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Shooting non-repeatable events: weddings, recitals, plays, performances...

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Old April 14th, 2007, 11:51 AM   #1
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Looks like I picked the wrong week to quit drinking...

I need about 3-4 cold Coronas after last night. And it was Friday the 13th... go figure.

Back in October, I met with the lovely couple about their wedding. Smaller church with the reception being held in the hall under the sanctuary. This is a Church of Christ couple, so no dancing, alcohol, etc. Pretty much cut the cake, eat and leave.

This couple was going to have the reception BEFORE the wedding. The plan was that after they said their vows, they were walking out and leaving!
I figured that was kind of nice and would make for an easier night. Save the best for last, right?

Thursday night was the rehearsal. Starts at 7pm. So I showed up to the church at 6:52... to an EMPTY CHURCH. Not a single car in the parking lot. Luckily there was one soul in the church who let me in... but being that there was no wedding party, there wasn't a whole lot I could do.

At 7:17pm, I headed to the house.

Next day... Friday the 13th...

Talk to the bride... Oh, no big deal! They moved the rehearsal back to 7:30! That's awesome, because that's something I didn't need to know! (sarcasm font enabled).

Anyways... day of the wedding... I get with the bride and groom about where the wedding party is going to be standing, placement, etc. I know where everyone is going to be. I get my wireless mics on everyone (3) and do sound checks with their audio guy (who is a dude starting & stopping a CD player. That equates to audio tech). EVERYTHING sounds perfect.

The mind is at ease and rest. Life is good.

(The above paragraph should be seen as foreshadowing.)

Everything is running quite smooth. I'm actually feeling good about this. But I am about to take a huge, healthy bite out of a gooey **** sandwich.

About 3 minutes before the bride is to walk down the aisle, there is a static, screeching sound from the speakers... Not a quick scratch. A LONG, drawn out, ear-piercing static. Thinking of it makes my head hurt. In a panic thinking I'm boinking this entire wedding, I turn off my receivers. My helper tells the priest and the groom to turn off their mics as well.

The sound is still going.

About 8 kids/babies start crying.

And it's 280 faces... ALL STARING AT ME.

I get to the 3rd camera and turn off the wireless on it... and this sound is STILL GOING.

Folks... I was in a church, but also in Hades. And guess what? You would have thought the devil himself was running a camera. ME. The looks were pretty impressive!

Eventually, it stopped. The bad news is that I'm not a 100 percent certain it was my equipment causing the static, so just to be safe, I kept my wireless's turned off.

So no one is mic'd up now.

And Mr. CD player wasn't about to turn off his music.

During the ceremony I could still hear a faint hiss over the speakers. I didn't dare chance turning my receiver back on. I wasn't certain the groom and minister had theirs turned on & what if it was the cause of that static?

We'll have to make do with the standard camera mic. Not happy about that... but that's all I got.

We're not done yet.

Remember when I said when I knew where everyone was going to be standing during the wedding?

Wrong again, McFly.

I was already in a tight corner anyway and trying like heck to be out of the way... but there was another groomsman SIX INCHES in front of my camera. I couldn't squeeze by him, left or right.

I thought to myself, 'This CANNOT really be happening.'

When I tried to nudge by him, I had a great shot... of the back of the groom's head.

I thought about faking my own death.

Solution? Picked the camera and tripod and shot it from above. Eventually I was able to position myself in a better spot and get a great shot of the bride.

Did I mention one of the guests actually handed me a tissue during the ceremony so I could wipe the sweat off my face?

The wife says the video is fine. Plus I have a 3rd camera to cut to when need be. The worst is that the audio will be sub-par, something that REALLY bothers me.

Murphy happens. Reminds me of a quote in the movie 'A Sound of Thunder.' It's something I always keep in the back of my mind:

'...the Heisenberg uncertainty principle. It proves that there is no such thing as zero tolerance. It doesn't exist. You basically can't be 100% sure of anything no matter how hard you try. Accidents... happen.'

Oh, the reception followed for another 3 hours AFTER the wedding... so that plan was changed as well.

Time for another Corona....
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Old April 14th, 2007, 12:07 PM   #2
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>"I thought about faking my own death."

LOL! I would've cued in the other cameramen first so you could get it on tape.

Another thing I might have done is put the camera on the groomsman's shoulder and pressed him into service.

BTW, who is the third person you mic'd?
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Old April 14th, 2007, 05:22 PM   #3
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Aw man, you've got a talent - dump the cams and start writing for a living, should be lots cheaper to maintain that habit and since you're drinking heavily ANYWAY <wink>....

Hopefully you at least got paid well? Or was the check late TOO?

It amazes me how some weddings come off at all with all the "last minute" switch-eroos.

Like the bride who is 20 minutes late because her bouquet didn't show up (was late the night before, got chewed out by the priest, but did it sink in...?), I decide a "rest break" would be good to be "safe" with the late start... and the "bell" announcing the start of the wedding rings... zip, flush, zoom, press red button, run like hell, press other red buttons... get last 1/2 of processional, running at 2x speed since the wedding is way late and there's another right behind it (hour long mass done in 40 minutes flat...).

110 degrees in late morning at the end of wedding, so they don't want to do their "formal" photography (my wife does that part). They did do some photog in the church (before priest threw them out and I believe threatened excommunication), all their relatives with pocket cams snapping away the whole dang time while my wife elbows to get ANY shots...

Reception is later in day. B&G take off to the nearest metro area, (hour + away... WHY??? dunno...) They get in car accident on that adventure... finally arrive at reception an hour late...

No co-ordinator, so DJ goes on until band fires up - bride doesn't want to offend family member who paid for band, so NOTHING happens until nearly midnight (family member who I think paid for the uncut/uneaten cake didn't look happy...).

I sent wife home around 10:30 and stuck around just in case, and was JUST about to leave... after announcing my iminent departure... SUDDENLY... we do some staged "cake cutting shots" with the backup still cam, shot the garter/bouquet toss, no toasts (I think EVERYONE was TOAST by then... aproaching 12 midnight...), and I turned into a pumpkin and rolled on outta there...

I think you have to do one like these once in a while... just to remind you that nothing goes as planned (and that your rates are WAY TOO LOW <wink>)

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Old April 14th, 2007, 06:16 PM   #4
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it wasnt your gear mate..

i ALWAYS check the house sound system.. if theyre runnign the same mic system i am (Sennheiser) i tap into their channels for whoever is miced up... THEN i have the other ones (groom and lectern) on other channels.

U gotta remember these mics are designed to NOT interfere with anything.. if anything, is THEIR system affected by yours, BUT as soon as u turn of the transmitter OR reciever, the feedback SHOUDL stop... thats if YOURE causing the interferance. If the noise continues, u KNOW its not you, so stand your ground and keep your mics ON.

This happened to me ONCE and i ended up turning off the transmitter and reciever... the noise remained.
As the congregation SAW me turn these mics off, and the noise remained, they KNEW it wasnt me...
turns out the system in use was rather old, however instead of using a feedback killer or even jsuta baisc volume control to adjust the output, they were using the Mic input level as teh volume control.. hence the feedback.
Thats my audio horror story, but i also run a K6 ME64 shutgun, so i still got the vows (along with ambience... hmm) BUT you can hear them speaking and thats all that mattered
Hell, im thinking with the money i put into mics, i coulda bought another camera...

one thing about morning weddings, is that they nver go on time..
I did one up in terrigal (bout n hour away on the freeway) on a clifftop and NOTHING was ready.. the photogs were total wankers (turns out i nailed the video contract over 3 of their friends) and parking was non existant...
then when people were supposed to be dancing (this is at lunchtime now) the photogs took the couple and moved them outside to get family pics (which they had already done earlier at the beach) so for 2 hours of teh reception, they were taking photos...
I have a rule.. theres only so much "photo taking" shots u can get... if theres activity, fair enough i'd shoot it, but if its people standing around, there is no point.. i see no entertainment value in that, so i dont shoot it.. and i make it known..

Either way, WE do what we do becuase were good at it. We get bookings because we have earnt peoples trust and faith in what we do.
99% of the time, if something DOES go wrong, its not our fault.
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Old April 14th, 2007, 06:32 PM   #5
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A church wireless transmitter got turned off but the receiver was not turned off. The receiver then goes looking for something to lock on to. Gain intensifies. Nothing happens. Receiver locks onto nothing and feeds it through the PA system.

Problem was the receiver's mute switch was incorrectly set.

Blame the church CD guy.

Resolution: Make sure the church CD guy obeys your commands first. You are first. God is second. Priest is last.
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Old April 14th, 2007, 08:45 PM   #6
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I am lucky here as there are no mics necessary in Greek weddings as B/G say nothing during the ceremony.

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Old April 15th, 2007, 05:00 AM   #7
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You may be onto something Stelios...How are the Real Estate prices in Greece? lol
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Old April 15th, 2007, 07:57 AM   #8
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hehehe...coffee coming out my nose...lmao...

Thanks, Colby, for the laughs, that was great! I know it was anything BUT at the time...most all of us can definitely relate to it.
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Old April 16th, 2007, 07:15 AM   #9
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You DO know why everything happened like it did, don't you?

I'ts because you QUIT DRINKING !

Next time, go have a couple first, then ... aw nevermind ... by then you won't care ...

Funny story, thanks for the morning giggles, now everybody in the office thinks they've finally confirmed it. I'm that nutty videographer guy!

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Old April 16th, 2007, 04:32 PM   #10
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Now that it's over, I can look back and laugh. Mainly because I'm now drunk 24/7.

I'm glad it made for a few laughs... and yes, it was anything but at the time.

Btw, the 3rd mic was going on to the ladies singing. I clipped it to their music sheet, as close as I could to them.

Of course... turned that one off as well.

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Old April 17th, 2007, 08:05 AM   #11
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Dean Martin said it best: "I feel sorry for people who don't drink 'cause when they get up in the morning, that's as good as they're going to feel all day long!"
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Old April 18th, 2007, 08:40 AM   #12
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I could barely get through your story. I totally feel your pain. I've done enough live shows to know everything you were feeling.

Let me preface this by saying that before I branched into video production, I started my career as a sound engineer -- not just a CD pusher at a local church -- I have a bachelor's degree in music and audio-acoustical engineering, and 20 years experience on the job installing sound-systems and running production sound on the road in every sort of venue, from small churches to full-scale arena tours.

I suspect the house had a wireless mic, probably on the minister, that had never been turned on until the moment of the big noise. If not that, then something else was gravely wrong in the house set-up. I could make more guesses, but that would be boring and off-topic.

Next time this happens, don't blame yourself.
First of all, your RECEIVERS can NOT cause interference with someone else's system. Receivers don't transmit anything. They just sit passively and listen. There was no need to turn off your receivers. By doing so, you just made everyone think it was your fault. Like you said, it didn't change anything. I suspect that if you had not assumed it was you and went around shutting down your wireless, no one would have even considered you to be at fault, and somewhere, on a church sound guy forum, he would be telling his tale of embarrassment, instead.

Now, your TRANSMITTERS could be on the same - or at least very near - a wireless frequency being used by the house sound system which would cause exactly what you are describing. I have seen it happen more than once. The only cure for that is to turn off one of the transmitters (either yours or the house's), and if that is impossible, turn off the channel in the house that has the house mic plugged in which is picking up the interference. That means from that point on, the house would not be able to use that mic, but that's just how it goes in a live situation sometimes. That what a sound guy is for, is to find that problem and shut off the channel. That is not your responsibility.

Obviously, the best solution would have been for you and the house guy to collaborate before-hand to make sure you didn't overlap on your frequencies. That part is your responsibility. But once the live event has begun, there is nothing you can do, and it is his job to eliminate the bad sound in HIS system. Perhaps it was partly your fault for not checking for overlap before the ceremony, but it was his fault for not stopping the problem once it was live.

If I understand your post correctly, you turned off 3 receivers and 2 transmitters. If that is correct, then that third mic could have been the culprit. If you got all your mics turned off, or if there was no third mic, or if the sound persisted even a moment beyond the click of the third off switch, then it had nothing to do with you.

But, all in all, I laughed and I cried when I read your post. If you lived anywhere near me, I would buy you one of those Corona's in commiseration.

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Last edited by Vence Vida; April 18th, 2007 at 09:38 AM. Reason: Clarity
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Old April 18th, 2007, 04:41 PM   #13
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Thanks Vence! I'll drink one tonight in your honor!

One of the wireless' I had consisted of one receiver and 2 transmitters (groom & minister). When that God awful noise came across the speakers, I freaked and panicked. I turned off my receiver on that camera and then quickly shut the other one off on the other.

It's amazing that when we did the sound check with EVERYTHING about 60 minutes BEFORE the wedding even started, everything was PERFECT. I was 10 feet off the ground because things were going so well.

And then Murphy steps up to the plate... :)

The good news is that the bride is VERY understanding... and it almost sounds like she could care less. She figured, and in her own words, it was 'the church's crappy speaker system.' She even mentioned something similiar with cellphones and blackberries causing the same interference.

Whatever the case, I appreciate everyone's understanding and comments on the subject.

If you hadn't bought stock in Corona before last Friday night... YOU SHOULD HAVE.
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