Advice For Wedding Videographerscompiled by John Beale 1999-2005
(If you're planning your own wedding, try my Wedding Video FAQ)
You've got a camcorder or two and you're getting into wedding videography, or perhaps a friend or relative has asked you to shoot their ceremony. With a prosumer-level camera and sound gear, you have in theory the equipment to shoot good quality video. Whether it turns out that way in practice depends on your preparation, familiarity with the gear, and technique, as well as factors like ambient light and the access you are permitted. Suggestions online can be useful, but there is no substitute for experience. It makes sense to work as an apprentice to an established videographer to gain that experience, before the responsibility to capture a once-only event rests on your shoulders alone. That said, the following wedding videography tips may help you with this task. They were posted to the TRV900 mailing list and Vegas Forum and are reprinted here by permission.
You might want to join the Wedding and Event Videographers' Association. See their website at weva.com. WEVA gives you a good deal for your $100. They have an annual convention, WEVA Expo. They have a bimonthly magazine, with equipment reviews you can trust and lots of ads for used gear. They have group rate insurance for liability, theft, and errors and omissions. They have a credit card merchant program that's easier and cheaper than most commercial offers. And they have a lot of this stuff on their web site, accessible to members only.
Also, check out the Wedding Videography forum at videouniversity.com. For ideas on camera techniques, check out "Advanced Broadcast Camera Techniques" instructional videotape at elitevideo.com.
Lights: Use as little as possible. Most churches won't allow you to use any additional lights. At the reception, a 50W on-camera light with a dimmer should be sufficient. Anything more than this, and all the people on-camera will be squinting, holding their hands over their eyes, or maybe lynching the cameraman.
Microphones: I like wireless, but I also carry a shotgun mike as a backup. If the wireless goes bad, I can plug in the shotgun in a couple of seconds and carry on. Sometimes, I also place a hard-wired PZM "flat" mic right between the couple and the priest. This can be a secondary backup, or feed a second or third camera.
Place the wireless mic on the groom. If you have more than one, a second mic can be placed on the priest, or at a speakers podium if there is another reader in the ceremony. Get a wireless mic with multiple channel selections, or get more than one mic, on different channels. You want to have an alternative if your first choice is full of radio interference.
At the reception, I just go with the on-camera mic, except for interviews. For those, I use a handheld wireless. Other places for a wireless mic at the reception is on the best man, for the toast; on the mike stand at the head table; or piggy-backed on the DJ's microphone.
For wireless equipment, the accepted industry leader is Lectrosonics, but they are very expensive. The new Azden and Samson UHF diversity systems seem well suited to small cameras like the 900, and at around $500 are less than a quarter of the cost of a Lectrosonics unit. The Azden has 63 selectable channels, but the receiver is pretty big and heavy to go onto a 900.
I've had surprisingly good results from my little VHF non-diversity Azden WMS-PRO mike, considering its $150 cost; but it does suffer from noticeable hiss and occasional dropout. Several industrial videographers of my acquaintance use the Sony 800 series UHF equipment, and consider it reliable.
Quickie advice for those about to embark on shooting their first wedding video singlehanded. In no particular order, here's tom's top ten tips.
OK, I'll toss in my $.02 on this with a "must get" shot list for a wedding.
1. Bride and bridesmaids dressing (keep it G rated!)
2. Exterior church.
3. Wedding party arriving at church.
4. Continuous roll of ceremony, from prior to bride's entrance to the
couple's walk down the aisle at the end. Ideally, use two cameras. Place
one in the back third of the church. Start the other handheld, positioned
on the bridesmaids' side of the aisle at the altar steps. Shoot the
procession. After the bride arrives, move to a tripod placed behind the
officiant and on the groom's side. This gives the best shot of the bride
during the vows. This MUST be coordinated and cleared with the officiant,
which is why it's necessary to attend the rehearsal.
5. Any special touches in the ceremony, like a solo song, unity candle
6. Reaction shots of bride and groom's families.
7. Take video during the photographer's formal posed shots.
7a. If you can, stage a reenactment of the ring ceremony. Get a good
closeup of rings being slipped onto fingers.
8. Wedding party leaving church.
9. Wedding party arriving at reception (this'll take some good planning and
fast driving on your part!)
10. Bride and groom entering reception.
11. First dance.
12. Mom's dance with the groom.
13. Dad's dance with the bride.
14. Best man's toast.
15. Cake cutting.
16. Garter toss.
17. Guest book signings.
18. Special dances and ceremonies at the reception.
19. Interviews with guests.
20. Interview with the bride and groom.
21. Cutaways - cake, presents, decorations, flower arrangements, the DJ or
band,etc. Get a copy of the wedding announcement, and anything like
souvenir napkins, etc. for later copystand work.
22. Guests saying goodbye.
DON'T shoot: People eating. Too many backs of heads. People backlit by windows. Drunks. (this becomes harder later in the day. If necessary, shoot the drunk and edit him or her out later).
Also, pick up a copy of Elite Video's "Advanced Broadcast Camera Techniques" video. John Cooksey has some great ideas on how to liven up your shooting.
Interviews at a wedding are a real art. I'm not very good at it; in general, I just have the guests pass around the mike and ask them to "say a few words to the happy couple". If you remember 'em, some good leading questions to ask might be,
Or you can use a different tack. For example, have your assistant take the mike and become a cheerleader. "Who's the prettiest girl at the party?!" Table response, lifiting glasses in salute: "SUE!" It all depends on your own judgement of what's good material, and what the client will like.
- What can you tell me about how Bill and Sue met?
- What did you feel when you learned they were engaged?
- What do you think Bill should do to keep Sue happy?
- Where do think Bill and Sue will be ten years from now?
- What do you think Sue loves most about Bill?
When interviewing the bride and groom, I do it individually, rather than together. I ask each of them the same questions:
Then I cut the responses together. The juxtaposition of the two viewpoints can be funny, touching, or poignant.
- How did you meet?
- Tell me how the relationship deepened and grew.
- When did you first know Tim was the "one"?
- Tell me about how you (he) proposed?
- What are your plans for the future?
I always remind my on-camera folks to answer any questions in a complete sentence. For example, if I ask "What's your name?", I don't want "Joe". I want "My name is Joe". That way, I can edit out my questions and the response is complete in itself.
I have a PD-100, the 900's pro fraternal twin and I've shot several weddings just this summer. I do not use a tripod as the disruption to the shot as I attach and re-attach the camera is just not acceptable.
I use a monopod (Manfrotto 3249B) all of the time. I find that the pod, when compressed, acts as a stabilizer and makes moving the camera a very smooth operation and when needed extending it is very easy.
The PD-100 came with a wide angle adaptor and I use it constantly.
The flip out LCD screen is always in use with a Hoodman shade keeping out most ambient light including the sun's. You can make a shade with poster board (black) and tape.
Shoot for edit without a lot of B-Roll.
I have a shotgun mic and it does a good job getting the minister, bride and groom IF I'm able to get within 20-25 feet and shoot the couple's faces. Wear a headset. I like the Sony Walkman types with tiny earphone speakers that insert sideways into your ears.
Get everyone you can to give their wishes for the bride and groom straight to camera and shoot these whenever possible. They should appear randomly throughout the video. Make sure to change to a fresh tape before the ceremony begins so that you're not trying to switch tapes during the "I Do's". Stay sober. It's amazing what you forget to do after drinking a few brewskis.
The DJ or wedding coordinator should let you know what is happening next, but stay alert. They may not tell you.
I've been interviewed quite a few times, and yes there is definitely an art to it. The secret is *not* to interview the person, but to talk / chat to them whilst filming. That might sound the same, but the key is to make the interviewee relax and talk naturally, otherwise it sounds terribly stilted and fake. As soon as you point a camera at someone, they normally totally lose their ability to talk in a natural and relaxed manner. Also, never use the word "interview".
These are just my opinions on the best techniques, but don't get the interviewee to look into the camera - they're not a presenter. Put the camera on a tripod, start recording, switch off the little record LED (in the menu) so the interviewee doesn't have a constant reminder that they're being recorded, and then position yourself to the right / left of the camera and just start chatting to them. If you absolutely must be behind the camera, get a second person / friend to do the chatting. Use any strategy to get them to relax, and then introduce the questions you really want to ask into the conversation. Remember you can always edit out your own voice. It might take 10 minutes before they really start to forget they're being filmed, and that's when you'll get the best material - worth losing 10 mins of tape over. It's also better to interview them later in the day when all the stress of the wedding is behind them, and they've started to relax quite a lot. Of course, you don't want them drunk, so chose your moment carefully. Actually, you could interview them before the actual ceremony if you can somehow arrange it, to get that "How do you feel right now?" question in.
I take a lot of wedding video with the TR900 and a TRV-9 for the night vision when the food is marching in (Singapore style , place is pitch dark when food comes)
To get more fun out of the interviews without you saying a word just flip the LCD toward the audience and zoom in on a person's face, that would force them to say hello , or something, its very interesting how people will react when surprised but then knowing that a camera is zooming in on them has no choice but to start acting in 30 seconds..
A quick remembrance and some thoughts...
When I first got my TRV900 I wanted to try it out right away and got a friend of mine to go with me to a local safeway where we spent the next 30 minutes going around to various shoppers and spot interviewing them. I would make up some inane question... "What do you look for in a potato chip" or "how do you tell the ripe oranges". I even talked a meat department guy into letting us into the "back" of the butcher area with the camera so we could look around and take video. It was very, very fun and everyone in the store was nice to us. Even the poor cashier who checked us out (we bought juice) on video. It was her first day.
In each case, I walked up to someone, with my cameraman
pointing the camera away
and down towards the floor, and said, very confidently, "Hi, my name is
Birrane and I'm a film student at Loyola College and we just got a new
equipment (point to camera, which comes up and starts to film them) and
breaking it in. Today we are asking grocery store shoppers what ....
One woman responded, "I think I don't like being on video tape" and I responded, "Oh, that's totally ok. Nothing to be shy about, now, when you pick oranges,..." and she smiled, and talked to me for 10 minutes about oranges. Also, and this may be an ethics thing, I wasn't a film student at Loyola. I just wanted some home footage to test out my new camera, but it made people think they were helping me, and I think for interviews, that is important.
When I do weddings (not so many so far, just 3 or 4) I go to each table before people start eating, (although if they are in the middle of dinner, when someone with a camera approaches and stoops down next to them, they do tend to look up...) and I say
"Hi, My name is Ed and I am doing the video for <...>'s wedding. When I do wedding videos, I like to go to each table and ask people for their thoughts on their wedding and advice on happy marriages for <...>, because they will love to see and hear what you have to say when they view this later on. People sometimes talk about what they were thinking when they heard <...> got engaged, their first impressions of <.> or <..>, advice to keep the marriage happy, childhood stories, anythying at all. Why don't I start at this end of the table and go around."
I have hundreds of people on tape from just 4 weddings. Maybe out of 4 weddings, 10 people have said "no thank you" and actually have meant it. So, my advice would be:
1) Always introduce yourself.
2) Always say what your are filming and why.
3) Always say what you expect this person to be saying when they are on film (most people get nervous because they don't know what to say).
4) Never let there be these pregnant pauses because that lets people get in a "no thank you". The first time I usually let people speak is when the video camera is on and they know what they are supposed to be talking about.
5) Always be polite. You _can_ do the above _and_ not be intrusive. Smile a lot, be confident, talk at a good pace, but not too fast, and make a lot of eye contact.
6) Have good body language that says this is cool to be doing, and that these people being on film is the right thing to do. Don't act apologetic, as if you are interrupting. you aren't interrupting, you are giving these people a fantastic opportunity.
7) If possible, make people think they are helping you or those they care about. For a wedding, they are actually helping the bride. For a reunion, they are helping their classmates, especially if you say you are "thinking" of distributing the video. At a grocery store, they were "helping me" break in my equipment.
8) "No" means "I am scared of being on video, that I won't look good, won't know what to say, or that my words will be twisted." If/when you get a no, figure out which of the above the no means, and address it, and try again. I'll try up to 3 times before giving up. "You look fantastic on video, I'm shooting from a little above and am just getting a portrait shot; the colors on you for some reason are just vibrant in this light, I'd love a shot just like this to be in the video" or "all you have to do is look right here and say 'congradulations' and maybe tell that story of when Dr. Fish forgot the answer to his own homework problem.'" or even "I'm going to use this all as one single clip, no editing between when you start talking and when you are finished, I promise. Now, let's begin.."
9) Another way of looking at these things is that people say no in response to "reactance". Pick up a good social psychology textbook and look up reactance. There was a great study done at MIT maybe in the 70's that was gauged towards minimizing this negative reactance. One was to get people to laugh, which is why every politician these days starts his speech with a joke. But some others: citing published works, (like this bullet #9), being confident in speech, not using "um" or "er", maintaining eye contact, etc... really DO put people at ease and give you more access.
I have found that a confident attitude and a camera can get you into a lot of places (say, the back of the butcher section at a safeway) whereas a nervous attitude and a camera can get you alot of anger. People get angry at cameramen because they are afraid of something, and the more you can do to suppress that fear and be a 30 second safe friend, the more interviews you will get, is my bet.
Here is a tip: during speeches, the speaker often refers to a member or members of the wedding party. I know you can shoot a cutaway later for insertion at edit, but I prefer the actual reaction to the comment. I do a whip pan to the person or persons referred to, stay on the shot for a good time and then whip back to the speaker. Then during the edit I cut out the whip pans and slow-mo the person or persons to fill the hole and allow me to return to the speaker in sync. I use this also during the service to catch the start of hymns, although a second cam on weddings is easier.
Perhaps others may benefit from a debriefing of my first wedding. Here goes:
Wedding was for a friend. I quoted absolute minimum price, AU$550, knowing that this would only cover my labour for the day, a bit of editing time and the cost of tapes and stuff but the bride had said I could use it for promotion and I needed the experience.
I thought the editing would take me two weeks of a couple of hours each night. Well it took about 2 months or more , including some whole weekends. This was because I wanted it absolutely perfect and I had to try to work with footage that I had taken without the editing process in mind. I was so nervous that I shot a bit here then ran around and shot a bit there. I cut off sentences and whole scenes trying to be conservative with DV tape and subsequent hard disk space.
The camera was new and I had not had it long. I was not game to take it out of AUTO mode except for white balance. Well I got that wrong since some of the scenes of the bride being photographed outside had a blue tinge and some indoor stuff had an orange tinge.
I can't tell whether the sound was any good since there wasn't any. Not quite true, there was sound just not the sound I needed. It would have been nice to actually hear the bride and groom exchange vows but since I didn't have a wireless mic or even a shot-gun and didn't want to be in the couple's face with a camera I had to settle for some nice, post added, music. The sound for the speeches was no better. All this is different now since I have invested in a wireless and a shot-gun mic and head-phones. Even if I had used head-phones I would have known to get closer. It was all very hit and miss now that I look back.
My advice, if you're doing a wedding and don't have the $s to get good mics, is to consider renting them, borrow a mini disc recorder or even a cassette recorder.
To spite all of this the newly married couple absolutely loved their video. They bought 8 extra copies at AU$20 each.
Thanks for The Memories.
by Tom Hardwick
Oct 18, 2001
Remember that the client pays you lots of money (hopefully) yet receives little in return. He's handed a VHS (or two, or twenty). So remember that packaging is very very important, OK?
Firstly, hunt out large hubbed VHS for any film less than 90 mins. I like the chizzled look of Fuji blanks, but others have fancy blue tinted windows and there are pure white ones for wedding films. You want to surprise and delight them remember.
Use the centre label space to title the tape, date it, say if it's PAL or NTSC, Hifi, and give the film's running time. Use the spine label to clearly identify the tape so that when it's in the jaws of the VCR it's obvious from 5 metres what's on the tape. Break off the safety tab.
Now to the plastic box. There's good and bad to be had here as in all walks of life. Posh cases close nicely, don't have wrinkly PVC covers and have a beautifully produced full colour paper insert, designed and printed by you. It has a frame enlargement that typifies the tape's contents, and on the rear cover it describes what's in store, just like the back of a paperback.
Put your contact details on the insert sheet and repeat the info (above) that you've put on the centre label. You've got to feel proud as you hand over the tape, and this means no hand written scrawl, no cheapo tapes, no cardboard sleeves.
Note from Marilynn (10/19/01): Art Leather carries very classy, well-made albums, but they're priced accordingly. A good choice for your top-of-the-line package. Look at Everything Video's Library line for nice leather albums that, while not as fine as Art Leather's, are an attractive and affordable alternative.
by John Beale
This topic generated quite a bit of discussion on the TRV900 mailing list when it came up, where I believe there were two main points of view. On one hand were newcomers and hobbyists who work for little or nothing, either to establish credentials or just for fun. On the other hand, established professionals who felt that low rates adversely affected their business, and that clients were taking advantage of those who charged lower than the average local market rate. Speaking just for myself, the first few jobs I did I charged a very nominal fee since I had not yet proven I could do a quality job. After I got very positive feedback from my clients, I decided I could reasonably charge a closer approximation to a professional rate.
By the way, if you are known to be interested in photography or video, it is not uncommon to be asked to photograph or video a wedding for a friend. From my own and other's experience, if you are to do a quality job at this, it means you'll be working nearly all the time, and will not really experience the event as a guest. Make your plans accordingly. (Also, if you are not confident of your skills, consider if your friendship would be adversely affected in the event of a disappointing product.)
Prices vary by region (metro area rates are often higher than rural), by complexity of the job, equipment and personnel needed, and the experience of the videographer(s). While at first glance, professional rates may seem high, I believe that wedding videos really benefit from good wireless mics, excellent low-light camera performance, two or more cameras, and competent editing. Not to mention specific experience in working with this gear under pressure. All of this costs money (and time) to provide.
Just to throw out some numbers I have seen in newsgroups, forums, and mailing lists, professional event videographer "day rates" (eg. 10 hour day) might run from $250 at the low end, to $600 and up. Rates are higher when you provide a lot of additional equipment (lighting, backdrops, sound) as compared with just running the camera. Of course operating the camera is only the first part of the job, a typical wedding video may take weeks to edit. Pro editing by itself can run $50 or more an hour, but if you are not yet experienced with your editing system, you'll probably be inefficient, in which case that hourly rate wouldn't be reasonable.
In the S.F. Bay Area in 2004, I have seen an amateur (no wedding experience) ask $600, and many 2-camera professional services asking $1500 - $2000 for the edited project on DVD. The highest package I have seen advertised locally is $8k for a multi-cam high-definition package with "everything and the kitchen sink". I have heard $10,000 mentioned second-hand, but I have no idea what that entails. You might get more accurate pricing numbers by asking videographers in your area about their rates.
by John Beale
July 18, 2004
I did video for two weddings in Summer 2004, both for friends. My goal was to do an excellent job, while still being at least partly a wedding guest. As expected, I was 100% videographer at the ceremony, and maybe 50% at the reception. These notes are as much for myself as anyone else, but you may find them useful if you do similar jobs.
Despite what might be inferred from these notes, both weddings went well and I was able to produce a good quality video presentation from them. Had I been focused 100% on video at the reception, I could have caught some more details and done more interviews. (On the other hand, many videographers do not even offer interviews, on the theory that guests don't want to be disturbed.) The most important thing is to keep a cool head, and allow yourself time to think. Do not underestimate the amount of planning and thought needed to get a good record of a one-time-only event that is never fully rehearsed. Keep your well-prepared gear checklist and event-time checklist handy. Make sure you communicate all relevant information to anyone assisting you; in writing where possible. Don't assume they will bring printouts of your emails.