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


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Old April 18th, 2013, 03:30 PM   #1
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Reception Toasts...

The reception Toasts play a major part of my edit. I'm always looking for that "storytelling" audio that I can use throughout the day. But lately I have had so SO many obstacles that it's getting ridiculous.

My last wedding particularly... I asked the DJ to position the speakers in the center of the dance floor facing the head table. I prefer this style so I can grab an over the shoulder shot of the speaker onto the B&G. Opposing that is a Med CU of the speaker from the B&G perspective. I personally feel, camera angle wise, that this best sets the scene.

Long story short, he told me no... and that he preferred the speakers to stand behind the B&G at the head table. I've also been told the same thing by Photogs, and also venue coordinators.

Now here' why I personally HATE this setup...
1) Usually the background of the head table is either a window, or a solid wall. My last wedding included a fire-pull station framed right behind the couple.
2) the couple either turn their heads to view the speaker, or look deadly off into random space (straight ahead)
3)Not many opportunities to grab different angles.

So back to my story, I agree with the DJ... I setup my lights accordingly. Now this particular head table was set on a stage and elevated by 2 ft or so. So it took my assistant and I a few minutes to setup a key and backlight and ensuring that no crazy shadows would be casted by our tripods.
Here's what happened, the speeches came and the DJ positioned both speakers off of the staged head table and to the side by about 3 ft. Panic mode came, and I jumped into action to reframe/relight this important event. The first toast went well... The second was a timid MOH who would not step into the light (which was only a ft in front of her). I even heard the BM saying "step forward, step forward).

So here's my fix... Refuse to take "no" for an answer. In my opinion the toasts are the only thing that us as cinematographers can really capture. A photo is great, but how important can it be to the other vendors in the grand scheme of things? For me, a well written speech goes miles in the trailer and main edit.

I was also playing around with the idea of bring a mic stand. I got this idea from others on the board and really thought it was a winner. This would alleviate so many obstacles (pacing speakers, people not knowing where to stand, you can even hook up a backup lapel mic or recorder) For those of you who might already do this, do you guys receive any odd looks from guests/other vendors? any set back?

Steve
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Old April 18th, 2013, 03:54 PM   #2
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Re: Reception Toasts...

I use a lapel or two on a mic stand for every wedding in addition to getting the DJ's feed from his handheld mic on my mic stand. Haven't had any DJ's or guests have a problem with it yet. I did have one father of the bride who really wanted to be able to move around during his speech, so I laved him up individually and since he was all over the place and we were on tripods, it was tough to keep up with where he was going, changing focus, in and out of light, he'd turn his back to the camera, etc. I've had other instances where the best man or maid of honor would have preferred to be able to move freely during their speech, but they were okay with doing it from a set position. Most of the time no one has a problem with it, though.

If you use a mic stand, make sure to tape the DJ's mic to the mic stand, otherwise the speaker may take the handheld mic off the mic stand which then defeats the purpose. Sometimes if I get a chance I'll chat with the maid of honor and the best man and give them a couple tips, such as to make sure the mic is adjusted for their height, as sometimes it won't be properly adjusted and then I'll have a mic that is too high blocking all of my shots of their face.

I find it best to just take control of where the speeches are. Generally the DJ and bridal party don't care much (though I typically coordinate with the DJ), so I just pick the best positioning for my lighting and angles, and set the mic stand where I want it.
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Old April 18th, 2013, 04:17 PM   #3
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Re: Reception Toasts...

I guess I don't quite understand what the speakers have to do with anything... is it that they're in the shot? Or is it about the audio?

It's one thing to ask nicely, including a short explanation of yourself, but you are simply not going to be able to bully a DJ. Consider a simple RCA to headphone input and ask about getting the feed straight off the mixer, if they use the DJ's microphone. Every respectable mixer has a 'house' or 'monitor' output.

And I'm of the mind that if you're going to spotlight people, be prepared to change the light. They rarely cooperate because their mind is somewhere else, not on staging.

We use two cameras to shoot speeches, no lights, and have tried lapel mic and even just setting a Tascam on the table to pick up ambient. One camera relatively straight on, and another at an off angle, opposite the B&G (so if the B&G look at the speaker, they look towards our camera). That camera will also try and do crowd pick-ups.
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Old April 18th, 2013, 04:24 PM   #4
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Re: Reception Toasts...

Robert,
Stephen is talking about the people speaking at least I'm assuming that's what he's speaking about.
For me, I prefer the speaker to be next to or behind the B&G at the head table as I want them in the shot but I won't get into an argument if they aren't. I certainly will not argue with the DJ about that since he's the MC of the party and frankly I need him to be my besty at the reception so I will be well informed of what is going to happen next and when it's going to happen preferably with a bit of a heads up warning BEFORE it happens.
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Old April 18th, 2013, 04:30 PM   #5
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Re: Reception Toasts...

Don... for the very reason that you mentioned is why I folded on my last wedding. You need them to make the night so much easier. However I do feel that they shouldn't have much of a preference on where anyone stands.
Robert, yes I'm talking about the guests of the wedding who are giving the toasts. I do greatly appreciate the advice regardless.
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Old April 18th, 2013, 06:09 PM   #6
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Re: Reception Toasts...

I figured and I didn't mean to insinuate that you argue with the DJs. For me, I work with the same vendors a lot and I always "ask" the DJ where he's going to tell the toasters to stand and if I'm not happy with what he's going to do, (generally they know me by now and know my preference so that helps a lot) I make a gentle suggestion that he does it my way but honestly, at this point in time, for me, I really don't care. I cover with 1 camera, do the best I can and move on. (I'm usually thinking to myself, I wish these people would hurry up) ;-)
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Old April 18th, 2013, 08:08 PM   #7
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Re: Reception Toasts...

Instead of asking the DJ on the day of, why not tell your couple ahead of time that a podium is part of your requirements? This way, they will be the ones to request it during their wedding planning process and the venue/DJ will have the proper setup ready for you at the wedding.
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Old April 18th, 2013, 09:22 PM   #8
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Re: Reception Toasts...

Hi Long

We are lucky here ...almost every wedding venue has a podium and uses the house PA system (not the DJ's PA) for speeches so all I need do is clip a lav on the podium mic and I not only have good audio but the speaker is also "restrained" in movements ... I did however have a best man who decided to rip the podium mic off the mount and strut back and forth across the dance floor like a motivational speaker or a stand up comedian but those cases are rare!!

It can be tough sometimes if the speakers appear from all over and with that I think Don Bloom's trick of putting a drum mic in front of a PA is brilliant and at least you get consistent audio!

Chris
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Old April 18th, 2013, 10:12 PM   #9
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Re: Reception Toasts...

Around here they don't use podiums for toasts ever! In all of my years I've never seen one used nor do they use the house system. They either use the DJs or bands and use a HH wireless mic. the biggest problem I have had over the years is when non-professional speakers think they can hold a mic (usually an SM58 or similar) down at their belly button or out to arms length to one side or another and expect to be heard over the system.
That's one reason I use the 2 mic system as Chris alluded to. One or the other is gonna git 'em!
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Old April 19th, 2013, 12:12 AM   #10
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Re: Reception Toasts...

Quote:
Originally Posted by Chris Harding View Post
Hi Long

I did however have a best man who decided to rip the podium mic off the mount and strut back and forth across the dance floor like a motivational speaker or a stand up comedian but those cases are rare!!

Chris
That's a funny way to describe it. The longer the cocktail hour (the drunker they get), the more of a problem the toasts often become. This also can make editing the toasts more difficult as well because of the 'stuff' that has to be cut out.
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Old April 19th, 2013, 12:44 AM   #11
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Re: Reception Toasts...

Quote:
Originally Posted by Chris Harding View Post
Hi Long

We are lucky here ...almost every wedding venue has a podium and uses the house PA system (not the DJ's PA) for speeches so all I need do is clip a lav on the podium mic and I not only have good audio but the speaker is also "restrained" in movements ... I did however have a best man who decided to rip the podium mic off the mount and strut back and forth across the dance floor like a motivational speaker or a stand up comedian but those cases are rare!!

It can be tough sometimes if the speakers appear from all over and with that I think Don Bloom's trick of putting a drum mic in front of a PA is brilliant and at least you get consistent audio!

Chris
Hi Chris,

Most venues here also have a podium but sometimes they would for some reason not set it up if clients don't specifically request it so I always tell my couples that I need it to be arranged beforehand just so I don't need to worry about it on the day of.

I also have the occasional speaker who tries to rip the mic off the podium and go for a little walk but now I always wrap a little round of gaffer's tape to the mount to make sure both the microphone and my lavalier stay where they should be. It's always fun to see them try to rip it off and realize it's taped down and change their mind afterwards.
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Old April 19th, 2013, 04:55 AM   #12
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Re: Reception Toasts...

Here in the UK I don't think I've ever shot speakers using a podium in 5 years of filming weddings - Mainly it's a top table sometimes with a passed around mic into a house PA (often - even in large rooms without one so people struggle to hear) so I put a lav/mp3 recorder on all the speakers - mainly 3 but sometimes 4 or even 5.

Also what happens quite often is the room is laid out with circular tables and the speakers can be seated on several of these - this is pretty much a nightmare (visually) as the huge table top decorations can block my view so I have to move my tripod pretty quickly between speakers. ( I do have one TM900 on the B&G and another on wide also)

There is a trend now to have the speeches before the meal and as a solo shooter it means after filming the receiving line and entrance of the B&G I have only a few minutes to set up my other cameras and audio recorders before they launch into the speeches :/
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Old April 19th, 2013, 05:54 AM   #13
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Re: Reception Toasts...

Oh, wow, that's embarrassing. It took me til now to figure out speakers wasn't 'the DJ's speakers' but the people speaking. Ouch.

Almost 100% of the time here the toasts are done with a wireless mic, and the person speaking is at their own table. Parents are usually just in front of the head table, Best man/MOH on either side of couple. Most folks like this because it makes it all one focal point - the speakers and the B&G.

HOWEVER, most have a backdrop, so there is no fighting with background like you were talking about.

YES, chat up the DJ. If you know it will be a real problem, talk to the B&G in advance.
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Old April 19th, 2013, 10:22 AM   #14
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Re: Reception Toasts...

I always take it as it comes, spend to much time in the past trying to work out a better way to capture to see it always turns out different as expected. I just make sure I have everything covered to get good audio and have 2 handicams (with a large dof to capture speakers that start moving around) on a tripod standing by all evening.
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Old April 19th, 2013, 12:11 PM   #15
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Re: Reception Toasts...

I'm with Noa. I don't try and arrange things to suit my needs, other than to work with the DJ and photog in finding out the plan. When I'm dealing with a cooperative DJ, which is most the time, I will offer suggestions that give me the best shot, and often times my suggestions are followed, but not always.
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