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


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Old July 10th, 2006, 10:59 AM   #1
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Focus! Focus! Focus!

What follows may betray me as the amateur wedding videographer that I am:

So, here I am, standing at the front of the church behind my trusty PD-170, waiting for the parade of lovely young bridesmaids to begin their march down the aisle. Despite my gentle urging to the contrary, the mother-of-the-bride has insisted on keeping the lights dimmed as low as possible. Lovely for the congregation, torture for the videographer. "Well, the Christmas lights lining the aisle on the sides of the pews will give you enough light," she says, then flits away to talk to someone else before the words, "Yes, well, but you see..." can even begin to form on my lips. So I crank the iris wide open, push up the gain as high as I can and still be able to live with the graininess. (I try to never push the gain higher than 6db.) And here come the bridesmaids. I want to keep a fairly tight shot on each of them (waist up) as they make their trek to the altar. The question in my mind is: How do I zoom to keep the girls in frame and still keep them in focus? I generally do all my shooting in manual focus, but I can't seem to zoom and keep focus (and pan) at the same time. If I switch to auto focus for the processional, the camera jumps in and out of focus, trying to find what it's supposed to be focusing on. SO...Am I just a lousy camerman who needs to learn how to zoom, pan and focus at the same time? Is there some trick to it that a seasoned videographer can clue me in on? Is this a problem that's encountered by others? Any help you can give me would be much appreciated!
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Old July 10th, 2006, 11:20 AM   #2
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Hi Dave,

Your situation does make it very difficult to focus because the depth of field is so shallow when it is that dark.

Here is a technique that I use. Place the tripod arm under your arm. Then you can pan with your body and not your hand. This frees your right hand to zoom and your left hand to focus.

Remember this. Turn the focus ring clockwise as the subject gets closer to you. If you miss your focus mark slowly zoom out as focus is less critical at a wider focal length.
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Old July 10th, 2006, 11:21 AM   #3
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Use the AUTO FOCUS BUTTON below the switch. It's a button that will set the focus to what is in the viewfinder so you can pan,tilt and zoom at the same time AND keep things in focus without using AUTO FOCUS. That little button has saved me more than a few times. Just keep in mind that the electronic lense rely more on CONTRAST to focus but as long as you keep the image centered and in the "sweet spot" you should be OK.

Don B.
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Old July 10th, 2006, 11:35 AM   #4
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Mark & Don,

Thanks, guys, for your advice.

Mark, thanks for your suggestion about panning with the tripod arm under my arm. I will certainly try that. Sometimes I need to have the tripod raised too high to reach with my armpit, and in those situations, I'll try to figure out a different technique.

Don,
Are you referring the "Push Auto" button? That's the only one I know of below the focus switch on PD 170. I haven't messed much with this button. I'll play around with it and see if I can make it work.

Again, thanks for the help!

-Dave
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Old July 10th, 2006, 06:55 PM   #5
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Why would anyone want the lights dimmed for the walk down the aisle? I mean its the only ral time the dress and bride is shown off... what an idiot... maybe the couple should have discussed this with you prior to shooting so you could set up some small spotlights offside so u can at least get some colour.

as for your predicament. for tripod aisle walks, i use a LANC controller to adjust the zoom while i press the push auto button (this is for the Z1, the DVX100 also has this)
LANC controllers IMO are overpriced, however theyre uses are much more profound once youve started using them.
For the Sony, im actually using a cheap 400 Canon LANC which not only has a zoom rocker, but also has remote focus control, which works a treat.
For the DVX, im using a BeBob, which doesnt have remote focus

I actually prefer shooting the congregation handheld, but thats me
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Old July 11th, 2006, 07:15 AM   #6
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Hey Dave,

I've been there done that and here's what I do which has helped curb this from happening to me as much as it has in the past. (hehe, although I'm still blind sided, even as recent as this weekend, but that's another story.)

The first thing I do is attend the rehearsal, I've only missed one in a couple of years and that cost me a good angle on the day of the wedding because of a 300 lb dude standing in front of one of my side cameras. I go as far as putting tape on the floor for people to stand. At the rehearsal I'm very clear about the lights etc and the consequences for lighting adjustments.

I also send the bride a questionaire that has among other things, a lighting question. This is sent back to me a month before the ceremony. If they don't send it to me, then they can't complain if I miss something or something goes out of control on the day of.

And I'll be honest with you Dave, the next time that happens, be polite but interupt that mother of the bride, pull her and the bride or coordinator aside and say, 'if you leave this much light for me, this will be the result.' She'll get mad sure, but you will have covered yourself later when the B&G is upset.

The bride and groom are my client, irregardless of who's paying for the wedding. I'm going to be as aggresive in making thier video something to remember, for the right reasons.
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Old July 12th, 2006, 07:13 AM   #7
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Peter & Steven,

Thanks for your comments.

Peter, I will definitely check into a LANC controller. It might prove to be a big help to me.

Steven, good ideas about the lighting expectations. You said something I found interesting. You said you consider the B & G to be your clients, regardless of who is paying for it. That's a question I've bounced around in my mind. Who am I working for here? I understand that the day is all about the B & G, but isn't it also true that he who pays the bills calls the shots (within reason, of course)? What do you do when a conflict arises between daughter (the bride) and mama (the cash cow) concerning their wishes for the video? The last thing I want to do is play referee between these two darling ladies. I feel that my job is to create the video the client wants to see. But who exactly is the client? Any thoughts anyone has would be most welcome.

-Dave
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Old July 12th, 2006, 07:31 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dave M. Smith
Peter & Steven,


What do you do when a conflict arises between daughter (the bride) and mama (the cash cow) concerning their wishes for the video? The last thing I want to do is play referee between these two darling ladies. I feel that my job is to create the video the client wants to see. But who exactly is the client? Any thoughts anyone has would be most welcome.

-Dave

Here's where skills that they don't teach in any technical school come into play. I have a bride coming over later today for a consultation. I will explain to her clearly what we can do and go over things at that time. If her mother was paying for it, I would either ask her to come as well, or as soon as the contract is signed, call her and talk things over with her as well. I really do believe a lot of day stress can be thwarted by advanced planning and communication. I also do a visit to the location ahead of time if I think things are going to get complicated. The B&G, mother coordinator etc and I meet on location to discuss how the ceremony will go.

We can't always do the above, but we try so on the day of the expectations are clear and the bride doesn't have to worry about how we are going to do things or the coordinator doesn't blind side us because we've already discussed how things will go.

If it's real time day of problem. Diplomacy works best, and clear communication. I've not had a mother yet that gave us a difficult time, but I did have a church dude that did. He got all nervous about our cameras in the front of the church. He suggested that we should put them further out of sight. I explained to him simply that the bride is paying us to get face shots and that I would need to place them on a flatter angle. But prior to that I asked him a lot of questions and tried my best to understand his concerns about 'teching' up a worship service etc. Apparently they had videographers before that roamed all over the place to a distraction. I respected that, but told him that I would need to place my cameras where I needed.

I would say clear expectations in your planning will solve a lot of issues.

These are things I didn't learn from school, I learned them from my pops.
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Old July 12th, 2006, 07:44 AM   #9
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Thanks, Steven. Good advice. I do try to meet with each bride and other significant parties prior to the wedding, and I do attend all rehearsals. I haven't really had a bride vs. mother-of-bride conflict come up, but I've heard some horror stories, and I was just wondering what other people do in that situation, and what to do if there comes a point where you have to choose between the bride's wishes and the paying customer's wishes. Hopefully with some advanced planning and diplomacy, I can avoid those situations, but it would be good to know what to do if the problem arises.

I COMPLETELY understand your story about the "church dude!" I may find I have more conflicts with the church than I do the bride or MOB.

I appreciate your help!

-Dave
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Old July 12th, 2006, 07:55 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dave M. Smith
Peter & Steven,

Thanks for your comments.

Peter, I will definitely check into a LANC controller. It might prove to be a big help to me.

Steven, good ideas about the lighting expectations. You said something I found interesting. You said you consider the B & G to be your clients, regardless of who is paying for it. That's a question I've bounced around in my mind. Who am I working for here? I understand that the day is all about the B & G, but isn't it also true that he who pays the bills calls the shots (within reason, of course)? What do you do when a conflict arises between daughter (the bride) and mama (the cash cow) concerning their wishes for the video? The last thing I want to do is play referee between these two darling ladies. I feel that my job is to create the video the client wants to see. But who exactly is the client? Any thoughts anyone has would be most welcome.

-Dave
what Steve says pretty much nails it for any job you do, be it wedding or otherwise. Planning is the key factor to a successful shoot, however when 3rd parties start to meddle with your work, things can get ugly.
Contractually, once a client signs the agreement, theyre granting us permission to use our discretion. Its good enough for photographers so its good enough for us. Obviously common sense and respect all come into play, however its usually the 3rd party that doesnt have this.. common sense and respect i mean

Now onto who pays what and whos teh boss..
In teh end, its usually the bride and groom who decide whether or not theyre going to hire you. its usually their decision as to the style their looking for.
Irrespective of who pays, the signiature i have on the contract IS the bride and grooms.
You must understnd that under fair trading practices Acts, that payment does not negate directly to the product, service or delivery of a product.
Be it payment in advance or payment after the fact.
whne u start doing 60 weddings a year and people dont wnat to wait 3 months, they WILL say "we paid u in advance, and we want our video"
Still, legally, paying in advance dont mean shit.. They agreed to it...
Now.. this also falls into the category of who is the boss..
This includes "directions" by the one whos paying. What i mean by that is that if good ol dad is paying for the video, so what.
It doesnt mean shit if his name isnt on the contract.
If he wants to sign the contract however, i advise the BG that their losing all power to the father, as the signiatury is the one im LEGALLY allowed to deal with. he can convey their concerns, but technically its not the way you want an agreement to go considering the personal nature of what we do.

Now some ppl might scoff and say.. so what its a wedding,
We'll work as proxies, let dad sign.....
Nup
You see, the contract is clearly directed to the person coordinating the event, NOT whos paying for the event.
I dotn care who pays me, so long as im paid, and who pays me, legally has not right to bitch and moan about anythign unless theyre names are on the dotted line.
Ive had mothers call and ask me to do ridiculous things, while others who know nothing about the service agreement write or call up chasing a wedding presentation 1 week after the wedding.
With these, i make it clear that i will ONLY deal with the people whove signed and if they have concerns, they should bring it to the attention of the BG, who can then convey it to me..
imagine how much comunication would be needed if u had to write or call ever mother in law, every grandparent, and anyone else who was waiting for a DVD.. Its jsut not possible and economically doesnt make sense to put this much effort into communication with everyone.

At teh end of the day, its on your best interest to convey your concerns to teh clients. what they say goes, and within your agreement, you should protect yourself from 3rd party variables such as nazi priests and menopausal mother in laws

In the end, you'll prolly end up rewriting your contract about 200 times until you get it right and its airtight for what you do.
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