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

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Old July 21st, 2011, 07:09 AM   #16
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Re: Lessons Learnt - From that first wedding

I was and have been paranoid about that red button to the point that I was constantly checking to make sure I'm recording. Over time (the handfull of weddings I've done) I've relaxed about it.

1) Positioning - get closer! Don't be shy about getting in the way of guests at times. During my first wedding I positioned myself in the church where the priest told me to stand. When the bride came in and everybody stood up I had no view, so ended up scrambling and raising my entire tripod in the air to get the shot! Made the same mistake upon the B&G entry to the reception hall.

2) The importance of camera movement.

3) Shoot with more than one camera.

4) The importance of lighting.

5) The importance of recording good sound - I recorded via Rode NTG2 with my xha1s during the reception and picked up a horrible humming noise from one of the hall's speakers during speeches. Luckily have bought a h4n since then.
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Old July 21st, 2011, 10:08 AM   #17
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Re: Lessons Learnt - From that first wedding

I shot my first wedding last year after resisting it for a long time. I don't think I'll be doing it again.


1. Like any other shoot, audio is critical. You have got to mic the couple and the presider at least. There's just no way around it. I used a good shotgun mic along with a house audio feed recorded separately which was a whole adventure in itself. It all worked properly but I was not satisfied at all with the track even after a lot of work in post. Way too much room noise.

1A. If you have a soloist singing or cantoring, mic them as well. Knowing about it ahead of time helps as well. The trouble I had here was the house system uses crappy mics and he just wasn't recorded well. The music in general is an issue all its own. It's important to people so you have to do the work to get it recorded properly.

1B. Lighting was not an option. The pastor said no lights of any kind. I did the best I could. Fortunately the Z7U is a fine camera.

2. I didn't miss any shots at the wedding but I was humping my HVR-Z7U around on a Bogen tripod and it was all I could do to get the shots. A 'B' camera is really needed. I still ended up shooting more handheld than I would have liked at both the wedding and the reception.

3. The reception will be a bear. I was warned about that by people who know. They were right. They do not go as scripted. I worked with the DJ/Emcee who was running the thing. He was fine but people still get their own ideas during the event. They added in having people talk at a podium and I was completely unprepared for it.

4. Make sure you work with the people. Make sure they understand the limitations and make sure you understand your limitations. I gave myself a barely passing grade on the job.

My overall observation is that what you're doing with wedding videography is using documentary techniques to shoot something that really should be staged for video. There are lots of tradeoffs to be made and you're documenting something that is a very emotional moment for your client. I've never watched a wedding video that I liked and I include mine in that. Fortunately I was paid far below market since it was my first time and I did a good enough job so the client was happy.

Like I said, I don't think I'll be doing it again. Not my thing.
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Old July 21st, 2011, 10:36 AM   #18
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Re: Lessons Learnt - From that first wedding

Speaking about extra gear...Yes, extra CHARGED batteries are critical. I use Sony 970s, 1 on the camera 2 in the bag (A camera). I change batteries before the introductions even though I know the battery has enough juice to get thru them, the cake cutting, the toasts and even the first dance but why take a chance. I keep 2 970s in my B camera bag. Before every job they get charged.
Yes, I still use tape and I keep about 8 to 10 in my bag. I know going in that my B camera will use 1 sometimes 2, I keep 1 in my A camera, (obvious) 1 in my pocket for a quick change and another ready to go in my bag. That one usually gets changed to before dancing starts. So by that time I have 3/4 tapes, 1 from my B cam (another from my C cam if used) a 2nd tape to finish the ceremony (Catholic Mass ceremonies), post ceremony stuff reception B roll cocktail hour. I would rather waste 10, 15 or even 20 minutes of a tape than be caught short.
All of my audio gear uses AA bateries. 12 in all, and I keep a ziplock baggy in my bag with 12 more. You never know when a cattery can die on you. Of course if it's during the ceremony and a body pak goes out (I use 2) I cn't fix it. Oh well, it's never happened and hopefully never will. I use 1 set of rechargeable AAs in my light and keep another fully charged set in my bag. I have only had to change during the reception perhaps once or twice.
As for receptions being a bear, yeah they can be but after the first 20 or so weddings you have a really good idea of whats going on and of course I always take a few minutes when I arrive there to talk to the DJ/planner to get the skinny on what's taking place and when. Of course as I've always said, a wedding is like a news event. It happens fast, it happens once and yo've got to be on your toes, ready for anything.
I equate it to when I was in the army 45 years ago. Hours of boredom, moments of terror.
The thing about weddings, you either like doing them or you don't. IMO ther's no in-between.
What do I know? I'm just a video-O-grafer.
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Old July 21st, 2011, 11:14 AM   #19
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Re: Lessons Learnt - From that first wedding

I just thought of another thing. If you don't know what's going to happen next, shoot wide!
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Old July 21st, 2011, 11:43 AM   #20
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Re: Lessons Learnt - From that first wedding

Attend the rehearsal if there is to be one especially if it is a venue with which you are not familiar. Don't try and just wing it on the day. This may also earn you bonus points with the officiants which you may need to cash in.

You'll learn where the couple will be positioned and when, where the readings will be made from, the feasibility of moving your position during the ceremony and so on. And you may meet with some resistance to micing everyone up if you're not in the USA so you can spy out the best places to hide miniature audio recorders close to the action; devices like the Zoom H1 which you can syn in post easily using Plural Eyes.

If the ceremony layout is so restrictive of movement you may even need to think about shooting from a position in which you are "trapped" having taken up that position a few minutes before the start. For example many older churches do not have layouts that enable you to get good profile or forward shots of the couple so think about getting a place well forward such as hidden in the choir pews. Its your position as well as your expert use of your equipment that will separate you from the best efforts of a camcorder wielding guest shooting from a couple of rows back.

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Old July 21st, 2011, 11:51 AM   #21
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Re: Lessons Learnt - From that first wedding

1. Don't use cheap generic SD cards bought off ebay for ridiculously cheap. I know, I know, sounds obvious. And it is. But I fell for it anyway. I tested the card before the wedding and it worked fine. About 30 seconds into the wedding the card goes nuts and shuts down the camera being operated by my inexperienced friend. So I had to lock down the camera I was running, run up to the balcony and swap out the cards and get it going again. I was kicking myself for that stupid mistake.

2. Always be aware of how much record time you have left. I was shooting the B&G cutting the cake and just as they were about to put the cake in their mouths, little blinking letters popped up, 'Card Full'.

Oh, and one time I was assisting another videographer and had his camera light in my pocket and it fell out and shattered on the dance floor. Not cool.
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Old July 21st, 2011, 01:42 PM   #22
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Re: Lessons Learnt - From that first wedding

Most of the things I would say are covered (back ups for everything!) but..

1) Find clear lines of sight for the ceremony. We attend the rehearsal and figure out camera placement then and use some painter's tape (have never had an issue with a venue since the tape comes off easily) to mark where our cameras will be. This also allows us to chat with the bridal party to let them know to be aware of where the cameras to the side will be.. alleviating them from accidentally blocking our view. We also try to have a back-up position for each camera if unforeseen circumstances occur - such as a rather large wedding guest sitting in front of the camera or a fidgety/noisy child is near (but mostly to avoid the types of photographers who come with an entourage to tote their lighting gear around).

2) When using multiple cameras, make sure to stagger tape/media changes so that everyone is not changing at the same time. We typically use three cameras and have a five minute window between the first camera and the last changing tape. Corollary: Start the ceremony on a fresh tape and battery.

3) At the reception, don't worry about capturing much of people eating. It's usually boring and we've yet to have a bride/groom ask for more than the few seconds of it we put in. Now we use the dining time to get some food, ensure batteries are being charged and clear out some of the gear to the car. We take turns paying attention to the crowd to capture anything interesting, but beyond a child being cute or a nice sunset view it is rare there is anything going on during the meal.

Bonus lesson: For the dancing, get out there on the floor with the camera. If you shoot from the edges of the dance floor, typically all you have is people's backs. Amazing how much they warm up to the camera and enjoy it if you are out there with them.
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Old July 22nd, 2011, 03:28 AM   #23
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Re: Lessons Learnt - From that first wedding


Thanks for taking time to respond. I've collated all your lessons into a top 10 type checklist, which might be of benefit to other newcomers out there.

To dive a little more into the nitty gritty detail, could i ask anyone for lessons, that they may have learned about certain 'SETTINGS' that they'd like to share, after the first wedding:
- If you did a timelapse for it, what did or didn't work, with interval settings, shutter speed, F-stop etc
- If using 7D or 5D, did you have problems keeping focus, on any particular type of shot. Did footage turn out less 'cinematic, than you might have hoped.
- If using Zoom H4N did you get any interference on any particular mode, i.e. Stamina mode. What did you do to avoid it?
- If using Wireless Sennheiser Lavs, did you get out of the box results, or did any defaults need to be changed.




(1) The red button syndrome. Verify It’s actually recording on cameras & audio recorders.

(2) Make sure to time when you change cards/tape, especially with multi cameras.

(3) Know the running sheet.
o Be prepared for anything outside of the expected, at any time
o Get to know other service providers, & hoe best to work with or around them.
o Communicate your needs while attempting to appropriately accommodate theirs.

(4) Backup
o Have a backup camera rolling
o Have a backup for the backup too!!!
o Extra CHARGED batteries are critical

(5) Always strive to be personable & remember the Bride’s name (Thanks Don) …. :-)

(6) Placement of camera for ceremony
o Be careful of backlight
o Find clear lines of sight for the ceremony, & factor in that guests WILL stand for bride processional, & may block movement, & view at rear of isle.
o Place B camera high when necessary

(7) Cutaway shots are absolutely vital. Details, reactions, locations, artsy shots, close ups, are all vital to improving the production value of your work.

(8) Get shots of moms, dads, grandparents, and bridal party during the ceremony.

(9) Less = more.
o Less camera movement, less zooming, etc.
o Simplify the shooting & nail the basics first,
o When experienced, gradually add glidecam, slider, pull focus etc.

(10) Audio is critical.
o You HAVE to mic the couple and the officiant at a minimum. There's just no way around it.
o If you have a soloist singing, mic them as well. Confirm this ahead of time helps.
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Old July 22nd, 2011, 12:40 PM   #24
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Re: Lessons Learnt - From that first wedding

There's a lot of good advice in this thread but I think we should be clear that while some techniques/methods can serve a new wedding videographer well, they can get in the way for someone with more experience.

Here are some quick examples (and perhaps my biggest lessons learned when starting out).

1. The more cameras the better was my mantra when I was starting out, but now I'm perfectly comfortable using only one camera if that is what the client has budgeted for.

2. Attending rehearsals regularly is a great way to get acclimated to weddings in general and of course the one at hand, but I can't recall the last time I needed to attend a rehearsal.

3. Carving out lots of extra time during the day specifically for setting up at each venue is a good idea to start with, but once you have a routine pretty much set, you can cut this setup time down and use those minutes to get some shots that you might not have been able to capture otherwise.

Alec Moreno
Wedding Art Films - Southern California - Los Angeles - Orange County - Video
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Old July 22nd, 2011, 06:43 PM   #25
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Re: Lessons Learnt - From that first wedding

Hi Alec

Agreed apart from the rehearsals!!!
I think it's pure courtesy to meet the priest at the rehearsal and go over what will happen...unless of course it's the same Church and same priest from last weekend and a standard ceremony!! We seem to have different priests going to the same Church so more often than not the resident guy isn't doing the service! If the one I have done before then I skip it. It's not a BIG deal to go to a rehearsal!! Only 30 mins in the evening and another benefit I have found is I get to know the rest of the wedding party and family too which helps a lot on the day as we all know each other!

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Old July 22nd, 2011, 09:58 PM   #26
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Re: Lessons Learnt - From that first wedding

For a newbie, IMHO, I think the most important thing for your first wedding is the old KISS adage: Keep it simple!

I say this not to frighten you but to prepare you: Trust me, you're not gonna be prepared for the excitement that's gonna hit you as the guests begin to roll in, the groomsmen begin to show up, the moments just before the beginning when the musicians start to play. I think most of the guys here would agree: Everything you planned for will go right out the window.

Trust me, you won't be thinking of timelapses, jibs, steadicams, or slow mo. Everything will be moving so fast, you'll be pointing that camera every which way, camera and hand shaking, hoping the bride will like this...or like that...or not notice this or that. Forgetting about things here and there (you'll see how easy it is to forget about things in the moment).

Keep it simple...and stress-free. Get there about 45-1hr early to give you MORE than enough time to get your feet under you. Any sort of backup helps; an additional camera or even cameraman would be great to take even more pressure off of you. Just be concerned about capturing the action, however you have to do it. In time, you'll get comfortable and experienced enough to start adding some flare to your product.

But don't stress yourself about it now. When those groomsmen walk in and those bridesmaids start walking down the aisle, flare will be the last thing on your mind.

Great posts, guys. And good luck, Joe....

There is a big red sticker on the back of my 60D with "REC!" on it.

Last edited by Edward Mendoza; July 22nd, 2011 at 11:15 PM.
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Old July 22nd, 2011, 10:17 PM   #27
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Re: Lessons Learnt - From that first wedding

I usually don't go to rehearsals. Instead, I go to the ceremony location a little early, then scope out positions then. I also talk to the officiant and groom/bm, and ask them where everyone will be positioned. If I need to shoot over the bm shoulder, I tell him to be aware that I'll be right there so if he could take a step to the side, that would really help.

The reason why I don't go to rehearsals is because there are no flowers. I used to go to the rehearsal, mentally make notes of what I'm going to do, and when I show up on the day of the wedding, the big floral arrangements throw everything out the window.
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Old July 23rd, 2011, 09:46 PM   #28
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Re: Lessons Learnt - From that first wedding

I have yet to charge money for a video project, so I guess someone would say that I'm not a pro, but I hold myself to professional standards of quality so much as it practical.

Anyways, my first wedding was the reason I took the plunge and actually bought my first camcorder (Canon Vixia HF-11). I'd been interested in videography all of my life, and had taken a class on it in middle school, and had helped out on the church team and such, but now it was time to do it on my own.

My goal in this case was to record a quality video, and edit and give it to the couple as a wedding gift.

Anyways, I learned three lessons that day (some of which were more reinforced than learned fresh)
1) Single-camera shoots stink.
2) Rehearse and try to anticipate all of the details.

Every movement makes it to the final video during a live event on a single-camera shoot, and when mistakes happen, there's no alternate angle to switch to to cover it up. For example, the position I'd chosen (at the back of the church just to the right of the center aisle) was excellent at the rehearsal the night prior. I'd practiced through the rehearsal and felt pretty confident.

When the bride walked in during the real thing, however, everyone stood up, including the folks in the two rows in front of me. These folks entered my frame, and blocked a significant part of the bride's entrance, requiring some rapid (and less than smooth) adjustment on my part to try to rescue the shot.

What I should have done was move the left just a bit to partially enter the aisle, or block off part of the immediate two rows in front of me, to prevent people from sitting there.

3) Dress cool if you will be running around a lot.
I was part of the family, so I was wearing a black suit. The layers added up as I was running around trying to get shots, and I was pretty hot by the time the reception started.

4) Insist on communication.
I figured out that they were about to start speeches, and got my camera into position and rolling, but not until about halfway through the best man's speech. This meant that his speech was not usable in the final video.

5) Insist on getting what you need to get good quality results.
Family members were running FOH, and they got a bit huffy when I insisted on putting my laptop in the booth and getting a feed from the board. Boy was I glad I insisted on it and got the audio. It made all of the difference in the final video.

Oh, and as soon as I was able to afford to, I bought a duplicate camcorder on Ebay. It is very refreshing to have multiple angles. I am now doing research to decide which camera will be my first "real" camera. Maybe a nice shoulder mount so that people will take me seriously, even though my current cameras get amazing results?
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Old July 23rd, 2011, 10:43 PM   #29
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Re: Lessons Learnt - From that first wedding

1. Find out EXACTLY where EVERYONE is going to be standing during the ceremony and remind the officiant to immediately tell people "you may be seated" after the bride gets to the end of the aisle.

2. Become best friends with the DJ during the reception. He/she has the schedule and will know exactly how long you have between major moments.

3. Expect the unexpected. No wedding has EVER gone as I thought it would. Adapt or FAIL!
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Old July 23rd, 2011, 10:51 PM   #30
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Re: Lessons Learnt - From that first wedding


Forget what the camera looks like. Simply get one that works well for you. That's what really matters.

It sounds like you put a lot of good effort into that wedding. Now, you'll need to push through the next ones and believe that they'll get easier...far, far, far easier with time. To help reassure you of this, here's my take on the items you mentioned.

1) Single-camera shoots stink.
Actually, I prefer them in many ways. They're a lot of fun with less gear to manage, less shooters to coordinate, and less obtrusions for the guests. Although the look of a single-camera shoot can be very different from multiple-camera coverage, the final film can still be a high quality piece. The only prerequisite is that you have to know your stuff.

2) Rehearse and try to anticipate all of the details.
Every wedding is a rehearsal for the next as long as you keep your mind open to a continual process of learning. There are many miniature routines that take place throughout the day that make up the entire wedding when strung together. As you become accustomed to these routines, you grow a keener sense of alertness for those times when something is either planned out or by chance happens to go down differently than the way it would normally take place. This is the very process of anticipation...and reaction.

3) Dress cool if you will be running around a lot.
Right on, as long as it's appropriate. Be aware that some clients will expect a certain type of dress.

4) Insist on communication.
What's critical here is "who" you're communicating with and "how." There are a lot of nuances to this, but here's the basic idea... Depend on no one to alert you when things are going to happen. Make this your responsibility, but by all means garner as much help as you can from the other vendors in being prepared for the events as they happen. Courtesy and professionalism will carry you a long way in all aspects of this business.

5) Insist on getting what you need to get good quality results.
Careful with this one. If your way of doing things seems to consistently cause problems from wedding to wedding, then it's time to evaluate your methods and see if they can be streamlined, altered, or eliminated. There's definitely some flexibility required of competent shooters...and that's where your experience and ability to anticipate and correct problems will come into play.

Alec Moreno
Wedding Art Films - Southern California - Los Angeles - Orange County - Video
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