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


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Old January 31st, 2005, 01:57 PM   #1
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Minimum equipment required for Wedding Videography

I'm just getting started in wedding videography and I'm wondering if some of you pros would list the equipment that you consider to be a minimum to jump into this business at a beginner to moderate professional level. For instance, I assume two cameras are probably required. Should at least one be a 3CCD and maybe the other can be a consumer level? What kind of audio would you consider necessary? And how bout the minimum level of software required? I'm very interested in your feedback on this. It's hard for me to know exactly what I should be buying now, and what can wait until I move to the next level. Thanks guys.
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Old January 31st, 2005, 02:32 PM   #2
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My first advice is to beware what you purchase. There's nothing worse than getting something that does the job today, but you have to replace tomorrow. That being said, heres my bottom line list...

2 Matching Cameras, both 3-CCD (otherwise you waste time doing color corrections)
1 Good Tripod
1 Cheap Tripod (just something to hold the camera, but dont plan on panning)
1 (Optional) Monopod for getting non-shaky roving shots
1 Wireless lav mic (plan on spending 500 to get something useful)
1 Handheld mic (if you do interviews)
Extra Cables (AC, XLR, RCA, various plugs, etc)

As for software, it depends on you cash flow. If you're using a mac I would get Final Cut Express, its a great package and not too pricey. If you cant afford that now, use iMovie (yes, iMovie can cut a good wedding video) and spend more time being creative rather than working the computer. Perhaps after a few gigs you can get more cash to upgrade, but this is a setup you can always use. The bad news is the above is probably about a 5k bill.

One thing I did to get started was to market a 1 camera shoot, but always (for my peace of mind) use two cameras. You clients will be amazed at the results, you have an insurance policy, and filming with two angles makes it easier to produce a quality edit. Suddenly, you will have tons of referals.

best of luck!
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Old January 31st, 2005, 03:34 PM   #3
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Very helpful Patrick. I was afraid you'd say I needed two 3-CCD cameras (since I almost broke the bank getting one). Thanks for the helpful work around on that. On the software, I have a PC and I'm using Pinnacle Studio Plus. I assume you think I could live with that for now? I'm getting comfortable with it and when I download the trial versions of the pro level packages they seem overwhelming. Should the handheld mic also be wireless?
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Old January 31st, 2005, 03:45 PM   #4
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I have no familarity with the software whatsoever, but chances are its good enough. It really doesnt take software with tons of bells and whistles to turn out a good video--it takes more creativity. I hardly ever use the special effects I could use because they take away from the video rather than add to it. You'd be much better off practicing your camera work than spending the extra hours at a desk.

As for mics, I've been using the Sennheiser G2 set that includes both the lav and a wireless plug on transmitter (XLR). That coupled with a inexpensive XLR mic (they can be had for $20) makes a great mic for interviews. I'll never forget the time I used a hardwired mic for interviews at a table. A drunk man passed the mic to his wife, knocking over 3 glasses of red wine in the process. Never again.

Also the wireless transmitter can be tied into a DJ system or a house soundsytem if you choose, all without requiring your camera to be tied down.
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Old January 31st, 2005, 04:58 PM   #5
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let me add to Patricks good info about your very basic kit.

BATTERIES! lots of them. The bigger the better.

3 is a minimum for any piece of gear.

For my PD150's I have 3 9 hour batteries for each camera. The old VX1000 has 5 1 hour, a 3 hour and a Bescor juice box that runs about 3 hours, for my FS camera 3 Hytron 120W batteries.

My Bescor on camera light has a 90 minute battery and a 4 hour power belt. My 20W emergency on cam lite has 2 90 minute batteries and the AB Ultralite runs off the camera power.

I can't stress the battery issue enough. NOTHING in the world other than not showing up to the event can be worse than to be in the middle of say the vows or the 1st dance and have your cam stop because of a dead battery.

IMHO if you have to use a 1 chip for a time as a back camera and get the battery you need for your primary camera, than thats what I would do.

Oh yeah, invest in a set of headphones so you can monitor your audio. After all, the best footage in the world is bad if the audio is crappy.

Have fun, and welcome to the wonderful world of wedings. Even after 21 years of weddings I still enjoy them!

Good Luck,
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Old January 31st, 2005, 06:22 PM   #6
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Thanks for tip on the batteries Don. I do need to buy one or two more for my good camera, for sure. You also mentioned something else that I've been wondering about.....you said you ENJOY doing the weddings. That is good to hear! I can't figure out if this is fun or just too stressful to be enjoyable. I'm counting on them getting enjoyable after I get more comfortable.
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Old January 31st, 2005, 06:44 PM   #7
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Also don't promise anything you can't deliver. If you can only afford 1 good camera, then make sure your clients understand what a 1 camera shoot entails. I've been doing weddings for about 2 years, and still only shoot with one camera, But every client knows exactly what to expect, and I refer those who want more to another studio, yes they charge over double, but to some people money is not an option.

I would say the one thing that I wish I would of bought right away was my wireless setup. Good audio can make up for not so good shots, but I find it doesn't work the other way around. Keep your eye on the classified section and ebay. I picked up a used Senn ew100 for less then 185 bucks, you won't see that every day, but you may get lucky.
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Old January 31st, 2005, 07:58 PM   #8
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Todd, can you tell me the wireless setup you use now during the wedding filming? I did buy a Samson M32 setup with a lav mic, used on ebay. I've already done a repair on a loose antenna, but I think it will work well. I know I need a second mic too.
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Old January 31st, 2005, 08:03 PM   #9
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Yeah, get a good audio setup, as NOTHING can cover bad audio.
As was posted before, UNDER PROMISE & OVER DELIVER!

Yes, I STILL enjoy MOST of the weddings, still get a few bridezillas but after 12 years in still work and 21 in video, I have figured out how to handle most anything a bride can throw me :-)

Stay cool, be relaxed and have fun with it.

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Old January 31st, 2005, 08:47 PM   #10
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I went through this less than a year ago so let me try to save you time searching and asking.

Most important part - Set your budget then make your list of required and nice to have's. Don't forget to add in all that easily forgotten stuff like tapes and blank DVD's so that you don't wind up half equipped and out of money. My budget was around $10,000 and I still feel like I need more equipment.
Second most important part - Don't skimp because you will regret it and wind up spending more later. Remember, you usually get what you pay for. Unfortunately your gonna definitely PAY for just about anything that is "professional" in the video world.

Required List
(Some of this was already mentioned but I'll do it again here for the sake of completeness.)

2 good cameras preferably the same or similar. Remember they need to perform well in low light. After a long time doing alot of reading on the forums I decided on buying PD170's and am very happy with the choice. I also think that a PD170 with a VX2100 as a second camera would work well. The image blocks are the same but you give up the XLRs & preamp for audio. It may be worth it to save $1000. That will get you a copy of Vegas 5 + DVD and a good tripod. You still have one camera with the goods for audio.

1st tripod: A good tripod head and sturdy legs that will get high enough to see over high walls at the choir loft and tall people in the pews. Here's what I use: 3182 Tripod Legs (Black); 3433 (501) Pro Video Head; 3189 Mid-Level Spreader. Very stable setup. I can get the camera to nearly 7 feet high still stable. Don't forget a remote control. I got a Varizoom VZ-Pro-L but I think I actually needed less. I think its way overpriced for what does.

2nd tripod: A second set up like the first would be nice but I went with cheaper Sony VCT-870RM with a built in remote. It's not as stable but it's a lot more portable and I use it as a quasi-steadicam and mono pod. I like using it better than my DV-Rig Pro in some cases.

A good cardioid condenser mic with a boom stand. This is good for getting all the music and sounds besides those at the altar. It will pick up the altar but go with a wireless as your primary for that. I use an Audio Technica AT835B.

A good wireless lapel mic system. I failed to do this. I bought a DV-Rig Pro instead. I've got to be honest, the money would have been better spent on a wireless system. I borrow one from a buddy on a regular basis (thanks Rick!!) and it really does improve the audio quality of the finished product. The DV-Rig is nice and adds cool points at the reception but those get taken away when you can barely hear the vows.

I already had this and since you're posting here I assume you do too. A computer. You need a BIG hard drive, and it has to be separate from the one your OS is installed on. I bought a 200 Gig for around $130. Well worth the money. They're probably cheaper now too. Donít' forget a DVD RW. LiteOn 812s, $100 in April of 2004. It does +R's or -R's. Dont' forget a firewire card. I got a generic card with 2 firewires and 2 USB2's. I think it was 40 bucks. You can capture analog through your camera if you need to so why spend extra on a capture card. Add a firewire cable to the list.

Video editing software. I went with Vegas 5 + DVD. I highly recommend this. It is really easy to use, has good work flow, loads of capabilities, and very stable.

Cases to carry and protect your cameras and equipment. I like the Petrol soft cases, I also bought a Hard case for the second camera.

On camera lighting - I haven't used this but my camera performs well in low light. a 10/20 watt light is what most folks use from what I read. I am considering one of these.



Mic cables. 50 ft XLR's
Lens cleaning kit.
Head cleaner cassette.
About 20 tapes to start with then buy more as you get work. Same for DVD's. You should be able to buy a spool for under $1 each. Get what you need and as you get work buy more.
DVD cases.
UV Filter for each camera.
2 big batteries for each camera. Forget the one that comes with it.
Think about the music you will use in the video. You will need to pay for it so make sure you include that when you are pricing.
Extension cords if you use house power instead of batteries. I do this when possible.
Tape - because you always need it for something.

I bought two cheap 13 inch TV's at Walmart to use as monitors. It helps with focusing but its probably really an optional thing

Thatís all I can think of for now. If anything more comes to mind I'll add it.


Edit: 2/2/05 12:50 pm
Forgot to mention the mixer. This is an optional item but I have found it usefull, especially when used to pick up feeds from the church's sound system. I use a Behringer MBX 1002.
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Old January 31st, 2005, 09:23 PM   #11
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Thanks for all the effort you put into that list Lamar. No wonder I'm a bit overwhelmed with so much to consider.
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Old January 31st, 2005, 09:32 PM   #12
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To do weddings right you absolutely need a minimum of two decent video cameras, because you have to have a backup option if your main camera fails for some reason. A single-chip backup camera is better than nothing if that's all you can afford, and you can mount that on a tripod for a general shot while you man the three-chip camera for your close-ups. If possible get a backup camera of the same brand as your main camera, preferably one which uses the same batteries.

Regarding audio, definitely plan to get a good wireless lavalier microphone kit with a camera-mountable "diversity" receiver. This is one of the most important things you can do to distinguish the quality of your wedding videos from amateur work, which inevitably will have poor sound. If you have two cameras running, one can have the wireless sound and the other can pick up ambient sound, or you can buy a 2-channel audio adapter to attach two microphones to one camera (if your camera doesn't have separate audio inputs). Also get some small headphones you can attach to your cameras headphone jack so you can check audio quality while you're recording. Chance are that learning to capture good audio is going to prove harder than getting good video, so don't underestimate this task.

You'll need a good on-camera light for the wedding receptions, preferably one with a diffuser over the bulb so you don't blind people. B&H Photo Video has a good kit with a long-life battery for something like $100-150.

Shoot on a tripod or monopod whenever possible: your video will look smoother and you'll save a lot of wear and tear on your body. If your good camera has a "LAN-C" controller input, get a LAN-C remote that attaches to the handle of your tripod. This will also help you make smoother video and reduce stress on your control hand.

For editing you may soon find yourself wanting more advanced software, at which point you should invest some time downloading demos and learning more advanced techniques. This is an ongoing activity for all of us.

Eventually you'll want backups for everything. Two 3-chip cameras, two wireless microphones, two good lights, and lots and lots of batteries.

The first several weddings you shoot are likely to seem quite stressful, but try not to let anyone else notice this. Eventually it will get more routine, and then it starts to be fun.
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Old January 31st, 2005, 09:51 PM   #13
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That's a loaded question. Depends on how you want to "define" minimum. That can be up to iterpretation.

My idea of minimum:
-2 cameras (3ccd) *there are, however, videographers that do 1 camera shoots for price tags in the upwards of 5k USD*
-wireless system
- two sets of tripods
- on camera lighting (for receptions)
- Extra batteries

That's not including a computer and NLE.



I use (and these are not all necessities):
"in the field"
- 2 cams (PD-170, VX2100)
- two bogen tripods (501 and 503 heads)
- bogen monopod with q/r plate
- Senheisser ME66 shotgun mic
- Sony UWP-C1 wireless system with ECM-77 lav mic
- Sony 10/20 lights w/ diffusion
- extra NP960 batteries
- Headphones
- Glidecam 4000 pro
- Portabrace bags
- iRiver recording units (2) for audio redundancy

"in the studio"
- PC (3.0ghz w/ 1gig ram)
- DSR-11 deck
- Sony PVM-14 L5/1 production monitor
- Several external HD's (totaling 1 terrabyte)
- Sony Vegas+DVD
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Old January 31st, 2005, 10:03 PM   #14
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And the one thing no one mentions is training. Your biggest tool is your brain.

Leave some money in your budget to get one or more of the "how to be a wedding videographer" videos. If you are gonna need to learn more about your NLE or camera techniques, leave a few bucks for that too. Maybe you need a crash course in professional audio techniques? Buy a few wedding demos from other videographers, there are a few nationally known ones that sell demo/training DVDs. Maybe even plan on going to WEVA annual conference this summer. Figure 5% - 10% of your budget on training and you will be better off no matter what you are trying to learn.
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Old February 1st, 2005, 06:27 AM   #15
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Good advice John.
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