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Old December 27th, 2014, 08:22 PM   #1
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Options for filming processional

Since I started filming weddings a few years ago I've tried some different strategies for filming the processional but I haven't really felt like any of them worked as well as I would like. For my first two years of weddings I shot on Panasonic HMC150s which had power zoom. For the processional I would place a step stool near the front of the sanctuary but off to the side by about 10-15 feet from the aisle. The camera would be on my Manfrotto 561BHDV-1 monopod on a box in front of the step stool and raise it all the way up in order to see over the heads of guests when the bride enters. When the bride walked down the aisle with her father, I was able to get up high enough that even when people stood up I could see the upper 1/4 of the brideís body while panning and zooming out as she walked forward.

However, I switched to a C100 this year so none of my lenses have power zoom. When I made the switch this year, I decided to place myself at the front of the aisle on my knees so that I could get a somewhat low angle shot of the subjects walking toward me. Using the C100 with continuous AF I was able to keep the subjects in focus and the shot looked pretty decent. For most of the weddings this worked well. Unfortunately, I had two occasions where the officiant got irritated that I was at the front of the aisle, and on the most recent occasion he had someone walk around and ask me to move.

I would rather not try my first technique with the monopod off to the side because I donít have power zoom and even when I did I would often get lots of heads in my shot which wasnít ideal. Iíve read about some people placing themselves in one of the pews (or sets of chairs) about 4-5 rows from the front of the ceremony. They said they would get right up to the aisle and peek their camera out to get their shot. Iím wondering if anyone has tried to use a monopod or tripod while sitting in this location? If so, have you had any luck or was it too conspicuous?

Does anyone have any suggestions on any other places where I can be in order to get a good shot without disrupting the service/upsetting the officiant?

My plan is to ask all the officiants ahead of time whether they have any restrictions and to use their feedback to help decide where to be. However, if they say that they wonít let me sit in the pews or at the front of the aisle then Iím not sure where I can be in order to get a good shot.
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Old December 27th, 2014, 09:19 PM   #2
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Re: Options for filming processional

Hi Michael, I can't improve on your suggestions, and I think your step stool option is a really interesting one. It would mean you could smoothly cover the hand-off as well as the entry. Only issue is not getting a full-length of the outfit.

I've pretty much always shot crouching on one side at the front of the aisle, and never been told off. The photographer tends to crouch at the other side. The advantage of crouching is you're not blocking anyone's view. The disadvantage is that it can be a mad scramble to get out of the way and catch anything of the handover (I'm relying on whatever other videographer or assistant I'm working with to get this).

Other options:

-- For a rare wedding I might be standing behind the celebrant slightly to one side (eg, Greek orthodox tends to lend itself to this for some reason). You get processional and hand-off beautifully, you could get a powerful over-the-shoulder from groom's point of view, and you're guaranteed to be all over any wide shot that anyone is shooting from the audience's side.
-- You might be able to steadicam-follow her, either directly behind her as she walks down, which is guaranteed to make the photographer your friend, unless you're crouching and she has a huge dress, or through the audience via a side aisle, where you'll likely get blocked by the crowd.
-- If you don't feel you need to show her face, then you've got lots of options. From the back of the church up high. From back of church on a slider move. From a balcony at back or front or side of church. I've never relied on these sorts of shots, but, frankly, I don't think brides would necessarily mind too much if you did...
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Old December 27th, 2014, 09:23 PM   #3
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Re: Options for filming processional

We always check with the church to see if they will allow us up front. In the past what we always did was have a guy on the side who did "panning" shots following the folks as they came in. Then when it came time for the bride, he would dismount and run to the front and get her coming down the aisle.

Meanwhile in the back. that camera was focused on the "door" and was able to get her coming through and depending on the distance between that cam and the rear pew, some of her going down the aisle initially... giving the other guy enough time to run down and frame something up.

After watching the Ray Roman seminar, I began setting up an unmanned camera (Canon HV40) up front somewhere as best possible to get a center aisle shot. This camera placement varies, but is generally a straight on center shot that is designed to be a safety shot in case none of us is able to get her.

Moving forward for 2015, I'm going to be really pushing to be allowed down front for through the handoff.

I've had a couple weddings where I was down front, but off to the side, and was able to get some amazing shots at the father daughter hand off etc. I think it's worth pushing for if it can be done discretely to some degree.

I really now prefer the "straight on" look for everyone coming down, as opposed to the left or right side panning motion.
KR Productions; www.kyleroot.com
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Old December 28th, 2014, 02:29 AM   #4
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Re: Options for filming processional

It's probably the most maddening shot any of us have to deal with. There are so many damn variables working against us, from logistics to fussy church coordinators and officiants and so on. Not to mention the whole tradition itself. Why is everybody standing up anyway? I know it's in reverance to the bride, but only the people on the aisle can get a really good view of her that way. If everybody remain seated, then everybody could have a great view of her (including us!).

It does seem that some of the Jewish weddings I've done, the people did not stand up. But I don't know if that's a tradition or not as I haven't done enough of them to know if that's the norm or just the exception.
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Old December 28th, 2014, 03:07 AM   #5
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Re: Options for filming processional

I often wonder how much damage churches do to their own wedding revune stream when they place restrictions on photographers or videographers. I edited one wedding recently where the videographer was told in no uncertain terms to film from the balcony at the back of the church! No go pro s in pots. No unnamed in pews. Just balcony shots from the back.

This particular videographer is on of the best I edit for so he slapped on his 70 200, arranged his other cameras on wide, and area specific, then used the zoom to capture as much as possible. Fortunately it all turned out okay, although there was a slight remote feeling to this edit.

Now if I was the videographer and another couple came to me and mentioned the same church, I'd probably tell them the problems thy would have, I might even advise them to look for another church.
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Old December 28th, 2014, 07:32 AM   #6
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Re: Options for filming processional

One great thing about most of the churches we work here in the U.S. is lots of space, and those side aisles.

I'm partial to putting a camera in back, just off to the side usually, pre-focused on the groom. Camera #2 is on tripod in the side aisle (bride's side), and is far enough forward for a great view of the groom. Camera #3 is me, on a monopod (Canon 70D), crouched at the front, with the ability to shoot down the aisle, or turn and get the heroic look up at the groom shot, or get parents.

All 3 cameras are on the same side of the aisle so we stay out of each others shots.

Once the bride is 2/3 up the aisle, monopod camera #3 retreats back towards the side aisle enough for a good view of the hand-off. Once that's done, I take off all the way around the back to my main position, up front side aisle on the groom's side.
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Old December 29th, 2014, 10:16 AM   #7
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Re: Options for filming processional

I have a couple of churches that are on my black list and I would refuse to film in them again with the same officiant.

what I do is have an unmanned camera high at the front on the bride's side, my main camera (Sony EA50) on a tripod on the groom's side getting a medium shot of the groom (framed so it leaves room for the hand off) and I get in a pew on the groom's side near the back with a Handycam and track the wedding party as they pass - does the trick, then I scoot down a side aisle to the front and take control of my main camera.

Complications set in when there is no room for a tripod so I have to use a monopod and where there is no side aisle!

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