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


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Old October 1st, 2006, 07:50 PM   #1
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My First Wedding Video

I filmed my first wedding yesterday (Saturday) I wanted some feedback on my experience.

I was frustrated and overwhelmed because I was doing it solo. Curious how many ppl do it solo? For the ceremony I used 3 cameras:
camera 1: pointed back at the pews and had wired mic for the violists.
camera 2: side balcony for medium 3/4 shot of altar
camera 3: manned and mobile for procession and recession, and then on a tripod centered in the back.

Things like knowing when to start the unmanned cameras (too early, run out of tape, too late I'd be out of position). In this case I started them then had to stop them because of a long delay, then managed to start them again but was lucky to get back in position to film the procession. I find it unnerving running unmanned cameras, I was looking at the footage and just wished I could have had another operator to zoom or pan.

At the reception I got most of the important parts but many things would happen without notice and by the time I got into position I miss part of a speech. Everything seemed rushed. My usual documentary work, I use tripods or have time to steady myself making things look polished. At the end of a 7hr day of running around with all this heavy equipment strap to me, I'm not sure if I'll like what I'm going to end up with.

Btw, I'm curious what the going rate for a wedding is? I did this one on the cheap for a friend to gain some experience so I only charged him $650.
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Old October 2nd, 2006, 09:13 AM   #2
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I would of used the remote controls of the cameras to start them that is if they have a red light on the front to tell you it is recording. three cameras two operaters or one operater two cameras. Remember if you can plan ahead you will know what you want to take back to the post production room. All wedding's are a rush and nobody is going to go on your mark. You either get it or you don't. This is why I find it such a challange to meet your oblications and give a good dvd for your client to watch as well. All i can say is preperation is the key and a fast mover.

Good luck with your second and third and so on. Oh and post your results so that the more experianced members can give some feedback on it.
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Old October 2nd, 2006, 11:46 AM   #3
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I've been working mostly solo for over 20 years and yes, it can be hectic but if you spend a few minutes and plan the work folw it's not too bad. I run 2 to 3 cameras and use my remote to start them up just prior to the ceremony music starting. Fortunately I shoot in th esame venues alot so they know me and I get along very well with the people in charge but when I shoot in a new venue I "make friends" as fast as I can. Specifiaclyy the person who is playing th emusic-all I want is some sort of signal that they're ready to start but even if they forget I can pretty well tell when they're ready because I see people lined up at the doorway into the church or where ever. It just takes a bit of practice meaning shoot a few more and you'll get the flow. Even if I start the cameras a few minutes early thats fine as the tapes run 53 minutes (OOOPS-I mean 63 minutes) and the ceremonies generally run under that. Tapes are chaep so its no big deal, at least to me. As for catching the speeches I do it a couple of different ways depending on the layout of the room. Since most weddings here in the U.S. follow a pretty set pattern of INTRODUCTIONS, SPEECHES, CAKE CUT with the occassional CAKE CUT and B/Gs first dance as soon as they walk in I try to stay on my tripod with wheels to 1) get the intros and then follow the B&G into the room. I don't really need to follow them to the head table so if I need to bang around a bit to get to the head table its OK I then set up for the speeches since most of them come from the head table BUT if the father of the bride is giving a speech I tell the DJ to tell everyone who is giving a speech to stand behind the B&G as its a far better shot than having someone at another table or even at the end of the head table where you have to go wide to get them and the B&G in the shot. HOWEVER there are times when you just can't get a tripod into a position and have to go handheld (like Saturday night) and even with a full sized camera it can get dicey but I knew this going in as I've shot there before and I use a small stabilizing bar that rests on my chest to help hold my camera steady which worked fine since the intros and speeches ran 33 minutes. I was dying but heres a tip; keep the lens wide and if need be walk in closer-don't zoom-when you zoom ANY little movement of the camera is magnified many time over so walk in closer. Don't worry about blocking someone at another table, you have a job to do. Again, experiece is the best teacher.

As for pricing too many variables. Geographic location, demographics, competition, your own workmanship...All of these things play a part in your pricing. That's one you'll have to figure out yourself but since it ws a friend and you're looking to gain some demo footage it's OK to charge a bit less but don't stay at that price for too long or everyone will want it.
Good Luck in your venture,
Don

Last edited by Don Bloom; October 2nd, 2006 at 02:47 PM.
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Old October 2nd, 2006, 11:55 AM   #4
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Welcome to the Jungle.

As always, Don you sum up things very well.

I will AMEN the comment about preperation Very little during the wedding is under your control, i.e. you can't predict the sound man putting in Iron Maiden track by accident, you can't predict the mother of the bride grabbing her daughter and running out of the church, etc. But you can predict your preperation 100%. And even then something may happen that you didn't predict.

So prepare, communicate and prepare some more. As stated earlier, wedding video gigs are a one time affair and by the time the nights over, you feel like you've been run over by the Washington Redskins. We love weddings, and it'll take that to stay in the wedding gig business. It takes huge peperation, huge people skills, and the ability to multitask prepare redundancies etc.

I'm glad you made it through your first wedding. I probably remember my first more than any other.

About doing it solo, I would try to have a helper atleast. If nothing more than just support, to watch out for things that the coordinator (if there is one) didn't tell you about.

If you're not married, then add the video gig job description in your own wedding vows. :}
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Old October 2nd, 2006, 12:48 PM   #5
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Hi Pete,

Your price for a friend & to gain experience is probably okay. If you already had several weddings in the can, it wasn't a friend, and you were running 3 cameras, I'd say you charged a 50% - 75% discount rate.

I typically run 2 cameras for the ceremony and 1 camera for all else. A potential problem for one person and more than one camera is something happening to an unmanned camera. During the ceremony, I'm not even concerned about #2. But, depending on what the B&G do immediately after the ceremony -- like walk outside thru the bubbles or birdseed to a waiting vehicle -- I'm always concerned about the equipment left unattended inside while I'm filming outside.

I wouldn't even consider an unmanned camera at a reception. A lot of people milling about, kids, drunks, etc.

As far as missing some event, it's going to happen. Expect the unexpected, and even then you'll be tricked. Don't depend on the printed intinary, or that the wedding planner or somebody else will tell you there's been a change. At least a couple of times for me the bride decided to cut the cake early. You not only need eyeballs in the back of your head, but one in each ear as well. Be alert for that golden moment when the event happens that everyone will be talking about for days. Generally, if you see the B&G moving in tandem, track them. If they're moving separately, then he/she is probably just smoozing with guests or on the way to the washroom.

When you tape a wedding for real money, you should get a list from the bride of her 'must have' shots. As long as you get those, all else is gravy.

Where ever the mike is located (at the reception hall), I have an audio recorder attached and always recording. (I use the iRiver w/Giant Squid mike, which can get good quality audio for 6 hours straight.) Often the best speeches are the impromptu ones where somebody just grabs the mike and tells some little ditty. Even if you miss videotaping the first 15 or 30 seconds, you still have the audio, then you can be creative in post by adding a long shot or something creative at the front end.

Anyway, if you can handle stress, be flexible, and can anticipate your next shot before it happens, weddings can be fun, and, after a while, even profitable.
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Old October 2nd, 2006, 05:27 PM   #6
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Hi Pete. After being nervous a few times about running out of tape I decided to pay the extra cost for the 80 minute tapes. It was well worth it.... no more stressing about if I'm going to run out of tape.

As for the reception, I send out a questionnaire a few months before the ceremony to give me a timeline of events. This comes in very handy so I that for example, after the entrance they are going to do the first dance or the speeches then cut the cake... that way I can be in place instead of guessing what will be coming next.

Also, the DJ is a wealth of information... since he will be announcing the entrances, playing the music for the dances, providing the mics for the speeches, etc.... get in good with him before the reception starts and he can let you know what's coming up.

I give the maid of honor & best man IRivers after they make their entrances. I turn them on and let them know that when they are ready to give their speech to just pick it up and go... (we usually put it on the best man but the maid of honor can't really hide it) that way if we happen to not be in place when they start their speech we will at least have the audio and can use b-roll in place of the video that we missed.

Good luck on your next wedding!
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Old October 2nd, 2006, 08:06 PM   #7
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Thx for the tips and feedback. Couple of things to clarify, I only used the multi camera shoot for the ceremony the rest was a single camera.

The church had challenges, no center aisle, the altar was small and surrounded by a wall that blocked the view of the ceremony from the floor, there was no room to setup a camera behind the minister and the photographer wanted the side that faced the brides face. So I had to set two cameras in the balcony (one center and the other on the side).
http://i14.photobucket.com/albums/a3.../wedcap3-4.jpg

Shooting down on them I felt was unflattering but I opted for it because I would be assured that my view of the bride/groom wouldn’t be obscured especially by the over 6 ft tall best man who stood close by for the entire ceremony. Another problem that I knew in advance but couldn't address was that for 1/3 of the ceremony the couple would be on the floor at the front of the sanctuary and then 5 ft forward and up on the sanctuary. With these two positions forced me to pick only one that the unmanned camera would capture. I picked the second position but I lost a minute or two that it took me to setup my mobile camera in the rear balcony after the procession.

During the reception I got all the major events (entrance, best man toast, cake cut, bouquet toss, first dance) but the mother of the bride and another close family member made unannounced speeches which I was only able to catch a shaky hand held glimpse.

I found the addition of the camera light, heavy battery, cord, wireless mic transmitter, and headphones, made me more cumbersome and tired than I usually am. My best video work is done when unobserved or in a quieter setting where I can hear the person talk. The camera light just screams hello I’m filming you, stop doing what you were doing and turn you back to me or look uncomfortable.

Maybe its not as bad as I'm describing but I have a feeling it won't be as personal/smooth/professional looking as I was hoping it would be. Seemed like I had to revert to running around, hand held shaky cam that over the years I had grown out of.
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Old October 8th, 2006, 03:11 PM   #8
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Solo versus Team

If you plan to grow your business, I'd suggest shooting as a team.

If you shoot solo, you are limited to the amount of events you can produce videos for in a given year. The advantage of going at it solo is that as you gain popularity, you can charge higher and shoot less events per year which is great if you don't plan to grow your business any further.

If you shoot as a team, the number of videos you can produce per year is only limited to the number of staff and equipment you can coordinate. Potentially, your growth as a business can be exponential if you can continually attract new team members. Also, it's a lot of fun shooting with a team and you don't have to worry about someone stealing any unmanned cameras.
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Old October 8th, 2006, 08:48 PM   #9
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Interesting thoughts..

"If you shoot solo, you are limited to the amount of events you can produce videos for in a given year. "

Are you refering to actual jobs available on any given date? Are u recomending people work "as a team" so as they can take on more bookings? Interesting and very valid of course, however at what point does quality and personal attention begin to wain? It may not, however i shoot for many companies who do muliple bookings, and their clients usually end up waiting longer for their presentations. In addition, in doing this, one must ensure that the client is comfortable with the shooter.

If your company needs to take on more than 104 weddings a year, then I would definately agree.. however, most companies dont...
I wouldnt want to coordiante the editing of these presentations, let alone do them all myself.. then again, havin to check and recheck other peoples work is a time killer in itself. As a McDonalds drive through conveyer, sure enough the product may be good when pumping out this many jobs, but in the end, how much quality are u willing to sacrifice for cash?
Thats the question one must ask when dealing with these types of numbers..

The advantage of going at it solo is that as you gain popularity, you can charge higher and shoot less events per year which is great if you don't plan to grow your business any further.

((hmm... i half agree with this.. please dont get me wrong, im not being critical, but i just dont see how charging more and shooting less ISNT growing the business..
Consideirng the workload has decreased while income increases.. isnt that working smarter.. not harder?? Isnt that an evolution in ANY business?

Also working alone bears no weight on whether or not you can charge higher.. if your prodcut is good enough.. be it a one man band or a team of 10 shooters and editors.. IF the work is good enough, people WILL pay.. doesnt matter if your solo or not.. in addition working solo doesnt mean your business cant grow.. FYI, i work solo 98% of the time and my business has grown 300% in 18months. I havent changed anything and my advertising is the same as it was...Im speaking strickly video services here, not photos...))


If you shoot as a team, the number of videos you can produce per year is only limited to the number of staff and equipment you can coordinate.

((Number vs quality... that question must also be raised.. ))

Potentially, your growth as a business can be exponential if you can continually attract new team members.

((hmm.. IMO your growth as a business is dependant on NEW CLIENTS.... as well as ensuring old clients are looked after... everything else comes secondary to that))

Also, it's a lot of fun shooting with a team and you don't have to worry about someone stealing any unmanned cameras.
((and u dont have to wrroy about luggin tones of gear around, one can take a break while the other shoots, u can cover more locations at the same time.. etc etc The potential increases of course in tunr increasing editing, however one must never lose focus on the issue of quality.

Sheer numbers doesnt maketh the business..
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Old October 9th, 2006, 01:35 AM   #10
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Growing your business

Thanks for the thoughtful reply Peter.

I guess I should have reworded "growing your business" to "how many clients you can provide service for." If you work purely solo, you can only serve so many clients in your lifetime and when you die, your business dies with you. If you work as a team, you can serve way more people, and when you pass, you're business can still thrive long after you're gone.

I originally started working with event videography because I wanted to save memories of my family and friend's events onto video. After I saw how much they appreciated it, I wanted everyone in the world to be able to have their event professionally captured.

If I chose the route of working solo, I'd be raising my prices so high that most of my friends and family (the very people I started this business to serve) wouldn't be able to afford me.

As for quality, I believe working with a team can yield a much richer experience for a client. One man working solo has to wear many hats in running a business. Many times one might be strong in one area such as editing a video, but weaker in another like customer service. With a team, you can find people that specialize in certain aspects of running your video business and every aspect can be done by someone who's main duty is to do what they are best at. That to me, would yield a better product and experience for the client.

So it basically comes down to this. If you're main goal is to gain personal prestige so that you can raise prices so only high end destination or celebrity weddings can afford you, then definitely do it solo and do not teach anyone to do what you do because then your perceived value will be lowered.

If you're main goal is to make videos for as many people as possible, then teach as many people as you can how to do what you do and work as a team.

I care very much about the art of event videography and would like ANYONE who is holding an event to have a professional capture their special day. Therefore, one of my main goals in life is to teach as many people as I can about event videography no matter if they are in my company or not.
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Old October 9th, 2006, 07:37 AM   #11
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If you want to talk about going solo and making money then talk to Robert Allen or Art Polin but remember it takes time sometimes years to be able to ask for and get $1000 an hour with a 5 hour minimum and have an average of $10000 per gig and do 20-40 gigs a year. Many years of hard work.

As for TEAM what you're talking about is a production house that does 200 or more per year and is pretty much a cookie cutter type product. Nothing wrong with that- just different. You hire and train people to shoot every event the same way and hire editors that can edit every event the same way time after time and punch them out fast and the same. A prodcution house can be very profitable as can a solo operation but both take a long time and much hard work to get going and beome a stabil and profitable business. Your choice. Depends on what you want.

Don
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Old October 9th, 2006, 10:27 AM   #12
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good points... all of them...

and its these questions which one must ask themselves as they dive into this industry

I honestly dont know how much "extra" these $1000/hr shooters do at a wedding, but it would be an interesting model to look at.
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Old October 9th, 2006, 03:23 PM   #13
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In addition to the excellent comments I would add:

Make a comprehensive "fill in the blanks" questionaire to be fillec out by the bride, groom, and anyone else actively participating in the planning. Mine is about five pages long and covers everything I could think of from contact info to the exact spelling of everyone to be listed on the closing credits roll. It is due 30 days prior to the event.
This one form has saved me endless hours of planning.
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