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


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Old October 19th, 2006, 10:34 AM   #1
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Just getting started, lots of questions

Hi everyone, I have been reading these forums for about a month now, and I want to thank you all for being so open with your suggestions. It has been great to read and very educational. My name is Jason and I live in Southern California (Temecula area). I was a news producer for over 15 years working at the network level until last year when I suffered a heart attack. Wife and I have recently decided that its time for me to work for mytself, and I have always enjoyed videography and editing, and starting a production company that does corporate and wedding videos appealed to me right off the bat. I am putting the peices of my company together slowly, but wahted to ask some questions of you all for advice. Here we go:

1. Living in So Cal I see there are a lot of videographers here and a lot of companys that do weddings. Is the market such that I would be able to make a comfortable living doing this without worrying about the competition? In otherwords, is there enough business to keep us all busy? Realistically, I think I estimatimated that I would need to book about 30-40 weddings per year to stay afloat, does this sound right and is this number to lofty?

2. I have about 15k to invest, what would your reccomendation on equipment and marketing be with that amount of money?

3, Should I invest in two cameras?

4. Can the Angels find a bat for the middle of their line up?

(opps, wrong message board!)

5. Suggestions on lighting kits?

I know there are several more questions, but they just aren't coming to me at the moment. I will post as they come up. Thanks in advance to everyone for their help!
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Old October 19th, 2006, 10:59 AM   #2
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I too am relatively new in the wedding biz (less than one year) - but maybe this will be helpful. . .

1) Reputation is EVERYTHING in this biz, so no matter if your market is oversaturated - if you do good work, and can get your customers to write on message boards (such as The Knot) raving about you - then you should have no problems surviving. If you do crappy work - well, we won't be seeing much of you here!!!
The plan to start building your reputation may be by doing some weddings for cost or for a very low profit (maybe even free!). Get the reputation up, get some advertizing, and then start slowly increasing the price of your packages.

2) 15k is a good starting point, especially if you already have a computer and some of the software you need (NLE, DVD software).

3) I do a lot of wedding with two cameras, so yes, that is a good investment to make. I myself have only own one "good" camera (my XL2) and one "backup" (a Sony handycam) - I borrow a friends Panasonic for my second camera for now until I can get my hands on another XL2.

A backup camera is a must - even if it is not high quality. If your main camera goes down, at least you have something to work with to capture the brides memories. There is nothing worse than losing everything!

Also - get plenty of Batteries!! And confortable shoes!

4) The Red Sox want to get rid of Manny - if your willing to take the headaches involved with him!

5) I would just go with an on-camera light such as the AB Powerlight 2. There is really no need anymore for a full light kit (who has the time an energy to set up a 3 point light kit).

Remember, you have really little time to "set up shots", and no chance to yell cut and re do it. You really have to learn to work with what's given to you and do the best you can. It's really amazing what you can fix in Post now anyways!

Hope that helps!
Ryan
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Old October 19th, 2006, 11:09 AM   #3
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Hi Jason and welcome to the wacky world of wedding video. :-)

First let me say that like most any other business out there, there are always people getting into and out of the business. Some retire, some go broke and some just aren't any good. Some are in business for a year or 2 or 3 then find out it's not really what they wanted to do or that it's really alot harder than they thought. So having said that IMO there's always room for more. Especially someone who is GOOD at what they do AND someone who knows and understands business. I've said it before and I'll keep saying it, IMO you have to be a better businessperson than a camera operator and editor to make it long term in the business. Not to say one can be a hack but a DECENT shooter and editor who is a GOOD businessperson will more than likely last a lot longer than a GREAT shooter and editor who dosen't know how to run a business.
Having said that I think the amount you have to start with is fine-as for what to get, well there's the question. In no particular order, YES 100% absolutely get 2 cameras. Firstly you can now shoot a wedding with 2 (I lock one down) for other hopefully better shots than you might get with one and more importantly, what if camera #1 breaks? Now at least you've got a backup to use. Whatever cameras you get make sure you have BATTERIES-LOTS of them. You never know when a battery might blow a cell (it's happened to me with 2 different mfgs). IMO you can never have enough power. Get an ON CAMERA light-lower power is fine, 20-30 watts and either a softbox or some sort of diffusion for it to soften it up. Most receptions I have done (at least in my area of the country) when the dancing starts it gets real dark real fast. Lights go dim and I mean dim to the point of ridiculous sometimes. AUDIO-again whatever you decide on make sure you have at least 1 wireless lav for the groom and if not a 2nd unit (I use 1 on the lectern for the readers) at least something like an I-River or M-Audio recorder with a Giant Squid mic or the like. A GOOD tripod-you don't want to be handholding a camera for an hour long Catholic mass ceremony. I use a tripod and a set of dolly wheels whenever possible and it doesn't matter whether I use a PD150 or a DSR250 or JVC5000 or whatever. Noone can handhold steadily for more than a short time.
As for the cameras, well here we go. SD or HD, JVC,Sony, Canon, Panasonic??????? What do I want-what do I need, what is the "best" for doing this type of work? I don't know but I can tell you that right now I'm still shooting SD with a PD150 and a DSR250 for weddings. Sonys are known for thier low light capability and frankly I like the look they produce but I know folks that use exclusiivly Canon an now with HD on the horizon, it's a wide open field. Of course no one can really watch an HD DVD yet or at least very few folks can and while there might be an advantage to shooting in HD and down rezing to SD for production I'm still a bit leery about HD for wedding work, at this time. I guess what I'm saying is you need to decide that for yourself-see what the compitition is doing is your area, what are they offering and how are they producing it? Then you need to try the various cameras out there and find the one(s) that you feel comfortable with and of course fall into the budget.
As for how many gigs a year you can do, well, that's up to you as far as how hard you want to work. I've been doing and average of 45 per year for a number of years but have decided to cut that number to no more than 25-30 this year (2007) and less the following year. Some has to do with my age, some has to do with the other work I'm doing (corporate type stuff) some has to do with the fact that I'm just plain getting tired of weddings BUT 30-40 is a good number to shoot for. (pardon the pun) Keep in mind though that it will take a bit of time to reach that point, it generally doesn't happen overnight.
BTW, in your budget does that include ADVERTISING and MARKETING? Be it shows, demos, cards, stationery, website or whatever you need to advertise and that can eat a big hole in the budget rather quickly.
Anyway, just some points to ponder...best of luck to you in your new venture,
Don
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Old October 19th, 2006, 02:13 PM   #4
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thanks guys... just curious, but what is the IRiver for?
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Old October 19th, 2006, 02:24 PM   #5
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it's an audio recorder (pocket sized) that can be used to mic th electern or the officiant or whereever you want to use it instead of a wireless. just don't forget to retrieve it after.

Don
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Old October 19th, 2006, 03:06 PM   #6
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Curious, do you think it would be a stretch to try and find a videogrpaher to shadow for a couple of weddings. I would really like to observe (possibly help) for a few weddings in order to get some experience under my belt. You guys think I am asking for too much?
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Old October 19th, 2006, 04:14 PM   #7
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you might try your local videographers association (if there is one) and get to know some of the folks in the area-you might find that the folks in your imediate area might not want to be too helpful to their new compitition but perhaps someone outside of your immediate area wouldn't mind having someone tag along or work (probably for free) as a 2nd camera op.

Don
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Old October 19th, 2006, 09:19 PM   #8
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Don't buy any cameras

You may think I am totally crazy, but my advice would be to not buy any cameras.

When I got started doing weddings I went out and bought a couple camera, but in order to provide my clients with an even higher picture quality I started renting some much higher end gear. I now regret purchasing the camera and wish I would have spent the money elsewhere, rather and just rented the equipment from the start.
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Old October 20th, 2006, 12:25 AM   #9
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You seem to indicate running your own business will be less stress?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jason Burns
Hi everyone, I have been reading these forums for about a month now, and I want to thank you all for being so open with your suggestions. It has been great to read and very educational. My name is Jason and I live in Southern California (Temecula area). I was a news producer for over 15 years working at the network level until last year when I suffered a heart attack. Wife and I have recently decided that its time for me to work for mytself, and I have always enjoyed videography and editing, and starting a production company that does corporate and wedding videos appealed to me right off the bat. I am putting the peices of my company together slowly, but wahted to ask some questions of you all for advice. Here we go:

1. Living in So Cal I see there are a lot of videographers here and a lot of companys that do weddings. Is the market such that I would be able to make a comfortable living doing this without worrying about the competition? In otherwords, is there enough business to keep us all busy? Realistically, I think I estimatimated that I would need to book about 30-40 weddings per year to stay afloat, does this sound right and is this number to lofty?

2. I have about 15k to invest, what would your reccomendation on equipment and marketing be with that amount of money?

3, Should I invest in two cameras?

4. Can the Angels find a bat for the middle of their line up?

(opps, wrong message board!)

5. Suggestions on lighting kits?

I know there are several more questions, but they just aren't coming to me at the moment. I will post as they come up. Thanks in advance to everyone for their help!
I had my own computer business serving three states with 8 employees, If you think your own biz will be less stress, the wedding video biz must be different from all the others out there.

you are not investing 15,000 dollars, you are gambling it, with worse odds than blackjack.

However, working for yourself is addictive.........on the other hand, as editing and cameras get cheaper, everybody that gets a hdv10 for Christmas will be a "Videographer".

Check with the SBA for some info on small business basics.

Best of Luck, truly.
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Old October 20th, 2006, 06:31 PM   #10
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First off, you have a lot of good experience to draw upon. You are already in a position to make intellegent decisions regarding what kind of equipment to purchase. However, I don't see anything in your comments that indicates a grasp of the beauracracy of managing a business. Doesn't mean it is not there, just an observatoin of what was not mentioned. Are your aware of the extent of your tax liabilities (which includes furniture) at a amortization rate that defies reality? This morsel is the tip of the iceberg, by the way.

What is the average length of the wedding season in your area? What does 30-40 weddings mean when you add in editing time, packaging time, distribution (shipping), record keeping, and income reporting to city, county, and state agencies? You could find yourself working 450 days (no typo here) a year.

1. Look at wedding dates. Most are on weekends, meaning three possible days out of seven you are actually on site shooting. What do you do following a shoot? I sleep. That leaves three days to edit. Where are the days off? Which days are spent on advertising? Which ones spent on keeping track of numbers? Where are you at the end of a month?

[2. I have about 15k to invest, what would your reccomendation on equipment and marketing be with that amount of money?]
Cameras (2), Computer hardware, Software, Audio Systems, Tripods, Mono Pods, Cases, etc. Keep it simple. Focus on mobility. You can expand when it makes sense to do so.

[3, Should I invest in two cameras?]
Absolutely!

[4. Can the Angels find a bat for the middle of their line up?]
Who cares? it has nothing to do with wedding video.

5. Suggestions on lighting kits?
Start with a low wattage (10w - 20w) on camera light. Add diffuser. Modify the light so it is at least 10" above the camera lens. Add additional equipment later when you can make it fit a project expense budget. Capitalize only when necessary and sensible to do so.

6. Spend the time to define a specific sequence of camera recording you will take to capture a wedding event from start to finish. This will allow you to identify when and where you have freedom of expression. This is the basis of what will become the expression of your individual style. The beauty of it is that this basis is infinitely adaptable. It becomes a storyboard.

7. Have fun! There are hurdles to cross, but working for yourself is far less stressful than working to achieve the dreams of someone else who has little, if any, regard for your well being.
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Old October 20th, 2006, 08:03 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jason Burns

1. Living in So Cal I see there are a lot of videographers here and a lot of companys that do weddings. Is the market such that I would be able to make a comfortable living doing this without worrying about the competition? In otherwords, is there enough business to keep us all busy? Realistically, I think I estimatimated that I would need to book about 30-40 weddings per year to stay afloat, does this sound right and is this number to lofty?

2. I have about 15k to invest, what would your reccomendation on equipment and marketing be with that amount of money?

3, Should I invest in two cameras?

5. Suggestions on lighting kits?
Hi Jason,

I was just in Riverside Tues-Thurs. You are right, there are a lot of videographers in the area, but there are also a lot of weddings in the area. The good thing about having a lot of videographers is that there are several local video associations in your area. I'm not real sure which one would be closer to you but here's a couple of choices.

http://www.ava-la.org/index.htm
Jay Stein is the president. I just saw him yesterday. He's a great guy and very helpful.

http://pvn.org/
Cathy Steffan is the president. You will find Cathy equally helpful. We did an event with them in June and they have a great group.

I would strongly recommend getting involved with one or both of these groups. They will be able to help you with some of the local questions and you may even find good deals on gear.

The amount of weddings you need per year will depend on how much you charge per wedding. I have several friends in the SoCal area and pricing ranges from sub $1000 to over $10K. So pick the client you want to cater to and market to them.

Speaking of marketing, it's good to see that you are budgeting for marketing. Business cards, website, bridal shows, etc. I would spend some money with a graphic designer. Have your business card match your website. For websites, we use www.PixelPops.com and for business cards we use www.GotPrint.com .

As far as purchasing cameras, it's an interesting time. Do you go DV or HDV? Tough choice. How much experience do you have behind a small hand held camera? You may want to check into renting a camera. The local video associations will be helpful with finding a good rental house.

The reason I say look into renting is that you will not be able to put your cameras to work until you start booking weddings and even then, you will spend much more time editing that shooting. If you can find a good rental house you may want to buy one camera, (so you will have time to practice with it and get comfortable) and then rent the second camera on a as needed basis.

Maybe you are great at sales and marketing and you can book a lot of weddings right off the bat. If that is the case, then buy a couple of cameras. You just don't want to have two cameras setting in the closet going down in value and not being used.

A good camera will last 3-6 years. A good wireless system and tripod will last more than 10 years, so don't skimp on a decent tripod and wireless. You don't have to go over the top, but a mid ranged Bogen with the 503 head is a good choice. While Lectrosonic mics are nice, you can get two or three Sennheiser G2s for the price of one Lectro. Just a thought.

Same thing with lights. The little Sony 10/20 light is cheap, but it is made entirely of plastic. My NRG varalux light is almost 10 years old, so in the long run, my NRG is cheaper than replacing the Sony 10/20 every 2-3 years.
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Old October 20th, 2006, 09:24 PM   #12
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The best marketing you can do is get referrals, but to get referrals you have to do some jobs really well. To start out you'll have to find somebody who's willing to take a chance on you, usually this is somebody who knows you well. Marketing online is very cost effective if you know what you're doing. I don't recommend buying leads, I DO recommend networking with other wedding-related businesses and since you're just starting out you could offer them a referral bonus for each of their referrals that books with you. That way you've leveraged your marketing so that it's also in other people's interest to get you clients.
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Old October 21st, 2006, 01:28 PM   #13
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Everyone - Priceless information, I can't thank you all enough. As for me, I am pumping some money into marketing right off the get go. I am taking the first several months to focus on getting the business foundation set. I have seen too many businesses just jump right in without having a sound business plan, all the right paperwork filed, marketing plans, etc. I am really being overly cautious.

I have a Grandmother who has been making wedding cakes for over 40 years and has a sound cleint base by word of mouth. She has offered to help as a referal system. I also know a still photographer who has offered to partner in getting gigs. I think that is a good start. My plan is to shoot between five and ten weddings before I charge. I already have three friends who are willing to let me use them as guinee pigs in the next couple of months. I won't start charging until I know my product is a quality product.

As far as my production experience, I have more experience editing than shooting. As a producer, I know how to tell a story with video, that is my experitice. I just need to get the time in with a camera. I was thinking of buying one camera now, and just going crazy, Shooting everything and anything, getting practice getting my shots. I have three young kids and an annual pass to Disneyland... so with that I think there are some excellent opportunities to practice shot composition.

I promised my self that I wouldn't do this unless I planned on doing as best as I could. I have prided myself on quality work, and had to work hard to get to where I am professionally. But like all who start there own business, I am just a bit nervous.

I think I have decided on the Sony HVR-Z1U. I know the new Son's are coming out in december, but I have found a few good deals on this camera and I inagine the prices will drop a bit more. I think that would be a good starter HD camera.

Can anyone tell me what a good price would be on a pair of sticks?

Also, how well do Macs and Sony cameras work together. Any issues that anyone knows about?

Again, thanks to everyone for their great advice. please let me know if there is anything I can do for ya'll in the future.

Best,

Jason
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Old October 21st, 2006, 04:04 PM   #14
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Go to http://www.dvinfo.net/conf/forumdisplay.php?f=42 They are talking about the z1 and sticks.
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Old October 21st, 2006, 05:11 PM   #15
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I'm just getting started. Here's my plan.

After working in pro video for 20 years and teaching production for 13 years I've decided to turn teaching into a part-time venture and I'm setting up a company to do production full-time. I have given this a lot of thought and done quite a bit of research before deciding to go for it.

I started thinking and working on this idea over the summer. I hope/intend to be able to book a minimum of 2 weddings per month for starting in May (May-Sept). I expect/hope to book more but I'm not including those hopes in my actual plan. I also plan on doing other types of production.

To start, I am investing in a well designed logo and website. Sure, I could do that stuff on my own, but the process of working with an outside designer has been very rewarding. Local photogs and other have suggested that the advertising with a regional wedding website will provide me with plenty of leads and gigs. Obviously, since what we do is visual I see the website as being my most imporant marketing tool. I hope to have the website up and be advertising with the regional website by Nov.1st.

I'm just finishing the details of my biz plan and will be getting it to the bank next week. I plan on borrowing $20,000. That will go mostly towards equipment. The cam issue is still the toughest for me. I've posted questions and gotten quite a bit of input from members of this board (thanks!) but I'm still not sure what I'm going to do. I currently own an XL1 (been using that as my "play" cam for many years and have also done many weddings with it). I'm not sure if I'll get two cams or one and use the XL as my second cam (leaning towards that). The BIG question is whether or not to go with a Z1-FX for HDV or get a PD170 (better in low-light... weddings). I played with a V1 last month at a trade show. The battery was dying so I never really got a chance to see how it did in low-light. I was told I can have a demo to check out in Dec or Jan. Like many other right now, I'm not sure what I'm going to get. I'll be upgrading to Adobe Studio Suite soon. I plan on getting the AntonBauer shoulder brace/huge battery pack/light with soft box kit. Probably go with 2 Samson wireless mics.

There's actually only one established wedding videographer in my town. He does video/DJing. I want to become THE local video specialist for all types of production. I am targeting the upscale/mid segmant of the market. Like folks that may have met here at Cornell University and are returning to get married. The folks that go to the steak house for the $50 tenderloin. :)

An intersting potential opportunity came up yesterday. Someone I know in the web business is looking to expand his business again. He'd like to create a place where several related yet not competing businesses can share a huge office space. The place he is considering is awesome and in the center of downtown. I need to decide if I want to take on the expense of an office. I originally thought of just going out of my apartment and maybe getting a place in a few years. I think egtting in on this office deal could help me by ending up being able to get more non-wedding video work via the other companies and related networking. I may just add another $5000 to my loan to cover most of that for the first year. I hope/expect to be busy enough in my second year to be crazy busy but financially secure.

I thought that the person that started this thread sounded a lot like myself, I'm just a few steps ahead becuase I started earlier. I don't see how my plan can fail, but obviously that is always a possiblility. I am very excited about the future and am looking forward to booking some gigs. I know that it will be very hard work. I don't mind hard work when I'll be working for myself. What I am not looking forward to is the beaurocratic part of paying sales tax (and my own taxes). I am making a gamble with borrowing 20-25K but one thing different about this and gambling is that there are factors I can control (quality of my work, my experience in sales as well as production). My experience in doing weddings leads me to suggest that the person's personality is just as important as shooting/editing skills. I don't know why but people like me (ha ha) and that is why I get another gig at almost every wedding I've been to (this will be the first time I'm actually going to TRY to get a business going). I'm intersted in hearing any reactions to my plan (especially anything I may not be considering) so far. Wish me luck as I follow the American dream. :) It sure will be interesting to look abck at this post in a year or so.

-Don B.
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