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

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Old October 7th, 2013, 06:09 PM   #1
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Solo wedding shooters: How many cams?

Certainly this question has been addressed before, but I haven't come across it so figured I'd just ask again.

I am shooting a wedding solo this weekend; 160 mile drive and none of my shooters can make the trip this time. I am asking this question from as much a security standpoint as a technical one, really.

It's an outdoor wedding, on a golf course. I want to lock down my Panasonic AC-130 in the back; straight shot to the bride and groom from as high an angle as I can get on a tripod. (No balcony since it's outside).
I'll also feed the lav mic to that cam. Then, at a relative 1 or 2 o'clock position from that cam, lock down a smaller Panasonic X920 tight in on the bride. Thirdly I'll be running and gunning with a Canon 7D, probably using the 24-70 f/2.8 for the ceremony. Shotgun mics on the Canon and X920 for reference audio, and an H4n somewhere upfront as well, with the lav on the groom. So... I would love to have your feedback on the technical aspect of my plan, as well as thoughts about how you all go about making sure all your equipment leaves with you! I am concerned about having time to grab my static cams, tripods, etc. and lock them away in the car, and not miss anything. I plan to just use the 7D and H4n at the reception; and probably switch to my 28mm f/1.8. I know it's our greatest sin as wedding videographers to miss any crucial shots, but I am not leaving $5K worth of equipment outside unattended for any length of time!

Okay, your thoughts please!
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Old October 8th, 2013, 12:45 AM   #2
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Re: Solo wedding shooters: How many cams?

Last weekend's shoot I wasn't allowed anywhere near the front of the church so had 2 X TM900 cameras on the alter, pointing down the church set to medium wide (if I went too tight any sideways movement by the B&G would have ruined it). I also had a CX730 on a balcony for a nice wide back view and once the bride had walked down the isle I positioned myself and my EA50 with Canon 70-200mm at the back of the church facing down the Isle.

I had lav mics on 2 lecturns for readings, one on the groom, my Zoom H2 on a church speaker and a Zoom H1 hidden in a flower arrangement near the action as a 'vows' backup

All easy enough to set up and it was a fairly private church that kept it's doors open so once the B&G set off for the reception I could scoop my gear up and set off after them. That's always the hardest part for me as a solo shooter as I hate to miss anything - i can turn everything off and get it in my car in about 5 minutes though!
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Old October 8th, 2013, 01:05 AM   #3
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Re: Solo wedding shooters: How many cams?

You've hit the nail on the head there Peter in terms of gathering your gear up after a ceremony whilst also getting some footage outside the church - nightmare!

Also, the amount of times I've forgotton my recorders because i've hidden them in places is embarrassing!

As for me, I've a canon 6D on tripod at the front with depth as wide as I can initially, because I'm normally up at the entrance with my 550D on a Flycam - I follow/lead bridesmaids and bride as much as I can without pissing off the photographer, then when I get down to the front, I can manually look after the 6D and so I make the DOF more shallow and bring the ISO back down for better image. I also have an auto CX370 either in the opposite front corner, or in the balcony. Quite often I have my little Nikon P310 up high on a lights stand as my C camera - footage isn't fantastic, but it only makes up about 1% of final product footage. It has saved my bacon a few times.

The 550D on flycam sometimes doesn't get lifted again until I follow the B&G as they leave. Or sometimes I use it during the register signing.

Pretty much same setup again for speeches.
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Old October 8th, 2013, 01:27 AM   #4
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Re: Solo wedding shooters: How many cams?

For speeches I have a camera (TM900) in a corner by the top table looking down the room at the guests, and another one tight on the B&G for their reactions - I then position myself as far back as I can with my EA50 and Canon 70-200mm - I used to get fairly close to the top table but that tends to annoy some guests so I now get as far back as I can.

The nightmare for me is a church wedding followed by a hotel where the speeches are before the meal - it's a logistical PITA - I now insist on a 5 minute setup period after the B&G have been announced in for the wedding breakfast as I'm usually filming right up to that point and have no time to set up for the speeches.
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Old October 8th, 2013, 01:31 AM   #5
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Re: Solo wedding shooters: How many cams?

Ben - Trust your concerns about the safety of your equipment. If something is "lifted" it wouldn't be the first time something like that has happened. A friend of mine had his really expensive accordion stolen at a concert he had and he's never really recovered from it, that was about 15 years ago. An ad on craigs list Seattle site was for a several thousand dollar guitar that a gal had that was stolen, also where she was one of the players at a concert. There are opportunists everywhere.

Unlike video gear, high-end musical instruments that have been hand crafted can have more of a personal feel so they aren't as easy to replace as compared to production-run mechanical gear. However, unlike the professional musical instruments, your camera gear will have important files that can never be replaced at any cost and your client will probably be heartbroken.

If you don't have a wife or significant other that can tag along on the trip, then talk to the bride or whoever is the contact person and see if they might have someone who can volunteer. Maybe a cousin, niece, nephew, or whomever. If you get someone, tell them not to get distracted and that only you and absolutely nobody else can touch the gear. There might be someone who bumps into the tripod and they should let you know if that happens.

On another note: Check for local aircraft flight patterns and nearby highways. Not that you can do anything about them but it would be good to know if there might be a noise problem.
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Old October 8th, 2013, 02:09 AM   #6
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Re: Solo wedding shooters: How many cams?

I am asking this question from as much a security standpoint as a technical one, really

Second part first. I find 4 cams is ideal, 5 can be good but in many scenarios uncalled for plus the extra 1 adds significantly to the multicam edit job afterwards - its easy enough to run 4 cams on your editing screen but once you have 5 or more on the go it can be hard to watch all at the same time without going to and fro checking stuff. Then there is the need for a powerful PC as well unless you are to have a slow playback frame rate or use proxy files, both of which introduce compromises to your workflow.

Often 3 cams is just fine especially for a short civil ceremony where not much may happen or where more than 3 would be intrusive.

And what about missing stuff? I wouldn't dwell on that. Its a debate thats come up time and again in photography circles. Remember you're there to capture the day, not to provide a forensic record of every last bit like some police scientist :- ) The inevitable result of trying to record everything "just in case" is that you become highly intrusive. Less can be more.

For security I have several of these Pacsafe cables:

Any combination lock will do so long as it can be user set. I would avoid keys for obvious reasons. Set the combination locks to all the same, again for obvious reasons. You can loop a cable through a cam handle and tripod quite readily then link it to a chair or suchlike. Or link several bits of equipment together such as two tripods so that lifting them would be a challenge for a thief and pretty obvious. It probably won't be practical or desirable to attach the cables to chairs for the ceremony but you could do it before and after to give yourself peace of mind whilst you are out of sight.

At churches sometimes I move one large bit of kit close to the main door so thats its obvious to the church lady not to lock up until you're back and done.

Have as many standalone audio recorders as you can plus prep them for wind - but you know that :- )

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Old October 8th, 2013, 02:42 AM   #7
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Re: Solo wedding shooters: How many cams?

If it's a ceremony in the venue I use all the gear I have as it is safe there and I have plenty time to clean up afterwards, If it's a church however I have cut back substantially in terms of gear placed, only 2 camera's (two sony cx730's), one unmanned at the priest and one manned for all other shots, often, depending on time available I just use 2 mikes, one on the groom and one in front of a soundspeaker as that covers the basics, if I have more time then the altar and lectern are provided with a mike as well.

When the ceremony is over I just take the unmanned camera off it's tripod and put in a a small handicam bag that's hanging on my shoulder and I take my tascam dr40 from it's lightstand and place it in my pocket, then I put my backpack on (that holds my dslrs and lenses) and go outside, my tripods and 2 cheaper soundrecorders stay inside while I shoot outside church and collect them later. If that would be stolen it's not the worst as I have my most valuable equipment with me.

Originally Posted by Clive McLaughlin View Post
Also, the amount of times I've forgotton my recorders because i've hidden them in places is embarrassing!
happened to me the first time some weeks ago, I had used my zoom h1 at the townhall and afterwards had to shoot at the church, when I was placing my mikes in church I couldn't find my zoom h1 and then I remembered I left it at the townhalls table and my heart skipped a beat. But then a familymember of the bride approached me carrying my zoom, the mayor at the townhall saw my recorder when I already left and asked the family who's this was, they figured it had to be mine and took it with them. Even worse is that it happened a few times this year that I left my sony cx730, a tripod or my steadicam "somewhere" in a large venue with several small rooms and when I needed them was running around like a headless chicken trying to find them. :)
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Old October 8th, 2013, 03:01 AM   #8
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Re: Solo wedding shooters: How many cams?

If you're really worried about forgetting something, have a written checklist - that should help. I also try to pack gear the night before in such a way as I will know what is where, and hopefully will notice something not repacked... then again, if it's chaotic, sometimes you have to throw and go...

I'm with Noa on having a backpack - I use a sling type bag, big enough for at least two cameras, plus one on a strap around your neck, now you only have ONE to keep eyes on after a quick pass to "bag" the crucial/expensive gear right after the exit. You can go back through to pick up tripods/recorders/mics a little more leisurely after that, and it's not catastrophic if something did get forgotten or "disappear". I wouldn't be thrilled to lose a tripod or a recorder, but it would be preferable to losing a camera with a card in it that had crucial shots!
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Old October 8th, 2013, 03:13 AM   #9
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Re: Solo wedding shooters: How many cams?

I had it happen once that they closed the church doors at the end of the ceremony while I was still shooting outside, there was a little reception just outside of church so I stayed longer then normal, when I wanted to go back in the front doors where closed but also the back one as the priest and his helper already left :) Luckily the priests home was next to the church so I could have him open the doors again. He must have been blind not to have noticed my tripods.
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Old October 8th, 2013, 03:43 AM   #10
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Re: Solo wedding shooters: How many cams?

These days I usually have 2 cameras on the main tripod at the front, with one of them on a clamp so that I can keep it wide angle while operating the second on the tripod head. If I think my view may be blocked at any point, I will put the second camera on a lightweight tripod on the other side. I sometimes have a back camera on lightweight tripod, but am not a great fan of back shots. Usually a sound recorder on the groom and maybe a second one nearby for backup. Security has never been a problem for me over 30 years as I can pack up in a couple of minutes with no problem, using a back pack to chuck everything in.

As many UK venues are often very tight for the reception, I have filmed many hundreds of weddings with one camera, and still do from time to time. I love the challenge of it as it needs you to be creative with your filming. I normally shoot cutaways in the church or ceremony room when I arrive, of flowers, wall pictures, carvings etc, so that I can quickly change to a totally different detail shot in the ceremony and cover it with one of the cutaways. I have often been asked where the other camera was.

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Old October 8th, 2013, 06:08 AM   #11
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Re: Solo wedding shooters: How many cams?

These days we've gone to four cameras:
1) safety shot in back
2) bride's face, tight/medium
3) groom's face, tight/medium
4) roaming, reactions, faces, or misc.

For security, I stow my main gear bag only where I feel comfortable. Someplace where there is no other traffic. For an outdoor ceremony, I'll assume there is a sound system. I might ask and leave it with them. For my four cameras on tripods, I'll already have the roaming camera and be in back as B&G leave, so grab the one in back, stow, gather the two up front, stow. If I feel OK, I'll setup the roaming camera to catch the receiving line, especially the beginning with parents, grandparents, before grabbing my up front cameras.
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