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


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Old June 1st, 2010, 05:04 PM   #1
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Questions to the High End wedding Pros

i have soooo many questions. i want to learn as much as possible and i have been reading and reading. i am VERY impressed by many of the cinematic videos i see on the "display your work" section. i have a millioin questions but here are a few:

1. how much of your videos are staged?
2. how often do you add lights to a scene?
3. how big is yor crew?
4. what r some of your most useful tools in shooting the wedding (ie steadi cam etc.)
5. what is your most successful wedding and what made it so great?
6. what do you wish you had in terms of equipment?
7. how long did it take you to truly be able to produce great wedding videos at a high price?
8. how much do you charge and what is it based on?
9. what do you shoot with (in terms of camera and why?)
9. what software do you use for effects and lighting effects and editing?
10. what do you wish you had?

any and all answers are MUCH appreciated from anyone doing HIGH END weddings. i am really blown away by them. i thought i was doing ok, but some of these high end movie style weddings are just awesome. thanks. will keep searching for answers but hope i find some with this thread.
-JS

Last edited by Jason Steele; June 1st, 2010 at 08:53 PM.
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Old June 3rd, 2010, 12:29 PM   #2
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Hi Jason,

I guess it depends on what your definition of high end is. We are a little limited by the markets we serve. One market is around 800,000 and the other is around a million. In 2009 our average was $5030 (that total averages all weddings from the $3500 ones to the $10,000 one) for our wedding films. The highest we have booked is just over $10,000, but those do not come along very often, at least in our area. So I don't know if we meet your high end difinition but I will answer your questions.

1. Very little staging.
2. We add lights to the reception as needed, but very rarely add lighting to the ceremony.
3. Typically 2-3, max of 5
4. Tools... DP Slider, Glidecam, Monopod, Sennheiser wireless & zooms, the Reception Lights and Comer 1800.
5. It depends on your definition of success. Can you be more specific?
6. I wish I had the low light and DoF control of a DSLR in a video camera body.
7. We started in 1996, went full time in 2000 and started getting an average of $3400 in 2003. I feel like 2002-03 is when we really started producing decent stuff. It was around that time that we booked our first $5000+ wedding, so I guess the brides agreed as well.
8. Our wedding films start at $3500 for 6 hours of coverage which gets a SDE and full edit of the ceremony and toasts. More complete coverage for 6 hours starts at $4500 and goes up to $10,000 and beyond.
9a. HMC150s because I love their colors, light weight, wide lens, and I like AVCHD so much better than HDV. We have also started adding in DSLR footage as well.
9b. We don't do much in way of effects. We edit with Edius 5.5.
10. More time and a larger & wealthier market...I'm working on both.
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Old June 4th, 2010, 04:13 PM   #3
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We're high-end for our area, and hope to be high end for our new market when we relocate to Miami in a few months. So I'll provide some answers ...

#1 Little to no staging (never any staging of emotional reactions).
#2 We only use lights for the major reception events.
#3 We cover every wedding with a crew of 2.
#4 DVR's. We gave them a try about 6 years ago and love not dealing with wireless anymore.
#5 Not sure how to answer this one.
#6 I wish I had a DSLR with a few more 'videocamera' features; focus-assist peaking, zebras, etc.
#7 We were producing quality work right away, but it took about 3 years to really start perfecting our own style.
#8 We start at $3500; it's based on the total hours of work required as well as overhead and other business expenses.
#9 Canon 7D's. Unbeatable image quality and low-light ability for the price.
#9 Final Cut Pro ... although we generally avoid 'effects'.
#10 Same answer as Mark. d;-)
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Old June 6th, 2010, 01:26 PM   #4
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Hey Travis

What model DVR do you use. If you don't want to post here, message me. I was thinking of those Lectro dual thingys a while back, but that 4k per pop price is hefty. I guess what bothers me about the DVR is letting go of the audio control. I will use both if I have bad air around.
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Old June 6th, 2010, 08:50 PM   #5
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Olympus DS30's. They are discontinued now, but I'm sure they have newer models that would work the same. We're actually planning on picking up another DVR within the next year (we currently use 2 DS30's and a Zoom H4n), just haven't had time to research the new models.
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Old June 7th, 2010, 01:33 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jason Steele View Post
i have soooo many questions. i want to learn as much as possible and i have been reading and reading. i am VERY impressed by many of the cinematic videos i see on the "display your work" section. i have a millioin questions but here are a few:
Hey Jason,

I want to honor your questions, but also address some things I believe are important, too.

First of all, are you in Austin? If so, I am about to (finally) make the move there from Waco and consolidate my operations in the capital city. We should meet up sometime.

1. how much of your videos are staged?

1% - 3% - detail shots.

2. how often do you add lights to a scene?

During the reception, I or my assistant attaches a light to the quick release on a monopod and gets some cool directional lighting for dancing footage.

3. how big is yor crew?

Crew of two - if doing a Same-Day-Edit, 3. If shooting super8, many times just me.

4. what r some of your most useful tools in shooting the wedding (ie steadi cam etc.)

I like to travel small and light. 19" DP Slider and Stedicam Merlin. Light Manfrotto carbon fiber tripod for ceremony only, monopods for the rest of the day.

6. what do you wish you had in terms of equipment?

A few more lenses for the 7D, but currently, I have everything I need.

7. how long did it take you to truly be able to produce great wedding videos at a high price?

Addressed somewhat below.

8. how much do you charge and what is it based on?

I keep it simple. An all inclusive (editing included) hourly rate for consecutive shooting hours. $750/hr, minimum of 6 hours. (On a side note, I was charging this rate before I went HD in December 2009).

9. what do you shoot with (in terms of camera and why?)

7D - love the look and the form factor. And more importantly, I've found that the 5D/7D has an aesthetic to which brides are attracted. On the web, which is where most brides will first see our work, it really stands out above the look of other HD. It has a photographic quality to it, and brides love photographs, so they're connecting to that love.

9. what software do you use for effects and lighting effects and editing?

Final Cut Pro. I'm not into effects.

10. what do you wish you had?

A cabin in Colorado!
----------
I noticed that your questions were mostly gear related. I want to disabuse you of any notion that the latest gear is required to get into the high-end market. Gear does, however, aid in creating a high-end look. But producing high-end looking wedding films, and booking high-end clients are not necessarily one and the same.

Most of the studios I know producing work for high-end clients and making high-end dollars themselves are low key in their approach. While there is a "high-end" for every approach, I believe there is a significantly greater chance of getting into the high-end market with a low-key approach. The percentage of brides electing to go without a wedding film is in the neighborhood of 60-65%. Sadly, if you were to only survey brides who could afford a $5 - $10K video, I believe that percentage would be even larger (going without).

But let's not look at it sadly - let's look at it as an opportunity. That market is virtually untapped, so it's ripe for the picking So what do those brides want - what will move them from a 'no' to a 'yes?'

In my experience, those brides want:

1. Discreetness - I'm not saying to find the closest corner and wedge yourself into it. Quite the opposite. I'm saying they want (a) a calm, confident presence, (b) small cameras, (c) little to no additional lighting, especially no on-camera lighting.

2. Natural storytelling/editing - straight cuts, emphasis on story and personality, creating something true to the experience versus something sensationalized through filters and music, natural audio.

<I'll not go into what they want as far as your business image - website and deliverables, as I believe there are others here who can go into that better>

Above all this, my clients desire me to be more than an artist that brings them joy, but a reliable business. High-end clients spend high-end dollars with high-end companies because they believe that those companies have solid systems in place to take care of business. And high-end vendors refer based on who is dependable - not who has the best looking product. Who is going to make them look good, because their reputation is on the line with every referral.

Having said all that, I wish I would have invested more in myself early on versus into gear (jib collecting dust). Developing sales skills, marketing skills, bedside manner skills - these are investments that appreciate over time in your business and never grow obsolete. And frankly, they get you the jobs. Quite the opposite when one invests in equipment.

I believe that if most studios would target the high-end focusing on these things versus equipment, they would find their high end clients faster.

You can take a look at some of my work on my blog, and while aesthetically it's pretty good (storytelling is really good I must say), it's leagues below the aesthetic that many others out there are producing. Yet, in choosing to focus on the business of my business the last 3 years - reducing my delivery time, networking, staying in touch with past clients, sharpening my sales skills - my average booking has gone up significantly every year. And my equipment load gets lighter and lighter, too. What could be better?

So in conclusion, I encourage you to work on becoming a high-end service provider, and then be able to pay cash for all the high-end toys to continue to perfect the high-end look.

I welcome feedback to my post, especially from those whose pathway has been different than mine - with high-production value and employment of the coolest tools ushering you into the high-end market.

And Jason, let's meet up sometime somewhere on the I-35 corridor.

jones
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Old June 7th, 2010, 03:37 PM   #7
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Excellent post, Chris. Lots of valuable information in there that anyone can use.
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Old July 1st, 2010, 02:19 PM   #8
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Very much so. Thanks Chris.
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Old July 1st, 2010, 06:50 PM   #9
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1. how much of your videos are staged?
Maybe 1 or 2 shots out of an entire highlight.... I'm one who blelieves b&g's aren't typically great actors and staged shots can come across very cheesy and canned.... I do however let the photog pose them and if I like it I'll get it with the steadicam. My staged shots usually involve a detail during the ceremony that is hard or impossible to get live... Or some sort of highspeed shot like running.
2. how often do you add lights to a scene?
Again... Maybe 1 or 2 shots out of an entire highlight. Lighting is a last resort to me. Although I have to say the micro litepanels are awesome.
3. how big is yor crew?
On a shoot 2 to 3... Employees, 2 full timers and a few part timers... Working on more. The best thing I ever did for my business was to hire someone to do the work I either didn't like to do or didn't have time to do.... It allowed my to free up time to focus on building my business and make it more successful instead of keeping brides happy and making deadlines.... I like to let others worry about that for me.
4. what r some of your most useful tools in shooting the wedding (ie steadi cam etc.)
I think the two things that most often make an amature video is shakey footage and poor audio... Fix those two problems and that's half the battle. For me steadicam has been a great asset, but learning how to use it well has been even more important. Investing in proper training was worth every penny.
5. what is your most successful wedding and what made it so great?
My most successful weddings have always been those where video was a priority to the bride. The more the bride wants you the better. I am past the days of just taking any gig that could fork out the cash, we interview our brides before we agree to work with them, yes I have turned down brides... It is imperative to me that the bride appreciates what she is getting and it's not just a matter of having a daddy with deep pockets who just wants his daughter to have everything.... Or in some cases a mom who wants to giver her daughter the wedding she didn't have..
6. what do you wish you had in terms of equipment?
A robot that could make me breakfast AND move my gear around for me and NOT try to kill me.
7. how long did it take you to truly be able to produce great wedding videos at a high price?
Started in 2004 and they where bad.... Really bad! 2007 was a big year... Made the change to HD and things really took off. I feel to be successful in business you either have to be the FIRST, the BEST, or totally DIFFERENT... It really helps to be all three.
8. how much do you charge and what is it based on?
2011 pricing is $4000 for a highlight and a 10 minute main feature with 8 hours of coverage. We will do a highlight only for $3000. A turning point was when I booked a bride and after she made her payment of $3400 asked when the other $4000 would be due.... I had a moral dilemma as I was soiling my pants of either letting her keep thinking I was $7400 and not $3400... I don't know how she was mistaken, but I realized then that to her I was worth that much and things changed. Of course I told her the truth, that she was mistaken.... But with that newly gained confidence I booked a wedding shortly after for $7600.
9. what do you shoot with (in terms of camera and why?)
An assortment of Canon DSLRs and L series lenses. Quality, Latitute, Color, and lowlight lowlight lowlight!!!!
9. what software do you use for effects and lighting effects and editing?
FCP... No SFX, just practical effects done with the camera it's self.
10. what do you wish you had?
More employees... It sucks to turn down wicked good gigs. Although I have been successful in getting a few brides to change their wedding date... And I'll tell you, those where the best weddings I have ever done.
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Old July 1st, 2010, 11:34 PM   #10
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Jason, You are getting some great advice from some of the best in this thread. I think it is great that these guys are so willing to give their time to participate in this forum.

Another thing you might find helpful is to look at their work. Most have web sites with samples and highlights of some of their productions. It's very inspirational to look at some of the things they have done.
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Old July 2nd, 2010, 12:30 AM   #11
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Jason, the best advice I can give you is... Listen to Chris Jones! I met him a few years ago when I was first starting out. At that time I was shooting weddings for $1200, now I am one of the highest priced studios in Austin thanks to him and others who were willing to share their secrets of success. It does help to have an awesome looking product, but befriending people and giving excellent customer service is key. Also, you might want to check out a conference like InFocus, it did wonders for me.

Last edited by Chad Nickle; July 2nd, 2010 at 04:15 PM.
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Old July 2nd, 2010, 10:35 AM   #12
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Great thread... information I would have loved to get back when I was starting out.
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Old July 13th, 2010, 12:49 PM   #13
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Wow.

Chris Jones and of course others THANK YOU for taking the time out of your day to answer my questions.
what a head start i feel i have gained just from reading this thread! it was dormant for a few days so i will admit i gave up on getting any answers and so just recently checked it. GREAT INFO!

Chris lets meet up.

everyone thanks for your answers they mean a TON to me. and feel free to keep em coming. :-)

-JS

PS. Chris Jones, i went to your website and blog there is no contact email address i could find only links to contact you and my email is not automatically set up. send me a message on here if you can and we can get together i would LOVE to meet and learn more from you and share my own experience as well. thanks a bunch. love the website btw.
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Old July 13th, 2010, 01:37 PM   #14
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This is very informative thread and I wish to bring it to another level, hopefully it is OK with you, Jason.
I have been shooting weddings for almost 3 years now and I believe my work is very good and it is only the beginning.
I don't want to sound arrogant but I really believe in my self and the only thing that stops me from getting better is actually the type of customers that I have.

My question is how do you get to the high end customers?
How do you switch to the right market?
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Old July 14th, 2010, 08:39 AM   #15
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I am not into high end weddings but I will, just need careful planning. Saw an episode of Hung and one of the ladies in the series seemed to have summarized it all. She is in the highend market and she is planning to sell the lead actor (male prosti) into that market.

" You know how much this shoes cost? $ 3500, now why would someone spend $ 3500 on a shoes? You know why? People need to feel special, if they own that $ 3500 shoes, they feel special."

I guess exclusivity is one selling factor as well ( and of course a decent product). Maddoff has people lining up his door because it is exclusive, he won't take your money unless you were referred by someone in the inner circle. " People want what they can't get". Just google Still Motion and Jmags, every year they post something to this effect " Our 2010 schedule is almost full, so if you want to book us do it now".

Lastly it is how you market yourself, Remy Martin was cheap alcohol product back then, but some marketing guru, changed the look of the bottle and started this campaign. " Remy Martin, what the rich gives to the wealthy". Same product but sales went up, up, up, up.

Easier said than done though but that is how I'll market myself 1 year from now.

My 2 cents.
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