Maintaining a low profile

One difference between the today’s videographers (well most of them) and those of 10 or 20 years ago, is that we pride ourselves on maintaining a low profile. We work hard to make sure that we record the day while being inconspicuous. Good photographers do the same (especially with the “wedding photojournalism” style which is popular today). Everyone is different in how they maintain that low profile. Here are a few things that we do:

At the ceremony:

Except for the processional and recessional, we usually keep our cameras on tripods at all times. Two cameras are on the side aisles, and one in back. The tripods are not moved unless the view of the bride or groom is blocked.We dress in dark clothes. This makes us less conspicuous both on tape and to the guests.Minimize movement. While two videographers and three cameras means that some movement is necessary, we keep it to a minimum.Make sure that everything is set up prior to the start of the ceremony. This way we aren’t running around trying to “fix something”.

NO LIGHTS! This goes without saying. No videographer with modern equipment ever needs additional lighting for a wedding with the possible exception of a candlelight service. The reception is another matter (see below).

We always introduce ourselves to the officiant before the ceremony, let him or her know where we will be, and ask if there are any restrictions.Of course at a non-church wedding we may modify the rules. But always with the idea of maintaining a low profile.

At the Reception:

As mentioned above we do not use lights at the ceremony. This is usually not advisable at most reception venues. These are almost always dimly lit. While our cameras have excellent low light ability, they can’t see in the dark. As the lights go down, so does the quality of the picture. I have made the mistake in the past of thinking that I would get an acceptable image in dim light, and have been disappointed (as has my client). So now unless the reception hall is well lit, I use a light. That light however is small (only 10 watts) and doesn’t have much range, but it is enough to produce quality video.

No table interviews. We have never done these, and never will. Many people dislike having someone shove a microphone in their face and ask them to “say a few words” to the bride and groom. We do conduct inverviews upon request, but in another room off the main reception area. We have the DJ announce us, and those who want to say something are invited to come over and record their greetings.

Minimize posed shots. We leave formal photography to the photographer. Our job is to record the days as it unfolds, not to set up shots or direct the wedding party.

Professional conduct. We are always courteous and respectful. If someone doesn’t want the camera pointed at them, we make sure that it isn’t. We are there to work. We don’t party with the guests. The only food we eat is what has been arranged for us by the reception venue, and we never drink alcoholic beverages while working.

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The First Look

A couple of days ago I was on my way home from my weekday job. On my iPod I was listening to an interview with Robert Allen, a well known New Jersey videographer. As he described the importance of wedding video and why no one who has had one, has regretted it, my cell phone rang. On the other end was a bride who’s wedding we had done the previous month. I had just put her ceremony up on our website. This is something that we do with most of our clients so they can see their wedding ceremony weeks before the DVDs are delivered.

She told me how excited she was and how much she loved the ceremony video. I have had this reaction many times when a couple first sees their wedding. For me it is what this business is all about. Hearing a bride or groom’s compliment is worth more than the money that they paid me. Knowing that something that we did for them means so much to them. I have have clients tell me how they watch their video over and over. Not just the bride and groom, but their parents too. Some have said that their wedding video was something that they always watch when they are feeling down, or when their spouse is away. It really means a lot to them, and that means a lot to me.

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Finding a Videographer

Ok, you would like to have a video of your wedding. What do you look for in a videographer? Like with photographers, there are a wide range of styles, personalities, and prices. Lets take a look at each of these.

Style – First think of how you would like your wedding day story to be told.
Go on the Internet and visit as many wedding videographer’s sites as you can. They don’t have to be local, you are trying determine what type of video is meaningful to you. Look at samples clips on their sites. You may prefer a romantic approach, a fast paced “MTV style” video, or perhaps a no-frills documentary of the wedding. One thing to remember however, is that your wedding video will be viewed many years from now, by yourself, your children, and perhaps your grandchildren. So before deciding on something really contemporary, and cutting edge, think of how it will play twenty years from now.

Once you have an idea about what you are looking for, the next step is to narrow your search to local videographers (unless you have the funds to pay for out of town talent to fly in for your wedding). Again, use the Internet. But don’t stop there. There are some excellent videographers who do not have a web presence. Ask friends who had a wedding video made for recommendations. Photographers, reception venues, DJs and other vendors can also supply names. If your are having a church wedding, ask your pastor if he or she can recommend someone. In a church wedding it is important that the videographer (and photographer), be unobtrusive and respectful. If the church has had a good experience with a videographer, they will be happy to recommend them. This is also a good time to find out if your church has any restrictions on video. You wouldn’t want to hire a videographer and find out that video isn’t allowed during the ceremony. Church restrictions can also affect the style of video that can be made. If for instance, cameras are only allowed in the balcony, you might not be able to have the tight closeups of your vows that you will see in many demos.

Once you have narrowed the list down, the next step is to call or visit. Yes, call. While most videographers, myself included, are happy to book a client by e-mail, a phone call will tell you a lot more about them. It is important to get a feel for the personality of your videographer. He or she will be with you all day, from getting ready to the last dance. Think of it this way, would you invite them as a wedding guest? If you are not comfortable with that person, you don’t want to have them as your videographer. Also ask to see a complete wedding. Most of us have streaming video on our websites, usually short clips, not complete weddings. You want to see the whole package. If you are visiting a videographer at their studio, they will usually show you a full wedding right there. If you are calling, ask to have them mail you a sample, or to arrange to view a wedding at the studio (whatever they prefer).

Full-timer or part-timer? This is not as important as you might think. A large proportion of professional videographers (almost half in my market), do not have a full time video business (I am a part-timer myself). This does not make them any less capable or reliable. I know of onepart-time videographer in our area, who has probably won more artistic acheivement awards recently then anyone else in the country. What is important is that they love what they are doing. Most people who I know in this business, whether they are full or part time do. Seeing their work will tell you. Like any art form, the passion that the artist has for his or her craft is reflected in their work.

Price – I left this for last. While it is natural to ask about the price first, you should really look at a videographer’s work first. All couples have a budget, In most cases it is flexible. If you find someone whose work is astounding, but is a bit too expensive, think about stretching or reallocating some of your wedding funds. Remember, this is something that will be a family heirloom.

You can spend $500 for a wedding video. You can also spend $10,000. Do you get what you pay for. To an extent yes. I know of several high end videographers in our area who start at $5,000. Are they worth it. In their case yes. They do outstanding work. But if you don’t have that budget, don’t assume that you have to settle for mediocre work. A talented part-timer might produce a fantastic video for less, often a lot less. I for example, currently charge from $1700 to $2600. I can do that and still turn a profit because I don’t depend on my video business to pay the bills. As I work out of my home, I don’t have rent to pay on a studio. In addition I have no full-time employees. Just one assistant working as an independent contractor. In some cases people just starting out might even do a few of weddings for free to build up their porfolio. You take a chance with them, but if you are short on cash, it is often a good deal. You may be plesantly surprised. I did my first three weddings for free. All three couples loved their video, and I had my protfolio.

The price that you will pay also depends on where you live. Small towns typically are much less expensive than big cities. Another big price factor is whether you want a full package, or a no-frills video. For a few hundred dollars you can have someone turn up at your wedding with one camera and a microphone, and tape the ceremony and reception. The only editing will be in the camera. Some couples may be ok with this type of no-frills video. Just don’t expect a full package for this price (unless the videographer is just starting out). For full service companies the work has only started when the videographer packs up at the end of the night. Editing takes up most of the time spent producing the video. It is not uncommon for an editor to spend upwards of 40 to 60 hours on one full wedding package.

I haven’t talked about the technical aspects yet. We have to shoot in dark churches and reception halls with (in the case of churches), no supplemental lighting. We have no script. There are no retakes. What we do have is the knowledge and equipment to create the best possible product. This is reason enough to hire a pro. Another is audio. While we call ourselves “Videographers”, we are as much (if not more so) “Audiographers”. Try watching a television show with the sound off. Then try listening without watching. It is easier to follow the action by listening to the audio, than by watching the video. Most of us use tools such as wireless microphones, and multi-channel pickup to capture the best possible audio.

When evaluating a videographer’s product, watch and listen carefully. Is the video unsteady most the time? Does the color shift? Is the audio clear and understandable? We can’t achieve perfection technically, given the circumstances, but we strive for the best that we can do. As a few flaws are inevitable, you should judge the video on the following: Do technical flaws (bad video, audio, or poor edits) draw your attention. If they do, would it bother you if the flaws were in your video? Then you can decide whether this videographer’s product is acceptable technically.

In conclusion, decide what style suits you best, what you can afford, and most of all, decide on someone whom you can trust to retell your wedding story in a meaningful way.

Alan

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What Wedding Videography is (and isn’t)

When planning their wedding, most couples plan on having a professional photographer. A minority (about 25 – 30%) also hire a videographer. While photography is important, it only capture moments in time. While photography can capture an image of you saying your vows, only video will actually allow you to hear them. I am not saying that you shouldn’t have a photographer. You should. A photographer can create an album that you can look at anytime, anywhere. But only a video will allow you to relive the day in full motion video and sound.

Perhaps one reason that more couples don’t hire a videographer is that video is a newer medium. After all, weddings are all about tradition. It has been traditional to have photography for decades. Your parents probably had a photographer. But, they most likely didn’t have video. Until the 1980s, the equipment didn’t exist for producing videos at a resonable cost. If there was any moving imagery back then, it was most likely film. And few could afford that.

Even if your parents were married 25 years ago and had a videographer, the experience was quite different than today. Back then professional video cameras were large, heavy, and required a lot of light. As a result, videotaping a wedding often involved rolling the camera around on a dolly, and lighting up the church and reception hall with LOTS of light. The finished tape that the couple got was just the view from one or maybe two cameras, no extras, mediocre sound, and not very interesting. Editing was very limited, as computers at the time were not powerful enough to edit video.

Things began to change in the mid to late 90s. First computerized editing software began to appear. This allowed the editors to do what is called “non-linear editing”. I won’t go into the details, but I will say that this revolutionized how we edit, and opened up creative techniques that up to that time were only seen in Hollywood. In the late 90s the first digital cameras hit the market. These produced a better image, worked well in low light, reducing or even eliminating the need for additional lights, and were smaller. The third big thing was the DVD. For the first time we could deliver a product with the quality of the original camera tape.

So today in 2007, we create a product that is more of a small movie, beautifully photographed and edited, rather than a plain “video”. We use motion, music and sound in sophisticated ways that videographers could only dream of twenty years ago. We also are able through the sensitivity of our camera’s sensors, able to shoot without lighting in many situations (although most of us use a small, low power on-camera light in dim reception halls). This allows us to be unobtrusive. Many couples (as well as the clergy), have told me that they hardly knew I was there when I taped their wedding.

As our industry as matured, we have learned how blend in and record the day without drawing attention to ourselves. I would say that the average videographer as quieter then the average photographer. But that is for a reason. Photographers have to organize people, pose them, and get the formal shots. We want to record things as they happen, without people getting nervous because the camera is on them (although we do pose certain shots at times).

We as a group are very open and willing to share techniques with other videographers. Through local associations (The Greater Philadelphia Videographers Association in my area), and national organizations like WEVA (Wedding and Event Videographer Assn Intl), and the 4Ever Group, ideas are exchanged freely. We have several active Internet discussion boards where some of the legends of the industry are active contributers. This free exchange of information advances the state of the art, and makes everyone better at what they do. It also raises the bar. Every year the winning videos at the WEVA Creative Excellence Awards, are more amazing. If you haven’t seen wedding video in the last few years, you don’t know what can be done. We have some incredible talent in our business. People who could make a mark anywhere in the media, but choose weddings. They choose to do weddings because they love it. Working with real people on one of the most important and happiest days of the lives is a thrill that we never get over. There is also the aspect of being the creator. In Hollywood, no one (not even the director), is more than a small cog in a big movie making machine. We do it all. Camera, audio, editing and DVD production. From start to finish, it is all ours.Well, enough for now.

Until next time . . .

Alan

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Introductions

Welcome to the Wedding Video Blog. The purpose of this site is to be a source of information on the subject of wedding videography with the emphasis on the bride and groom. While we may at times discuss technical issues,the focus will be on the questions and concerns that a couple may have about about wedding video. 

First a few words about myself. I have been in the videography business for four years now, specializing in weddings. My company is Bonnie Blink Productions, located in West Chester, PA, about 30 miles west of Philadelphia. While I certainly want to promote my business through this blog, there is the greater purpose of educating the consumer. I really want to help you, the bride or groom decide on video, and help you choose the right videographer. There are no one size fits all videographers out there, at least not the good ones. Today, most of us go far beyond just taping your wedding and reception (although you can find no-frills service if you want to). Each of us has a specific artistic vision. You may prefer my style, or someone else’s. There is also the issue of cost. Wedding videography today can range anywhere from a few hundred dollers to over $10,000. I will get more into this in future posts. For now, let me say that I hope that you will bookmark this site and come back often. 

Alan Robinson