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Wedding / Event Videography Techniques
Shooting non-repeatable events: weddings, recitals, plays, performances...


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Old June 21st, 2010, 12:45 PM   #1
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Newbie Videographer- advice on equipment

Hello all,

I've not posted on here before, but have been using dvinfo for research whenever im stumped with a technical problem for quite a while. And I've also looked at lots of the AMAZING clips in the video gallery

I have been doing wedding films on the side fairly irregularly for the last year (mainly for friends), and have recently decided to try and get into it properly. I have set up a website, and already have 10 bookings.

The weddings that I have done so far I have used very basic equipment (3 basic sony handycams that record AVCHD files), and I havenít really taken much care with regards to sound.

For the next one I do I am planning on using a Z1 (that I am borrowing from a friend) and two of my AVCHD sony cameras. I am also going to get two audio recorders (Olympus DS-30ís), to go on the groom during the ceremony, and the other one maybe on the minister. I am editing on FCP.

At the moment I am charging very little money, as Iím just building my portfolio. Do you think the equipment that I have is good enough to make a decent wedding video?

I do plan on investing in a couple of broadcast quality cameras, but I just want to be certain that this is something I can do seriously before I do that!

If anyone could give me any advice it would be much appreciated!

James :)
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Old June 21st, 2010, 10:00 PM   #2
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James, I hope my advice won't be too discouraging but let's start here:

1 Don't just look at the "amazing clips" listen to them as well. You'll discover that video/film production is more than the sum of the parts and that "not giving much regard to sound" means you're doing considerably less than half the job.

2 "Decent" is a very subjective quality. Many would link it to the price of the product. I wouldn't describe anything with "no regard" for the sound as decent, regardless of the price, but that's just my opinion.

3 As Don Bloom has recently written elsewhere, anyone can give stuff away.

4 Your jeopardy is that these programmes will have your name on. My fear would be that the 10 bookings you've taken already are going to do your long-term business prospects more harm than good, given the other factors.

5 Like a chain, the weakest link is the quality of your worst camera. Have 3, 30 or 300 cameras but the one giving you the worst images/sound is the standard of your programme.

6 My succinct advice would be to chuck the old cameras away, borrow the Z1 permanently, learn your craft using the single camera (it's got plenty of potential), buy some decent microphones and learn how to use them, buy the best tripod you can afford (it'll outlast several cameras) and make your first weddings, programmes that are not only decent (whatever that means to you) but which clients are happy to pay for.
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Old June 21st, 2010, 10:16 PM   #3
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Hi James

Philip talks really good sense so take his comments seriously! There are so many wannabe's out there that think that all you need is the family camcorder and you will do a good job!! I cringe when brides say on forums that "my brother-in-law" is doing my wedding video ..I have see the results!!

Buy the best you can afford, it's not an expense it's an investment!! As Philip says audio is critical!! Forget that you camera has any sort of sound recording device whatsoever!! Even for ambient audio during the reception I run two Rode mics on the cameras...the internal mic, as far as I'm concerned doesn't exist!!

If you are doing Church weddings remember that you need to not only get clear crisp audio from the B&G doing their vows but also people doing readings, often off to one side so at least two radio mics or portable recorders are required. In a nutshell the lighting at the reception will be either poor or awful so that's another essential to cover.. I use an on-cam LED light on one camera and also use a big CFL softbox for speeches etc etc... when they turn the venue lights down, if you don't have lighting you are sunk!!

...getting decent cameras is only the start isn't it????

Chris
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Old June 22nd, 2010, 12:28 AM   #4
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James -

You don't mention what you're editing with, but since you're already shooting multicam I'll presume you're in decent shape there. You can sometimes do a lot in post even when your other gear isn't top of the line (or when there's an "equipmant malfunction").

You don't say which model AVCHD cameras you're shooting with, there's a range of quality in the Sony line, but you should be able to get pretty good quality images from most of them. The cams with the R sensor are hard to beat.

IMO, it's not the tool, it's the craftsman - great art has come from a Brownie camera, and drek from high $ cameras...

You need to know your gear whatever you shoot with, so be sure to get some hands on time, whatever you shoot - the Z1 is a great camera, but takes a while to get the most out of it. If you know your "kit", how to squeeze the most out of it, and have the skill/talent, you can probably manage, even with "lesser" gear. Conversely, you can spend lots of money and have the fanciest stuff in town, and still produce garbage.

If you need some confidence boost (or the constructive criticism) post your website and some samples, see how that goes.

I myself look for whether the critical shots are there, are they steady and well framed, does the color look right, does the finished product tell the story of the day, and keep your attention... what it was shot with may be important to the shooter, but it's all that other stuff that matters to THE CLIENT.
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Old June 22nd, 2010, 12:36 AM   #5
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What Chris says is true to a point, buy the best you can afford, but also be conscious that you may not be able to afford (or more accurately your market may not support) "the best", and "the best" is a constantly moving target - the camera you can buy today will be obsolete in a few years, virtually guaranteed.

Better to do your budget, move up as your cash inflow allows, and don't "overbuy".

Things like tripods, monopds, lights, audio gear, and to some extent if you stick with one brand the batteries and other accessories - all that stuff will probably have a far longer useful "life" than the camera - keep that in mind when budgeting.
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Old June 22nd, 2010, 11:12 AM   #6
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Thanks everyone for the advice. I know it was a mistake not thinking about sound in the weddings that I have done, but like i said I charged very little, and both couples were very happy with the what I did for them, considering the amount that they paid.

But I am definitely hoping that my future films will be better. I think I'll do what you say and possibly only use the Z1. I may just take one of the AVCHD cameras (its a sony SR-5E), just as a backup wide shot during the ceremony.

And I will also look into investing in some lighting. I already have a professional Manfrotto tri-pod.

Here is a link to the video samples on my (very under developed!) website:
Fly-on-the-Wall Wedding Films - Examples

Are you all of the opinion that using DVR's is not a good solution for getting good audio? I have tested the sound quality, and edited a little test film on FCP6 and thought the quality was very good...
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Old June 23rd, 2010, 03:48 AM   #7
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Hi James

I still use two sets of Azden UHF mics and they work very well for me but the trend seems towards DVR's.
I'm lazy and prefer having my audio perfectly in sync rather than trying to sync remote audio.

On your website don't sell yourself short!!! You are making big apologies for the quality which is perfectly OK!!! The bride will be looking at the images not your resolution and her interpretation of resolution is either clean or fuzzy!!! I would most definately just say...samples are below and don't say anything about new or old gear!! The bride doesn't care what you use as long as it's good!!

I would most definately include some audio in your samples ...even if you just include snippets of the vows!! Watching the current ones, one could assume that the vows are not recorded and they are critical to the bride!!

Chris
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Old June 23rd, 2010, 06:57 AM   #8
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Hi Chris,

Glad you didn't think the vids were too awful! and I see what you are saying about being too apologetic. I think I will change that to what you say. I'm doing a big wedding next week, which will be my first using the DVR's and the Z1, so hopefully I'll get a really good quality clip of the vows to go on my examples page.


Thanks for the help! James
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Old June 25th, 2010, 12:47 AM   #9
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Greetings James,

I agree, you are beating yourself up way too much on your site. I have seen vids that deserve apologizing, heck, I have even made vids that needed apologizing, and yours are much better than those.

What I would consider, and not to be done in the next day or anything, but consider hosting your own videos, and using your own player on your site. IMO, the 4:3 aspect player and letterboxing you are presenting says "so out of date", at least it does to me. You have HD content, so "put it out there" in a nice large player so people can see the quality of your video. On my site, I think I am using 600 pixels wide, and have seen some lately showing a 720 pixel wide player to showcase their work. You can always host on Youtube as well with a link back to your site. But for those that have come specifically to your site, show them something Youtube, and possibly your competition, isn't going to, like size.
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Old June 25th, 2010, 02:09 AM   #10
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My mate Chip has appeared out of the woodwork!!! Yay!!

Good idea and good advice. James, you vids are a little tiny actually. What I use (cos I'm lazy) is a YouTube custom player which allows you to have just one player on your page and all the clip thumbnails on the right...you can even customise colours for the interface.

Regretably though, it's a 4:3 video window only so you have to put up with having the usual top and bottom black strips.. dunno why they didn't make a 16:9 player???? I was hosting my own clips for quite a while but found that my server had buffer issues and I would rather have a bride watch the video from start to finish without "buffering" messages and forsake a little quality than have top quality but stop start operation. I wonder if Vimeo can create a player that will allow 20 videos on an interface that you can embed on your website????
I still figured that YT was my best option as my own host is in Los Angeles so my Australian brides have connection issues.. YT obviously has mirror sites all over so you get a smooth viewing experience

Chris
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Old June 26th, 2010, 03:47 AM   #11
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Yes Chris..... I resurfaced once again. :-)

The only thing I don't like about YouTube hosting is something that was driven into me years ago about sales, and that is "to always keep control of the deal". If someone is on a site and views an embedded YouTube video, and clicks on the YouTube logo, it takes them to YouTube and all down the right side of the page are other video suggestions from YouTube for the viewer to consider as well. Once the person leaves a site, the site owner no longer has "control of the deal" and the possible client is now subject to seeing messages or samples from competitors. Chances are, if they are just viewing your site for the first time, and got there from a link, they can very easily lose their way back, which is a complete "loss of control of the deal". That's my only complaint and reasoning for not using YouTube hosting. That....and well....... you already know, I LOVE a big hunkin' player !!!! :-)

I had the buffering issues too, from having too many videos on one page. They all tried loading at once, leaving some blank and giving a poor impression to those who visited. I cured that by ripping a frame from each and using those images as links, which open a new page containing only that video that was clicked on. This gives me just one video at a time, buffering in.

knowing just enough about video to be...
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Old June 27th, 2010, 04:12 AM   #12
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Hi James, welcome to the world of event filmmaking.

I Think you will find that the one thing you will struggle with more and more is low light. Most AVCHD handycams handle this by lowering the shutter speed and bumping up the gain to crazy levels. The output is a desaturated image full of noise. The Sony Z1 will handle this so much better. Its the bigger brother to the FX1 which we used up until recently. Infact, 99% of our videos on our vimeo page are filmed with the FX1.

Speaking of Vimeo. Its worthwhile considering moving from YouTube to vimeo. Much more professional. The quality in vimeo is great and when I point to one of your videos in youtube it pops up with all sorts of random other videos. Sometimes even videos of your competitors.

Where was I, oh yeah. I would move to professional cameras as soon as possible :)

Once you do the best thing to then do is master how to shoot them in full manual. In some of your videos you had a few backlit situations where the camera decided that it should close the iris to compensate. Even with cameras with a backlight button it rarely gets things right.

Audio is a major part and I totally agree with the advice here, pretend your camera doesn't have any onboard mics. A wireless lav mic on the groom is a must, you will come across many churches with a horrible echo and screaming kids. The odd vicar who does not allow any cameras within half a mile of the couple and therefore any camera mounted shotgun mic will just come out rubbish. But a little lav mic on the groom and all is well. Infact, this weekend we had a couple and from where I Was standing I couldn't hear a thing the couple were saying with my own ears. The bride also whispered her vows. But in my ear with the headphones on I could hear every word crisp and clear. The Sennheiser G2 range are great value or if you have the bucks the G3.

Soon enough your kit list will build and you will find what sets you apart from every other videographer out there. This is important, if you produce what everyone else is then the only thing setting you apart is your price. But price also limits the type of clients you can attract.
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Old June 27th, 2010, 05:04 AM   #13
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As others have said, it's more about the driver than the vehicle. 'Broadcast quality' is a subjective term but often refers to everything from the Sony EX1 upwards. The truth is that the EX1 is about as good a camera as you'll ever need for a wedding, and you can get away with alot less. The Z1 may be getting a bit dated, but current cameras like the Z5, NX5 or even AX2000 are great wedding/event cameras. As long as you know how to use them properly, they will deliver excellent pictures for years to come.

It is, however, extremely important to get a good audio kit and steady tripod. Audio is 70% of what we see, and while many people will not even notice if all the footage is a little soft or slightly grainy, they will definitely notice if the audio is distorted!

I had a look at your website and there's a few comments I would make:

- The text on each page is different. Try to use a uniform font and size or pick a style which you use throughout for all the headings, another style for all the captions etc. It will make your site feel alot more unified.

- On your packages page, you start with your most expensive packages - I'm sure you made this choice so that your best package is the most prominent, but in the other packages, you shouldn't say what it "doesn't" include. Focus on what it does have!
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Old June 27th, 2010, 05:56 AM   #14
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Oooo tripods. We still have our very first tripod and used it the other day for a laugh. My god, I cant believe how bad it was. It did the job and I thought it was amazing at the time but there is no way the DSLR with a 70-200mm would stay level on the old ones. Still, they were super light :)
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Old June 27th, 2010, 07:44 AM   #15
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Digital Voice recorders

James -

Digital Voice recorders are an affordable way to capture audio. I use an Olympus DS-40 and it has never failed me and you will never have frequency issues wth them.

They no longer produce that series model, but there are many others out there - even better. Have you heard about the new Zoom H1?

Try to use at least 2 of them. Place one on the minister and one on the groom.

If at a church, try to get the audio guy (if they have one) to make a CD of the audio. Every church wedding I have done so far have this ability. I also use external mics on my cameras for synchronizing and picking up ambient.

I think you idea of using one pro camera and your Sony's as 2nd and 3rd cameras are fine. Just make sure you know how to operate your pro camera as they can be more complicated. And of course, good tripods....

Your're on a realistic track and can upgrade as you earn more business and money.
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