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


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Old October 4th, 2011, 01:39 PM   #1
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Greetings from (yet another) newbie...

Hello all,

After 20+ years of being a video enthusiast, and shooting several weddings free for friends, I have decided to take the plunge into doing it as a business.

I know this is a lot to ask for a newbie, but I am very anxious to get the input/expertise of the fine people on these boards as to :

What I am planning that is right.
What I am planning that is wrong.
Any and all other suggestions!

I own a JVC HM100u which I have had for about a year and a half. I love this camera, but I know it doesnít do well in low light. I also own a new Canon 7D. So the good news is I have a brand new 7D; bad news is, I donít know how to use it yet. (I also have several extra batteries and several SD & CF cards for these devices, as well as 2 Manfrotto tripods and a monopod.) Being new to DSLR, I am not versed in lenses either and at this point still a bit overwhelmed with all the terminology. Based on what I have gathered with my research, I came up with the following.

I have approx. $10K to spend, and my current shopping list includes:

Sennheiser EW 100-ENG G2 Wireless lav system
Tamron AF 70-200mm f/2.8 Di LD IF
Tamron AF 17-50mm F/2.8 XR Di-II LD SP
Zoom H4n recorder
160 LED light
Rode shotgun mic for 7D
2nd JVC Hm100u (??)
Zacuto viewfinder for 7D
Blackbird Stabilizer
Various DVD products (Lightscribe burner, etc.)

The above "wish list" should run about $6-7K, according to my calculations.

I also own a MacPro quad core system with FC Studio, and I just installed a dedicated 2TB drive for wedding projects. (I am fairly fluent with FCP; still learning Sountrack, Motion and DVD Pro). My thoughts are to shoot with a stationary Hm100, 2nd Hm100 for B roll other angles, and the 7D for everything else. Obviously every wedding/venue will be different, but that is the basic model I have in mind. Of course the Hm100 shoots in native QT; I would use the Apple ProRes codec to transcode the 7D footage. I am concerned with how well these 2 very different cameras will work together; will I have to do a lot of extra work in post to mesh video from these 2 sources?

My other big concern is the learning curve with the 7D, as I have been shooting video with camcorders for nearly 25 years; never have I used a DSLR. So, first of all, strictly from an equipment standpoint, please critique my shopping list and/or my current inventory. Then, be honest with me about how hard it will be to learn to shoot video with the 7D. Can my $$ be more wisely spent? I could ask a thousand more questions but I don't want to push my luck!

(I donít ask much, do I?)

Thanks so much for ANY input!!
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Old October 5th, 2011, 03:31 PM   #2
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Re: Greetings from (yet another) newbie...

I'll jump in here since no one has replied yet. I don't know much about the equipment you have so I can't be much help there. But I do know that two things jumped out right away.

One is another lav system...We have two...we always wire the groom, and usually the officiant. Although with only one video cam you only have that one extra audio input. [I guess if you get the second cam with the ?? by it that would solve that]

At the very least, I would say get a lav mic to use with the Zoom and that way you not only have a way to mic the officiant, but you have a backup mic in case the Sennheiser system fails (we have that system, and no problems but you never know what could happen!) In that case too, I would recommend a second Zoom, to either put on a lectern for readings, etc. Those things are priceless IMO. One of my favorite and most helpful gadgets.

The other thing that stuck out to me is hard drive space. I know you mentioned the HM100 shoots native quicktime, so I'm not sure how much file space that will take up. We work with Panasonic HMC150s, where everything has to be transcoded to Apple Pro Res, and I know a full day's wedding can take up quite a bit of space, depending on how busy (and how quickly) things get. You might need more, depending on how many weddings you are working on and what your turn-around time is.

Also, if you don't have it already, Pluraleyes is an absolute must have for editing weddings in FCP. I just recently discovered it after much praise on a post on this forum, and I will never work on another wedding without it.

My two cents...hopefully that helps.
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Old October 5th, 2011, 04:27 PM   #3
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Re: Greetings from (yet another) newbie...

Thanks Katie! Yes, that is very helpful.

After reading another thread, I have indeed downloaded the PluralEyes trial, and will undoubtedly purchase the full program. Seems like a real time saver, if not miracle worker!

I agree that a second lav mic setup and/or second Zoom would be beneficial. I'll try to budget in the extra $$. I haven't decided on which camera to buy yet, really. Kinda waiting on more feedback here, and also trying to learn more about the new JVC Hm150u. I like the thought of recording to 2 SDXC cards simultaneously. Good backup strategy... In any case, I'll have more audio options with my next cam.
3 cameras and 4 audio sources per wedding should curb my paranoia!

Hard drives are relatively inexpensive these days, so if I get busy enough - (just the kind of problem I hope to have) - I'll definitely add on.

Thanks so much for replying. :)


Who's next?? :D
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Old October 5th, 2011, 06:19 PM   #4
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Re: Greetings from (yet another) newbie...

Hi Ben!

Have you considered not using a wireless system at all, and instead picking up a couple Zoom H1N's? I used to use wireless, but recently switched to these small audio recorders, and it's been wonderful. Of course, if you feel that you need to monitor the audio the whole time, it might not be for you.

Also, depending on your area/market, it may be wise to pick up a Blu-ray burner. Even if you don't offer it right out, it may come in handy if someone asks for it, or if you need a good selling point.

As far as the DSLR goes, you may be better off with another "proper" video camera until you really learn how to shooot with it. There's quite a learning curve, especially if you have no experience with them at all, and will be a nightmare to use in fast-paced wedding shoots.
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Old October 5th, 2011, 09:08 PM   #5
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Re: Greetings from (yet another) newbie...

Corey,

I do want to monitor some source of audio while recording, but I still think another Zoom is a good idea, if only as a backup. Can't have too many sources of good audio, right?

And I do own a BluRay burner; just failed to mention it in my original post. I still haven't done much BD authoring with other projects; I was thinking about DVDit! Pro from Roxio? I have DVD Studio Pro but I'm not fluent with it; I don't believe it has a BD plug-in? Anyway, don't want to get off topic here. (Are there Lightscribe BD-R's yet?) So far the only BD-R's I've burned were with Toast.

I am certain that what you say about 'nightmare' of using DSLR with no experience is true. I know that it's something I want to do in the long run, after seeing what they are capable of. And since I already own a 7D, might as well start learning. But your point is well taken - I should do my first few jobs, at least, only with "proper camcorders". I still wonder if the JVC GY-Hm100u or 150u are the right cameras, given their low light limitations. I do love the fast workflow though! No transcoding, just straight to the FCP timeline. In my mind, I feel like I should always have 3 cameras at a shoot; at least for the ceremony. I'd hate to have to buy TWO more JVC's (or other camcorder), at $3K+ each. Especially when I own a 7D. That I don't know how to use. Oh well !


It's great to be getting this feedback. I have wanted to do this for a long time! :)
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Old October 6th, 2011, 02:47 AM   #6
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Re: Greetings from (yet another) newbie...

Well, as someone else who just started not too long ago I think the bit about the "proper" camera is hogwash. It's not rocket science, it's a camera! It shouldn't take longer than a weekend to learn it well enough to shoot. Now, it also depends on what style you are going for - if you're going for a more organic look then the shifty focusing and wobbly bits add charm, whereas it would kill a cinematic look.

I'd also strongly recommend getting Neat Video and some faster glass (1.2-1.8). Instead of getting the second JVC you might consider the Panasonic GH2; you can get an adapter to mount Canon lenses with it as well and it will perform much better in low light than the JVC.
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Old October 6th, 2011, 05:38 AM   #7
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Re: Greetings from (yet another) newbie...

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Originally Posted by Lindsey Daugherty View Post
Well, as someone else who just started not too long ago I think the bit about the "proper" camera is hogwash. It's not rocket science, it's a camera! It shouldn't take longer than a weekend to learn it well enough to shoot.
I had to chuckle at this one . . .

It's called getting experience on the camera; learning its ins and outs, its limitations and shortcomings; when to switch modes, exposure, frame rate, and lenses; how to control focus; stabilization; how to make a device specifically designed for still photography work as a video camera; logging hours on the camera so that when you're in the midst of a frantic shoot, you don't have to sit there and scratch your head wondering how to handle it. You have to get it to the point of where it's automatic.

DSLR's are completely different from "proper" video cameras. Going from ZERO experience on one to shooting something for money will take longer than "a weekend." I wouldn't pay someone to shoot for me whose entire experience on the camera was a weekend -- sure, you might learn how to make it record video, but it will likely look terrible. I know it's not "rocket science," but it's vastly different than anything else Ben has shot with.

Fluency and professional results with any camera only comes with experience, not learning it in "a weekend."
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Old October 6th, 2011, 10:21 AM   #8
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Re: Greetings from (yet another) newbie...

My advice, from the perspective of just now turning the corner a little more than two years in business is first, keep some of your startup money in reserve. Have you heard the old saying in business, "Cash is King?" Well, it's true. You do not want cash flow problems just after starting up.

Secondly, give more of your attention to learning proper business practices. Get an accountant, get an attorney, and finally, make it your number one priority to learn how to effectively market your business. BIG HINT: the secret is networking face to face with GOOD prospects. People become good clients for the same reasons they become good friends. They want (business) relationships with someone they know they can trust.

The vast majority of new businesses, including video production businesses, fail within the first year. My guess is that it's not from technical incompetence, but from poor business decisions.

Getting gear isn't what you need to concentrate on. Concentrate on getting customers. Concentrate on serving your customers. Most of my work is corporate video, not weddings, so most of my work now comes from repeat customers, which you probably won't get specializing in weddings. But you will get referrals from satisfied customers. And if you let a customer down, expect word to spread. You don't have to be perfect, just trustworthy. If you make a mistake, handle it quickly. If you can help your customer solve a problem with the event you're shooting, do it. Let the customer know that you're working primarily to please them, not to just please yourself.

Of course, if you please your customers, you will be pleased as your business starts to succeed.
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Last edited by Roger Van Duyn; October 6th, 2011 at 10:29 AM. Reason: typo
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Old October 6th, 2011, 10:44 AM   #9
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Re: Greetings from (yet another) newbie...

Is your new 2TB drive a 7200RPM model? The "green" drives are great value at the moment but are generally 5200RPMs which doesn't make them great for video editing.
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Old October 6th, 2011, 11:00 AM   #10
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Re: Greetings from (yet another) newbie...

Ben, I did not read most responses, so I'm going to go ahead and jump in anyway at the risk of being repetitive.

As you get into wedding work, I would imagine you would find any 1/4" sensor camera is not adequate for wedding work, especially paired with a 7D. It doesn't make a lick of sense to me. You already know your JVC is no good in low light, why in the world would you buy another? You are completely going the wrong direction with video, IMO. No one that knows anything about weddings, who has money to spend, would buy anything less than a 1/3" sensor camera. There are those who shoot weddings with your camera and no doubt do fine work, but you cannot get around the low light performance of a small sensor camera. It will be grainy in low light because you MUST turn up the grain. There is NO substitute for a larger sensor.

If I were in your shoes, I would find a buyer for your present camera, buy two of the about to be released Pansonic AG130s, a wireless, shotguns if the cams don't come with them (not sure). You'd have two cameras great in low light, with zooms, and the 7D for getting ready and B-Roll, which is a good way to start.

I would skip all lenses for the 7D except for one or two high-quality primes, starting with a Tokina 12-18mm F/2.8, or whatever mm is that is so popular. You don't need a 7d for long shots, not with only one DSLR. Besides, you have to learn how to use each lens, they are all different, so buying one at a time is the smart way to go.

After you have two good low light videocameras and a fast, wide zoom, then start looking for work, shoot for other companies as much as you can, hire yourself out as a second shooter, then start advertising on The Knot or wherever to bring in your own business.
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Old October 6th, 2011, 11:37 AM   #11
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Re: Greetings from (yet another) newbie...

Quote:
Originally Posted by Corey Graham View Post
I wouldn't pay someone to shoot for me whose entire experience on the camera was a weekend -- sure, you might learn how to make it record video, but it will likely look terrible. I know it's not "rocket science," but it's vastly different than anything else Ben has shot with.
/Shrug. I stand by what I said; if he's motivated then why not start learning right now? It's not an insurmountable task. I'm not suggesting he go and shoot a wedding his first time using the camera but to make it out to be so difficult is just silly. Pick what you like and go with it; it's just a tool in the grand scheme of things, and choosing something for the sake of familiarity might not be the best option in the long run. Plus, with that sort of budget in mind, it might be more prudent to get something that really gives you bang for your buck.

Jeff has some really good advice there, although I'm still an advocate for the GH2 ;).
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Old October 6th, 2011, 11:41 AM   #12
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Re: Greetings from (yet another) newbie...

Instead of a wireless lav setup, I use digital voice recorders connected to wired lav mics. It's much cheaper (<$100). I know people's main concern is the ability to control and monitor levels, but I think that's a moot point. If something goes wrong with the mic, etc during the ceremony, what can you realistically do to fix that?

My best purchase and perhaps my most important piece of equipment (minus the camera) has been this: http://www.amazon.com/Manfrotto-561BHDV-1-Fluid-Video-Monopod/dp/B003YM04NO/ref=sr_ob_4?ie=UTF8&qid=1317918561&sr=8-4
It's a very expensive monopod, but well worth it. I would replace in a heartbeat if I ever lost it (for what it's worth, I shoot only with slrs). The stability and fluid control are incredible, and it gives you a lot of power to be creative AND very mobile.

My second best purchase has been pluraleyes (software plugin). It syncs audio with video from multiple sources. It's fantastic and to the extent that you are using a lot of audio in your final product, it will save you hours in editing.

Good luck!

EDIT: also, yes, I would be concerned with the quality differences between your slr and non-slr sources. For one wedding, I parked a camcorder at the back and did slr for everything else. I thought the different viewpoints would be enough to overcome the differences in quality. They were not. I could not really stand the difference in quality and ultimately chucked the camcorder footage. Also, the different codecs gave me problems when rendering the final video in sony vegas. Not sure if FCP is better, but I just assume that using a single type of video codec would only help.

EDIT2: Just go out and do it :) more than any of the advice on here, by doing a few weddings, you'll know immediately how you can improve by either purchasing certain pieces of equipment or by modifying your technique. Experience and equipment are both important (I would say experience even moreso). At the end of the day, your job is to make your clients happy (which can happen even if you're not 100% satisfied) and to be able to foster more business.
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Old October 6th, 2011, 11:52 AM   #13
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Re: Greetings from (yet another) newbie...

Corey, Lindsay, I would definitely pay someone with no experience if he had the gear I listed. My god, the rental costs alone for the gear would be $1K or greater ($500 per camera per day, etc).

That's how I started. You have the gear, you can find work. Just don't ask much for pay, pay attention, be loyal, keep quiet, don't hand out your business cards at someone else's gigs, and build a relationship with the guy you are working for and it will last for years. If you don't click with someone, find someone else to work with.

I am still friends with the guy who I shot my first gig for, and if I need gear, or anything, I can call him anytime. Building relationships is the single most important thing to do initially, making friends in the business.
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Old October 6th, 2011, 11:55 AM   #14
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Re: Greetings from (yet another) newbie...

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dan Choi View Post
Instead of a wireless lav setup, I use digital voice recorders connected to wired lav mics. It's much cheaper (<$100). I know people's main concern is the ability to control and monitor levels, but I think that's a moot point. If something goes wrong with the mic, etc during the ceremony, what can you realistically do to fix that?

My best purchase and perhaps my most important piece of equipment (minus the camera) has been this: Amazon.com: Manfrotto 561BHDV-1 Fluid Video Monopod with Head: Camera & Photo

It's a very expensive monopod, but well worth it. I would replace in a heartbeat if I ever lost it (for what it's worth, I shoot only with slrs). The stability and fluid control are incredible, and it gives you a lot of power to be creative AND very mobile.

My second best purchase has been pluraleyes (software plugin). It syncs audio with video from multiple sources. It's fantastic and to the extent that you are using a lot of audio in your final product, it will save you hours in editing.

Good luck!
I've often wondered about the need for wireless. Are you going to run up to the altar and plug back in the lav mic if it falls out? I guess if you were brave you could run up and try to fix it - and totally ruin the wedding. This is why I believe in redundancy - Lav both the officiant and the groom, record off whatever audio system is being used, and try to get a recorder relatively close. You're covered that way against everything short of a tornado hitting in the middle of the ceremony.

We have several of those Manfrotto 561's and they are amazing. I would warn anyone who gets one to periodically apply a little bit of WD40 to the ball on the bottom. Without it the monopod tends to "pop" when you move the bottom ball.

I can't speak for audio synching! Lindsey handles all our editing - I just get the fun bit of color grading and finishing!
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Old October 6th, 2011, 12:09 PM   #15
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Re: Greetings from (yet another) newbie...

Great advice guys, all around...

Jeff, you're killing me here! LOL I know there's no getting around the low light issue with the 1/3" sensors; I was just hoping to be able to stay with a camera I know (and already own), not to mention the easy workflow with FCP and no transcoding. But as well liked as the JVC camera is, it's not popular among wedding videogs for reasons that are clear enough. As Lindsey said, choosing something for the familiarity of it may not be a smart choice. (Any idea when the AG130 will be shipping?)

I hope to shoot some video this weekend around home with the 7D, to start familiarizing myself with it, although I currently have only the kit lens. But I also have the luxury of owning a chapel I can shoot in for practice! Otherwise, Corey, I agree with you on the DSLR issues. A true expert in any profession can do their job/run their equipment flawlessly. I believe we need to be able to change settings on a camera without thinking about it, perhaps without even looking. Especially at weddings, where you have to work on the fly. I would never try to shoot a wedding with my 7D unless I felt completely comfortable with it. It's a work in progress, I suppose.

And Roger, your advice is also well received; although I already own a successful business in my hometown, so I already have an accountant, attorney, etc. And because my current business happens to be a funeral home, I am on a first name basis with every pastor and florist in town. (Yes, you read that right - I am going from funerals to weddings!) So I am hoping that is to my advantage as far as earning clients and earning trust. I am sure a website and a facebook acct. will help as well...
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