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

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Old August 1st, 2006, 12:03 PM   #1
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Join Date: Jul 2005
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Start up questions.

I'm 21 years old, love shooting video and editing, right now i just can find the time for it. But, i do want to make this my profession and my life. First question, i know i'll get a lot of answers, which camcorder? I know with Blu-Ray coming out, HD is going to be the way to go, but not everybody has HDTV yet. Next question, how much to charge for weddings, birthdays, any other events? Like i said, I really enjoy video and editing, but cant seem to find the time right now because of my job, I want to be able to do both for now, but I think it'll be hard. So, for my last question, how did everyone else get started? Did you get a fairly large small business loan and hope and pray that you made enough money? I really need help getting started and jumping in the deep end.

Thanks for all the help and support.

Craig Sharp
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Old August 1st, 2006, 01:33 PM   #2
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Location: Chicago, IL
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some good questions however they are all difficult to answer for someone else. In no particular order, like many folks when I started in business some 35 years ago as a still photog, I paid cash for my gear. 2 cameras, lenses (all purchased thru the PX system in RVN thanks to the US Army) and bought strobes and ancillary gear when I got home and started working at it. As I moved into the video business 23 years ago, I again paid cash for my stuff. 100% down nothing per month-of course you've got to have the cash to spend it. I know people that have used their credit card be it 2 or 3 or 5 or 6 and maxed them out to get started but frankly I only know of a handful of people that opened fairly large production houses that went the bank loan route. As for charges, well thats a real tough question as so much is determined by geographic area, the demographics of that area, the competition in the area and of course your abilities as a shooter, editor and more importantly a busines person. I've known a lot of people in the business who are terrific shooters, great editors but lousy business people and they are no longer in business. At least not for themselves. As for gear, again,IMO, it's a personal choice but frankly if I were just starting out today, I would probably go with a couple of HD cameras and shoot in SD or downrez to SD until such time as the HD boom hits the consumer marketplace and demand were to require me to shoot and edit in HD. Remember the HD-DVD and BluRay players may be out there no but not in abundance so the vast majority of the public doesn't have them yet.
I know I haven't really answered your questions but honestly so much depends on so many different variables that it's really near impossible to give you definitive answers. I suggest that you scout the competition in your area as a start to see what they're using as far as equipemnt and how they're pricing their work out. I think then you'll have a better idea of what you might want to do in those areas. Check the newpaper for engagement and wedding announcements to get a base idea of how many weddings are in your area, talk to the various banquet facilities to see how many weddings and such they do in a year (subtract 10 to 15% as they will jack the numbers to make themselves sound good). This will give you and idea of what the marketplace is like. Oh yeah, don't forget money for overhead and business expenses, things like advertising, business cards, stationary, tapes, dvds, cases, phone(s), fax, staples and rubber bands. It can add up fast and THATS what puts people out of business. They forget the monthly nut they have to crack each and every month. Good business or no business they still have to pay certain expenses. Don't forget a decent attorney to draw up your service agreement(s) and you equipment insurance and liability insurance, without that you can't even work in some places.
Thats just some off the top of my head and I don't meant to scare you with it but these are facts of business life. Remember if you're going to be a professional and stay in a SUCCESSFUL business there is more to it than just having a camera and a computer.
I know you'll get a lot of different answers here but bottom line it's common sense of whats right and whats not and in the end It's all up to you.

Don B
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Old August 1st, 2006, 03:24 PM   #3
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Location: Ogden, UT
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Don has given you some solid things to start on. Keeping your overhead minimal and your profit margin high is always a good way to keep yourself afloat. =) I'd suggest studying things out as much as possible. Right everything out, don't just keep it in your head. Try to think of every imaginable expense and then come check the forum to see if you've thought of them all. Don is right, those monthly bills will kill you if you don't account for them.

In terms of gear I'd start small. Get yourself a couple of good cameras and accompanying tripods (I won't even go into the SD/HD/HDV arena), GOOD wireless sound equipment as good sound will save you many times, and software that fits your needs. Don't go all big and glitzy straight out of the gate or you'll go down in flames. Get equipment that works for you and your clients. I don't know your market so I can't say what that is. But grow your company as the need is presented. Don't bog yourself down with tons of equipment and other costs. That's my advice. Oh, and most importantly, don't go into business with family. Even if you think it will work out, it's not a good idea.
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Old August 1st, 2006, 08:39 PM   #4
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Location: Louisville, Ky
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As someone who recently left the drudgery of the corporate world to start a small production company the first and most important piece of advice I can offer is you need to spend a solid 30-60 days working on your business plan before you buy the first piece of gear. The more planning you do up front the more likely you are to have a chance to succeed.

For me, I literally spent 15 hour days over the last 90 days researching, writing, planning, revising, and creating what became Creative Digital LLC. What I would recommend would be put together your business plan and include everything possible in it as it relates to what you want to accomplish. You should be able to show anyone you meet your business plan and they ought to be able to see clearly your vision and how you're going to achieve it. I wouldn't recommend trying to get a loan at this stage. Loans are really more appropriate for a couple of years down the road when you're established and you want to make a real step up in equipment and services (assuming that's part of your plan).

Stay away from debt if you can help it. Rather than taking on debt, I'd recommend reinvesting as much of your first year revenue back into the business to build a strong base of production tools and then you don't need to worry about asking the bank for a loan.

What that will do is give you the blueprint for taking the next step, namely implementing your plan. That's not to say you can't deviate from your plan as you start working it but at least you've got a plan to DEVIATE from. Flying by the seat of your pants is dangerous and usually leads to failure because there are too many variables that will bite you in the ass if you're not prepared for them.

Planning, planning, planning. You get a strong plan down and the rest is much easier.

There's a great resource available in most cites called SCORE and it's a group of retired business executives who donate their time helping new businesses get started. You would do well to involve a mentor from them to help you out. Their website includes tons of free resources to help you do everything for planning and implementing your plan.
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Old August 1st, 2006, 10:41 PM   #5
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Thanks, You guys are super helpful. I've already shot 2 weddings, nothing by all means what i would call professional, mainly the equipment i used, but one was for a good friend and he asked me a week in advance to film it, and the other was my cousins wedding, which i got the chance to shoot with a VX2100, i had no clue about the camera, but the color compared to the other camera i used was awesome. I didn't charge anything for them frankly because they were family. How much time should be devoted to it? The reason I ask is that i have a wife and daughter and at the moment i make ALL of the household money. I'll be working quite a bit at my current job and am concerned that i wont find the time to sit down and get the job done. Should i just start out by word of mouth and charge a MINIMAL fee? and then in a few years after my wife is out of college go all out? This is something i'm very passionate about, but need all the help i can get.

Craig Sharp
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