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Old November 5th, 2012, 05:06 AM   #1
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What is a wedding story?

In a Hollywood movie, there's usually something awaiting resolution that keeps you watching. There's some problem to solve, some mystery to unravel, some quest to accomplish; or maybe the movie is about how the protagonist's life got thrown out of balance by some event, and they spend the rest of the movie trying to return to a state of equilibrium.

Now, I've never seen a wedding video that fits any of these common patterns. They're not Campbell heroes' journeys or McKee three-act structures. So, when people talk about how their companies provide "cinematic storytelling", and implying they're doing something different from everyone else, and specially tailored to each couple, I'm always a little bit confused.

So what do you think? Is there such a thing as a wedding story at all? If so, in what sense? Are there different types of story? Are some stories better than others?

If there is such a thing as a story, how do you best shoot to serve it?

The way I've been overthinking this lately: instead of looking for a "story", maybe it's better to think about what makes something structured or ordered. After all, I don't think wedding videos should be random collections of images, a moving-photo album.

So here's five ideas I've been playing with. Do you think differently for your own videos? Is there anything to add to the list of how to bring order to all the various shots you're taking?

1. Chronology. The sheer fact that this happens after that creates order.

In practice, I think this is what everyone does anyway, so I don't know that what "cinematic storytelling" companies do is anything that special...

It also makes all weddings fundamentally similar -- you're telling the same story, following the same script at every wedding (they got ready, they married, they celebrated), but just changing the set, costumes and actors.

2. Illustration. One way people shoot non-wedding documentaries is they film the interviews first, and then -- "If you say it, you should show it" -- they hunt for overlay to accompany the audio. Stock footage, photos and graphics, animations, B-roll, etc.

In a wedding context, I think people sometimes use a similar methodology when shooting pre-wedding videos. I know I have!

And you can to some extent do this for a highlights. If you use a reception speech as your audio, and the father of the groom talks about how the couple met at a bar, maybe the guests had a brief drink in that bar earlier in the day, and you have a shot of the bar's name. But, in general, I think the fact that you're shooting your "overlay" before your "interviews", and that you're restricted in what footage you can get, makes the whole "illustration" approach kind of limited.

Maybe one day wedding companies will shoot a lot of footage after a wedding, in order to get decent overlay to accompany vows or speeches; or else will know the groom's speech far enough in advance that they'll know what overlay to shoot on the day (maybe some companies already do this).

3. Image sequences. Basically, I think this boils down to structuring by information. Carefully parcelling out what information the viewer has access to in each shot. Eg: establishing shot, wide shot, mid shot, close up. Or reverse the order.

Another example: Still Motion covering people playing cards in five different shots, each shot contributing something slightly new -- new information or perspective -- over-the-shoulder shot of a spectator watching the game; mid shot of people playing; over-the-shoulder of a player, showing what's in their hand; close-up of cards hitting the table; reaction shots of faces.

Another example: bride approaching her dress -- you might do a shallow depth of field shot on the dress with someone blurry who's approaching; mid shot revealing that it's the bride; close up of her hand on the dress showing what she does with it; reaction shot of what she's feeling or thinking.

In editing in general, I think people sometimes talk about Q&A patterns. Your first shot creates some question in the viewer's minds that the second shot answers. But then the second shot raises another question.

Thinking about this sort of ordering has definitely changed the way I shoot weddings. Previously, the goal was "graceful reframing" -- covering all the action with a single take, while (hopefully skilfully) moving and focusing the camera to follow action and compose it as harmoniously as possible. Now I think also about moving my legs and grabbing different shot sizes, angles, perspectives.

4. Similarity.

Example 1: Similarity of theme. Show bride getting ready; cut to groom getting ready; cut back to bride getting ready; cut back to groom getting ready...

Or put your food shots together, your laughing shots together, etc.

Example 2: Similarity of emotion. When you're editing to music, you might do it so that the shots are grouped by emotion. Eg: the more reflecting, tranquil shots with the quieter parts of the song; the exciting, impressive shots with the climactic parts of the song.

The groups of emotions can have their own logic: nervousness before the ceremony; happiness during; smiles all around afterwards.

Incidentally, it seems common to choose images that reflect whatever emotion is going on with the music. It's far more rare to pick images that contrast with the emotion from the music -- for instance, to put slow music over exciting visual.

Example 3: Visual similarity. You might put your flower shots together. Or you might dissolve from a circular ring to a circle of people doing a Greek dance.

In terms of how structuring an edit by "similarity" affects your shooting, well, maybe it doesn't...

5. Patterns / recurring motif. I think I've seen this used maybe once, to segue between scenes. The groom was into a football team whose mascot was a crow. So there were crows and footballs used throughout the video. Sometimes the groomsmen would throw a ball out of one scene, and then catch it in a different location in the next. In some shots, crows were composited into the image.

If you were shooting while thinking of motif, and weren't staging anything, I suppose you'd identify visual elements at the start of the day, and then be on the lookout for those things for the rest of the day. A shape, a symbol, a colour...

Last edited by Adrian Tan; November 5th, 2012 at 06:08 AM.
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Old November 5th, 2012, 06:15 AM   #2
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Re: What is a wedding story?

Hi Adrian

I was a National video judge for a major amateur group in their Motion Picture division and one of the things we judged on was storyline and I have a lot of experience both filming and watching movies from all over the world and seeing the story line. If you really want to tell a story based on a wedding then you have to tell a story, not simply add sequences to make it "story like" ...A proper story must have a beginning, a middle and an end. That's Rule 1 ... It must also either educate or entertain or both..that's Rule 2 and finally it must evoke some sort of emotion from the viewer..(which can be any emotion but for a wedding we hope it's emotions like joy, happiness and the like ..that's Rule 3.

To give a wedding a story line..something that you could sit down and tell a blind person is coming close to a story line.... you have to start at the beginning.. when they met ..progress thru the middle and the climax is the final marriage.

This guy has almost got the right idea ...He has a playlist of clips on : Wedding Documentary = 'Wedumentary' - YouTube

What he has captured is a wedding story and it satisfies all three rules too!! Take the time to watch it..but watch the story and don't concern yourself with image quality and colour grading ..it's a wedding story !!

Chris
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Old November 5th, 2012, 09:35 AM   #3
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Re: What is a wedding story?

I think "overthinking" is the most important non-word that you used in this post.
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Old November 7th, 2012, 11:34 AM   #4
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Re: What is a wedding story?

Hey Adrian,

I think you got a lot of it down already. In general, I'd say that there is no "right" or "wrong" way to tell a story, but there are definitely "interesting" and "boring" ways to do it.

We probably all know a friend who is very good at sharing anecdotes and telling stories in ways that make events sound more interesting than they actually were and we also know people who could tell you the same stories and make you fall asleep.

In cinematography, you would witness the same thing. Each filmmaker has a different style and could tell stories in different ways...

Some of them are very chronological and some of them like to time shift and use flashbacks.
Some of them like to show the big picture and some of them like to focus on smaller details.
Some of them like to focus more on scripts and some of them like to focus more on actions.
Some of them like to use narration and some of them like to only use visuals.

It all boils down to how you as a filmmaker want to tell your story and what kind of experience you want your audience to have. There is no specific rules to follow as long as it makes sense and you still keep the interest level high throughout the movie.

Obviously, there are so many tips and tricks that can be applied to accomplish different results from planning, shooting to editing but that will open a whole new discussion.

There is also a lot we can learn from other people's work as well.

If you haven't already seen this, Konrad had shared this a long time ago which you will find in the description, a fairly detailed writeup on how he put the piece together:

Christina + Greg SDE | My great buddy's wedding on Vimeo

It's also not a bad idea to analyze all kinds of movies, TV shows and any non-wedding related pieces too. I know a friend who showed me one of his wedding films in which he used ideas he picked from watching war movies and it worked out perfectly well too!
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Old November 7th, 2012, 11:55 AM   #5
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Re: What is a wedding story?

The challenge with telling the wedding story if you are not going to be purely chronological is that the climax i.e. the actual ceremony & exchanging of vows comes in the middle & not at the end of the event.
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Old November 7th, 2012, 01:28 PM   #6
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Re: What is a wedding story?

Dunno Nigel - I climaxed at the very end of my wedding.
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Old November 7th, 2012, 02:16 PM   #7
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Re: What is a wedding story?

Quote:
Originally Posted by John Knight View Post
Dunno Nigel - I climaxed at the very end of my wedding.
You have to pay extra if you want us to stay on filming after the First Dance.
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Old November 8th, 2012, 11:34 AM   #8
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Re: What is a wedding story?

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Originally Posted by Bill Grant View Post
I think "overthinking" is the most important non-word that you used in this post.
Gonna have to agree with Bill here.

Adrian, you're really over thinking things. Film making is an art, not a science.
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Old November 8th, 2012, 01:04 PM   #9
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Re: What is a wedding story?

Joking aside, are not weddings documentary rather than having a narrative? You could make a movie about a wedding, but that wouldn't be a wedding video, it would be a movie?

A wedding is a snapshot - a day of your life, it serves as evidence of the day, it allows people who were not there to feel part of the event, and perhaps reminds some participants of what went wrong because they can't remember.

If you design wedding coverage so that it tells a story then it becomes a totally different product - the incidental (as in not so attractive) shots of auntie Flo get cut out in favour of telling the story, but worst of all, a movie is rarely real, and getting the content needed for the movie may not fit the real event.
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Old November 9th, 2012, 07:41 AM   #10
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Re: What is a wedding story?

Paul, pure documentary is old-style wedding video whereas the new wave aspire to something more. The danger is that like Still Motion you may make superb wedding videos but then proceed to describe them with the most terrible pretentious twaddle
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we want to tell the story of something much bigger than your wedding day. we want to tell the story of you
you are not cattle / a slice of stillmotion.ca
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Old November 9th, 2012, 09:19 AM   #11
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Re: What is a wedding story?

I really think that if I was getting married for the first time, I can see the merit in the story style - BUT - I'd want both styles, as soft-focus, beautiful images, with careful grading and a lovely feel would not show me what happened on the day. I quite like the idea of add ons like maryoke (sp??) but I'm an accuracy person, and the clever flowy stuff would be for me, the secondary product. Price for price, both seem impossibly expensive to consider - so if I had the choice, for me personally, it would not be the modern style at all. However - I'm old and set in my ways, so can understand why the younger people want something 'special'.
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Old November 9th, 2012, 10:41 AM   #12
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Re: What is a wedding story?

The cool thing about a bunch of men (so far) discussing this is it really doesn't matter what we think. Whether we understand it or like it or could justify it, our clients LOVE it. And it is in very high demand. So. Just my thoughts.
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