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


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Old December 22nd, 2013, 05:55 AM   #1
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Solo shooters and speeches

I always struggle, as a solo shooter, when the speeches are before the meal - especially if the wedding is at a church and the reception at another venue. I don't like to set up my cameras before people are seated, especially in a room where the tables are really close together and there are kids belting around etc, and of course I can't put on my lav mics until the speakers are seated anyway.

So what I've started to do is ask the bride to confer with her planner and allow for a 5 minute period after the bride and groom have been seated, so i can set my gear up - however on two occasions now when I've reminded the planner at the venue I've been told - 'sorry we've a schedule to stick to'. Gobsmacked I replied something to the effect of 'but the speeches could be 10 minutes or 40 minutes long so what's 5 minutes?' only for it to be re-iterated - 'sorry but we've a schedule to keep to'

Now I'm not sure on these occasions if the people are being wilfully obtrusive or just plain thick but now I've amended my terms and conditions to include that a 5 minute setup period must be allowed for or I cannot guarantee recording the beginning of the speeches!

Pete
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Old December 22nd, 2013, 07:15 AM   #2
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Re: Solo shooters and speeches

Hi Pete

I feel for you! Most of our speeches are after dinner and at a lectern so I can set up while they are eating!

However where speeches are being done from the bridal table (I've done a few like that) what I use is a desk mic that has a gooseneck and then rip out the electronics so I just have the bare mic and stand and plug in my transmitter and leave it in front of the first speech make..on the table with the gooseneck stretched all the way upwards. I get quite good audio from that even though the extended mic only reaches up near the speaker's waist ! I try to liase with the MC to give me a few seconds to move the mic in front of the next speech maker and they are usually quite happy to do so.

It sounds like your bridal come in, sit down and then the speeches start? Your only option there is to have the camera setup and ready and then film the entry with your B-Cam and move directly to the A-Cam and start filming the speeches ...I assume they at least will give you the speech order so you know where to place the mic??

The other option is to place a drum mic in front of the DJ/House speakers so you don't have to use a lav but I still prefer the lav near or on the speaker.

Chris
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Old December 22nd, 2013, 08:21 AM   #3
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Re: Solo shooters and speeches

I've never understood doing speeches BEFORE dinner. So, if they take 10 minutes, dinner will start on time, but if they take 45 minutes, those 150 guests have to wait as the food dries out?

I'd setup a camera at the side/front edge of the head table, pre-focused on the center B&G seats. It's out of the way of all the folks and will give you a face-profile shot of whomever is speaking and give you precious time to setup your A cam.
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Old December 22nd, 2013, 09:03 AM   #4
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Re: Solo shooters and speeches

Hi Robert

I actually discuss schedules with the bride beforehand and always make a point that the only real critical timing will be the catering. You cannot expect a chef to keep 150 served dinners warm while the FOB does a 30 minute speech about his daughter. I tell my brides always do speeches AFTER the kitchen schedule is complete.

They never took my advice at last nights wedding and the venue actually started serving plates before the speeches were done! In fact the schedule they gave me, done by the venue actually made a BIG point about the meals being on time!! It did hurry up the speeches though but the groom ended up eating only a luke warm steak!

Chris
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Old December 22nd, 2013, 09:25 AM   #5
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Re: Solo shooters and speeches

Speeches here are immediately after the first opening dances just after the couple are introduced entering the reception, no exception. There is no time for nothing, no break, zilch, not even time to think. From the time the bridal party is introduced to the final word said in the speech, it can run a full 1/2 hour , it is a total continuation of events. I used to make sure I always had a full empty tape just for that reason. One Phillippine wedding was timed at 65 minutes continuation with 8 successive speeches and a bridal party of 18 couples. Anyway there is no time to set-up anything, this is total madness. I just hand hold the camera and just keep the camera with it's mic on top aiming towards the speaker, no panning to guest's reactions, no firehosing the camera left to right. At times a monopod would help the fatigue from the shoulder. I was tempted at times to just click the camera onto a tripod and having a wide shot including just the toaster and the couple, and let it rip, go out for a smoke or a S#@T and come back later. No fancy stuff, just the speeches. The audio always comes out fine from the DJ's speakers. If there is audio feedback or they speak low, oh well...I just pump it up in post.
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Old December 22nd, 2013, 09:42 AM   #6
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Re: Solo shooters and speeches

Around half of all weddings now have the speeches at the start rather than at the end in the UK. The main reason is to save the nerves of those due to speak - a very real worry and a big drain on the enjoyment of the meal for those not accustomed to speaking in public. Another reason is that where couples are looking to keep their costs as low as possible but want the speeches covered they can save some money on their photographer and videographer as they don't need them for as many hours.

Yep it does add to the stress especially if its church followed by hotel as I have next Saturday. My routine is to always ask that the master of ceremonies / duty manager gives me a five minute warning before announcing the speeches and awaits a thumbs up from me. I will have explained to them that I cannot put everything in place sooner because of the risk of accidents or damage or guests accidentally knocking stuff out of place. This has always worked well and they have been anxious to please except on one occasion when the best man took it upon himself to announce the start of the speeches when that duty was supposed to have been performed by the father of the bride - who I had briefed.

Occasionally as an extra precaution I ask the person scheduled to speak first that if they cannot see me in position do not start. I've also done that for years as a stills shooter for such moments as the bride getting out the car on her arrival, confetti, and cake cutting. Otherwise they easily overlook that you can't be everywhere all of the time all of the day.

In practice there are usually a few minutes before the start during which the staff go around the tables pouring wine. Again most meals are not going to spoil if kept warm for a few unscheduled extra minutes, steak being an exception.

Another practice of mine is to use audio recorders on mini table tripods rather than lavs. Putting three of those on the top table gets you 5 minutes of your life back. Ok the audio quality is not as good as that from a lav inches from the speakers mouth but its much more in keeping with what the guests actually experienced. And if travelling from a church I break down the kit as little as possible.

In a perfect world all the weddings would be in just one venue including getting ready and all the speeches would be at the end. At least when the speeches are at the start you do know that once they are in the can your job is virtually over bar some reportage and dancing.

Pete
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Old December 22nd, 2013, 09:57 AM   #7
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Re: Solo shooters and speeches

Fortunately around here speeches are at the end of dinner... so is a video montage if they do one. As an MC/DJ (my real primary job but I help my wife with her videography), I can help set the schedule. I don't even ASK when they want speeches for the exact problems many of you run into to.

If its a big enough issue for some of you, try attacking it from several angles: B&G, caterer, and MC/reception coordinator. If you get the chef/caterer on your side (or rather, you are on the caterer's side), they can also start pushing people to stop doing speeches before. Make sure the B&G know its because of the food being ruined, not for your convenience. All this needs to be done well in advance, not the day of or two weeks before. The worry here is the bride may say 'OK, schedule dinner 30 minutes later' but your counter to that is, 'what if speeches only take 5 minutes? Everyone will just be sitting around again'

IF the B&G's schedule has allowed enough time, I'll talk to the dads about how long their speech is, and often give the dad(s) the option of doing their speech as a welcoming, before dinner, but that's about it.

Otherwise our schedule is- guests all have their food? Show the video montage now, if doing one.
Is Cake being served right away after meal? Once they have half of them served, call to speeches.
The second speeches are done, bring B&G out to dance floor for first dance.
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Old December 22nd, 2013, 11:03 AM   #8
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Re: Solo shooters and speeches

There are advantages if the toasts are done before the dinner, namely the tables are clean, the guests are more attentive , the lighting at times coming from the window(s) adds dramatic lighting, everyone is seated instead waiting at the bar for booze. Oh, and another thing, the toaster won't sound like Foster Brooks at a Dean Martin's roast when a few too many have been drunk. Although I had a few like that , and were the highlight of the video.
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Old December 22nd, 2013, 11:36 AM   #9
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Re: Solo shooters and speeches

Peter, if this is common problem for you, is it possible to get a copy of the schedule ahead of time, so you can "help" the bride organize it better? It's common practice here to have all vendors take a look at the schedule and input comments or suggestions to make the day run smoother for everyone.
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Old December 22nd, 2013, 12:10 PM   #10
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Re: Solo shooters and speeches

Peter, being from roughly the same area I see the same sorts of schedules you do. I make sure I use the time when the B+G visit the room on their own first to also ask them where the people speaking will be sitting (so I can place the mics) and also always have a camera running to capture people coming in to the room (often played back as time-lapse, but sometimes just cross fade). This camera is high and wide and tucked (when ever possible) in to one corner. This could also provide your safety camera for start of speeches if needed. This could be as simple as a small camera on a monopod as high as it goes and leaning in to the corner so it takes almost no space at all.

I've also noticed a move towards speeches before the meal and frankly if that's as far as I'm filming (i.e. not staying for first dance) I'm pretty glad of it too and often give a small discount. Why wait the extra two hours if not needed? :)
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Old December 22nd, 2013, 01:41 PM   #11
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Re: Solo shooters and speeches

Hi Dave - I do the same where possible regarding a camera to get all the guests coming into the room and then sometimes leave this as my 'crowd' shot for the speeches.

I like the idea of having an input into the planning - I'll be trying that from now on - tomorrow's wedding (yes on a Monday!) is becoming more and more typical - 1pm ceremony - arrive at the reception venue 2:30 and speeches followed by the meal at 3:30. As I always like to film the B&G leaving the ceremony location it means I have to seriously leg it to get all my gear from the church and into the reception venue (and try and film where possible lol!)

I think I might start using my H1 recorders more and ditch the lavs for speeches - it might be a pain though when you get the occasional speaker who paces all over the place - seems other parts of the world (oz/usa) where they all go to a lecturn to speak - if only over here!!!

I get what you mean about if you're only filming up to the speeches, but if the speeches are after the meal then I use the time they're eating to get detail shots of the cake/candy cart/signing book etc and then leisurely set up for the speeches - happy days :)

Pete
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Old December 22nd, 2013, 02:47 PM   #12
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Re: Solo shooters and speeches

Here is a PDF of the checklist I go through about 10 days before weddings in conjunction with the information on the original booking form:

http://www.ashtonlamont.co.uk/wedding-update-10.pdf

I wouldn't dream of giving the document to the couple - it would totally phase them obviously - but if you do a similar thing verbally either face to face or by phone and just cover the bits that are relevant to them its very easy. Its designed to flush out anything that has changed since booking or that might complicate your life on the day. Much of it concerns the preparation needed if you are a stills shooter but lots is still relevant.

Using this I found out that next Saturdays wedding has changed from everything under one (hotel) roof to getting ready at one hotel, then a church ceremony (at 11:30am!), then the reception at a second hotel. Oh and the speeches at the start.

I've been doing this procedure in one form or another for a good ten years.

As far as video is concerned it can uncover such gems as when the wedding breakfast tables including the top table are all round, and therefore how it might be tricky to capture the video and audio of any speakers who take it upon themselves to spin around and around.

Everyone has always been more than amenable to my suggestion of staying on a single or a small number of marks. Likewise if there are tall table decorations which might obscure the view towards the speaker people have always been fine about me removing those just for the speeches. People do want it to work well and if they understand why you are suggesting stuff then that is the battle won.

Stuff like table decorations blocking views or wedding party members blocking shots in ceremonies etc of course you are unlikely to discover before the day, but you shouldn't be afraid to ask - you might be surprised at how helpful clients and guests can be. Same goes for getting a bit of wiggle room in the timing. Or even rushing a tripod with cam atop in an emergency rush into the reception venue from a remote car park :- )

Peter I wouldn't worry about the H1's performance in the happy wanderer scenario so long as he doesn't wander way off. The pickup pattern is pretty wide but not too wide and if you place several on the top table and maybe another where you think he might go you have the redundancy. And none of the hassle of displaced lavs or crackling clothing on lav wires :- )

Pete
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Old December 23rd, 2013, 10:43 AM   #13
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Re: Solo shooters and speeches

I solve the problem by packing up at the portraits (I include some of those in my video) as fast as possible, and racing to the venue ahead of the limo. Around here, a lot of the wedding halls are massive multi-event places and the cocktail hour happens in another section than the reception. I often set up in a completely empty room, and have time to shoot b-roll of the tables and arrangements long before anyone is seated, or speeches are made. This also gives me time to introduce myself to the DJ and the Coordinator. I've actually been quite lucky in terms of the amount of setup time I've had available.
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