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Old September 1st, 2013, 08:18 PM   #1
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ceremony technique

I'm looking to improve my techique and find it difficult to smoothly cover it as a solo shooter. I put one camera unmanned on a tripod facing the altar at the back of church close to the center aisle but offset as to not block it. This camera also has the wireless mic receiver.

The other camera is handheld halfway down the aisle behind the photographer so as not to block him. I film each person entering and duck into the pews to let them pass. When I get to the bride I film a few seconds then retreat to the altar to film the father handing off the bride. Then put my handheld on tripod 3/4 view of the alter panning and zooming for some variety. I go back to my other camera zoom in closer and check the wireless miced groom. Then get back up to my other camera to get the vows and kiss which usually needs to be hand held to not get blocked out. Then quickly circle to the back of the church to get the recession hand held.

My main issues include:
-Backlighting make the processional entrance difficult to film (exposure, focus, wht balance )
-Most of the crucial moments end up being hand held. Easy to lose precious moments of shakey came getting changing position.

I'm going to order a monopod. I know a steadicam would smooth the handheld but I don't shoot enough weddings to be proficient steadicaming.
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Old September 1st, 2013, 08:54 PM   #2
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Re: ceremony technique

Hi Pete

We all have our own methods! I tend to put my main cam (with the receivers) on the edge of the aisle about two rows back and tucked into a pew so it's not in the way and that concentrates on the B&G and priest. Most of our weddings have the couple facing each other so I don't need a rear camera. At Greek weddings everything is reversed of course and I'm behind the ceremony and off to one side!

I just use my second cam on my shoulder and use that for wide shots, congregation cutaways and also for the bridal entrance. Yep light streaming in the Church door is always a problem...If it's really bad, try backing up into the pews a bit so you are not shooting directly into the light. My other little secret is a GoPro on the balcony that covers the entire ceremony so you also have a backup shot of the entrance if you footage gets blown out.... for $300 it has saved my bacon, many many times!!

Chris
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Old September 1st, 2013, 11:09 PM   #3
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Re: ceremony technique

I didn't know anything about GoPro. Just looked it up. Wouldn't have thought about using for that application. Interesting how do you frame the shot hows it perform under low light?
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Old September 1st, 2013, 11:36 PM   #4
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Re: ceremony technique

Like Chris, I feel safer with three cameras, though I might rely on my third camera more than he does. Placement wise, I have one in the back and one on each side. I can stay in the perimeter just outside of the congregations line of sight to adjust the framing/focus. I start wider and zoom closer throughout the ceremony. The ones on the sides normally get zoomed in close on the bride/groom by the vows and the one in the back is the wide safety shot. I have used a fourth sporadically for cutaways of the guests, closeup of musicians/singers/readers, and a locked off closeup of the groom as the bride enters. Both the side cameras are aimed at the door for the bridal entrance for redundancy with me operating one of them. I don't want to miss that shot. I would have NO desire to use a steadicam during the ceremony as a solo shooter, but some do successfully. I think I would be too stressed about it. I save that for the photoshoot and reception. I have seen steadicam footage of someone (maybe Clive) walking in front of bridesmaids for the first few feet as they enter and then he backed into a pew to let them pass. I liked the look. I normally have my wife go with me, which helps a great deal. The GoPro (Black) is a little better in low light than the previous versions, but none can really handle a dark venue. They are wonderful for outside and good inside with tall ceilings and big windows. For framing, you can connect a iPhone/iPad via wifi to view what it sees (with a couple second lag). Also, you can record at 2K and have room to crop and keep it full HD. It is so small and lightweight it can be put practically anywhere. But I do want to say again that it really shines outside with lots of light. Buy the additional battery that connects to the back of the camera if you want to use wifi. It will drain the standard battery pretty quick.

Please note that I am still a rookie at weddings. I just posted my first film for critique a couple weeks ago.
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Old September 2nd, 2013, 12:08 AM   #5
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Re: ceremony technique

For a church wedding my iieal camera placement when shooting solo is also to use three cameras. I use a Canon XF105 locked off wide & high at the back. This also has my wireless mic receiver plugged in. This is my safety camera. Then I prefer to stand on the groom's side facing the bride behind the celebrant. I have a 5D3 on a tripod wide & another 5D3 with a 70-200mm F/2.8L on a monopod. Before I am settled down shooting the service I will have had the 5D3 with the wide lens on a Glidecam & filmed the bride & her father entering the church then run down the front & switched the camera to the tripod.

Last edited by Nigel Barker; September 2nd, 2013 at 07:56 AM.
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Old September 2nd, 2013, 07:01 AM   #6
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Re: ceremony technique

I don't use a monopod during the ceremony. I use my tripod, with two legs at half, and the third leg all the way down. The handle on the Mafrotto 501hdv tucks under my arm for a fourth point of contact. It's pretty steady, and means I'm not stuck with a monopod the entire ceremony.

I'm with Byron on three cameras but here are my placements and uses:
processional: two cameras locked off and pre-focused at different, specific spots of the aisle. One camera in back (maybe a balcony), one on the side halfway down (raised high and looking down); and one down front and off to the side, which I still control. That one I'll get the aisle, the groom (it will be the camera to get his face later, in the vows), and parent/guest reaction.

IF the bride really wants faces down the aisle, I put her camera on a low set tripod down front, focus on a point, and grab that when I can. Usually I man that camera when the bride walks down, and pull back to position #2 (side aisle that will capture her face during vows) once she's half or 2/3 down the aisle.

For the ceremony: one in back, one on each side near the front. During vows, these can get nice tight shots of bride and groom. I man the groom's camera during vows, and will use it for crowd reaction shots, too.

IF I can, before the processional, I will move a camera, again, further back, and pre-focus on the aisle, a straight sideways shot, but raised high enough so that when everyone stands, it's not a problem, and I will get the B&G around halfway down the aisle with this. The camera in the back gets them near the front. And I will move camera #3 to catch them near the back, and on the fly.
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Old September 2nd, 2013, 08:58 AM   #7
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Re: ceremony technique

I would say make much more use of well-placed locked down unattended small cams that you can cut to for variety and interest value. Models from Sony and Panasonic have been discussed at length in this room. And its far less stressful to have 3 or even 4 or more cams than it is to be relying on just 2 for full coverage.

GoPros are pretty much de rigeur now as an insurance policy and also to add interesting alternative compositions. Its tempting to put them - and other small cams - on ballheads on lightstands. But in practice this can be fraught as it can take quite a while to level the shot especially if the cam is to be high up. And as a sole shooter you don't want to be wasting valuable time guessing then adjusting or firing up a phone app to view the live composition.

I recommend that instead of ballheads use these Manfrotto 234RC Tilt Heads:

Manfrotto 234RC Tilt Head for Monopods, with Quick Release 234RC

You can tilt with this head and pan with the lightstand and you won't be fighting sloping horizons. There are occasions where you'll be on sloping ground and so you need a ballhead but for standard indoor venues these tilt heads work great.

A big advantage of lightstands with small cams is that they don't intrude on the composition of other cams in the same way that bigger cams on tripods do.

Pete
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Old September 2nd, 2013, 10:50 PM   #8
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Re: ceremony technique

Quote:
Originally Posted by Pete Cofrancesco View Post
My main issues include:
-Backlighting make the processional entrance difficult to film (exposure, focus, wht balance )
-Most of the crucial moments end up being hand held. Easy to lose precious moments of shakey came getting changing position.

I'm going to order a monopod. I know a steadicam would smooth the handheld but I don't shoot enough weddings to be proficient steadicaming.
Hey Pete,

* Backlighting -- maybe different angle to frame out the doorway; or make a choice between blown-out background or silhouetted bride. Or even, if you like, moving from one option to the other, since you can conceal the iris change by cutting to the other camera.
* Shake during crucial moments -- I think multicams is the only real way to save it here, if the shake comes from moving position. And preferably not just multicams but multi-operators. But I'd question why you need to move position so much in the first place. Everyone has their own methods, etc, but I'm sure you could comfortably shoot a ceremony with two tripods -- one at the back getting a wide shot or mid shot, and one on the groom's side, favouring the bride. Your mileage will vary.
* Steadicam during ceremony -- if it's a vested system, I think you're going to be obtrusive and/or bump into people; if it's a non-vested system, I think you're going to kill yourself holding that thing for 60 minutes.
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Old September 7th, 2013, 03:45 PM   #9
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Re: ceremony technique

I only own and can aford two cameras. I find at crucial moments like the vows the photographer blocks my down the aisle camera. I'm not always aware of until editing when I need to switch to it while I'm repositioning my mobile camera I find I'm screwed.
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Old September 7th, 2013, 04:41 PM   #10
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Re: ceremony technique

I know some solo shooters that only have two cameras. They keep them both with them. One is set wide and the other they zoom in. That way they always know a shot is good before moving the other. Occasionally they will be several feet apart but still close enough to see if the unmaned camera is clear.
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Old September 7th, 2013, 06:02 PM   #11
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Re: ceremony technique

I use 2 to 3 cameras but I won't answer this question because every situation is different. Can I put a camera up front or not, is there a balcony or not, if not and I can't put a camera up front (fairly typical around here especially in Catholic churches) is there room behind the pews to set a set of legs that I can get 8 feet high to approximate a balcony shot? there are far to many variables to set it in stone.
I did one a while back where I couldn't even be in the center aisle much less get the processional from the front (off the altar on the main floor as I do in almost every wedding). I had 1 camera in the balcony, one on the main floor behind the pews set to 8 feet high slightly off set to one side and my main camera was in the choir balcony up front but at a second story level. I actually wasn't a bad shot and I got the procession nicely from there. Once that was done I locked it down and went to the back and put hands on the main floor rear camera for the rest of the ceremony and let the balcony camera get what it got. All in all it worked out OK.
You never know what you're going to walk into or how the church people will react and what they'll you do but my one unbreakable rule is to NEVER count on the other camera no matter what! the only camera that counts is the one my hands are on and I pretend that there are no other cameras running. Why? Because then if they get blocked or the battery dies or some other stupid thing happens I KNOW I can still produce a quality product with the 1 camera. Hell way back in the stone age, that's what I had was 1 cause I couldn't afford more than that but I learned the idea of slow pans, tilts, zooms...moves in general. I also found out the hard way that there are times to zoom, pan or tilt and there are times not to during a wedding ceremony so the camera I have my hands on is the only one that counts and whatever I get from the other camera(s) is gravy on the biscuit!
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Old September 8th, 2013, 05:27 AM   #12
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Re: ceremony technique

Same setup I've been using for over 5 years - one camera at the back on high (preferably a balcony), this is my safety camera. Another at the front behind the celebrant on the bride's side and my manned camera at the front on the groom's side - to get the bride's profile. Sometimes I also set up my GoPro if I have time.

I always have my manned camera on a tripod and resort to a monopod if space is tight - such as if I have to go in a choir stall. I hand hold for the processional as I sometimes have to fight for space with the tog and try and avoid the priest's back!

Be prepared however for all your careful plans to go out of the window if the priest imposes a restriction. On my very first paid wedding shoot I was only allowed one camera and it had to be up in the far corner of the alter - unmanned!!!! So I set my trusty Z1 on wide and let it run - cutting to church details and exterior shots to relieve the monotony of a 40 minute single shot! I also have another coming up in a priory where I am also allowed only one camera - halfway down a side isle with a great view of the back of the bride and groom's heads!

As a single shooter I think if I tried to implement my steadicam merlin into the church part of the day it would induce a heart attack - it's stressful enough :)
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Old September 8th, 2013, 08:33 AM   #13
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Re: ceremony technique

Peter,
Sounds like you and I shoot in pretty much the same manner. Yeah, weddings are stressful enough, no matter how many we've done. Why add to it. It is what it is and there is nothing that's going to change it. I'm there to document the day and tell a story, not to interfere. I think I've done that in most of the ones I've done. Sound's like you do the same!
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Old September 8th, 2013, 01:55 PM   #14
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Re: ceremony technique

Pete, if your camera in the rear is sufficiently high on a tripod, it won't be blocked. You must use a tripod that will go high enough when it is unmanned. If you do not, you will always face this issue in one form or another when you have an unmanned camera, particularly during catholic ceremonies, of which I have done many.
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Old September 8th, 2013, 07:32 PM   #15
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Re: ceremony technique

Hi Jeff

My rear cam is not on a tripod but on my big light stand (it's actually my stedicam docking stand) and it's big and stable. All it has on it is a big ball head and it becomes as useful as a tripod as I can adjust all angles and the stand allows you to go up high enough so no-one can block the shot. Around 7' up in the air is normally enough unless one of the guests is a basketball player!

It's quite amazing how much of the rear footage you end up using too as it essentially shows the entire event from start to end with no blocks at all so any errors or problems on other cameras is always totally covered!

Chris
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