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Old February 28th, 2013, 02:23 PM   #1
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My first funeral shoot...

Just thought I would blog about my recent first funeral shoot. I have read about them for a while and before I had a chance to pursue anything, I was contacted by a local funeral home. They had a client whose family was very affluent and did things on a large scale. I explained I had not yet shot a funeral and they were very accommodating. They asked how much for 1 hour at the ceremony and about half hour at the cemetery, 6 copies of the finished DVD. I blurted out $600 and they said "Great, lets do it". I showed up that morning, met the guy from the funeral home who instantly handed me a check. He explained the importance of filming the arrival as there would be a horse and carriage. I went outside the church, setup and waited. There were hundreds of people forming the line to enter the church and I could undoubtedly "feel" the looks and questions "who is he" and "what is he doing". I shot the arrival, entered the standing-room-only church and filmed from the back. I was tripod mounted and stayed in the back, avoiding up close and crying shots. After the ceremony, it was off to the cemetery where I basically did the same thing, stayed in back and raised my tripod. I was worried about audio for a moment, until I saw the full DJ setup, few hundred feet of extension cords going to a small generator behind a tree, just so they could have wireless mic and speakers! I lucked out. That was it for the day of the funeral, in 3 hours I had videotaped my first funeral and arrived back home.

I edited the video and posted online with a password for funeral home to proof. They said it was great, go ahead and make the copies. The funeral was on a Thursday and on Friday afternoon I delivered 7 copies, the 6 they asked for and one extra in case they had clients inquiring, they could show a tidbit. The following week the guy from funeral home called and asked if the client could call as she had an edit request, I said of course. She called and was very nice. She asked if I had any footage of the 2 different choirs who were singing prior to the start of the ceremony. I apologetically answered no. She was disappointed, but did not seem upset. She asked if she could have the raw footage and I certainly obliged and sent it out.

Conclusion:
It certainly had a very strange feel as many have indicated. Given the opportunity I would certainly do it again as I feel it was certainly well worth my time and production, especially on a weekday! I would slap on an extra layer of skin and cope with the strange feeling. I have certainly learned to ask more questions of the funeral rep and would also recommend to have a family rep reach out to me as well, if possible, to hopefully avoid any miscommunications as to any special requests from the family.
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Old February 28th, 2013, 02:49 PM   #2
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Re: My first funeral shoot...

We did one just recently for our friend who passed away of cancer ( 29 years old )
I have turned them down before, as I felt too unsure of the idea, but being a friend I couldn't say no.
Anyhow it turned out great ( for a funeral ) but I did feel like a vulture a bit.
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Old February 28th, 2013, 05:12 PM   #3
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Re: My first funeral shoot...

We have a camera setup in our church and we record many funerals. It really helps the families with the grieving process. There are so many good thoughts and memories portrayed on the day, the relatives are appreciative to have them recorded.
Never feel down about shooting a funeral, you are providing a positive service to all who knew the deceased.
If anyone asks why you are there, just say it was at the request of the family.
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Old March 1st, 2013, 12:33 PM   #4
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Re: My first funeral shoot...

I feel a funeral is very similar from a video point of view, to a wedding or any event, you are providing a valuable service.

You definitely want to record stuff PRIOR to the service. People arriving, the singing, people mingling/leaving afterwards.

I shoot funerals the same as wedding, but even more discreetly. The video footage of things other than the service is some of the most valuable footage, in my experience.
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Old March 2nd, 2013, 03:25 PM   #5
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Re: My first funeral shoot...

We shot a funeral recently for a local police officer killed on duty. We were actually employed by the police force on behalf of the widow to provide a memory box for their young children.

The one obvious difference is that a wedding is a happy event and everyone is smiling. At a funeral it's (generally) a sad event and no one is smiling,

There was absolutely zero interaction with any attendees, whereas at a wedding there is usually at least 'some'.

It can feel a little awkward at first, but then you just get on with the job in as sensitive way as possible, trying not to get close up shots of people grieving etc.

We had the added problem that this was at mid day (mid day sun) with snow on the ground, with very dark police officer's uniforms! Talk about testing the dynamic range of the cameras! The Canon XF100s did an excellent job - but we kept the waveform monitors up at all times outside to make sure we weren't blowing things. The 50mb 4:2:2 codec really came in handy that day!

We'd done all our home work on the church, plugged in to the sound system, figured out backup audio with multiple cameras discreetly placed, and was assured the vicar would only speak at this one location, so we didn't need to mic him. However, the one thing that caught us out was that the Vicar started speaking (I am the life, the resurrection etc) as he walked in to the church in front of the coffin, and because he wasn't mic'd directly the sound dipped as he passed through the middle of the congregation (who were all standing). It was only for a couple of seconds, but it's there all the same.

If we get another one I'll mic the vicar direct for sure.
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Old March 2nd, 2013, 04:03 PM   #6
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Re: My first funeral shoot...

Dave, check first, many clergy hate lav mics they spoil the look.

btw how long was this video, did you open with any music? Run any info credits to open and/or close?

Cheers.
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Old March 2nd, 2013, 04:26 PM   #7
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Re: My first funeral shoot...

Quote:
Originally Posted by Allan Black View Post
Dave, check first, many clergy hate lav mics they spoil the look.
Yeah, it's true! Obviously this comes under doing your homework. The vicar had already agreed to wear a lav mic going to the crematorium afterwards but for some reason no one thought it needed at the church because he'd only ever speak from this one location. His official mic was a Sennheiser G2 so we tuned in to that directly with our receivers 'and' plugged in to the church desk to get a direct feed 'and' had backup mics on the church speakers. Didn't think I needed any more - but clearly I was wrong! :(

Quote:
Originally Posted by Allan Black View Post
btw how long was this video, did you open with any music? Run any info credits to open and/or close?
Cheers.
The video was around 48 minutes in total, but this included two ceremonies, one at the church (also attended by lots of police officers) and a private ceremony (for family and friends) at the crematorium.

We opened it with establishing shots and a shot of the printed program showing his photo and name. We filmed the herse arriving (complete with full police escort), the 48 officer guard of honour as the coffin was carried in, then in to the ceremony. As they left we filmed the coffin being carried to the herse, people leaving the church, the herse leaving and then on to the crematorium.

We ended with a simple "in memory of xxxxx" and his photo (provided by the family).

We did open with Abide with Me sung as a choir with no music. Quite moving really. We closed with the song that the family had chosen to be played at the crematorium as they left.

We didn't run any credits because the family decided they didn't want any.
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Old March 2nd, 2013, 08:19 PM   #8
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Re: My first funeral shoot...

I shot a funeral several years ago.

All I recall is just feeling really strange the whole time I was there.

I also remember some of those looks you're talking about such as "What is this guy doing".

After that, I decided I was ok not filming them. Haven't done any since.
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Old March 8th, 2013, 10:08 AM   #9
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Re: My first funeral shoot...

I have shot a few.
It helped my first one was a person I knew and the family knew my work and wanted it all documented for the people who couldn't make it. This one was very nice because (she) lived a full life and was a piano teacher so it was planned to have several performers there. Big lump in my throat at first but it helped that the family compleated my shot list I sent in advance, so I just went down the list and made sure I had it covered. A friend gave me a tip to place a "flyer" right by the sign in sheet that said the family has requested the funeral filmed by Flex Media, etc.

I haven't had many request for funerals. As a retireing Police Officer and part time photographer/videographer myself, I offer free Police Honors funerals to any officer who dies during his career here in Michigan. I haven't done any yet, but that is a good thing too.

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Old March 9th, 2013, 03:23 AM   #10
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Re: My first funeral shoot...

Out of interest, what do you wear on a sad shoot like this?

Dark suit and tie would seem appropriate, but with all the setup especially on a hot day?

Cheers.
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Old March 9th, 2013, 07:17 AM   #11
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Re: My first funeral shoot...

I wore my standard attire, my wife calls it my "uniform", black khakis and a short sleeve black button down collared shirt, I have 3 of each :)
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Old March 9th, 2013, 07:42 AM   #12
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Re: My first funeral shoot...

I wear the same as I wear for weddings all black. Long sleeved shirt with a black jacket if it's cold.

I like the idea of having a flyer or some indications somewhere that "the funeral is being filmed at the family's request by XYZ video" which would stop some of the funny looks that I get from those who are unaware what is happening.
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Old March 9th, 2013, 08:39 AM   #13
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Re: My first funeral shoot...

Find that really odd to be honest. But enjoyed reading your experience.

I wouldn't be able to do it I think ... not sure why. Just can't see how I would film and edit it all being a creative wedding videographer.
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Old March 9th, 2013, 07:37 PM   #14
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Re: My first funeral shoot...

I was asked once if I could do a funeral and politely told them I was booked. It just seems a bit too morbid to do yet my associates and friends do them and make nice money too...It's reasonable hours compared to a wedding and all you are really doing is creating a record of the service and what people say..a bit like wedding speeches I guess.

I do think the notice is a good idea so people don't get the wrong idea about the videographer.

Chris
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Old March 10th, 2013, 12:42 PM   #15
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Re: My first funeral shoot...

Death is part of our life just as birth, wedding, etc. There are many situations where videotaping the funeral is a huge help for members of the family and friends. Think about loved ones far away or those sick/disabled who can't make it in person. Think about minor children who will never again see their father killed in Afghanistan, but will cherish the military honor videotaped at the grave side, having proof that their father died serving our country. Watching the funeral is the best next thing to being present, it helps with the healing, as already pointed out.

I've done a few here in Atlanta and surroundings. It's nice to work with professionals who know how to respect you as a professional. Getting paid on location on the day of the shoot is pretty much standard. I dress like everyone else does for the occasion - dark suite, white shirt, tie. Two wireless mics plus stock shutgun, all from tripod placed where the funeral director agrees (but for the most part where I suggest). Delivery on a couple of DVDs but I've done as much as 12 - no navigation menu, just a short title, and later lower thirds with the name/title of the speaker.
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