The Philadelphia Filmmakers Alliance – Now GPVA Again

Update – The Philadelphia Filmmakers Alliance is now the GPVA again and has returned to the format that was successful in the past.

For a number of years wedding videographers in the Philadelphia area have looked to the Greater Philadelphia Videographers Association for education and networking. The organization now has a new name and an expanded agenda. While wedding videography is still an important, the organization hopes to widen its appeal to filmmakers in other areas. This will benefit all of us as we will have an opportunity to learn from experts in other disciplines.

New article on video encoding

A couple of months ago I was asked by the publishers on Millimeter Magazine to write an article on video encoding as it relates to wedding videography. Since we use Sorenson Squeeze for encoding both web and iPod video, I described our work flow using that product. Here is a link to this article.

We are always happy to share our knowledge with others, something that many wedding videographers do (not too many competitive secrets in this industry). I think that this is one of the main reasons that wedding videography has come so far in a few short years, the exchange of knowledge.

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I am writing this from the annual Wedding and Event Videographer Association Expo in Orlando Florida. For the past few years I have been attending this conference regularly. I am here to learn new things from some of the finest wedding videographers in the world.
This year we are really seeing the shift toward HD. Up to now it seems that the majority of video companies were still not filming in HD. This year more than half are. We made the move to HD a few months ago and I am glad that we did.
I look at the style of some of the top videographers in the business and I realize that what sets them apart is more than just technical excellence, it is that they have a unique vision, one that sets them apart. What I take away from this is that while I can learn much from the masters, our style is still our own and that is what makes Bonnie Blink Productions unique. We cannot be everything to all people. Some couples love our style, others will prefer the work of others. We will continue to define our vision while incorporating the ideas that we get from the best in the business.

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June GPVA Meeting

The JuneĀ Greater Philadelphia Videographers Association meeting was held at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in King of Prussia, PA. Featured was a panel discussion on freelancing, how to be a freelance videographer, and how to hire freelancers.

Steve Newbert of All Occasion Video showed a portion of his new documentary about the American flag called The Color Bearers, The Story of America’s Flag Passion.

Joe Bradley received a well-deserved award for his service as GPVA treasurer.

After the meeting everyone went to Champps for dinner and discussion.

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April GPVA meeting

The April meeting of the Greater Philadelphia Videographers Association was all about business. George Alford of Pro Video and Photography in New Castle Delaware gave an excellent presentation on making a profit. It certainly made me think about keeping track of all my expenses, and adjusting our rates to maximize profit, while still being affordable. George also had some excellent tips on how to make a videography business stand out from the crowd.

Henry Franz moderated a forum on contracts. There were a number of excellent ideas passed around on how to write a better contract.

To cap of the evening, there was an online chat with John Zale of WEVA. John was in Las Vegas attending the NAB show and updated everyone on some of the new products being introduced there.

After the meeting everyone went to Chili’s for dinner and talk.

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GPVA March meeting

This week’s GPVA meeting featured I Do Stream, a company that markets a live video feed to the Internet. It is an interesting concept, You connect a camera via Firewire to a computer hooked to a broadband Internet connection. I Do Stream provides a way of allowing people anywhere to watch the feed live (or almost live). I don’t know how many wedding videographers will use it. We have enough trouble trying to get audio hookups at churches and reception halls to work without adding Internet connections, but at other more controlled venues live streaming video could be a reliable source of extra income.

GPVA member Joe Donato presented a very informative presentation entitled “How Ballroom Dancing Save My Videography Career”. Besides being a videographer, Joe also teaches ballroom dancing. He showed the audience how to apply dance concepts as a way of getting smoother handheld footage.

To cap of the evening, we had a surprise guest. Ron Dawson of Cinematic Studios in Cupertino CA, spoke via iChat from Las Vegas, where he is attending the WPPI Expo. WPPI is the organization of wedding photographers. Ron explained how he made a shift from wedding videography to corporate by producing videos for professional photographers. Ron is also well known in the blogging community and his talk at the WEVA Expo last summer on blogging is what got me going on this blog.

At the conclusion of the evening many of us headed up the street to Champps where a lively discussion of things video continued until past midnight.

The Next GPVA meeting will be held April 15, 2008 at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in King Of Prussia, PA. Go to the GPVA website for more information.

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Church restrictions and how we work with them

One issue that videographers have to work with is restrictions that are sometimes placed on us by churches. We want to cover your wedding ceremony in the best way possible. However we also need to be respectful of the fact that we are in a house of worship. Rule number one is always that we will abide by any any restrictions placed on us by the clergy or church wedding coordinator.

I always talk to the officiant and the church’s wedding coordinator before the ceremony. I let him or her know where our cameras are and what we will be doing during the ceremony. I then ask them what considerations that we should make to assure that we will be working within the guidelines of the church. Most clergy appreciate the fact that we talk with them as many photographers and videographers do not communicate.

This is also the time when I ask the officiant if we can place a microphone on him or her. If they object, we tell them that the bride and groom would really like to hear the words that they will be saying. This flatters them and more often than not, they agree to the microphone.

What if the officiant does not agree to allow us to cover the wedding properly. In this case we have little choice but to work within the guidelines set down by the church. We will do the best we can, but if we can only shoot from the back of the church, you can’t expect to have those wonderful closeups that you may have seen in our sample wedding videos.

Most of the time however, we are not restricted in a way that we will be unable to cover your wedding properly. You should talk to your minister or priest well before the wedding about having video. That way you will know about any restrictions. As I mentioned, we can often get some of these lifted just by talking to the officiant. They may have had a bad experience in the past and just want some reassurance that we will conduct ourselves in a respectful an professional manner.

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Being Unobtrusive

Too many couples today choose not to have a video of their wedding because they have heard “that it will be obtrusive”. Often this is because they heard a story from a friend or relative who had a bad experience in the past. Most of this comes from the 1980s and 90s. At that time cameras were less sensitive, and larger. So it wasn’t uncommon for the videographer to use large lights for their big shoulder mount cameras.

Today it is much different. Our cameras are smaller and much more sensitive. Videographers are more sensitive too. We know that it is your day, not ours.

Every videographer is different, but here are a few things that we do to maintain a low profile.

  • Minimal lighting. For wedding ceremonies we only use the light that is already there. This is true of most videographers today. While we usually have to use additional lighting at most reception locations (these are often very dark), this is usually a small (10 watt) light mounted on the camera.
  • Respect. We often encounter reluctance from the clergy about video during the wedding ceremony. This as mentioned above, is sometimes the result of a bad experience in the past. While we want to place our cameras where we can get the best shots, we always work within the limitations placed on us by the venue. This may mean filming from the balcony, or off to the side. Even when we don’t have any limitations, we prefer to have two of our three cameras tripod mounted at all times during the ceremony. The tripod mounted cameras stay put. The only time they are moved is if our view is blocked. During the ceremony we always keep our distance. That is what zoom lenses are for.
  • We wear dark clothing at a wedding. This doesn’t seem like it would do anything, but we have found that it really helps us to remain inconspicuous.
  • As videographers we do not have to interact with the wedding party as much as the photographer. So we will not pose people, or ask them to look at the camera. We prefer to work with the photographer when shooting formals rather than duplicate their efforts.
  • Speaking of photographers, it is important to know where they are and not get in their way. While I admit that I haven’t always been successful, I make sure that I maintain an awareness of the photographer’s location. I expect the same of them (only a few photographers have ever been a problem).
  • At the reception we can be somewhat looser. However we are much closer to the guests here and have to respect them. One thing that I like to do is to be mobile during the main dances. I will not go on to the dance floor unless the couple agree to it (most do). The same thing goes with using a light. While I highly advise using one, I won’t if the couple doesn’t want it.
  • We are at the reception to work, not party. While we are happy to talk to guests, we avoid joining the party. You will only find us at the bar to get a soft drink.
  • We never stick a microphone in a guests face and ask them to say something. In fact we only do interviews outside of the main reception room, and only with guests who come to us (we ask the DJ to make an announcement that we are doing interviews). Also interviews are only conducted if specifically requested by the couple.

This is the way we work. Your videographer may be different. The important thing is that if you have any concerns, to express them to your videographer. We will make sure that we respect your wishes. We will also let you know if there will be any impact how your video will turn out.

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The joy (and frustration) of editing

The 8 to 12 hours that we typically spend shooting on the wedding day is only a fraction of the time spent producting a wedding day movie. Most of it is in the editing phase. This often runs anywhere from 40 to 80 hours.

In the beginning, much of this is routine, even tedious. After the footage has been captured into the computer, I have to go through all of it and pick out what I want to use. Then it is assembled into a rough cut. The next step is to refine this into what we call our “Documentary Style” program. This means that we edit the day’s events in chronological order, keeping all the major events, but cutting it in a way that keeps the video interesting. At the end of this phase we usually have a program that is from 1 to 2 hours in length.

If our client has ordered the Basic Package, we have completed most of the editing. If they are getting the Deluxe or Premium Package, we have just begun. Here we start on the Highlights program. Even though this only runs anywhere from 20 to 40 minutes, it takes longer to edit. Why? Because this is where the artistry comes in. The Highlights program doesn’t document the day, it tells a story, the wedding story.

For me editing the Highlights is the biggest challenge. Distilling the essence of the wedding can be frustrating at first, but soon it all comes together and I have something that I am truly proud of. Most of all however, is what the couple will have. Perhaps fifty or sixty years from now, long after I am gone, they or their children and granchildren will still treasure it.

That is the real reward.

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Back from WEVA

I returned Friday from the WEVA (Wedding and Event Videographers Association) Expo in Las Vegas. As always, I spent most of my time attending seminars (gambling and Vegas shows don’t really appeal to me). This year attendance was up. The show moved back to Bally’s after being at Mandalay Bay last year, and the Hilton the previous year.This was a good move, as Mandalay Bay was not set up well for this type of convention. Too much walking. At Bally’s the conference rooms were right downstairs.

Here are some of the seminars that I attended that I feel will make an impact on our work:

Canon A1 seminar with Rob Neal. A good introduction to the camera that we will probably purchase when we make the move to HD.

Tim Sudall’s excellent seminar called Destination Success. Very inspirational.

Soundtrack Pro with Larry Jordan. One of the best that I was at. I have been wrestling with this audio application from Apple for awhile now. In one hour I learned enough to make it useful.

Blogging For Videographers with Ron and Tasra Dawson. An excellent seminar on improving my blog. Should be a big help here.

Moving Camera Techniques with Mark and Tricia Van Lanken. As always, the Van Lankens put together an informative program on making wedding video more cinematic.

There was also a “mock wedding” where 12 experts demonstrated techniques for getting better ceremony and reception coverage.

Every year local videographers associations compete to produce a 60 second commercial for wedding videography. I am pleased to note that our local orgranization, The Greater Philadelphia Videographers Association, won for the second year in a row.

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