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

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Old July 8th, 2007, 02:03 AM   #1
Inner Circle
Join Date: Jun 2007
Location: Belgium
Posts: 9,064
chat box

I build myself a chatbox 6 months ago specifically for weddings, it's a 170(cm) by 60 by 60 box containing a videocamera (an old sony vx700) a harddiskrecorder and a lcd screen.
The guests can see themselves and talk to it. Once I prepared the box and set it into record mode it records continiously untill I pick it up again the next morning when the party is over. The 160gb harddiskrecorder can record up to 55hours of footage.
I use a hauppage pvr card to attach the harddiskrecorder to my pc and get the images in and then just fastforward untill I see someone apperaring, rewind a bit and use the happauge included software to record to my pc in mpeg.
Editing is done with womble which is an mpeg editor capable of making dvd menus as well, rendering is not necessary since it is allready in mpeg.

After all these months though I'm getting doubts wether I should continue using this, in the past I wanted to have some kind of best wishes included into the dvd but asking the people with your camera right in their faces doens't give natural reactions, people often "freeze" in front of a camera.
On the other hand with such an unmanned camera people react the oposite way.

The box is heavy duty and everything is protected quite well, the lcd screen is covered with a plexi glass but only the camera lens is free, I didn't protect it with a plexi glass yet because it gives a reflection on the lens.

The problem I have is that people can't behave when there is no one around, I have a sign on the box that says they can't touch the camera's lens and what do they do...right, putting their fingers on the lens, kissing the lens and last night somebody pushed the camera out of its dove tailed plate so the camera rolled over on it's side. Last week somebody crawled on the box to look into the camera from above which lookes cool I suppose. They hold burning cigarettes just in front of the lens, they put their full beer glasses on the top of the box (On the top of the box a part is covered with a mesh to provide a way for the heat in the box to escape), imagine a glass falling and the beer dripping on the dvdrecorder.

Untill now my customers were only charged for the rental of the box but I didn't include any "security fee" (Don't know if that's the correct word for it but its an amount they get back if there is no damage to the box)
I know it's stupid I didn't think of that before and for the bookings for this year I can't change it anymore.
I was seriously considering just renting it further this year but then just discontinue using it, at first I thought it would be a good "option" to the weddings I film and actually it proved to be very popular. Only I get real frustrated during editing when I see how people treat the chatbox. Filming and editing weddings I really like, it's something I completely control because I'm holding the camera. With the box it's not and editing shouldn't be frustrating, right?

Does anyone use something similar here and what are your experiences?
Noa Put is offline   Reply With Quote
Old July 8th, 2007, 10:52 AM   #2
Inner Circle
Join Date: Feb 2007
Location: Apple Valley CA
Posts: 4,866
are you nuts? Just kidding, sounds like you put a lot of effort into this high risk (for you) set up... great idea, but...

I'd pull the plug on the thing before it gets damaged/destroyed. From what you say, it's surprising it hasn't been already (or stolen!). Leaving gear unattended is just asking for trouble.

You'd be better to adopt a different approach - personally I've found using an "interviewer" from the wedding party or family (find the "life of the party", there's always ONE <wink>), and hand them a wireless (full size mic preferred), hit "the street" (the reception venue), and do 'man on the street' style interviews. It'll feel more natural than trying to talk to a guy behind a cam (and that disembodied voice on the tape is weird), and if the interviewer is a personable, you'll get some great stuff!

Just be sure to figure out when there are natural breaks in the action, and try to use those to your advantage to ge as many guests as you can.


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Old July 8th, 2007, 02:01 PM   #3
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Location: Miami, FL
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Hey, Dave, that sounds like a great idea. I might have to consider trying that. I'll bet people would talk more readily with that approach.

As for the chat box, I've not done that, but based on the experiences you've had so far I'd probably consider myself lucky and just quit while I was ahead.
Black Label Films
Travis Cossel is offline   Reply With Quote
Old July 8th, 2007, 03:58 PM   #4
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Yep Travis, it works like a charm! The only trick is picking an outgoing member of the family/wedding party - fortunately they're usually easy to spot...

When someone comes up acting like jay leno, or a news reported and asks "do you have anything to say to the happy couple" (insert a few planned Q's here)... it's only the most shy who will refuse! Then you do the "COPS chase down" just for fun...

Even a cheap wireless usually comes with a usable "stick" mic that looks like a "real" mic, and you're not more than a few feet from them, so it's usually easy to get good audio even at a reception with loud music... Keep headphones on and don't forget to plug/unplug the wireless receiver if you're covering the rest of the reception where you may need ambient sound!
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Old July 9th, 2007, 04:59 PM   #5
Inner Circle
Join Date: Jun 2007
Location: Belgium
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The interviewer trick is what is done most in front of the box, I almost see that at every wedding when they hold a "invisible" microphone and ask people the most silly questions. So you definetely got a point there.
I have a zoomh4 which can serve as a wireless voice recorder as well so I might give your suggestion a go the following weeks. Thanks for the tip!
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