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Old December 18th, 2013, 09:13 AM   #1
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I hate balcony shots

I've been working on a wedding edit where, due to the pastor's restrictions, I ended up filming one camera from the church balcony. I don't know about you guys, but around here they are pretty common and everyone seems to assume we should be shooting from there.

However, I can't stand the look. I DO like to get a little bit of a WOW view from the balcony of the entire congregation and stain glass or anything else with a 14mm. For the actual ceremony? I much prefer the camera be on the ground, even if it's literally just below where the balcony is.

I guess I think the elevated shot feels too distant or unnatural... like I've removed the viewer from the idea that they are at the church and the intimacy we create with the other cameras is gone. Being zoomed in for a medium/tight shot helps, but is impractical most of the time. Not to mention we're two shooters with 3 cameras so a balcony cam means a lot of running back and forth.

Anyone else have an opinion? Am I missing something?
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Old December 18th, 2013, 11:19 AM   #2
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Re: I hate balcony shots

Agreed. Usually just a big too high to look natural. I much prefer a high tripod in the back.
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Old December 18th, 2013, 12:24 PM   #3
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Re: I hate balcony shots

Yeah, it's nice to haves the wide camera up there, but I much prefer to be on the same level as the B+G.
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Old December 18th, 2013, 12:42 PM   #4
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Re: I hate balcony shots

They are very popular here as well, especially in Protestant churches it seems. In my very limited experience (as you can tell since you were just giving me advice in another thread, Robert) I certainly don't prefer the angle either - but it's safe since I know nobody will bump my camera, or stand in front of it.

When setting up in the back of a church on ground level, do some of you raise your camera up so it is above head-level when the congregation stands up? Some of the churches I've been in have such little space in the back, that I'm forced to cram my camera in the back juuuust to the side of the aisle; once was close enough that I was afraid someone would trip over one of the legs.
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Old December 18th, 2013, 12:59 PM   #5
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Re: I hate balcony shots

For us, Max, there are two options.

In some instances where the church is huge, you can put a camera in a pew, taking the aisle seat, but not in a space where you obstruct guests, just be the last row or so. THis would let you get both the bride and groom's faces from one camera... then once she's in, set it in the aisle for your rear shot.

OR, we usually have or rear camera off center aisle, set for the groom's face as priority. Leave it deep, f/8 if you can, so a lot is in focus and you can include it for the processional, not just the groom. ONce the bride is in and our other two cameras are set, we'll usually move that camera to center aisle.
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Old December 18th, 2013, 03:35 PM   #6
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Re: I hate balcony shots

Robert- do you shoot solo, or do you work as a pair with someone? I only work solo because I can't afford to farm anything out to anyone yet. But because of this, I'm usually too busy at the front of the church getting a rearward facing shot of the processional and bride entrance to go to the rear and move the stationary cam in time.

Also, not to be off topic- but I'm curious as to how you get your stationary cam at f/8 and still have enough light. Maybe you have a much more superior A-cam than I do, but I've been keeping mine really wide open to avoid cranking the gain up to a billion in dark churches. It's not a dSLR, so doesn't have the advantage of a huge sensor.
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Old December 18th, 2013, 04:20 PM   #7
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Re: I hate balcony shots

F/8 is the dream, and usually not the reality :)

We're a husband and wife team with 3 cameras: 2 5d mark II's and a 70D so I do have some advantages.

However, to shoot solo processional/recessional, may I suggest a front, rear, and side camera, when possible. Our side aisle camera will be something wide (20-35mm area), straight from the side, high up so people standing don't block it completely and pre-focused on the aisle (get someone to stand there for you before the ceremony if you have to).

Rear camera gets your groom and front 1/3 of the aisle. Will also get you the back of your father to groom hand off. Get your lines of site right (so no one blocks you when they stand) and have someone stand up front, again, early on to pre-focus

Front camera is usually me, crouching at the front, hiding as much as I can, to capture the bride's face, wedding party processional (with a focus on rear 1/3 of aisle) and, for me, once the bride reaches the 1/2 way mark, I back up to the side to be in position to get the hand off.

If I'm solo I can still do this myself. Once the hand off is done I set that camera at it's spot (bride's face, usually) in the side aisle with a medium shot. 2nd, Go all the way around to grab the camera that was getting the side aisle shot and take it to it's spot to get the groom's face (mirrors camera #1). Then head to the back and make sure my rear camera is how I want it - it's been getting everything up front while I adjust the other two.

For the recessional I do the reverse - preset the cameras except my camera up front is now a simple side shot of the up front/head of the aisle; camera #2 is a side aisle shot, and I man the rear camera so that when the B&G leave, I can follow and then setup for the receiving line before retrieving other 2.
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Old December 18th, 2013, 04:41 PM   #8
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Re: I hate balcony shots

I love balcony shots, for the sort of reasons Robert has really already said -- wow factor, looks grand (shows the bigness of the church, if it's a big church), shows all the people, is visually interesting because it's a angle the normal person doesn't experience the world from, etc. And that sort of emotion seems to suit particular moments -- when she walks in, and to show people applauding the kiss.

If I have four or more cameras, I'm probably happy to leave one on the balcony. It's safety net.

If I have three cameras, am I going to put one on the balcony? Probably not. Or if I do, I take it down after the processional (but obviously depends on layout of church). Reasons for taking it down: (1) I have to press the record button every 12 or 30 minutes on my DSLRs, since I haven't installed Magic Lantern; (2) shot size and angle. Extreme wide shots can distance you from emotion; high angles can make the subject look inferior.

Mind you, after I take it down, it probably still will be a high angle from back or side of crowd, but not quite as high. I tend not to park the wide shot camera in the aisle (to avoid blocking togs; to avoid having to shuffle the camera out of the way for communion or recessional; to be more discreet generally).
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Old December 18th, 2013, 05:20 PM   #9
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Re: I hate balcony shots

I got 5DII's on practically the 1st day they came out.

Right now I've got that out the way:

Sometimes you have to leave alone the dSLR coolaid. They are not always the best tool and this is a case in point.

Where you've got restricted access either through the venue rules or the venue layout or the sheer numbers and positions of guests you may find yourself better served by a number of compact camcorders that you can simply lock down and leave to run until they either fill their cards or exhaust their batteries.

And you don't have to be restricted by the space available for tripods or lightstands - instead make good use of superclamps, boom arms and friction grips in conjunction with the existing furniture and fittings. Often you can position these cams in such a way that the celebrants the couple and the guests don't even know they are there; and they don't show in your other shots. You don't have to worry about getting f8 because the smaller sensors give you all the depth of field you need.

It really is time to stop thinking that the dSLR is the one answer to every question :- ) A Gopro near the altar anyone?

I like a view from a balcony though I wouldn't want it to be the only view. Particularly as its often obscured by chandeliers. In the UK balconies are often very cramped and have tiny staircases to them (from centuries ago when everyone was much smaller!) occupied by overflow guests and this restricts your ability to move around even on the balcony. And the organist may also be up there spread out in all their glory. Often the best solution is a camcorder clamped to a fixture up there so guests can't jostle a tripod or lightstand out of position.

Remember it is also very easy to clamp a camcorder upside down to a convenient fixture and then simply flip the footage in post - giving you yet more shooting positions unavailable to needy clingy dSLRs.

Here is a recent long-form from a ceremony in which access to the front of the chapel was out of the question:

wedding videographers somerville college oxford kathryn and shane ashton lamont sample wedding ceremony video

This bigshot New York based fine art journalist bride gave me this feedback:
We just received the video package and it is brilliant! Thanks so much - an amazing memento and it's great that you incorporated the music from Robin and Paul, so many different camera angles and so many great photos from the day.

Robert was it really the case that you couldn't even tuck away a couple of locked down unattended b-cams at ground floor level to give you a bit more variety?

Pete
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Old December 18th, 2013, 07:12 PM   #10
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Re: I hate balcony shots

You mention DSLR faults... that's why we used to have two T3i/600Ds. Magic Lantern is VERY stable on it and that's fixes your 12 minute limit. Same on our 5d Mark iis. Now we have a 70D with it's sweet autofocus. Also, we ALWAYS swap our cards and batteries for fresh right before the ceremony and speeches/1st dance. That stuff isn't my worry. They're easy steps to avoid issues.

For the balcony wow shot... yeah, I will go up there 5 minutes before the start and pop the wide lens on for a minutes... maybe again during the ceremony like during a reading. Otherwise, not a fan for, say, the vows/rings.

IF we planted cameras we would probably go get a couple of T3is over the less convenient GoPros- they're cheap for us and we have some vintage canon lenses we can use and just manually focus and then everything will match in post. $400 each is a bit much for a camera to plant and HOPE we get one or two cool shots from.
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Old December 19th, 2013, 07:12 AM   #11
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Re: I hate balcony shots

Just to clarify Robert, I wasn't thinking of Gopros as the goto cams for unattended. At most weddings two Gopros would be one too many but as I'm sure you know one well positioned Gopro can add a lot to the interest value and can even be your get out of jail free card if things don't go according to plan.

Rather the small Panasonic and Sony cams that have been discussed a lot over the past couple of years such as the TM900.

Many have very effective autofocus and so are great a coping with situations where the action takes place somewhere other than where it was supposed to. Again some cope very well with changes in lighting mid-event especially when variable backlighting is involved.

With dSLRs once you've set them up and guestimated what the shooting conditions will be once the ceremony or whatever is underway you are pretty much stuffed if things change and you cannot access that cam either because its not accessible or you are tied up on another cam.

Also these cams tend to be much quicker to set up in inaccessible places because the screens can be be turned in a greater number of axis to check the cams composition.

I reckon the colour matching issue is overrated. Its tempting to shoot all dSLR footage in a very flat profile as thats the accepted wisdom, and indeed the difference between that and footage baked in on another cam can be a lot. But its not such a big deal to bring them together in post if indeed that even matters for your end users. I know from a lot of stills and album work - for which client feedback is far easier to obtain than for video - that looking good always trumps looking accurate.

I'm just saying that sometimes rather than think "how can I make a dSLR do this" maybe think "what might be a more appropriate tool".

Pete
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Old December 19th, 2013, 10:16 AM   #12
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Re: I hate balcony shots

Quote:
Originally Posted by Max Palmer View Post

Also, not to be off topic- but I'm curious as to how you get your stationary cam at f/8 and still have enough light. Maybe you have a much more superior A-cam than I do,
Hear Hear! I'd love f8 but in the majority of our dark and dusty churches f2.8 is pretty much the norm - I use a large sensor camera (sony EA50) for my A camera and with nice canon L glass I still rarely use anything by f2.8 if I want to have minimal gain. I have a 5DIII that I use for evening receptions in order to avoid using a light but I wouldn't use it for a church ceremony because of the 29 minute cutoff - more syncing in post!

Regarding positioning, I don't mind the balcony shot but it's more running round for me as a solo shooter - time is often critical and I like my cameras within easy reach of setting up and taking down!
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Old December 19th, 2013, 12:10 PM   #13
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Re: I hate balcony shots

The bottom line is guys, we go where we are told to go. Its his church, and he calls the shots, we have to make the most of what we are given. I always explain this in great detail to the bride and groom, after I have talked to the vicar at the rehearsal. I can normally talk a vicar round, only once in 32 years have I been forced to use the vicars positions, in that case the back of the church, and no unmanned cameras. We all know its a one chance shoot, and have to make the most of what we are given. And they will love it.
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Old December 19th, 2013, 06:19 PM   #14
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Re: I hate balcony shots

Quote:
Originally Posted by Peter Riding View Post
I got 5DII's on practically the 1st day they came out.

Right now I've got that out the way:

Sometimes you have to leave alone the dSLR coolaid. They are not always the best tool and this is a case in point.

Where you've got restricted access either through the venue rules or the venue layout or the sheer numbers and positions of guests you may find yourself better served by a number of compact camcorders that you can simply lock down and leave to run until they either fill their cards or exhaust their batteries.

And you don't have to be restricted by the space available for tripods or lightstands - instead make good use of superclamps, boom arms and friction grips in conjunction with the existing furniture and fittings. Often you can position these cams in such a way that the celebrants the couple and the guests don't even know they are there; and they don't show in your other shots. You don't have to worry about getting f8 because the smaller sensors give you all the depth of field you need.

It really is time to stop thinking that the dSLR is the one answer to every question :- ) A Gopro near the altar anyone?

I like a view from a balcony though I wouldn't want it to be the only view. Particularly as its often obscured by chandeliers. In the UK balconies are often very cramped and have tiny staircases to them (from centuries ago when everyone was much smaller!) occupied by overflow guests and this restricts your ability to move around even on the balcony. And the organist may also be up there spread out in all their glory. Often the best solution is a camcorder clamped to a fixture up there so guests can't jostle a tripod or lightstand out of position.

Remember it is also very easy to clamp a camcorder upside down to a convenient fixture and then simply flip the footage in post - giving you yet more shooting positions unavailable to needy clingy dSLRs.

Here is a recent long-form from a ceremony in which access to the front of the chapel was out of the question:

wedding videographers somerville college oxford kathryn and shane ashton lamont sample wedding ceremony video

This bigshot New York based fine art journalist bride gave me this feedback:
We just received the video package and it is brilliant! Thanks so much - an amazing memento and it's great that you incorporated the music from Robin and Paul, so many different camera angles and so many great photos from the day.

Robert was it really the case that you couldn't even tuck away a couple of locked down unattended b-cams at ground floor level to give you a bit more variety?

Pete
This is why my third cam will be a camcorder, not a dSLR. I want another angle that will match up with the XF100 in post anyway, without a lot of adjustment. I will probably try and get a used Canon G10 or something.
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Old December 20th, 2013, 04:06 AM   #15
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Re: I hate balcony shots

Quote:
Originally Posted by Max Palmer View Post
This is why my third cam will be a camcorder, not a dSLR. I want another angle that will match up with the XF100 in post anyway, without a lot of adjustment. I will probably try and get a used Canon G10 or something.
FYI we mix XF100 and G10 all the time, even with DSLRs. In fact we're on our last shoot of the year today and will use the XF100s & G10 for the ceremony and depending on how dark it gets we may swap to DSLRs for speeches, but I'm hoping to stick with the XF100s due to easier workflow.

The only thing I have against the G10 is we have to have it's settings turned all the way down and then still desaturate by 20% in post to get it to match, otherwise it's a great little camera and something we often still up as the high/wide shots like a balcony.
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