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Wedding / Event Videography Techniques
Shooting non-repeatable events: weddings, recitals, plays, performances...


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Old November 26th, 2005, 01:49 PM   #1
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Yet another wannabe seeks adviceÖ

As the title implies, Iím looking to do wedding events that actually pay something. Iíve got about 10 years of amateur experience Ė mainly doing the ďrelativeísĒ and friendís gigs. I use meager equipment Ė strictly consumer rated and would like to take this to the next level.

My market is straight middle class Catholic. Itís a small rural city with a population of about 30,000 and has a 30 mile trading area adding about 30,000 more. The typical turnkey wedding in these parts is nothing fancy and will generally run $6500 - $8000. (Iím talking Mom & Dadís out of pocket expenses which include everything from the dress, rings, still photographer, music, hall rental, invitations, 200 meals, etc.) They marry Ďem off cheap out here.

Other than ďUncle FredĒ firing up his Canon ZR40 and filming the event for free, there really is nobody that does this professionally in these parts and the nearest outfit 60 miles away wonít do it for less than $1500. Again, based on the market demographics you can probably see why. Most of the still photographers in the area wonít even touch it.

Regardless, Iíd still like to try. My budget is roughly $3200 - $3400. Iíve prioritized some things as the bare minimum:

$2325 - Sony VX2100: including shipping (from B&H Photo). Iíve actually been wanting this kind of rig when there was only the VX2000 available.

$250 - Spare Batteries & External charger. Two Sony NP-F970ís.

$150 Ė Wireless Mic. Iíve been looking at the one from:

http://www.nugadgets.com/products/Pr.../4.4791.1.html

I could really use some help here as far as the mic goes. I know the Sony doesnít have XLR capabilities but would consider adding that later. I also know there are much better choices out there but Iím trying to stay ďrealisticĒ for now.

$115 - Sony HVL-20DW2 20-watt Video Light.

$150 - VCT-870RM Remote Control Tripod

So right now Iím at roughly $3,000 which includes shipping. That leaves me with some room for a bag or a case.

Most of my purchases would come from B&H Photo unless anyone can vouch for somebody else. Iíve seen the other so-called discount sites and even though they claim great savings (like a VX2100 for $1200) I will avoid them - B&H seems to have the endorsement of many folks here.

Post-production equipment is no problem as Iím pretty much set. For the NLE I use Adobe Premiere Pro and a few other tools. (I actually have made a few bucks doing VHS to DVD conversions but that isnít worth the time any more).

I still have a regular job and will be keeping it. Anything else I buy would have to be funded from anything I made. Should I have some success at this one of the first things Iíll do is add a 2nd camera and relegate some of the modestly priced accessories listed above to that one.

Any advice on this plan (even a sentence or two) would be greatly appreciated and I must say, itís a pleasure to simply camp out in these forums and read for days on end, all the information you folks have made available.
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Old November 26th, 2005, 02:11 PM   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rick Steele
As the title implies, Iím looking to do wedding events that actually pay something. Iíve got about 10 years of amateur experience Ė mainly doing the ďrelativeísĒ and friendís gigs. I use meager equipment Ė strictly consumer rated and would like to take this to the next level.

My market is straight middle class Catholic. Itís a small rural city with a population of about 30,000 and has a 30 mile trading area adding about 30,000 more. The typical turnkey wedding in these parts is nothing fancy and will generally run $6500 - $8000. (Iím talking Mom & Dadís out of pocket expenses which include everything from the dress, rings, still photographer, music, hall rental, invitations, 200 meals, etc.) They marry Ďem off cheap out here.

Other than ďUncle FredĒ firing up his Canon ZR40 and filming the event for free, there really is nobody that does this professionally in these parts and the nearest outfit 60 miles away wonít do it for less than $1500. Again, based on the market demographics you can probably see why. Most of the still photographers in the area wonít even touch it.

Regardless, Iíd still like to try. My budget is roughly $3200 - $3400. Iíve prioritized some things as the bare minimum:

$2325 - Sony VX2100: including shipping (from B&H Photo). Iíve actually been wanting this kind of rig when there was only the VX2000 available.

$250 - Spare Batteries & External charger. Two Sony NP-F970ís.

$150 Ė Wireless Mic. Iíve been looking at the one from:

http://www.nugadgets.com/products/Pr.../4.4791.1.html

I could really use some help here as far as the mic goes. I know the Sony doesnít have XLR capabilities but would consider adding that later. I also know there are much better choices out there but Iím trying to stay ďrealisticĒ for now.

$115 - Sony HVL-20DW2 20-watt Video Light.

$150 - VCT-870RM Remote Control Tripod

So right now Iím at roughly $3,000 which includes shipping. That leaves me with some room for a bag or a case.

Most of my purchases would come from B&H Photo unless anyone can vouch for somebody else. Iíve seen the other so-called discount sites and even though they claim great savings (like a VX2100 for $1200) I will avoid them - B&H seems to have the endorsement of many folks here.

Post-production equipment is no problem as Iím pretty much set. For the NLE I use Adobe Premiere Pro and a few other tools. (I actually have made a few bucks doing VHS to DVD conversions but that isnít worth the time any more).

I still have a regular job and will be keeping it. Anything else I buy would have to be funded from anything I made. Should I have some success at this one of the first things Iíll do is add a 2nd camera and relegate some of the modestly priced accessories listed above to that one.

Any advice on this plan (even a sentence or two) would be greatly appreciated and I must say, itís a pleasure to simply camp out in these forums and read for days on end, all the information you folks have made available.
As far as mike go, whatever you do DON'T get a VHF system, use a UHF system, such as the Sennheiser Evolution G2 100 Series:
http://www.bhphotovideo.com/bnh/cont...=324242&is=REG

the reciever will plug straight into your camera.

As far as a case goes, I went to a local hardware store (L*we's) and bought their alumminim briefcase toolbox, they were only $25 each, I bought 3, and they are really nice looking cases too.

Yes, spare batteries are a must, the 20-watt light is good, if it runs on an external battery that's even better, since it won't run down your camera battery. I use the boscor batteries.

Sorry to make it a bit short, I have a shoot in an hour, so I'll post more later.
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Old November 26th, 2005, 02:13 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rick Steele
$150 - VCT-870RM Remote Control Tripod
Personally I would stay away from that. I've seen this tripod and it's strictly consumer grade for very lightweight cameras. It doesn't have a fluid head, lots of plastic parts, and it looked pretty wobbly to me. Definitely what you'd want for steady long shots or smooth movement. I don't know about your venues, but I wouldn't be surprised if you spent a lot of the time zoomed in close to the max to get a closeup shot from far away. This makes a good tripod really important and I'd think about reallocating funds accordingly.

I think the minimum quality worth considering would be a Manfrotto with a 501 head. Here are some options, and as you can see even with the cheapest legs you're into the $250 range:

http://www.bhphotovideo.com/bnh/cont....x=0&image.y=0

I have a Manfrotto 501 with the 3221 legs and was happy with this until I started shooting our performances from the rear of the house, over 100 feet from the stage. Zoomed in to the max from there, I found it impossible to produce smooth moves and decided I needed something better. So I went with a Miller DS-5 like this:

http://www.bhphotovideo.com/bnh/cont...ughType=search

This is a huge improvement over the Manfrotto 501. Of course now you're into the $750 range, but you get what you pay for and if your video is shaky then all that other equipment won't count for much. In my experience, there's very little middle ground between the $300 and $800 tripods. And of course it only goes UP (and WAY UP) from there...

There are a lot of other good systems as well - visit our camera support forum for more info:

http://www.dvinfo.net/conf/forumdisplay.php?f=42
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Old November 26th, 2005, 02:49 PM   #4
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I agree with all thats been said up to now but heres something to look into. Get 3 batteries for the camera and 3 batteries for the light, so 6 batteries in total. Batteries do go bad, the light will suck up the power from the battery and its pretty important to have a spare. Mark them 1,2,3 etc and rotate them. Start with #1 then go to 2 etc. Next job, start with #2, go to 3 etc. This just kinda helps insure that they get used an equal amount. Also a dual battery charger is good to have. Now you can charge 2 at once and if need be you can bring it in with you to the reception and charge batteries while you still shoot.

I understand your funds are limited but buying a peice of equipment that doesn't do the job for say $150 and then having to replace it soon after for say $300 just made that piece of gear cost $450. It's only expensive if it doesn't do the job. You'll also want to look into a backup camera-for starters even a little palmcorder would be a solution. There are 3 chippers out there for around $500, not the best but at least if you need a BACKUP cam you've got it.
Good luck, welcome to the wacky wonderful world of weddings.
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Old November 26th, 2005, 05:02 PM   #5
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I'll also 2nd the Bogen tripod with the 501 head suggestion.

I'd also recomend the Sennheiser EW100G2 for a wireless mic. The link to the mic you posted seems to only offer 2 channels (at 170Mhz). If those two channels are in use in your area even if only by someone else on the day of your shoot, you're in trouble. The Sennheiser has somehting like 1440 frequencies you can tune to. Make sure you chose a wireless mic that has a range of frequencies that are relatively free in your area. Different wireless kits cover different ranges. B&H sells the above in three ranges.

You might want to consider buying a PD-170 since you may find having two XLR inputs useful. B&H has it used for about $2500 and new for a few hundred more. I usually have wireless lav going to one channel and shotgun going to the other. This way if the wireless has an issue during the ceremony you still have good audio (IF you're in close).
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Old November 26th, 2005, 07:39 PM   #6
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An inexpensive VHF mic will cause serious headaches. Plan to spend the $500 for the Sennheiser. This is your minimum lavalier mic setup. If you get a lesser system, you will panic when the vows are full of static interference.

I use the VX2000 and it is fantastic for weddings. That PD170 for $2500 looks tempting, but XLR isn't absolutely critical. You will probably have the lav plugged in all day since it is the perfect system to mic the people speaking at the reception. If they use a podium, mic the podium and you get all the speaches. You could get a splitter to allow your lav to go to the L channel and a shotgun to go to the right on the VX2100.

Consider getting a wide-angle adapter. They are great indoors and allow you to get close. The closer you get, the less shake you will have in the image.

You might get a less-powerful light and save some money since the VX2100 barely needs extra light. Some sort of soft-box for the light will make it more pleasant to be around and make shadows less harsh.

If you get sticks with the 501 head, think about a monopod with a 501 quick-release plate. This way, you can go from tripod to monopod quickly for moving shots. The bogen 503 head is the same mounting plate and apparently the fluid upgrade for the 501. I've seen it recommended around here before.

With the long life of the npf970 batteries, you don't need more than two unless you use a light frequently. Remember, if you use a light, people in the foreground will be lit much more than people in the background. Use the room light as much as possible. I keep the little 330 battery that came with the cam in my pocket as an emergency backup. Without a light, my npf960 lasts all day and night.
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Old November 26th, 2005, 10:36 PM   #7
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I shoot with a PD170, vx2100 and Vx2000. If I haad your budget to buy a equipment in your market, I would get the VX2000 used right away. It saves you close to $8-900 which gets you the better wireless mic, a monopod, wide angle lens, and the good tripod. I would also pick up generic batteries rather than the sony brand. I have been using lenmar and other generic brands for years and they work just as well as the sony brand, plus they are about $20-30 each.

The vx2000 is also of very similar quality than the vx2100 or PD170 and for the amount of use your putting it through and your startup budget, that would be the wisest move to have a more balanced approach.
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Old November 26th, 2005, 11:27 PM   #8
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also

I can't believe someone here didn't mention the iriver. Consider it as a start for micing audio on the groom it is about the same price as that VHF sydem, and though it has its faults (no monitoring for one) it will prove useful as a backup once you can get the sennheiser. Also does anyone know the distinct advantages of the VX2100 over th VX2000? I might try to find a VX2000 locally if I were getting started again. I shoot with a GL1 currently so who am I to talk, but just my 2 cents...

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Old November 27th, 2005, 10:53 AM   #9
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Biggest fear about using iRiver as a main source is the lack of monitoring. I even have fears about the occasional RF hit on a wireless. That's why I like recording "split" channel.

The reason why I mention the PD-170 is that once you factor in cost of a Beachtek like adaptor and a wide angle lens (don't forget you get a "free" wide angle lens with the 170) the cost for the 2100 can be about the same as the 170.

Don't scrimp on audio. It's relatively easy to fix a couple of seconds of bad video with a cutaway or a slow mo to extend a shot but if you don't have a good backup for the audio it's hard to fix that. Imagine what happens when you get RF hits or find you sole audio source failed during the vows.

Whether it's wireless mic and iRiver or wireless mic and close in shotgun, always have two (split) audio sources IMHO.
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Old November 27th, 2005, 11:26 AM   #10
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Thank you for the feedback.

It seems Iím doing at least 2 things wrong here (tripod and wireless mic) so Iíll need to cut some corners elsewhere but there isnít much leeway.

I really want the added power of the NP-970ís. I probably do a lot of overkill during a shoot and go through batteries and DV tapes like water. Plus we have some really old churches here where power outlets are pretty hard to find. Iíll try one of the discount houses and see if I can save $75-100 on two non-sony replacements.

Matt - I like the idea about the metal cases at the hardware store Ė Iíll look into it.

Patrick (I think) mentioned a used VX2000. Wow this is tempting because I know thereís only subtle differences between it and the 2100. Plus the 2000 would get me by until the world figures out what it wants to do with HD. Ebay has quite a few at around $1300-$1600 and I havenít even checked the ďreputableĒ dealers which Iím sure are out there. I wish I had the kahunas to do this. Iíve been burned before.

Iíve taken the tripod ďscoldingĒ to heart. After reviewing my recording style during a typical wedding shoot, roughly 15% of the footage is done free hand, 25% is on a monopod which leaves 60% using the tripod. (real rough estimates here). And while on that tripod for over half the shoot smooth pan & zoom is something Iíve never really achieved to my liking so Iím going with the fluid head Bogen 3011BN at $265. I typically only zoom in at 30 feet or so and I think this will get me by for now. A descent monopod will have to wait.

As far as the Mic system. Ouch. Iím sure the Sennheiser Evolution G2 series is the way to go but do you guys have that many problems where you need 1400 frequencies? It comes with 4 presets Ė do you ever deviate from those 4? Also I see one canít monitor the audio unless you listen to it via the camcorderís ear jack Ė is that right? And finally, to use this system does one just plug the receiver into the camcorderís mic input? And if I doÖ will the lav be my only source of audio unless I use a splitter for letís say a shotgun mic?

Also, I canít find much on the iRiver system. (I thought this was an MP3 player?)


OkÖ

$Ca-Ching$

$2325 Ė VX2100 (Iíll still entertain the used VX2000 idea)
$180 Ė 2 NP-F970 Batteries and charger
$265 Ė Upgrading to Bogen 3011BN tripod
$490 Ė Upgrading to Sennheiser Evolution G2
$79 Ė Shoe light (external battery powered)
----------
$3340 Total thus far. Iím in the ball bark. (I hope I can make it to the dugout now).


Once again, thank you all for sharing your experiences with this equipment and saving me money.
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Old November 27th, 2005, 12:02 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rick Steele
I really want the added power of the NP-970ís. I probably do a lot of overkill during a shoot and go through batteries and DV tapes like water.
B&H has 970 equivalents that seem to be as good as Sony. I use them. I overshoot too. I find one battery will hold the light for a couple of hours if you leave it at 10w (I use the same 10w/20w as on your list). One camera battery just barely makes it through a wedding so it would be good to have 3 total batteries, 4 is better but that should be all you need.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Rick Steele
Patrick (I think) mentioned a used VX2000. Wow this is tempting because I know thereís only subtle differences between it and the 2100.
B&H sells used gear and they QC it and rate it too. You really should have a used camera checked out before you buy it IMHO.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Rick Steele
As far as the Mic system. Ouch. Iím sure the Sennheiser Evolution G2 series is the way to go but do you guys have that many problems where you need 1400 frequencies? It comes with 4 presets Ė do you ever deviate from those 4? Also I see one canít monitor the audio unless you listen to it via the camcorderís ear jack Ė is that right? And finally, to use this system does one just plug the receiver into the camcorderís mic input? And if I doÖ will the lav be my only source of audio unless I use a splitter for letís say a shotgun mic?
Don't scrimp on the mic. Don't even think of it (my warning). Yes, RF hits can be quite common depending on where you shoot. It can anything from UHF TV stations to the person using a mic in the band to the shooter using the same frequency next door. G2 has presets but they can be retuned througout it's entire range. You should check out the ranges used in your area. Sennheiser publishes a list for each state listed city by city. If you post your state I can post the link to the PDF download.

You really do need to monitor your audio. It can be done from the camera. I have wireless in ch2 and shotgun in ch1. You really should have separate left and right inputs with separate level controls. Beachteck adaptor will do that for VX2000/2100.

BTW, B&H has a used PD-170 for about $2500. When you consider the cost of the Beachteck and a wide angle lens (assuming the 170 includes the wide angle that comes with the original kit), that might be the way to go.
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Old November 27th, 2005, 01:26 PM   #12
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All the advice given here is very good. And there is nothing I disagree with in principle.

BUT

I think you should stop and take a step back. You are going into business, so best is not always best. It sounds like $1500 per wedding is just way out of the market you are looking at. So are you planning on doing $1000 productions, or even lower ($500?)? How many do you think you will book in your second year, in a market of 60,000 people? How many weddings are there every year, where they actually rent a hall for the reception (vs the church basement, VFW, or other...). What percentage of those can you really get at your target price? How much time do you want to devote to each wedding (shoot and edit)? At $500, I would shoot ceremony and reception (no interviews), edit out the crap shots, and call it done. Good audio, but no highlights, no bridal prep, no interviews, and no extensive editing of any kind. And at $500 I would need to do three a week (which is why editing has to be restricted to 4-6 hours each). Even at $1000, I would try for two on most weeks because you will also have weeks with no weddings (Christmas, etc). Is this a full time business or a hobby-business? Maybe your income requirements are different.

You should have a business plan FIRST. It may be that for your target market, it makes more sense to buy 2 cheap 1CCD cameras. Two cams can give you a lot better quality production, with options to cut between views and cover camera moves. And having two cams also gives you a backup, which is the ONE thing you cannot morally do without IMHO. I would rather have two matching 1 chips (with good manual focus and iris and wb) than one used vx2000 (for the low-end under $1k market). Decent wireless (Senn G2- don't skimp too much on audio) and a good but not awesome tripod. With smaller 1 chips, you can get by with cheaper tripods.

Now at $1k and up per wedding (as a full time gig), you should probably spend the money to have TWO vx2000's, with duplicate tripods and two different audio systems. Or maybe a vx2000 and a close-matching one-chip for the stationary cam in back. But at the low end wedding biz, the only way you can make money is to keep costs as low as possible. Remember that cameras. mics and tripods wear out, they break, insurance costs are higher for more expensive equipment, etc.. A one chip is also easier to manage on a small glidecam, yada yada.

It may even be that when you look at the market potential, you will realize that you are better off competing at $1500 each with the out-of-town guys, and doing fewer weddings. But that means different equipment choices and probably a bigger upfront investment.

Just some food for thought.
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Old November 27th, 2005, 01:32 PM   #13
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Oh yeah...

no matter what you do, leave yourself some money for odds and ends. Head cleaner tape, decent earphones, shotgun mic, wind sock, protective filter, polarizing filter (for outdoor shots), wide angle adapter, AA battery charger and spares for Senn G2. Monopod. All this stuff can add up quickly. My guess is $500+ without the shotgun or sock.
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Old November 27th, 2005, 05:33 PM   #14
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Given Bob's direction, maybe you should consider getting Sony PDX-10 instead. It's a small 3 chip but native 16x9 chip. It's about $1700 at B&H after rebate. That might even give you a competitive edge by offering 16x9 in a low price range. They aren't very good in low light so you'd need to make sure you had good camera light and batteries but that may be cheaper way to go though. The camera has XLR inputs.

BTW B&H has a deal where you can get the PDX-10 plus Sony wireless mic kit (not quite as good as Sennheiser but certainly decent) for $2100 after rebate.
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Old November 27th, 2005, 05:50 PM   #15
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I've been using a PDX-10 for several years now. It's really a great little camera and offers the same sort of "pro" upgrades as the PD-170: XLR's, mono shotgun mike, DVCAM recording, BW viewfinder. The most compelling thing about this camera is the quality of its 16:9 however. In 4:3 mode the image isn't quite as nice as my VX-2000. So think about your priorities there. It would be a plus to get a new camera with those features for $1,700. Also consider that the PDX-10 and PD-170 come from Sony's professional division which entitles you to a much higher level of service than the consumer VX series.

Low light is clearly not as good however, my tests show it to be 2.5 f-stops slower than the VX-2000. This is compensated somewhat by the PDX-10's 14 bit DSP image processing however; a 6 or even 9dB gain boost is hard to notice whereas the VX-2000 gets noisy. The VX-2100 evidently improves on this. I have shot a number of dark opera performances with my PDX-10 with as much as 12dB gain and they look fine.

You might want to read some discussion of the topic of the PDX-10 for weddings in our forum:

http://www.dvinfo.net/conf/showthread.php?t=46152
http://www.dvinfo.net/conf/showthread.php?t=44907
http://www.dvinfo.net/conf/showthread.php?t=39319
http://www.dvinfo.net/conf/showthread.php?t=13183
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