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Old August 11th, 2009, 10:53 PM   #1
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Camera Positions When You're Limited By Officiant

Hi all. I'm shooting a wedding this weekend in a church and the officiant has already alerted me to the fact that no cameras are allowed in the "chancillery" which is an extension of the altar with pews on either side. The pews will be occupied by the wedding party and there's no balconey either. I might be shooting the couple's back therefore and forget about reaction shots if the camera is positioned in the aisle "looking up" the aisle towards the couple. I'm using two cameras (Sony FX1 and FX1000) a G-2 wireless and a Zoom H2 double mic'd to the groom. Any recommendations on camera placement?
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Old August 12th, 2009, 01:29 AM   #2
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Ugh, that's a tight layout... Only possibility I can see is if there are doors off to the side (looks like there may be small prep rooms behind the pews?). Will your B cam be manned?

Any chance of a small cam in a floral arrangement? I'd even have a tough time with my small cams and clamp pods in that layout!
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Old August 12th, 2009, 03:16 AM   #3
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Hi Anthony

We have one Catholic Church here where we are forbidden in the aisle at any time so shooting has to be on the far side of the pews!!! Crazy!!! We were also informed that our limit of operation was between the front row of pews and up to where the "sacred" section began. Basically a strip around 10' wide. We also could not obstruct any guest view so I had one cam way to the left so I was essentially filming the couple at 45 degrees. What I did do is keep on the groom's side so at least I could move in on the bride's face!!!

All I could do is use the second camera for some wide shots and guest cutaways!!!

It will be interesting to see how you handle this one!!! I would make sure that the bride is aware that you have been limited in your work area so she doesn't expect miracles!!!

Chris
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Old August 12th, 2009, 06:00 AM   #4
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Camera Positions When You're Limited By Officiant

Thanks for your suggestions fellows. I might consider hiding a small dv cam I have (Sony HDR60) up there with the wedding party so at least I can get some footage of the couple's faces or putting the tripod in the center of the aisle up front though that will be VERY OBVIOUS to all attendees and not sure how happy they'll be not to mention having to whisk the tripod away before the couple walk down the aisle! I'll mention the limitations to the bride beforehand. Unfortunately, thiis church has no balconey either. I'll be going to the rehearsal Friday night so hopefully, i'll figure out something after watching that as to where to effectively place the cameras. Hey, we have to expect anything in this business!

Cheers!

Anthony
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Old August 12th, 2009, 12:44 PM   #5
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Ouch, that's a very constrained layout. You don't even have side isles. If you can get the couple to face each other, at least you won't have the back of their heads for the straight up the isle shot.

As for the second camera, will they allow you to have a fixed camera on a tripod on the right end of a pew on the right side a few rows from the front? If so, you can preframe it to the area where the B/G will be during the ceremony. You can get a good perspective of the bride if they will allow this camera position. It's best to have the tripod legs on the floor. If they are on the pew, you are likely to get some camera shake from people moving on the pew.
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Old August 12th, 2009, 02:32 PM   #6
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First let the couple know about the restrictions and not on the day of. Tell them now so they will not start calling you after they get the DVDs.
I shot a couple of weddings here in a church where the layout and rules were very similar so here's what I did and while it was not my favorite of things to do, I had no choice.
I placed 1 camera at the back behind the pews on a wide enough shot to get the entire altar including the pews where the bridal party sat. Now I also got the camera about 8 feet up in the air so I wasn't worried about it getting blocked. The priest allowed me to shot from the front to get the processional then I moved to the back center and used my manned camera to get tight shots of the couple (basically a 3 shot with the priest), then panned over for the readers and back to the couple for the vows at which time they faced each other. I was also able to get the recessional in bith tight and wide shots so although the majority of the footage was of the back of their heads, it was nicely executed AND they KNEW beforehand because I told them. Actually the 2nd couple told me. Not the best setup but it worked.
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Old August 12th, 2009, 07:45 PM   #7
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Camera Positions When You're Limited By Officiant

Jim...not sure about allowing me any leeway in camera placement in that "inner sanctum" area. My secretary tells me that Methodist churches don't generally like cameras during the service so I don't beleive I'm going to have much luck there. I thought of secreting a small dv cam facing the wedding party positioned to the right of the actual altar (the one with the gold cross) but unfortunately, that camera doesn't do 16:9 without bars. My main cameras are Sony HDVs and I'm shooting in high def. My clients would pick the toughest clime for a shoot, course they weren't thinking that when they picked out the church.

Don. I've already advised them but perhaps I can negotiate something Friday night with the minister. It's really tight even up there because of the pews and the fact that the wedding party (grooms' men) will be sitting in them (at least ten!)

Thanks for your inputs guys.

Cheers!

Anthony
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Old August 12th, 2009, 08:03 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by Anthony Cipriano View Post
perhaps I can negotiate something Friday night with the minister.
Perhaps it might help if you speak to the minister about camera placement with the B/G present. Depending on the personality of the minister, he might be more flexible if he sees that the B/G want better camera placement. There is a wide divergence of opinions among churches and ministers about "Holy" places in churches. It varies a great deal even with Catholic churches.

I wouldn't do any secretive camera placement that goes contrary to the rules that you have been given. One of the reason that some churches are so restrictive about camera placement is because they have been burned in the past by an inconsiderate videographer or photographer. Frankly I think that some ministers aren't guarding "Holy" space as much as they are setting up rules to keep the "vendors" in place.
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Old August 12th, 2009, 09:00 PM   #9
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Speaking to the minister

I intend to along with the b&g at the same time. They are parishoners as well so that might help with the discussions. The "secreting" of the minicam would only be with his permission of course! I wouldn't relish the idea of a minister thirowing out the camera at the last minute to my emabarassment! Thanks for the recommendation Jim.

Anthony
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Old August 12th, 2009, 10:52 PM   #10
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Good luck with it. Let us know how it went.
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Old August 29th, 2009, 11:10 AM   #11
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Fortunately this is a situation I've not found myself in very often but it does prove the value of remote/radio controlled hotheads. If I was setting out in weddings I doubt we'd be able to afford these but we had them so t was a matter of sorting out a new control case.

However, I think the most valuable and important advice was Don's - tell the clients right away. It's obviously too late to change but at least there'll be two more people persuading.

It's a sad fact that many of our colleagues, especially photographers with machine gun digital cameras, have abused the welcome of many venues by treating them as extensions of the studio. They're not. Whatever our own faiths, we have to respect the sanctity of the place the client has chosen for the ceremony.

Good luck.
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Old August 29th, 2009, 01:39 PM   #12
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it does prove the value of remote/radio controlled hotheads. If I was setting out in weddings I doubt we'd be able to afford these but we had them so t was a matter of sorting out a new control case.
Are there any decent ones at a reasonable price? Not only do you need the remote control but also the ability to monitor.
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Old August 30th, 2009, 04:36 AM   #13
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Jim, reasonable is a relative term. Even in corporate work we couldn't afford professional units. We made ours based on the Chinese pan and tilt head sold in the US and UK by a number of dealers. We're currently looking at replacing them with heavier duty models with a greater tilt angle (60/60 not 30/30) which is sometimes not enough in small churches. The present unit also sometimes struggles to bring a Z1 back up from an extreme forward tilt.

Those are hard wired so we had a pal (formerly Prof of Computing at Manchester University) make up the control units. These give us radio pan and tilt, provide 6v power to the head (from a 12V source) and also mimic the LANC control for the Z1s that sit on top. We thus have pan/tilt/zoom and stop/start control from three rocker switches.

Of course you have to be able to see what you're recording so each unit has a 12V video sender transmitter, also powered from the main control unit.

We run the lot on a 12v 3Ah SLA battery which is good for hours - bearing in mind that most of the time it's on standby.

At the other end we've built a standard 16" camera case into a control desk with the rockers for each head/camera, three video sender receivers, three 3" monitors and the transmitter (singular) for all three - together with built in SLA cells. By designing a digital control circuit and coding the commands we can run all the heads/cameras with a single transmitter.

The shortcomings (because there are inevitably some) are the quality/stability of the monitoring image and the potential interference of the control transmitter signal because everything's been built within the legal limits. We're looking to improve the effective strength of the transmitter by changing to a narrower band unit. The quality of the monitor images isn't critical but the proximity of the channels separated only by a small signal frequency leads to some crossover (but see the way we use them below).

The other thing is the characteristics of the head/zoom. Ideally they'd be padded at the ends of the movement, but the cost of the heads would rocket accordingly and AFAIK the LANC protocol is pretty basic, either on or off. However, only really limits the start/stop so we tend to use the controls as line ups for a static shot. Having said that we have done many zooms into the couple and the vicar from the back of the church (camera on a 16 ft lighting tripod) which is pretty impressive and we've never missed a ring finger closeup (or MCU if it's a big church) even when the two cameras with eyelines to the bride and groom have been masked.

We reckon each unit cost us about 1200 (say $1800) each but since neither I nor my buddy wants to go into production we're not bothering to develop beyond our needs. We did ask the UK importer of the heads which is also a small engineering firm if they wanted to discuss buying or leasing the design but they didn't see a market. Since the weakness of their head and the limited tilt is a fundamental flaw that was maybe fortuitous.

I hope I haven't made all this sound too easy - getting the camera level (at 16ft) is crucial and there are annoying things like a mix of tripod thread sizes on different pieces of gear to worry about. So too is the stability of the 16ft tripod. At its extreme extension it pays to not do too much pan/tilt variation since the natural flex of the unit means it takes time to settle.

On the other hand using just one does mean we can offer clients their "Sound of Music" shot as they enter and leave the church and if your church doesn't have a balcony there's no other way to do it. More importantly it's like having a third operator. A third camera locked off is one thing, having it adjustable and zoomable (is that a word?) is a real bonus. Great for covering the reader too. In extreme cases like the one dealt with in this thread, using all three cameras on them can mean the difference between doing the job or not doing it.

If people here are interested I'll post again as we test different heads, but I don't want to bore people to death. It's a great forum and I learn a great deal.

Last edited by Philip Howells; August 30th, 2009 at 04:39 AM. Reason: clarity
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Old August 30th, 2009, 06:06 AM   #14
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We made ours based on the Chinese pan and tilt head sold in the US and UK by a number of dealers.
Thanks Philip, Do you have a link that shows one of these?
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Old August 30th, 2009, 06:34 AM   #15
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Pan & Tilt Power Head

I notice that the spec here says tilt is 15/15 and they now offer a device to maximise the downward tilt. Seems a good idea.
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