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Old September 13th, 2011, 08:20 AM   #1
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Need Advice - Getting into Wedding Video

Hi - very new here - been reading dozens - maybe hundreds of threads here as I'm contemplating going fully into the wedding video service. I own an audio recording studio that's been around 30 years - and in a past life I directed AV for an ad agency - ton's of low-budget commercials and a few mid-budget marketing and training videos. Worked mostly directing/producing but did a fair amount of camera time. This was just before it all started going digital.

When I bought this studio last year, I decided to bring video into the fold, and have done a few (low-end music videos) and one major dance production video. As I'm looking to expand video - I've been really torn for months about whether to get into weddings or not, and I'm at a point where I need to make a decision.

I've read many newbie threads here, and there's some great advice, but I thought I'd ask some of my specific questions and hope that all the great, experienced folks here I've seen be so patient and helpful to other newbies will be the same for me!

First - here are the the four main things I "fear" about this .. they may seem silly -but they aren't to me, and I'd love to hear comments/responses.

1) Tying up every Saturday from now to eternity. With three kids still at home, house to care for, lot's of weekend family activities, and a lot of weekends already intruded upon by my audio business - this is a real concern. I don't know how many non-saturday weddings there are, but I know most work will likely be Sat.

2) Physical labor - I'm no spring chick any more and not in the greatest shape in the world (another story). Unlike location audio, which is mostly a "set it up and sit and watch meters for a couple hours while recording", wedding video seems to be a HIGHLY physically demanding activity from what I can glean - quick set-ups and moves, running around to cameras, carrying cameras and gear around, etc.

3) Doesn't seem to be the "repeatable" model I'm looking for. Seems like many/most of you are "selling yourselves" as the "artist" in this vs. selling your company or overall services. I'd be more happy "directing" and getting to the point where I could send 3-4 camera crews out to 3-4 weddings on a given weekend and then manage the edits during the week - doing some and managing others. Is that model feasible? I love the art and the tech ... I love the business more! Hate the ops.

4) I fear the Bridezillas and mother's of the Bridezillas - with all the things happening and that can go wrong at a wedding - seems like lawsuits and P.O.'d clients and nightmare gigs just waiting to happen.

Also - a few more specific questions, and apologies for the long first post.

5) What is the "final product" most of you are delivering? Seems to be a trend to have packages with a short 4-5 minutes highlight film that is almost a "music video" + maybe a longer documentary-style archive of the wedding. I also see things like trailers and engagement videos - not sure where/how they fit in?

6) How long are your "documentary style" videos? I see lot's of highlight and other short samples - anyone have a sample of the doc style - long video? How "artsy" is it?

7) I currently have a Panasonic AG-HMC80 3MOS AVCCAM and a JVC GY-HM100U ProHD . I have lot's of audio gear as you might suspect, though I would need to get wireless/lavs/etc. Are these camera's sufficient? too bulky? I see lots using DSLR's now - is that becoming "necessary"? Is there more advantage to them than just the portability?

thanks - and again sorry to jump in on a first post with a laundry list, but i need to make some decisions here. Even if I don't do this, I'll be around on the boards as I'm definitely staying with video in general, and have much to learn.

Thanks!
KenM
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Old September 13th, 2011, 09:01 AM   #2
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Re: Need Advice - Getting into Wedding Video

Hi Ken, and welcome...I'm "newer" but wouldn't consider myself a "newbie" and there are a lot of other people here that have a lot more experience than me, but just saw a few questions that struck me so I thought i would answer...just going down your list...

#1...yes, Saturdays will be tied up but not until eternity. In my experience, we are pretty steady May thru September, and a few sporadic weddings in the neighboring months...but you do get an OCCASIONAL weekend off in the summer, and in the winter, at least here in Michigan, things are REALLY quiet. I'm assuming wherever you are, if you have a winter season that will be pretty much teh same for you.

#2...physical labor, yes, the day can be demanding, especially when you are just starting things, but eventually you will learn that you get a system that works for you, and the day becomes so much less stressful and even less physically demanding.

#3 business model I don't have much input on this, I guess what's important is how you sell your product.

#4...this is why you have a contract. It protects you and the bride both. And this is why you get to know your client, find out what they like and want to see in their video.

#5...our final product is much as you described, highlight video and "main" video if you will...our main videos usually run around 45 minutes to 1 hour long. This varies widely around here i think, but it's all about what you're selling.

#6 see above...our style is very straight forward, the "artsy" stuff is more left for the highlight video for us.

#7 there are numerous threads on here about why people like DSLRs and why others don't . It's a personal preference. We shoot with video cameras only. HMC 150s. It is definitely possible to stick with video, at least for now. but the DSLR can offer a lot of style options and just looks so great sometime. I'm sure eventually we will start using them, probably fairly soon.

anyhow, that's my input! Like I said, there a LOT more expereinced people than me, I'm sure they will chime in :-) Good luck!
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Old September 13th, 2011, 09:05 AM   #3
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Re: Need Advice - Getting into Wedding Video

You don't have to worry about tying up Saturdays from now till eternity because you don't have any gigs yet.

On the surface, it sounds as if your situation does not lend itself to wedding videgraphy, with your family, and physical condition. If you don't want to tie up Saturdays, you don't want to get in the businees, that is cut and dried, pretty much.

It is hectic, time consuming work. Your fears about the business as listed tell me you don't want to go down this road. IMO.

You don't list your motivations, and that also should give you pause. If you are looking at it as simply a source of income, you will likely hate it and fail. You need to be "into" it, or develop some passion for it, or don't do it.

IMO, based on what you post, I'd say forget it and find something else, but that is just my opinion.
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Old September 13th, 2011, 09:25 AM   #4
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Re: Need Advice - Getting into Wedding Video

Hi Ken

I remember one guy said to me a LONG time ago..."run, run as fast as you can" and I didn't and 21 years later I'm still around!!!

In the busy part of the season, yes, Saturday's will be tied up so check with the wife and kids first as for a reasonable chunk of the year you WILL be working on Saturdays..it's part of the business!!!

You are shooting on the same cameras as me so we have a common factor (except I'm using two HMC82's which are the PAL model) Don't hesitate to ask if you have specific questions on that camera!!

Generally if you are shooting "non DSLR" then I would stick with documentary style and just record the day as it happens... you can do no better than advice from the great Don Bloom on doc style shoots (I think Don has over 2500 weddings under his belt!!)

If you have a passion for weddings then it's a great industry to be in and age is not really a barrier..I just turned 65 and am still going strong!!! Yeah at the end of the night your legs do ache a bit!!!

I'm sure you will get heaps more advice!!!

Chris
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Old September 13th, 2011, 10:20 AM   #5
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Re: Need Advice - Getting into Wedding Video

First, Chris, thanks for the kind words...I'll send you your check tomorrow ;-)

I too am in the 65 range and have been doing weddings in one form or another since 1971. First as a still photog until 1983 then video so I like to think I have a bit of experience. Of course experience is something that happens to you that you wish had happened to someone else but...

In no particular order; I agree with Jeff that if tying up your weekends is a conceren then perhaps the wedding business isn't for you. I raised (well my wife did) 3 kids while working almost every weekend since 1971. Now that doesn't mean that you won't have occassional weekend where you don't work but it can also mean that you might be working 40 out of 52 Saturdays. My kids tell me that they didn't suffer from my not being there on weekends they knew that's when dad worked. Along with a lot of week days doing corporate work and editing.
As for phyiscal conditioning well it can be a butt kicker. For example last weekend I did Saturday and Sunday. Saturday was a 12 hour shoot day not including travel but Sunday was a 7 hour day with travel and I started late so it all balances out in the end. Only you know your body and mental state and can decide whether or not you can handle the grind.
Don't forget after you shoot it still needs to be edited and thats a lot of sitdown and think time.
Do you need DSLRs? Probably not. I still shoot SD since I'm not producing any kind of HD product and in my market area (Chicago and burbs) it hasn't hurt me, at least not that I've been able to tell. I prefer to shoot with video cameras for any number of reasons while many here have made the change to DSLRs. Different strokes for different folks.

As for style, I do a doco style. In the past I have done and still continue to do a short form or as I call it a creatively Condensed version IF they sign up for it and are willing to pay for it as it takes longer to edit that than a traditional long form. My short form runs about 30 minutes. My finsihed long form product runs from about 85 minutes to no more than 120 minutes and of course everything is chaptered out so unlike not too many years ago they don't have to go thru the entire VHS tape to see a certain part. Those were the bad old days!

Birdezillas and such really don't happen very often. IF you take the time UP FRONT to talk to and explain thing so they know what to expect before they sign up then there can be little if any misunderstanding or communication. The only time they get made is if you don't deliver what you said you were going to deliver. I can honestly say that in the last 10-12 years I've had perhaps 3 or 4 zillas but here's when an ironclad service agreement pays for itself. That's the first thing I tell people getting into the business to do. See a lawyer and draw one up. It's worth the money paid out to have it. BTW, I never and I mean never do a job of anykind without a written service agreement.

Anyway, not trying to scare you...why not try this. See if there's a video person in your area that shoots weddings and ask if you could "caddy"..in other words you aren't going to shoot but you're simply going to watch and observe for the day. Write things down as they go thru the day and then decide if it's something you might want to get into. If it is, see if you can shoot 2nd cam or even 3rd cam for the day. Then you know from experience whether you want to pursue the adventure.

Trust me when I say that wedding video work is not for everyone. I've known lots of people that get in (some to try to make a quick buck) and within a year, they're out. They all say the same thing "I didn't realize how hard it is". Even after all my years and all the weddings I still get surprised by things sometimes and say to myself "I didn't know how hard it could be". Too late for me. I'm a lifer.
Good luck keep us up to date.
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Old September 13th, 2011, 12:59 PM   #6
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Re: Need Advice - Getting into Wedding Video

Thanks all ... nothing surprising here , but I appreciate the responses. Of course i know it's sat. work and will be some hard work. I'm not totally naive ... just close! :-)

One of the primary things I'm wondering about is how realistic the idea of hiring out "shoot teams" is once/if I get a "pattern" down? Even if I'm on-site - is the concept of "directing and managing" a couple camera people while I deal with overall a viable model? Again - I love directing ... I hate operating .. too many years as a software executive I guess LOL!

Also - anyone have either of the following they would be willing to share somehow?

1 - sample DVD of a full documentary wedding video
2- copy of their contract for weddings

I'd be happy to pay shipping and DVD cost if something is avail - let me know!

I suppose overall I'm leaning away from it whereas maybe I was leaning towards it not long ago. As for reasons why (someone asked) .. of course income potential ... but it seems like good STEADY source of income (once established) with essentially an endless supply of potential customers ... and my market seems to have a void.

I'm gonna keep researching for a few more days. Would still love to hear more feedback on the original post and/or my latest questions above. THANKS!

KenM
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Old September 13th, 2011, 07:55 PM   #7
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Re: Need Advice - Getting into Wedding Video

Hi Ken

You would be a braver man than me to hire out shoot teams!!! I would foresee many nightmares as the buck stops with the "boss" not the team. If you are in a market that can actually withstand higher pricing..remember as the "director" you have to hire videographers and editors and pay them as well as yourself.... so your prices have to be higher than normal to make a decent profit!!! I must admit I would have thought that the stress levels in organising teams and liasing with brides a lot higher than dealing with the odd bridezilla!!! Good luck on that front but I wouldn't go that route at all...but then again people do it and very successfully too!!!

Contracts with a single operator would be a lot different to one with you as the director so you probably need to decide on your direction first!!

Chris
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Old September 13th, 2011, 08:28 PM   #8
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Re: Need Advice - Getting into Wedding Video

"I'd be more happy "directing" and getting to the point where I could send 3-4 camera crews out to 3-4 weddings on a given weekend and then manage the edits during the week - doing some and managing others. Is that model feasible? I love the art and the tech ... I love the business more! Hate the ops."

Greetings Ken, and I could have written this myself !!!

It sounds to me Ken you are the "deal" guy and it's the "deal" that you really love. Sure the "art" is cool and the tech is fun, but, to me, you already showed who you are. :-)

You are going to have to dive in to get the feel for it, but consider hiring an experienced shooter for lead or second shooter, right off the bat. If you hire well, there's where you start building that first crew from.

Like everywhere else in business you should hire your weaknesses and charge dearly for your strengths. Running the show is just as much a skill as shooting or editing. If you have the capital to back it up, there is no rule that says YOU have to do everything.

I say "go for it" and good luck in your next adventure !!!!
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Old September 13th, 2011, 08:37 PM   #9
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Re: Need Advice - Getting into Wedding Video

It sounds like Chip really nailed it (if in fact Ken, you agree with Chip's assessment of you)
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Old September 13th, 2011, 09:38 PM   #10
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Re: Need Advice - Getting into Wedding Video

Ken.
If you bought your studio last year, I assume you bought its client list and having sold a 30yr established studio business, I know the problems a new owner could run into and the first is, maintaining the client list and growing it. You can't lose even one client and you need more. That in itself is a full time job.

Given the above advice especially the working Saturdays thing .. before you try wedding videos, check out all the competition in your area, including their rates etc. Do a business model.

Best of luck and don't get caught like this guy :) Hope this is no one on DVIinfo.

Wedding Photographer FailVideo

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Old September 13th, 2011, 10:52 PM   #11
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Re: Need Advice - Getting into Wedding Video

Hey Allan

Gosh revenge is certainly sweet!!! After blocking the shot all the way down the aisle he got his just deserts!! I'm sure anyone who has had to fight with a obtrusive photog would really appreciate that!!

He really and truly doesn't need to get 100 shots of them walking back down the aisle and he could have just stood in the pew entrance and had some just as good without blocking the video guy!!!

Regarding the crew situation, it wouldn't be my cup of tea at all. I have spent long enough just trying to get one decent 2nd shooter so getting a team of decent and more importantly, reliable shooters would be a nightmare!! I don't think I could cope with phone calls saying " I was late at the bride's house" or "I missed the cake cutting while I was talking to a guest" BIG responsibility having to take the flak for a bunch of freelance shooters who don't have the same dedication as you!!!

Now Ken mentioned 3 kids and a wife..hmmm that would make two reliable teams that you could actually trust to go out and do the job properly!!!

I know Chip said "Go for it" and Chip and I are best of friends but even Chip had issues and problems with his 2nd shooter and twice those problems would have anyone tearing their hair out!!

It's certainly feasible as a business model though!! As long as you have good and reliable people working for you. Remember weddings are a one off event and there are no 2nd chances if someone fouls up or misses a shot

Chris
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Old September 14th, 2011, 01:04 AM   #12
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Re: Need Advice - Getting into Wedding Video

Gonna dive back in again here.

"I fear the Bridezillas and mother's of the Bridezillas - with all the things happening and that can go wrong at a wedding - seems like lawsuits and P.O.'d clients and nightmare gigs just waiting to happen."

OK, Ken I just kinda reread your postings and now I see what appears to be a career that has primarily been B2B. Wedding videos are RETAIL and your above quote screams you don't want to deal with RETAIL issues. Don't get me wrong, I don't blame you at all. I baled on retail for my day job years ago and wouldn't go back to it for my day job unless someone held a gun to my head.

IMO though, to completely insulate yourself from all the RETAIL issues, you are going to have to go at this more from the aspect of "investor" instead of that of "participant". IMO, doing so would take one huge checkbook and then finding some very talented people who don't have the means to start their own company themselves. My guess is, at least one of those isn't probably an option here.

I still think you can minimize the RETAIL issues and still be less connected from the actual filming operations though. What you would have to do is minimize the potential of crap going wrong, and that most likely will mean extra bodies. I'd consider a "team" of two experienced shooters and one apprentice who could fill in if someone doesn't show. Also, have the apprentice do the gopher work, so the shooters are focusing on shooting. The apprentice could also have a cam so he is shooting something when he doesn't have other things to do. His footage might be excess, but could be the insurance you need one day.

As Chris has already mentioned, second shooters "can be an experience". That is why in my original post I said to hire someone experienced who could be LEAD or second shooter (and I put it in that order on purpose), as you most likely could use someone to show you the ropes for weddings. I had such a person lined up originally and she backed out for the desire to spend more time with her young family.

I do think your business model is possible, but it probably won't be as profitable as others are, who are directly involved in all aspects. The key to pulling it off will be the personnel you select and how professionally they treat their assignments. As I am sure you have seen in your career, people like that don't come cheap. But as you should have learned a long time ago, a smaller percentage of SOMETHING beats the heck out of 100% of NOTHING!

I still say "go for it" !!! :-)
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Old September 14th, 2011, 04:01 AM   #13
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Re: Need Advice - Getting into Wedding Video

Hi Chip

Don't get me wrong..I would like to sit back and let the others do the work but my feelings on this are that if you can find someone who is good enough to both shoot (and even edit) then why are they not already shooting weddings for themselves???

My only reasoning here is that you might find talented shooters who might not have the finance to buy pro cameras so they cannot go into business for themselves. It still leaves the question about whether buying maybe 2 or 3 complete wedding setups is enconomically viable??? It doesn't make sense to have just one team as you need to pay them and yourself so the only smart way would be to shoot more than one wedding on a Saturday otherwise your costs will exceed those of the normal video guy shooting weddings on their own without extra staff to pay.

Chris
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Old September 14th, 2011, 08:51 AM   #14
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Re: Need Advice - Getting into Wedding Video

ahhh ... so much to think about ... thanks for all the replies and encouragement!

Yeah ... My personality is such that I love to learn how to do something (software, shoot, production, etc) myself - do it a couple times, figure out the procedures and protocols, and then get other people to do it as it drives me crazy after awhile! I do then like to jump in and out on certain productions mostly for the fun of it ... or doing something new ... in limited doses.

I'm generally a wiz with software ...my background is software development and running audio DAWS forever and also do pretty well at the "Artsy" side of the things - great with audio - good at video I suppose.

I would certainly be looking to do the "doc" style stuff - at least to start with, and agree with whoever hinted that "dependability" and "reliability" is actually more important than skill for the crew. I've been pretty successful at finding those kind of folks and some turn out to be pretty talented. I'd rather train a hard-working, honest, reliable person than try to tame a "rock star". Hiring my future competition is a concern. Non competes only go so far. Talking with the lawyer on Friday 'bout that among other things.

As for the model - I do have a little $ for investment - just trying to figure out where to put it. Another thought is to really go heavy after corporate/business video work. I don't see the marketing path to that as clearly as weddings though, and while economy affects everything, weddings SEEM to be a little more recession proof and with a never-ending supply of potential customers.

I've done the research on the local competition and overall, and one reason I want to consider it - a bit of a void. It's funny - the "high end" art video is what I would actually probably like to do more and the prices could justify the production level i would like to work with, but alas, can't start there - need the portfolio - need the experience - need to test and confirm the ability.

ponder ... ponder ... pontificate .... think ... ponder more .... LOL!
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Old September 14th, 2011, 09:17 AM   #15
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Re: Need Advice - Getting into Wedding Video

Someone once said...

If you want to make a million dollars in the video biz...you need to start with two million...
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