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Old December 2nd, 2010, 11:22 PM   #1
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Techniques for capturing the "coming down the aisle" shot?

As we're edit the various weddings we've filmed recently, I'm noticing that the one shot we could always improve on is that of the bride walking down the aisle. About 80% of our weddings are strict Catholic or Anglican, meaning we can't film from the altar / front stage. Usually the photographer and I stand in front of the priest, at the front of the aisle, and shoot down it as the bride walks towards us (and towards the groom). The problem with this is that as she gets closer, we have to move out of the way at some point. Usually I can wait until the father gives the bride to the groom, but it's still awkward, and I inevitably miss some part of the walk to the priest. Fortunately, our second and third cameras are there to capture this part, but I suspect there are some basic strategies that I'm missing.

How do you guys capture this shot? Is standing at the front of the aisle a good practice, or are there better locations? Right now we're shooting with DSLRs and prime lenses, but I think we're going to have to get a proper zoom for this shot too. Is a 24-70mm (equivalent to a 48-140mm on my GH1 because of its 2x crop factor) a good idea, or would it be better to have a 70-140mm (140-280mm) for capturing this shot?
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Old December 3rd, 2010, 02:40 AM   #2
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Kevin, I'm pleased someone else is as enthusiastic about this shot as I am.

Under normal circumstances ie no interference from the church, we capture the main shot from our third camera, on a tripod 14ft high at the back of the church. This gives us our "Sound of Music" shot. When the father and the bride reach the eyelines of the two cameras in the choir pews they take over with MCU on on the groom the other on the F+B Those two shots are pre-focused.

For the recessional we capture the emergence from the vestry with one front camera (the second is now Fig rigged and taking a floor level shot from the back of the aisle whilst the high third gets what we can of the recessional walk - the photographer invariably stops the couple and we get his back.

If that sounds like a formula it isn't. We vary the position of the fig rigged camera sometimes tracking the couple from a side aisle. Having said that there's only so many ways for record these moves.
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Old December 3rd, 2010, 04:54 AM   #3
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Though I haven't shot weddings professionally I think the coolest shot would be a jib starting close to the bride and ending above and looking down at as much of the church as possible. (can you fit a 30 foot jib in the church? Ha ha!)
A little more feasible would be a Steadicam doing the same kind of shot. Start close on the bride's face, as she walks, widen the shot until just before the altar when you pull out of the way to reveal the wedding party.
If it's an outdoor wedding, though....gotta have the helicopter with a proper gyro mounted cam and of course enough throw on the lens to keep the noise to a minimum! Start with a tight 360 around the bride then follow down the aisle slowly widening til she's in position then keep widening to reveal the ocean-side setting and waves crashing off rocks.
Sorry to get carried away! A videographer can dream...right?

Back to reality, I think the Steadicam would work and give a completely different look from zooming.
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Old December 3rd, 2010, 06:12 AM   #4
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I don't think you'd want to position yourself between the bride and her adoring groom during the processional. A low tripod is fine but a standing adult with a steadicam is a bit too much.

Our approach is to simply film the bride & dad from the front on sticks, generally with a 50mm or wider lens. In rare instances we'll have a wide and a tight at the front. Another camera is set up at the left just for the groom reaction. I operate the steadicam and cover the rear of the church, filming everyone in the entourage entering and starting down the aisle.

After filming the bride entering the church, I step aside and wait for her to get about two thirds down the aisle, hiding so that the front camera and photographer can get in a clear shot of her. Then I quickly head down the aisle, following the bride from the rear. At the same moment, the front cam pulls out and to the right (his left) in time to film the "hand-off" of the bride to the groom. By this moment I'm just a couple meters away covering the best POV of this moment.

Then I hold my shot until the right hand camera is all set for the ceremony itself. Then I head over to reset the third cam or move it into the aisle.
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Old December 3rd, 2010, 07:26 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Erik Andersen View Post
A low tripod is fine but a standing adult with a steadicam is a bit too much.
If you think that's bad, with a Pilot or Merlin etc...

More than 20 years ago a guy who was trying to impress his family decided to hire crews from the film industry to shoot his cousin's wedding. I was brought in to do Steadicam, we were all using full-size broadcast cameras and it was quite a fiasco. During the ceremony, per the specific instructions of the guy who hired us I had to precede the bride down the aisle in the shot described here. The hair on the back of my neck was standing up as I felt the room staring at the dog-and-pony show (Steadicams were far more obscure back then). After the bride was safely delivered to the altar I peeled off to the side, but the first words out of the priest's mouth were a gentle but firm request to have the cameras move well to the periphery to avoid distraction for the rest of the ceremony.

The ceremony moved on to the reception and eventually to a party at night--we were all on union-style deals and well into double-time when we wrapped, I shudder to think how much it cost the guy (who seemed perfectly happy about that, because it gave him more bragging rights over how much he had spent)! We lit up the reception area to the lumens needed for those then far-less sensitive cameras and the guests kept turning the lights off, until the bride made a heartfelt appeal to the room to let us do our thing. Weird night.
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Old December 3rd, 2010, 07:33 AM   #6
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Hi Guys

I do a lot of bridal arrivals on Stedicam but they are usually outdoor weddings or Churches with wide aisles!!! Most Churches are so narrow that anything but a handheld shot from halfway up the aisle and then allow a static cam up front to capture the last bit is the way I do it in Churches.

I think it all depends on the venue!! I'm shoot a wedding on Friday where the bride is probably walking close to 500-600 metres! She comes down two flights of huge limestone stairs and then down a walkway which is about 10 metres above the actual guests. She will then walk under a man-made waterfall and finally down a long sloping ramp before coming in behind the guests and right up to the waiting bridal party.

She timed it at the rehearsal and her walk is 5 min 20 seconds!!! I'm using a stedicam for that one!!!!

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Old December 3rd, 2010, 08:47 AM   #7
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good topic - I have traditionally captured this shot from in front of the alter ( also doing the quick peel away at the last possible moment) with my second shooter picking up the father daughter kiss and handoff. Or alternately I'll park myself mid aisle to get a closer shot of the bride entrance especially if its a long distance from the doors to the alter. My main cam is an XH-A1, second cam a DSLR. I'd like to retire the A1 at some point but can't see how I could get this shot without autofocus. I tried once pulling focus with the 5D while the bride was walking toward me but didn't get good results.
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Old December 3rd, 2010, 11:18 AM   #8
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Getting that shot can be a real PITA depending on the venue, officiant and the amount of room you have. If the venue (church) is OK with my being up front (most today are OK with it) I position myself on the brides side of the aisle up front but not on the altar, around here thats a No - No. I typrically use a tripod with wheels so I can move smoothly. As she comes down the aisle and gets to the handoff point I generally have to pull back a bit and once she's handed to the groom, as they walk to the altar I either go to the side aisle and let my 2nd or 3rd camera pick up the shot OR I swing around the couple (and her dress-NEVER step on the dress-that's a death look for sure) and roll back down the center aisle to my position. Some officiants are still very old school and won't allow you to be up front for the processional so you do the best you can.

Charles, that must have been a sight to see ;-) Good golly miss Molly. I might have paid to see that setup in a church.
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Old December 3rd, 2010, 12:02 PM   #9
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there are so many variables with this one!

we prefer to do the one guy on stage in the choir area if possible for the bride shot and other wedding party entries. This is really a great thing we have found. It makes it easy to get face shots!

we've also done where the side camera dismounts just before the walk down and then goes back to his station when the bride reaches the front.

we've also had cases where there simply was no front shot of the bride too.

it all depends on what the family and church will let you do.
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Old December 17th, 2010, 09:58 AM   #10
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I know this is a couple of weeks old, but I've not had time to read the section properly - until today.

I like Philip's approach but my fees don't exactly cover his setup. Here in the UK it is often 50:50 you get the priest/vicar leading the processional which can be a pain as I like to position low at the first pew at the front to get the walk; this is slowed to 70-80% in the edit and this often allows time to cover the repo using the B camera as the cutaway. Simple and effective. Get a little natural backlight and the shot looks really nice.

Problem here is that this only works if the bridal procession is not led by the vicar, otherwise all you get is the vicar looking like he's accompanied by the father-of-the-bride even if you are offset to the left or right.

The other problem; I often find by the time I've repo'd to my shooting location for the ceremony there is a photog camped at my chosen location looking smug. Didn't see him/her at the rehearsal.

A jib? Steadicam? You've got to be kidding? This is a sacred ceremony (even though most brides don't care). For me, the idea is to try to be unobtrusive; to show respect and to blend into the background. But I suppose if the B&G are paying $X,000 or more then I guess this is one sure way to show them where their money went.

:)
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Old December 17th, 2010, 10:12 AM   #11
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I think Claire's comments touch on something that probably concerns everyone whose intention is to work unobtrusively - ensuring that the clients feel (in other words see) they're getting their value for money. Taken to the extreme, if we're invisible will the bride feel she has got anything like her money's worth?

The answer ought to be in the programme but it could be 3 months before she sees the results. In the meantime the photographer has danced around organising his formal shots, and, except in exceptional circumstances, spoiled the recessional by walking backwards 6 ft in front of the couple - shots which they could perfectly well get from the far end of the aisle using their long lenses, monopods and built in stabilisers.
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Old December 17th, 2010, 10:49 AM   #12
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Philip said "except in exceptional circumstances, spoiled the recessional by walking backwards 6 ft in front of the couple - shots which they could perfectly well get from the far end of the aisle using their long lenses, monopods and built in stabilisers"

This is one of the thing I absolutely HATE! I know 99% of the photogs I've worked with over the last 10-12 years. I mean I know them pretty well and have worked with them over and over again. I can't tell you how many of them USED to do that. I say USED to because after a few conversations with them I finally broke them of the habit. In fact I took one guy and literally grabbed his camera (after the ceremony was over and we were packing up to leave the church) and showed him not only could he get the shot from the back with his nice 70-200 lens BUT it actually looked better because of lighting, DoF all that other good stuff.
I got so tired of having him in my shot and having brides call me after asking about it. I even told a few to call the photog to complain. Don't know if they did. When I shot with full sized cameras and I knew the photog would run up the aisle to get the kiss etc, I would grab my camera off the tripod and run up there with him and HOG the aisle. I'm a small guy but I can make myself BIG when needed. Flying elbows out, wide stance smack in the center of the aisle. HA! Don;t mess with a grumpy old man! ;-)
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