while it was very heavy day and not everything went as planned, it was a lot of fun (and the final video turned out very nice IMO).

You've started out right, by researching here and showing up at the rehearsal. Some things I learned:

I did exactly what you did and drew a diagram of the ceremony area based on the info that I had, and planned where I was going to be at the different times. Just be flexible, as things won't go exactly as you plan. And remember that people will stand when the bride comes out. Consider that when you place the camera at the rear of the ceremony area.

Try to always have that "bail out" shot (the camera at the rear) available to you so that if you are caught out of position on your main camera (as may happen when things don't go exactly as planned), you always have a usable shot. If you need to set up the wide shot at the rear to start with and leave it for the whole ceremony, so be it. I was caught with at least one "dead" shot that I didn't have covered for a few seconds. I had to find another section of video that I could splice in place of it in a manner that no one would notice (and they didn't).

Be careful of "artsy" shots unless they are planned, you are confident you can pull it off, and you have the bail out shot available in case it doesn't work out.

Mic both the groom and the officiant if possible, in addition to a shotgun mic on the camera (again, if possible). My wedding took place outside with gusty winds (REALLY gusty at times, the bride had to hold her veil on, it was ridiculous) and I had to switch audio tracks several times in post between the two depending which way the groom/minister were facing in order to get a reasonable audio track. Its always good to have multiple audio tracks to choose from. Also, there was a groomsman who read a scripture and was much farther away than was represented to me at the rehearsal. Unfortunately, I did not pick up usable audio of it.

Get plenty of cutaways. Shoot face shots of the fathers and mothers, etc., and the bride. You can plug them in should you encounter a section that you did not get good coverage. I did not do this well enough. Fortunately, I always had the bail out shot but would like to have had more cutaways for added creative options in post.

Be extra careful around the important stuff, i.e. the vows, the rings, etc. Get two angles and don't count on the other camera getting the shot. Make sure you are in position to get usable coverage from both cameras. Thankfully I did, as the photographer (who was otherwise great to work with) put himself right between my main camera and the couple during an important section as I was checking my B-Roll camera. If I had been in transition and not in position with the other camera, big problems.......

Try not to run through the shot. I caught myself twice on camera trying to get around to the back of the ceremony and it looked obvious. Fortunately, I was able to edit myself out, but I learned from it.

I enjoyed reading about other's first time experiences, so hopefully you can learn from the mistakes I made at my first wedding shoot (also the things that I found went well). Some of them I didn't realize until the editing started. I have many more, but these are what stood out. Make sure to come back here and post a report.
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Old June 26th, 2009, 08:46 AM   #4
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Thanks for the quick replies!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Art Varga View Post
Be sure to let the photographers know where you'll be setting up your second camera so they can avoid getting in front of it.
I spoke with him last night. We actually collaborated on each others' plans a bit and even discussed techniques for dealing with the troublesome lighting. He was really nice. But he did say he would have an assistant covering the back half of the church, so I'm fully expecting her to step out in front of my rear camera a time or two. But since the bride is actually paying for the photographer, I'd rather they get good shots even if it means I have to do a little creative editing.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Tom Alexander View Post
...remember that people will stand when the bride comes out. Consider that when you place the camera at the rear of the ceremony area.
...
If you need to set up the wide shot at the rear to start with and leave it for the whole ceremony, so be it. I was caught with at least one "dead" shot that I didn't have covered for a few seconds. I had to find another section of video that I could splice in place of it in a manner that no one would notice (and they didn't).
My original plan was to keep the unmanned camera at the rear the whole time, but neither of my tripods were tall enough to see over standing guests. I didn't want a camera peeking out into the aisle for the processional, as I didn't want it visible to everyone (and the photographer) as the bride entered. But once I move it, I plan to have it in the aisle because it shouldn't matter anymore. I also have already taken (and plan to continue taking) shots of random things in the church, like all the stained glass windows, and the candles, and guests, to use as filler.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Tom Alexander View Post
Mic both the groom and the officiant if possible, in addition to a shotgun mic on the camera (again, if possible). ...Its always good to have multiple audio tracks to choose from.
Since I'm doing this for free, I'm limited to equipment I already have (which I realize I haven't shared yet). I do have a shotgun mic on my main camera, and I also have a unidirectional lapel mic, but not a good recorder that I can use with it. My best option is a 16khz voice recorder (good for dictation; bad for weddings). I may set it up near where they will be standing, but I'm not going to bother having the groom wear it. I really don't think the audio will be usable, and I don't want to give the false impression that they'll have good, clear audio of the vows. Fortunately, at least the bride will be facing me during the vows, so the shotgun mic should suffice.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Tom Alexander View Post
Be extra careful around the important stuff, i.e. the vows, the rings, etc. Get two angles and don't count on the other camera getting the shot. Make sure you are in position to get usable coverage from both cameras.
Even if I get the main camera repositioned before these events take place, it will be such a wide angle that I don't think the footage will be nearly detailed enough. But if having to choose between it and some random filler shots, I'd obviously choose it. I just hope I always have an angle from up front. I'm not supposed to move (a condition of being up front), but I may have to "lean" a litle or something. ;) The good news is, the photographer isn't allowed up front during the ceremony (since he'd obviously have to move around a lot).

Thanks again for the advice so far. I'll definitely share my story once it's all said and done.
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Old June 26th, 2009, 12:58 PM   #5
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I put together in my blog on shooting for weddings. Hope it helps.

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Old June 26th, 2009, 10:15 PM   #6
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One note on shotguns, they will pick up less than you think and more than you think. They will pick up less of the people you think they will, and more of the surrounding noise that you think they won't. If there are any AC motors (fans / AC units, organ pumps) they will be picked up by the shotgun. Unless you are within 6 feet of the bride, don't expect the shotgun to do much good.
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Old June 27th, 2009, 06:40 AM   #7
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6 feet is generous, most shotguns are good for 2 feet. if I didn't have wireless I would definately use a zoom or something like it for the vows. i would put it on the grrom and let the rest go, the vows are (imho the single most important thing in a wedding and if they can't hear them why bother)
regardless of whether the couple is paying or not I would want to produce the best product I could based on the gear I have at that time especially if i wanted to continue on and try to make a living doing weddings.
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Old June 27th, 2009, 08:00 AM   #8
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Thanks for the additional replies. Taky, I read your blog a while back from the Canon Vixia forums. Thanks again for that. And Jason and Don, thanks for the warning about shotgun mics. Even if I decided to invest in a better audio solution, it's too late now. It's wedding day!

My brother just announced that he's getting married, possibly as early as September. So I may be back with another challenge later this Summer, in trying to video a wedding with two unmanned cameras, as I'm guessing I'd be a part of the ceremony! But otherwise, I don't expect to turn this into a career.

Well, I'm off to help with decorations and maybe get some more establishing / filler shots. I'll check the forums one last time this afternoon when I come back home to get ready.
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Old June 29th, 2009, 05:33 AM   #9
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Wow. That's all I can say. What an experience it was to video my first wedding. I think the thing that surprises me the most is just how much work it was. I was so worried about planning for the ceremony, but it turned out that the hardest part was being in the right place at the right time for everything else. By the end of the night, I felt like I had run a marathon!

I take that back. The hardest part was filming the father / daughter dance and glancing down to see my own daughter (7) looking up at me with puppy dog eyes. I caved and put the camera down.

The ceremony went fairly well. I had the best vantage point for the most important stuff (better than most guests). But unfortunately, the bride ended up directly in line with a very bright stained glass window. Otherwise, it went better than I expected, especially given my restrictions on moving around. I was so worried the bride would end up blocked by the officiant. His book did block their hands for the rings and the knot tying. But overall I'm pretty happy with the footage I was able to capture.

Same goes for the reception. I got tons of good footage. Probably more than I should have, because now I have to go through it all! I had good vantage points for everything but the cake cutting (they turned last minute, so I got stuck filming from the side). But they were "nice" to each other, so I didn't really miss anything. I found it odd how differently people treated me. Some people were very careful not to step in front of me, while others didn't seem to care at all. And when I was going table to table, some people tried to ignore me while others waved and wished the B&G well.

Anyway, thanks again for all the advice, and I may be able to share a clip later this week.
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Old June 30th, 2009, 12:00 AM   #10
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Congrats Kevin! Are you turning into a professional wedding videographer now? hehe good luck with the editing and BluRay/DVD authoring
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Old June 30th, 2009, 04:29 PM   #11
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We all started with one wedding and look where we are now :)

Quote:
Same goes for the reception. I got tons of good footage. Probably more than I should have,
We used to walk away with 8 hours of footage for each camera. Now we get 3 hours each "YES!" wayyyy easier to edit.

Looking forward to the clip.
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Old July 1st, 2009, 08:58 AM   #12
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I've got the ceremony rendered and ready for DVD, and I learned a lot about aspect ratios in the process! I had to mix HD video with SD 16:9 video and render it to NTSC wide. Aparently, HD video is slightly narrower, even though mathematically it should be the same. I'll have to do some research on that, but I had to slightly crop my HD footage to fit the SD 16:9 video and the NTSC wide output aspect ratio.

But after that, it was just a matter of choosing the best footage and balancing out the shots. I'm happy with the flow of the ceremony feature, although the HD footage really stands out above the SD footage. I did what I could to match them up, through color correction, unsharp mask, levels, etc. But short of reducing the quality of the HD footage, there's nothing else I can think of to try.

Part of the reason I did the ceremony first was to get the SD footage out of the way. Now I can move on to the reception and highlights features using just the HD footage. I still need to render it down to NTSC wide for the DVD, but at least I can put together some 720p footage for uploading to Vimeo.
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Old July 1st, 2009, 09:33 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Art Varga View Post
Be sure to let the photographers know where you'll be setting up your second camera so they can avoid getting in front of it. Good luck!

Art
hehehehe.

Nice one Art!

Good luck indeed!
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Old July 1st, 2009, 09:58 AM   #14
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Oh yeah, I meant to share a story about that. I had my stationary camera directly behind the first section of pews aimed down the aisle to get the procession into the church. And my wife was nice enough to turn it around and position it just in front of the second section of pews aimed up the aisle for the rest of the ceremony. As soon as she did, the photographer set up shop directly in front of it! So half of the footage from that camera was of his back side. I was still able to use some of the footage, including the most important shot when the bride and groom walked out.

He was a nice guy, and I feel for him because he said he dropped both of his cameras earlier that day on the pavement while trying to get some shots of the church. I don't think he intentionally blocked my camera. Maybe he thought my wife was just moving it out of his way!
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Old July 1st, 2009, 10:29 PM   #15
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I think you have everything covered. Whenever I shoot I always like to make sure my camera bags are close by incase of an emergency I can swap out a battery or tape/Card. I also learned that light is always an issue when shooting a wedding. You may have to scrap camera angles at the last minute because of the lighting has changed in the church due to the time of day. You can always grab some good B-roll shots during the service when people are walking to the alter to speak or if someone is singing. Also during the vows keep and eye out for parents, this is a key part for mom or dad to shed a tear, as long as you have the backup shot rolling I would grab a shot of the parents for sure.If you are covering the preps, I like to pay more attention to detail with tighter shots and steady as I can get it. Its also a great time to catch some important sound bites so make sure you are getting good sound levels. I hope I was a help.
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