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

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Old December 5th, 2009, 01:27 PM   #16
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Randy, Good comments. I prefer to answer your question in the positive light. I didn't mean to imply a "one versus the other" with respect to documentary versus cinematic. I like your idea of having a full coverage in your bag in the event the client subsequently decides to buy it too. Obviously, the primary determination of what is delivered is what the client wants. Nothing in what I said implies otherwise. I just believe that most clients will want both even if they don't realize it when they book the coverage.

No good purpose would be served by "calling a spade a spade" as you suggested. Those in the business have an idea of what I'm describing. I have encountered a couple of examples of those who show up at a wedding with one camera in their hands and shoot an assortment of beauty clips and slap it together and call it "Cinematic" as a cover for their incomplete coverage. The true masters of cinematic production should be especially offended by this. From my personal perspective, I particularly admire truly cinematic productions that are well done. Unfortunately there are some that abuse the word. When a videographer says things like, "shooting for a cinematic production is easier", you get a pretty good idea of where they're coming from. There is nothing "easy" about shooting truly creative shots as well as being alert for the opportunistic shots.

A point should be made about cost as well. While it's possible to do a single shooter documentary OR cinematic shoot, it really isn't feasible to do both well with a single shooter. The cinematic shooter has to be relieved of the linear shooting style that is used in a documentary. Even though some of the cinematic shooter's footage may be incorporated in the documentary when it is edited, they can't be constrained with maintaining the complete and linear flow of a documentary.
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Old December 5th, 2009, 01:51 PM   #17
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@Randy - some comments.

First my comments about posed shots were in relation to photography. With video clips (see samples on this site) my distinction related no to whether the shots were posed or not, but rather whether they were from the non-repeatable parts of the event (ceremony, speeches etc) or from the informal (highly edited) parts of the day.

Second - I am not imagining that a highlights clip is all that is delivered, I am asking how representative of the wedding video the clip is. I am not assuming anything - I am simply asking. If you want to share both for the same wedding we can all comment intelligently.

Third - I think we can all agree that one talented photographer with an assistant for 6-8 hours and 60-80 hours in post can create an exciting and comprehensive wedding video. And many (most?) super celebrities and very wealthy families choose this low-key route. So when I hear of teams of photographers and weeks in the edit bay I think "Lifestyles of the rich and famous" type production. Some people like it, some don't.
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Old December 5th, 2009, 02:45 PM   #18
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Great point Jim, this is our approach exactly. There are minimum two shooters throughout the day; One shooter is getting doc style continuous coverage, while the other is getting the more creative shots. There is a lot of overlap: both have to keep their eyes open for anything that will help the edit. But the "creative" shooter is liberated from the lock down coverage stuff, and can get the footage that is actually fun to watch.

I disagree with you however about delivering only highlights being a shortcut. We have a package where the client receives only a SDE or highlight video along with the raw footage. It's becoming quite popular, as clients seem to like the short videos on our website. And really, a shorter video done properly can have a huge emotional impact, more so than an hour long document can hope to have. It also allows you to focus on one mood or story or visual style rather than being a hodgepodge of "whatever happened that day."

Of course the long form has strengths as well, but it's worth noting that the average youtube video (that people actually watch) is 1-3 minutes. It's not just an attention span thing, it's choice - people don't always want to have their time monopolized for an hour or two. And to be honest, I don't find that there is enough "narrative" - that is, story unique to this day and this couple - to sustain a wedding video lasting over 20-30 minutes, and 3-5 minutes is a real sweet spot from the viewer's perspective.

As to "trends" in wedding videography, I think the wedding planners may want to know what to tell brides. Brides need to know that videography has come a very long way from even five years ago, and that if they value video they should be prepared to allocate more of their budget towards it. Does spending 10K on flowers make sense? Or should some of that go to something more permanent that captures everything that went on?

Also brides need to understand that online samples aren't necessarily representative of what will be produced at their wedding. There is a company in my area that hasn't updated their portfolio in years, but I know they do great work. If anything the biggest trend is the diversity in styles and approaches available. The bride that is serious about video needs to do her homework.

So, brides should spend more time doing research on videographers, and be prepared to spend more money than they may think to get something truly amazing.
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Old December 5th, 2009, 04:47 PM   #19
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Brides in my market area want more than only the highlight clip of the day so that is why I wrote that no one is going to ask for that but perhaps that will change. A trailer can be a good indicator on your work but like a trailer for a movie it only gives you a hint about the whole movie.

And yes, a Bride should be confident to book Bob to do her entire wedding based on his trailer.
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Old December 5th, 2009, 08:43 PM   #20
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The most significant thing about the thread is how little of the response is from outside the USA/Canada. Doug probably wants to restrict his speech's scope to his locality but the broader answers would show very different pictures in different places.

For just one example, it's my experience that most UK couples wouldn't wish to give the time from "their" day to indulge a video director wanting to shoot "arty" stuff.

Most of us here concentrate on being as invisible as possible because the photographer already takes them away from their guests for substantial periods doing his formals and portaits
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Old December 5th, 2009, 09:08 PM   #21
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Philip, I think that is one of the trends discussed in this thread. That you can get your arty shots without getting in the way, taking up time, or even being noticed. The trick is to anticipate and to compose a shot in your mind just a few moments before it's possible to get it. Then get it. Your client will be all the more impressed, since they never noticed the shot being created. The fly-on-the-wall ninja style shooting approach most of us use is no excuse for a lack of eye candy.
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Old December 5th, 2009, 09:25 PM   #22
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Erik, I agree - what I was referring to was the staged eye candy to use your expression.

We're hoping to add a portrait photographer to our team next year or 2011 to offer a complete package. Most photographers major on "reportage" - which is merely informal video without sound or movement. The one thing we can't do is the portrait.

In case this prompts others to question the jeopardy of losing the "photographer referral" - we've had precisely one such referral in three years.
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Old December 5th, 2009, 09:59 PM   #23
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Regarding international trends.

I believe Richard Wakefield is doing some beautiful cinematic work in your neck of the woods. In fact much of my ambition to strive for a more cinematic approach has been inspired by international work.

Jason Magbanua - Phillipines, Susanto Widjaja - Australia, Oleg Kalyan - Russia, Matthew Ebenezer - Australia, Minty Slippers - UK, Nicholas de Kock - South Africa, SiuCheung Leung - NZ, Serge Lebedev - Russia, Garry Garza - Philippines, Patrick Moreau, Erik Andersen and Bruce Patterson from Canada to name a few of my favorites.

In fact, the 'trend' to more cinematic work is likely as much driven by international work as it is North American work.

Certainly markets and clients within those markets differ in their tastes, with some finding wide, locked off shots acceptable if the audio is good and the camera is steady. But I for one strive to do more with the craft, and when you nail those beauty shots in a once in a lifetime event for the couple, well now you're breathing that rare air, that truly sets us as professionals apart from Uncle Bob and his handycam.
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Old December 6th, 2009, 01:44 AM   #24
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Ken, my point wasn't that there are no cinematic producers outside USA and Canada, merely that very few had commented in the thread. I agree completely about the moment of rare air, my point was that in my experience few couples are inclined to choose the cinematic approach.

A few years ago there was a lot of fuss in one of the UK amateur-wannabe-professional institutes about one of their number who'd done some different (perhaps you'd call it cinematic) work. I eventually saw some at the UK's main professional showcase and frankly it was appalling technically, out of focus, badly WB, badly exposed.

Shortly afterwards I bumped into a friend who's the MD of probably the best-known UK producer and she agreed with me.

I'm all for creative work and applaud those who do it. But if referrals really are the lifeblood of our business (and there's the awful word, business) the logical eventuality s that at best we can add a little more creativity to the programme that drove the client to choose us in the first place.

I find this similar to the arguments which raged through my 30 years in video and TV - why don't we go in for competitions and win some prizes that we could boast about in our advertising etc? The fact was that during the times we were really making business we had no time and when times were slack we felt we had to concentrate on getting more business in.

The last thing I would ever denigrate is creativity so please don't cast me as a Luddite - why I even cut into zooms these days!! :)
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Old December 6th, 2009, 03:59 AM   #25
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Cheers, boys. Great discussion going.

All of "cinematic wedding inspiration" when I first started wanting to move to that style came from outside of the USA. Stillmotion and JMag. I'd go out on a limb and say that the majority of leaders in our industry as far as the cinematic wedding filmmaking style are outside of the USA...(before I get called out on it, please read MAJORITY, not all :) ).

Jim - Nothing negative implied my friend. I'm all for straight up honesty. If it is a bunch of untalented people cj'ing each other, I'd like to know who you're talking about. I am in the business and I do know what you're talking about, but as to WHO, I have no clue. This is not to imply my association is anymore special than anyone else's, but no one here really says someone's work is great and lies to them as that doesn't help them improve.

I am also 100% with you as far as foregoing linear coverage in trade for more freedom. A good solution to this though is to have multiple unmanned cameras. I'm no Jmag or Stillmotion but I've done 3 camera ceremonies by myself and yes it's a bunch of work but not impossible to pull off. But again....cost right? ehhhhh. Talking in circles here ;).

Doug - I'd like to see what highlights you're basing everything off as it doesn't matter what source I use as it's not what your foundation of thinking was built of off. I'd like to help you here as it does good for our industry for you to properly inform these planners. I'm sorry but your interchanging of the word photographer and cinematographer/videographer is confusing me in your examples. Most studios charge between $3k-$6k for the "cinematic" type of coverage with the really established high end studios charging upwards of $8k-$20k. If $3k-$6k production is considered "rich and famous", I find that a bit strange as plenty of studios in my market have that pricing and are busy.

Erik - I was never one for fly on the wall/ninja approach in practice since just because we're in close on the action doesn't mean we're are the center of attention. So true about anticipation.

Philip - All the more reason why to know who your target client and couples are. If you're meeting with someone and they are not interested in the way you shoot, they simply aren't the type of couple you're looking for. I'm not saying turn down a booking, I'm just saying it's not your ideal client (ie. someone who would say "we trust you, this is what we like and don't like, do your thing").

Ken - Rare air sounds great :).

Forgive my abundance of personal replies. I haven't had much time to contribute nor be really active on this forum so I'm doing my best to get caught up ;).
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Old December 6th, 2009, 04:37 PM   #26
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Several people on this thread feel that there is a consensus in the way wedding video is going: vDSLRs and steadicams. One poster says 98%, another doesn't know a single dissenter. If you can pull off the DSLR/steadicam product with minimal crew then great. If you have to say "look in order to get the money shots I need another videographer", then not so great. Especially if the bride already has a team of photographers collecting the beauty shots. Can't you just make a slide show of the photographs? Or edit stills into your narrative video? One trend I have seen growing in recent years is planners and brides who don't want a 6 person media crew covering a 150-200 person wedding.

Another group of posters say that most brides don't want anything "artsy" just a video of their wedding. I think these posters may be correct about what most brides want. I also think that few of those brides will pay for a professional videographer.
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Old December 7th, 2009, 07:14 AM   #27
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I think Doug's piece is very perceptive, though I dispute the implicit denigration of non-artsy video in his last sentence - if that's what he intended, I'm not sure.

I celebrate the variety our industry offers and applaud those who can add genuine creativity and still make a healthy business.

In any business the central core is bread and butter for people working in it. As long as they are professional, deliver best practice at the right price, the industry as a whole will benefit from the excellence at the leading edge. It isn't a matter of them and us.

If the biggest challenge for video is to compete for the "recording" budget (and I think it is) then I think we have to learn from the people at the leading edge and adapt.

What I don't think really matters is equipment. It's what we do with it that matters. It's why amateur photographic magazines are full of equipment reviews and equipment developments whereas the amount of space given to equipment in the professional magazine is much less. They're more concerned with refinements in technique because they know that merely having the latest, most expensive gear doesn't make an amateur a pro.
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Old December 7th, 2009, 11:44 AM   #28
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Originally Posted by Doug Bennett View Post
Another group of posters say that most brides don't want anything "artsy" just a video of their wedding. I think these posters may be correct about what most brides want. I also think that few of those brides will pay for a professional videographer.

I am the one who usually gets the few that will pay, and thats fine with me, as Im no artist.

I think one thing missing in this discussion is the fact that the videographers represented on this forum probably represent the upper tier (or at least trying) of wedding videography and are not really representative of what you will find out in the wild. I am not saying the other folks are not hard working videographers, they are just not forum addicted junkies like us.

This is a wild guess of what I think is out there, based on meeting other local videographers and seeing various videos and demos.

Artistic/Cinematic - 0.1%
High quality video & editing but no artistic or innovative elements - 5%
Mediocre documentary/still looks good, moderate stolen music - 50%
Middle of the road, B&G still like it, lots of stolen music - 25%
Utter Crap and still paid for it - 15%

I would like to hear Don and others opinions on this.

Edit: I forgot to mention that the quality of the work seems to have little relevence to the price (except very high end stuff), only relavence to the business savy/marketing of the company. IMO, the top guys are providing a major deal to their customers and the customers don't even know it.
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Old December 7th, 2009, 01:12 PM   #29
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Well, since you asked... ;-)

IMO, IN MY AREA...since I'm not familiar with the other areas of the country although I have done a modicum of work in other areas, I can not speak to those areas, so I will keep my comments based on my area only. Also keep in mind that while the Chicagoland area is considered to be a major market as far as wedding video is concerned I would have to say it is not.
Now having said that it is my opinion that while many many many couples would love to have work like StillMotion, JMags, Kevin S., Mark and Trisha and many others on this forum produce, (first names that came to mind, no slight meant to anyone as there are so many more that post here that produce the top tier art we have grown to know and love so my apologies to anyone I didn't name), but one thing stops them. MONEY! It has been my experience that in my area as I'm sure many other areas around the USA video is generally the last thing hired and the first thing cut because of the budget. Now while video IS important to many many couples and every once in a while we get the pleasure of being one of the first vendors hired and even get to refer other vendors to the couple more often than not it is not that way, at least around here. The greater Chicagoland area has a population of some 9 million people, give or take a couple of thousand here or there, and there are upwards of 50,000 weddings per year. Of that perhaps 25 to maybe 30% have a professional video done. It has been my experience (there's that word again which by definition is something that happens to you that you wish had happened to someone else) that the greater majority of couples in this area that have a professional video done want; good solid steady footage, which means good framing, good color/exposure and good audio so they can hear their ceremony and reception and while they are getting that if the person they hired can also produce some artistic pieces for them to enjoy all the better. Perhaps a crew of 3 or more steadicam, gliders, all that sort of stuff. HOWEVER once again budget plays a hugh role in their choice of videographer. I have gotten many many requests from couples who want me to do their wedding and have a budget of less than 1/2 my least expensive package so obviously I don't do the job and IF I did I certainly would do more than the basic type of work. Please keep in mind that while the greater Chicagoland area is considered a major market the pricing has not kept pace with other areas and while there are many great vidoegraphers in this area that are creative and produce a top tier art product the vast majority do a basic document the day simple edit and put it out the door. I believe one obviously need to know their market and decide on a style to to what makes them happy and affords them a living and become the best at THAT in their respective area.
I don't know if that answers the question but that's my take on it. Take it with a grain of salt or don't take it at all, but one thing I do know and that's my marketplace. Damn, after 26 years I'd better :-)
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Old December 7th, 2009, 02:17 PM   #30
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Don, I'm always interested in what you think. Your advice has saved my bacon through the years...
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