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


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Old January 20th, 2006, 06:37 PM   #1
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Please look at my "getting started" plan and advise if I'm on the right track

First, let me start by saying (skip this paragraph if you don't want to read the "background")... I've been using a video camera since I was fairly young, but nothing more complicated than a typical consumer model. I've been editing videos in Pinnacle Studio for about 3 years. My wife and I have been wanting to start a small business on the side doing some "small-scale" event-type videography and editing. I'm by no means a pro-photographer, but I have a decent SLR and was recently asked to take pictures at a wedding (the bride saw pictures that I took for my cousin's wedding and liked them). I agreed for a very small fee - basically enough to cover my expenses. When I arrived at the rehearsal, I was told that a great uncle of the bride was a pro and, at the last minute, offered to take the pics as a gift to the bride and groom. The bride's mom felt bad and said that they hadn't planned to hire a videographer, but would be happy to pay me to do the video. I agreed but let her know upfront that I've never filmed or edited a wedding. Luckily, I was able to borrow 2 extra consumer camcorders for extra angles. We also upgraded to Sony Vegas 6.

What I need help with: We both really enjoyed filming the wedding and learned a LOT from our mistakes. Our biggest mistake was the audio and no matter what camera I buy, I plan to also buy a couple of mics and a Beachtek (or something similar). Too bad I didn't find this forum before the wedding (of course I only had less than 24 hours notice that I'd be filming). Right now, we're wanting to upgrade our camcorder (Sony DCR-TRV33). My plan is this (let me know if this is sound logic): I'm planning to buy a Panasonic GS400 to use as my main camera (for now) and I'll use the Sony as a backup. I plan to charge "McDonald's" prices with this setup. After I save up a little more, I'd like to upgrade to a Sony VX2100 (or something in that price/quality range) and use the GS400 as the extra camera and maybe still the old Sony for a 3rd (unmanned) angle, if needed. Does this sound like a decent plan?

I really didn't start doubting myself until I saw that I could get a Panasonic DVC30 for not too much more than the GS400 - but I am on a limited budget, so that would be a stretch. Also, the Sony PDX10... I just found this one today. Considering that it already has XLR inputs and a better mic, in the end, it's not so much more than the GS400. Part of me is thinking I should get the GS400 (since it's a major improvement over what I have) and it can be used as a backup later, but the other part of me is thinking that $1100 is money that I could put toward a better camera. But I really don't feel I have enough experience to justify such a fancy camera.

Please give me some advice!

Thanks,
Chad

On edit: I wanted to add that I've read quite a bit about chip size/low light issues on the cheaper cameras and understand the limitations. I figure the lower quality would be acceptible for my McDonald's prices as long as I do my part in getting the right shots.
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Old January 20th, 2006, 08:06 PM   #2
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"I really didn't start doubting myself until I saw that I could get a Panasonic DVC30 for not too much more than the GS400 - but I am on a limited budget, so that would be a stretch. Also, the Sony PDX10... I just found this one today. Considering that it already has XLR inputs and a better mic, in the end, it's not so much more than the GS400. Part of me is thinking I should get the GS400 (since it's a major improvement over what I have) and it can be used as a backup later, but the other part of me is thinking that $1100 is money that I could put toward a better camera. But I really don't feel I have enough experience to justify such a fancy camera."

U gotta spend money to make money brother...

IN this case, as ur starting out, if ur happy with the glass, id say go for the DVC30, simply for the tweakability, awesome lens, zoom, and super clean image (even if ur are stretching 16:9)
For the mic, so many ppl rely on shotguns, but the first thing i did with my Ez1 (yeah that long ago.. but it still rox!)) when i was starting out, was buy a radio mic kit.. the shotguns and ballun mic mixers came second to that..

once i had the base camera and wireless kit, i could shoot anything and noone looked twice.. did afew more jobs, people noticed the audio was superior (back in those days wireless mics werent even considered) and i kept gettin jobs.. money came in and then i went on a shopping spree...

But in the end.. like i said. u gotta spend money to make it.. even if the first few jobs u do means ur hiring the camera...
I know ALOT of wedding production houses that dont actually have their own cameras... To me thats a nono, but at least have 1 that you call your own.. but the option to hire IS there..
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Old January 20th, 2006, 09:27 PM   #3
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Hi Chad-
I am a little bit ahead of you. I also want to start my own Videography business (part-time). I spent a bit on my equipment ( 1 xl1s, 1 gl1, tripods, lights, batteries, etc.) and I've been shooting for a Wedding Videographer here in my area to learn. (You learn as you go..really) So, I now have experience in that regard. Now, I am learning that there are far more that I need to learn. I just finished editing in vegas which I am still learning and I now have to author DVD with DVD3. I am really struggling right now on this. I also found that I should be knowledgeable with maybe Photoshop or else your DVD will really look cheesy and unprofessional. Audio is another monster. On top of that, I had problems with my editing desktop which I built myself. To make my story short...It's just too much for me right now. I'm afraid you'd find yourself on the same boat. I suggest that you-

1. Buy a camera that you're budget can handle but at the same time, something you can really work with. Perhaps a "used" Canon GL1. There are a lot more expense other than the camera. Believe me.

2. Do the research, research and more research.

This forum really is a big help, so stay up late and keep on reading before you decide on anything. Good Luck!!
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Old January 20th, 2006, 10:54 PM   #4
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Peter- I definitely agree with you about spending money to make it. I guess part of my hesitation on the nicer cameras (with more tweakability) is that I'm worried it will take a while to figure out how to do it right. I'm also thinking something like the GS400 is a good "in between". It has more manual controls than my current camera, but not too much to learn at once. And it would be a decent backup camera when I took the next step. But on the other hand, the DVC30 would be a nicer "backup" camera if I ever thought I needed to upgrade it. I'm a also worried that my wife would have a little more difficulty learning to use it, too. Of course, with a better camera, I could probably charge a little more than the "McDonald's" pricing and it would eventually pay for itself... hopefully.

Joven- I thought about asking a local videographer if I could work with him, but figured he wouldn't want to train his competition! And you're right, it seems the more we learn, the more we realize we don't know. Did that make sense? I also found DVD3 to be a bit complicated, but before I started editing my current project, I did a short (2 minute) "wildlife" video. It wasn't anything fancy, but I finally produced a DVD that would play.

Thanks for the advice - keep it coming!

Chad
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Old January 21st, 2006, 01:15 AM   #5
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Hey Chad,

I am in Southern California and I will tell you that there are A LOT of lousy videographers not to mention lousy wedding videographers/editors......and I KNOW for a FACT that they NEVER learned the trade prior to "putting themselves out there" for hire. It's rediculous.....I mean, these people get a 3 ccd prosumer camera.....call it "broadcast"......get a G5 with Final Cut....call themselves professional editors....I mean, it's crazy out here. I will say this......all of these jokers make our business look 5 X better than what we are......and we do good work, but the downside is.....you have a market saturated with really bad wedding videographers/editors....and this is bad for business all around, it gives wedding videography a bad name.

Do yourself a favor......learn how to shoot and edit prior to charging anyone a dime, and be good at it. Maybe try to get on with another weding video company as "B" cam op or something....this way you can learn how to do things while not being "entirely" responsible for the shoot.

Most wedding video businesses go out of business real fast. THere'a a lot to this trade and business so learn as much as you can before you jump head first, even at a part time level......this means you'll take much longer to learn what you need to know and you'll continue to learn even when you thought you've seen everything.

Good luck to you....
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Old January 21st, 2006, 11:47 AM   #6
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I am new as well

Chad, I started with a low end cam, iriver giant squid and used studieo 9, pro and after effects to make my dvds.What I could afford, I charge what I feel the video is worth not real cheep but not high end either. I am getting better at shooting and am gaining exp. Be honest with your customers show them samples of your work so they know what to expect. I think your and my plan is fine, I also agree with the comment about research and reading fourms like this they help out a great deal. I still have much to learn and I am glad their are some very gifted video guys here help us newbies.
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Old January 21st, 2006, 01:20 PM   #7
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Hi Chad,

You'll regret using the GS400 for wedding shoots. Get the DVC30 instead; it's not that expensive now. It looks much more professional and performs quite well in low light (almost as good as the VX2000... I own both.)
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Old January 21st, 2006, 02:34 PM   #8
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Nothing wrong with buying a used camera too. A used vx2000-2100 will cost only a small amount more than a gs400, and a used PD150 will be about the same as the used vx2000+beachtek. I think the gs400 is a bad choice for what you want to do. DVC30 would be better. And forget about Sony PDX-10.

If I were going into weddings new, I would buy a used camera (probably a pd150, although I own a DVX and don't do weddings), a Senn G2 wireless kit, a shotgun mic, a WA adapter if needed, a tripod, a monopod, EXTRA BATTERIES, and spend a few hundred on educational stuff specific to weddings. The von Lankens stuff is good, but so its lots of others.

Then I would shoot one or two for free or cheap, put together a demo, and start selling.
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Old January 21st, 2006, 02:38 PM   #9
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And decent monitor headphones. And a UV filter, maybe a polarizing filter. And an on-cam light.
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Old January 21st, 2006, 04:40 PM   #10
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Wow - thanks guys, for all the words of wisdom!

I've been doing a lot of thinking about the camera... I remembered I have a nice guitar in the closet that I never play... and it happens to be worth about the difference in the GS400 and the DVC30. Plus, when child #2 comes along, I've got to find a new home for my amps and junk anyway.

I definitely don't plan to charge much at all for now (and I'm not opposed to doing a few free ones either). I'm really looking for people that don't plan to have a videographer, so if I mess it up, it's no major loss. Luckily, in my area, there doesn't seem to be very many wedding videographers. My wife also has several creative ideas (other than weddings) that she'd like to pursue. These would be much smaller scale projects that would be more forgiving and great chances to gain experience with the new camera/audio. I've been planning to do a short documentary-type video of my grandfather and his experiences in WWII. We've also discussed enrolling in a couple video / audio classes at our local university.

So for now... I plan to buy a DVC30, a Beachtek, a fluid-head tripod, an extra battery (or 2), lav and shotgun mics... and some training (whether it's books, videos, or in-person). That's some pretty serious money, but if the business doesn't go anywhere, I'll still be glad I have a better camera. Me and my wife film at least 20 hours of "home movies" per year and condense it down to 30-45 minutes (what a job!). We give copies to our parents and brothers at Christmas. This past Christmas was our 3rd annual video. When we show the video for the first time, there's always a roller coaster of emotions (from tears to laughter). I think me and my wife make a great team and we want other people to experience what our families do when they watch one of our videos. So, if nothing else, the better equipment will hopefully improve our personal videos and maybe bring in a couple extra bucks down the road.

Thanks again,
Chad
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Old January 31st, 2006, 12:00 PM   #11
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Decisions... decisions...

I thought I had my mind made up on the camera. But my wife really wants to start out with the right camera for the job (instead of working up to it).

So, here's my new question:
How much better is the Sony VX2100 over the DVC30? Will there be a significant difference in quality?

I know with the DVC30, I'll definitely need a good on-camera mic to pick up the ambient audio... but it seems (from what I've read) that the stock Sony mic on the VX2100 would probably do fine for now. (I'm still planning to get a wireless lav for the groom/preacher - which I could run into my secondary camera). If I compare prices of the DVC30 plus a good mic (and maybe a beachtek) to the price of a stock VX2100, the gap isn't quite as big.

My main hesitation is that this isn't going to be a full-time gig (at least for a while), so it's hard to justify. I'm also inexperienced with manual controls on a camera, but I'm a fast learner. But we've also got a few other projects lined up since I first posted here. My mother in-law is the administrator at a nursing home and wants us to do an orientation video and a promotional short DVD (5 minutes) to send to new residents' family members that live out of town. Again, one part of me thinks I should by the cheaper camera and spend more on good audio... and the other part is saying (if it's that much better) get the better camera because the free stuff I'm doing now should look top-notch in order to get more referrals. More advice?

Thanks...

Chad

Last edited by Chad Rigal; February 1st, 2006 at 09:08 AM.
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Old February 2nd, 2006, 11:47 PM   #12
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Wwii

"I've been planning to do a short documentary-type video of my grandfather and his experiences in WWII."

Chad... check out the Veterans History Project with the Library of Congress.

http://www.loc.gov/vets/

We have done just short of 100 of these for the local history museum, who partnered as a depository with the LOC, and it was a great experience. If nothing else, please make sure that your grandfather's tape gets into the system.

Have fun! And thank him for us!

Randy
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Old February 3rd, 2006, 12:06 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Randall Allen

We have done just short of 100 of these for the local history museum, who partnered as a depository with the LOC, and it was a great experience.
Was this a paying gig or a hobby?
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Old February 3rd, 2006, 09:47 AM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Randall Allen
Chad... check out the Veterans History Project with the Library of Congress.

http://www.loc.gov/vets/

We have done just short of 100 of these for the local history museum, who partnered as a depository with the LOC, and it was a great experience. If nothing else, please make sure that your grandfather's tape gets into the system.

Have fun! And thank him for us!

Randy
I'll definitely have to look into that. I planned to get a lot of "B roll" from the items he brought back with him, but do you have any pointers about where I can find some "stock footage" to add to my video? I looked at a place (buyout footage, I think) and found an old movie that might work... but they wanted $350 for it! I found the same movie on DVD for $5... but if I understand correctly, the company that put it on DVD has the rights to that, so I can't use it. Any advice on this project would be greatly appreciated!

Also, does ANYONE have any more advice on camera choice? With my other projects mentioned... would it be wise to invest in a better camera now? I thought I was sure about the DVC30, but now I'm strongly considering the VX2100 (and maybe - I said MAYBE - a DVX100b). The longer my list of projects grows, the easier it is for me to justify getting a better camera now.

Based on what I've got planned (weddings, documentary, promotional short video to be mailed on DVD, training video, etc), what would be my best bet? Or maybe I should find the one that works the best with some things set to auto (so, I can ease into full-manual as I learn)? I'm relying on all your experiences since there is nowhere near here to inspect these cameras. I think it would be a much easier decision if I had them all right in front of me!

Chad
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Old February 3rd, 2006, 10:13 AM   #15
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I really like my dvx100, delighted that I spent the extra $. IMHO it is the best for film-type projects. OTOH the vx2100/pd-170 are better in low light, which wedding people really like. There is no one camera best for everything, so what are you going to spend most of your time doing? If you choose the vx/pd, really look at the pd-170, since it has XLR circuits and includes a WA last I looked. By the time you add those to a vx2100, you are at the same price, but are less happy with having an XLR box... OTOH, dvx100 has the best audio in the group (IMHO).

I really like my dvx.
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