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


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Old March 1st, 2010, 02:08 PM   #1
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Low lighting - If you can consider candles as lighting

Hi everyone,

Just filmed a wedding and walking into the ceremony room made my heart drop into my feet. The only light in the room was from about 15 candles.

10 of them on a chimney mantle behind the officiant, and the rest along the sides of the 100 foot long room. No windows.

I'm not kidding when I say I was terrified of the outcome of my shoot. Granted, the HV30s I work with are not the best in low-light, but with any camera, what is the expected outcome from that in your experiences? I don't think it's proper to use on camera lights when it will completely kill the mood and ambiance. And I would have to close in the couple closely to have the light work anyway.

What are the cameras that work best in this kind of lighting situation, and how do you all deal with a similar situation.

Thanks for the input!
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Old March 1st, 2010, 02:38 PM   #2
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Mike... this is the kind of stuff you must know ahead of time! Tell the brides that it sure will look and feel nice, but it will kill the video.

Literally KILL IT. :(

You can bump the gain up as high as it can go, move closer with the camera (avoiding zooming in) and beg and plead to turn some lights on.

Had I ventured in to that scenario, it would have sucked the life right out of me too.
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Old March 1st, 2010, 02:46 PM   #3
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First and foremost this is something you needed to know BEFORE the wedding day. It would be in your own best interest to make sure you have at least one planning meeting with the couple to discuss the wedding day details. This would include asking them about the lighting for their ceremony and the reception. If you know in advance it really goes a long way to having a better plan on the day of the wedding.

As for low-light situations, you have to make couples understand that if it's dark in the room it's going to be dark in the video. There's just no way around it, especially since cameras generally pick up less light than our eyes. So they need to know in advance that if they go with candle-light, the video will be dark. Maybe they are okay with that and maybe they aren't, but you absolute MUST tackle that issue before the wedding day.

Regarding cameras, I would say something like a Canon 5D or 7D would be pretty good in low light, as well as a Sony EX3 (maybe the EX1 .. no experience with those). But just know that no camera is going to provide a miracle in that situation.

Lastly, you're right that if a couple has planned out a candle-lit event you're going to get on their bad side really quick if you just start flipping lights on. d;-) In the event that you end up in a dark situation that was NOT pre-planned, then go to the couple right then and there (or the coordinator) and explain the situation and see if you can get some additional light. If not, do the best you can and just don't stress over the fact that the video will be dark. As long as you and the couple are on the same page, you'll be fine.
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Old March 1st, 2010, 02:52 PM   #4
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Hi Guys,

Thanks for the input.

I sat down with the bride about a month before the wedding (she was a late booker) and had that talk about lighting. I always take the time to explain the effects of low light so if something like this happens, I can cover myself with "remember when we talked about lighting...," and I also have something in my contract regarding uncontrollable (by the videographer) circumstances.

I had no idea, though, that it was going to be candlelit and there was no rehearsal for me to attend. I finished up the vid and will be sending it out soon. Not sure if I should be looking forward to her feedback!

Thanks for the camera suggestions. I'm about to dive into a more pro camera than the HV30s which have done me pretty well, but get killed in low light.
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Old March 1st, 2010, 03:17 PM   #5
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Mike, I work in the exact opposite. Rather than explaining to the Bride why I don't light ceremonies or receptions, I explain to them why I should. I had a situation similar to yours, candle lights and a glass stain window (Old Castle). The sunlight was intermittent ( playing hide & seek), rather than risk it, I lighted the ceremony. Am thankful I did.

My 2 cents.
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Old March 1st, 2010, 03:34 PM   #6
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Hi Noel,

Thanks.

Out of curiosity, what do you mean by lighting the ceremony? Did you bring in your own gear for the event?
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Old March 1st, 2010, 03:55 PM   #7
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Hi Mike, I bring my own lighting equipment ( 2 Tota Lights). Very seldom that I light the ceremony but I always light the reception.
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Old March 1st, 2010, 05:53 PM   #8
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I had a similar experience about ten years ago. Only candles in one of the best examples of dismal-upon-dismal church architecture I had the misfortune to experience. I went to the groom and told him I could not record the ceremony without additional lighting. Fortunately, he was a photographer and understood my situation. I could add lighting, but not destroy the ambiance of the environment. That's right, he had nothing to do with planning.
The altar was loaded with candles. Enough so had the Fire Marshall been attending, he would have been foaming at the mouth with indignation. Fortunately, I had at the time a Lowell light kit which included two of their tiny focusable spot lights (can't now remember the model). Set to spot position, with barn doors and a dimmer, I was able to create enough light for my cameras as well as visually reinforce the idea the altar was entirely lit by candles. No one appeared to object. However, for the processional and recessional I had to carefully slow down what decent video I had to fit the music.

For me, a very lucky break. Taught me to ask lots of questions beforehand.
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Old March 1st, 2010, 07:37 PM   #9
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I endorse everything Travis wrote except his recommendations re cameras because I have no experience of those he suggests.

What I would say is that if you have reached the situation even after his wise advice, remember there are ways to use candle light - silhouettes, reflections etc. - and make absolutely sure you get good sound and as extensive a B roll as possible. The client will have chosen the candle lighting so use it and shoot them (the candles). In such a situation I'd probably mentally think of this as a radio programme with images and even resort to a little Foley in post if necessary.
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