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Old November 13th, 2006, 09:38 AM   #1
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My little horror story of this weekend!

So was filming my "last" scheduled wedding for the year this weekend in a big old church. It was a single camera shoot - so setup and planning was everything if I was to capture the entire ceremony with few (if any) cuts.

I wisely attended the rehearsal the night before and scouted this church as it was the first time I ever "filmed" in it (being the first year of doing weddings, many times I am shooting in a "new" place). After talking to the priest - I quickly found out that the alter was off limits to the videographer (fine with me). After some debate on weather or not to setup on the balcony or on the floor, I figured the floor would allow me to get better shots of the processional and the unity candle (since it happened on the side of the alter).

So, I get to the church in plenty of time, and set up in the back of the church, cranked up my tripod all the way and used a step stool to shoot over the crowd. The wedding began and I got great shots of everything - it had seemed that my plan was working to perfection. From my vantage point - I could get the processional (shots of faces), the exit (again, with good shots of faces and not the backs of heads) - and all things that occurred at the alter. The shots looked amazing, the priest was funny and not too dry, and it looked like this would be the best "wedding" that I had shot up to this point in my short career.

Then old Anton Bauer let me down . . .

About 1 hour into the ceremony - right when we were about done, the priest decided to surprise everyone by singing a song for the bride and groom. At that point my Anton Bauer Hytron 50 battery went from 3 hours of time down to zero in a flash (I made sure it was fully charged before the ceremony). My XL2 Camera was complaining about low battery - and I quickly started praying that the battery would just last long enough for the priest to finish his song and to get the exit. . .

. . . but to no avail . . . - the camera went dead and my perfect wedding now had a problem. Luckily I had my other battery in hand ready for a fast swap - but it still pissed me off that the battery malfunctioned into what was a great shoot! Needless to say - I cursed at Anton Bauer for the $250 battery that barely lasted me one hour of shoot time, and I promptly sent the battery off for service this morning!

Oh well, S*it happens, I film the rest of the ceremony (caught the rest of the song and the exit - there is just a cut in the middle of the priest's song now that I will have to "fix" in post), collected my gear and went down to the reception hall.

Reception went well, met the photographer and the DJ (both great guys) and proceeded to film the introductions, cake cutting, first dance, etc. Everything seemed good - all I needed now was some "filler" material for the DVD, a few good general dances and I would have plenty to play with in the editing room.

Then they turned off ALL of the lights - I could literately not see my hand in front of my face. The only light available was some candle light coming from the tables that cast a very low flicker onto the dance floor.

Needing some more shots - I quickly turned on my on-camera light and proceeded to get the shots that I could. Unfortunately though, since I was now the brightest thing near the dance floor, some guests complained that the light was too harsh on their eyes (even though it was soft-boxed and diffused - but being the only lit thing on a pitch black dance floor - I could definitely understand their complaints!). So I had to go to the bride and groom and see what they wanted. After showing them my viewfinder with the on camera light off (and seeing nothing) I was able to convince them to allow me to turn up the lights "a tad". All seemed right in the world again . . .

But that didn't last - the hotel staff soon again turned all the lights off and I was back to shooting with my on-camera light for the rest of the ceremony. I just tried my best to avoid people's eyes with my light and choose "interesting" angles to make it work. . .

So that's my fun story of the weekend. . , It definitely allowed me to "think on my feet" and just about gave me an ulcer - but then again - I love doing this work and thus far (out of the tapes I have looked at) - it did turn out well. I think all of my "problems" can be smoothed out in post and I just hope that my next wedding goes a bit more smoothly than this past one.


Just though I would share my story from the front lines. . . .

Ryan
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Last edited by Ryan DesRoches; November 13th, 2006 at 10:30 AM.
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Old November 13th, 2006, 09:59 AM   #2
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Wow, Ryan. It sounds like you had your hands full there. Here is a tip that I read from someone a year or two ago on another site. This person taped a lot in nightclubs and had to use an on camera light. His method was to start rolling with light on aimed at the feet and slowly pan up. He said that it bothered people much less than if you just aimed at the face and 'hit the light switch'.

Maybe this will work for you in a future situation like you had this past weekend.

-gb-
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Old November 13th, 2006, 10:04 AM   #3
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Hi Ryan.

You should have posted your story on the "What I hate when filming a wedding" thread. That's where all our horror stories go to.

Anyway, this weekend I had the same thing happen to me. They decided to have sparklers lit for the first dance and turned off all the lights. So I filmed the first dance with only my onboard camera light. It looks like crap, but that's their problem. I can't make miracles.

Regards.
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Old November 13th, 2006, 06:00 PM   #4
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I wisely attended the rehearsal the night before and scouted this church as it was the first time I ever "filmed" in it (being the first year of doing weddings, many times I am shooting in a "new" place).

((dude, ive been doing this for a lil over 6 years, and 80% of the shoots i do are in locations which ive never been to before. The trick is to have a plan of action for a variety of layouts. You dont have to go to every location as eventually when the work gets too much, you wont have time to go to rehearsals. Speak the the client and ask them what they layout is. from here, you should be able to make a decision without even thinking too much about it.. you'll know.. it'll come to you..))



After talking to the priest - I quickly found out that the alter was off limits to the videographer (fine with me).

((THis is usually the case with EVERY wedding in a church.. i dont even bother with the Altar anymore... seriousy.. from what ive experienced, its not even worth contemplating... ))


After some debate on weather or not to setup on the balcony or on the floor,
((FLoor.. ALWAYS.. for one cam jobs at least))


So, I get to the church in plenty of time, and set up in the back of the church, cranked up my tripod all the way and used a step stool to shoot over the crowd. The wedding began and I got great shots of everything - it had seemed that my plan was working to perfection. From my vantage point - I could get the processional (shots of faces), the exit (again, with good shots of faces and not the backs of heads) - and all things that occurred at the alter. The shots looked amazing, the priest was funny and not too dry, and it looked like this would be the best "wedding" that I had shot up to this point in my short career.

((Cool))

Then old Anton Bauer let me down . . .

About 1 hour into the ceremony - right when we were about done, the priest decided to surprise everyone by singing a song for the bride and groom. At that point my Anton Bauer Hytron 50 battery went from 3 hours of time down to zero in a flash (I made sure it was fully charged before the ceremony). My XL2 Camera was complaining about low battery - and I quickly started praying that the battery would just last long enough for the priest to finish his song and to get the exit. . .

. . . but to no avail . . . - the camera went dead and my perfect wedding now had a problem.

((what id recomend for any event.. especially weddings is to ALWAYS strart with a fresh battery.. even if u think u dont need it.. do it anyway.. same with tape.. if u shot half an hour and uve still got 30 minutes left.. change tape.. have the ceremony fresh... then when u get to the photoshoot, jump back onto the previous tape.. it doesnt matter which tape u use.. the timecose will still be intact for each scene but at least this way u wont have to change tape halfway through the ceremony. ))

Luckily I had my other battery in hand ready for a fast swap - but it still pissed me off that the battery malfunctioned into what was a great shoot! Needless to say - I cursed at Anton Bauer for the $250 battery that barely lasted me one hour of shoot time, and I promptly sent the battery off for service this morning!

((Batteris are unpredicatable.. i ALWAYS carry a spare 2 tapes and a spare battery (as i run 2 cams) irrepsective of the rating, dont trust it.. if the environmental variables have anythign to do with it (and they do) then these will affect the way the battery performs. If its a new battery, be aware that it needs several cycles before it reaches optimal power.))

Oh well, S*it happens, I film the rest of the ceremony (caught the rest of the song and the exit - there is just a cut in the middle of the priest's song now that I will have to "fix" in post), collected my gear and went down to the reception hall.

((Trick to this is to have the singing priest scene start off as theyre signing, then have it finish off with a cut back to karaoke priest as he's bringing the song to a close. they shouldt even notice the cut if u do it this way .. ))

Then they turned off ALL of the lights - I could literately not see my hand in front of my face. The only light available was some candle light coming from the tables that cast a very low flicker onto the dance floor.

Needing some more shots - I quickly turned on my on-camera light and proceeded to get the shots that I could. Unfortunately though, since I was now the brightest thing near the dance floor, some guests complained that the light was too harsh on their eyes (even though it was soft-boxed and diffused - but being the only lit thing on a pitch black dance floor - I could definitely understand their complaints!).

((Yeah, theyre selfish assholes.. no i kid u not.. whats more important, on or 2 peoples perception of "too bright" or a decent archive of teh day. Im yet to have anyone go off at me for my lights.. i only use diffusion and 35w on cam.. but pitch balck or not, at least the guests understnad that im there to do a job. One thing i usually do however is run a second camera. Having a second camera would have alleviated your battery issue, in addition to this you should have set up a 35-50w diffused light on THAT camera while recording on both.. then ur handheld camera could feed off the light spotted down into the dancefloor. Thered be no need for "burnt corneas" as the light is shooting donwnward away from people. but throwng enough light to offer good contrast and sharp imagery))


So I had to go to the bride and groom and see what they wanted. After showing them my viewfinder with the on camera light off (and seeing nothing) I was able to convince them to allow me to turn up the lights "a tad". All seemed right in the world again . .

((I dont ask for permission on teh day.. I say to them (in the contract) do u give permission to use video lights. Usually they circle yes and then we discuss their environemnt. From there, i usualy say to them, obviously if i dont need light i wont use it, but if i do, ill turn it on. It seither that or red mud.. you decide.. they usually go with my recomendation.. I dont bother giving these decision to the clinet on teh day, coz theres already so much happeng, that they'll remember your approaching them on this.. ehterh it be good or bad or whatever, EVERY element of interaction u have with the client will remain in their memories, which is why i try not to get too in their face. When i do approach them ,its usually for positives.. for negatives (like lighting and meals etc) i approach a parent or a third party. The clients dont need these hassles))

But that didn't last - the hotel staff soon again turned all the lights off and I was back to shooting with my on-camera light for the rest of the ceremony. I just tried my best to avoid people's eyes with my light and choose "interesting" angles to make it work. . .

((theres no need for people to look directly into the light, so i dont know why this is an issue unless theyre so vain that they stare at u as u pass.. listen dude.. dont EVER let one persons response to the light affect ur decision to use it.. also anythign over 35w (50 if its diffused and boxed) for the XL2 isnt needed.. ))

So that's my fun story of the weekend. . , It definitely allowed me to "think on my feet" and just about gave me an ulcer - but then again - I love doing this work and thus far (out of the tapes I have looked at) - it did turn out well. I think all of my "problems" can be smoothed out in post and I just hope that my next wedding goes a bit more smoothly than this past one.

((LOL one can only wish. . only half the weddings i ever shoot ever go to planned. this is nothign on my part as i do all i can to ensure a smooth running and constant communication, But sometimes, things just get so "BLURGH" that u cant do anything about it except grin and bare it.. Youll find that the videographer isnt a priority when it comes to weddings.. irrespective of your own requirements and what people MAY say.. it doesnt mean that anyone will go out of their way to ensure you have optimal viewing and lighting options. Thing with this is to ensure u cover ur ass with ur contract as these elements beyond ur control affect YOUR work, even though ur not directly responsible, you ARE accountable...

Put it this way.. it could have been worse..
What would you do if your whole camera nuked itself.. ??

these worse case scenarios need to be considered
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Old November 14th, 2006, 01:00 PM   #5
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Hi Ryan

What's the wattage of your on-camera light?

On my XL1, I use the Vl-10Li light which is about 10 Watts. I use a diffuser over it and it's perfect at very low light (even no lights). I have had no complaints from guests so far. This light acts like a filler light so any background lights blends in perfectly. It does not ruin the atmosphere.
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Old November 14th, 2006, 03:07 PM   #6
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To awser everyone's questions:

The light was an Anton Bauer Ultralight 2 - with a 20 Watt bulb diffused and soft-boxed.

Peter, as part of my wedding packages, I typically film the rehersial and rehersial dinner for the couple. Only one time did the bride not want this done. Typically I do it for two reasons - 1) It's good practice, allows me to experement and try different angles at the rehersial, and 2) many times (in my experence) the fathers of the bride and groom give toasts at the rehersial dinner which are usially either very heartfelt, or very humerious (such as the one where the FOG told the Bride-to-be that she got the "A-hole" of the family (it was all in good fun!) ). Sometimes the stuff that happens at the rehersial gets on the completed DVD and other times it doesn't - it really depends on they type of crowd.

As for backup equipment - I bring my three batteries, (two Hytrom 50s, and one Hytron 120) and that usially covers me for the entire shoot and I usially never take out all three batteries (usially I use the 50 for the wedding, then switch to the 120 for the reception) - all batteries are fully charged before I leave for the shoot. I also keep in my car an 40 ft extention cord to use if I for some reason need to go that route. If the damn batteries were cheeper than $250-$500 a pop I would get a few more.

In addition to that - I bring twice as many tapes as I would ever need (usially at least 20 hours of tape). And I bring a backup camera in case my XL2 goes "tits up". (also usially keep in my car to avoid bringing in 4 different bags of "stuff")

As for the lighting situation, I just think I need to explain that more to my clients up front and add a paragraph about lighting in my contract (to cover my butt).

I "thought" about using the XL2's low lighting setup on the camera ( a factory preset) - but it looked horrible (strobe type effect) when I tried it (although it lit up the area nicely).

Again, I'm still learning as I go . . .and that's the fun part for me. The quality of my shoots keeps getting better and better - so that's at least a positive. My goal is for next year to pay off all of my start-up costs and then maybe think about doing weddings on a more full time basis.

Thanks for everyone whom has given advice :-)

Ryan
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Old November 14th, 2006, 03:22 PM   #7
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sounds like the battery lost a cell and that being one of the more unpredictable things about weddings there's nothing you can do except for what you did. I use ABs dionic 90s and knock on wood there's been no trouble but I did lose a cell on a Sony battery for my 150 a few years ago, very troubling but luckily I caught it before the ceremony.

As for the lighting I to use the AB light with a softbox but I've got a 35 w bulb in it and never really had a complait. I do start low and bring it up most times but I also make sure the lights are at least somewhat on. There is NO reason for the banquet staff or anyone else to turn them off. If nothing else, it's dangerous and I've seen people trip in the dark. To me it doesn't add anything to the ambience of the room and this is something I talk to the B&G about when they sign up.

It sounds like a real trial by fire but it also sounds like you came out alive and will live to fight another day ;-)

Don't worry, if thats the worst that happens to you in your career consider yourself lucky.

Don
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Old November 15th, 2006, 08:59 AM   #8
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I think the only reason why I got complaints was that I was the only thing lit in the room. It could have been a 2 watt bulb and people would have had their eyes hurt if they turned and got it in the face becasue it was really THAT DARK in the reception.

It's like waking up in the middle of the night and flipping on the light switch - it takes a few seconds for your eyes to adjust from total darkness!

The people dancing wern't models, but they wern't that hiddious to have all the lights turned off - so I really don't understand it!

Ryan
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