Why you should put the wedding movie first in your planning

In recent months, I have received several inquiries from couples who didn’t know if they could afford a wedding movie. Too often a large part of the budget is put into flowers, DJ, limo, chair covers, the cake etc. While these are nice to have, when fitting everything into a budget, you should think about what will be left after the last guest has departed.

 There are three tangible things that you will take with you, your rings, the photos, and your wedding movie. Everything else will be gone. You will always have your rings, and the photos will remind you of the day, but the movie will let you hear the vows, see the tears & laughter, and allow you to be a part of the first dance all over again. When the wedding movie is left out of the equation all you can do is see a moment in time through still images, but you can’t hear it or relive it again. This is why your movie should be seen as an investment instead of an expense. It will be there for you, your children and grandchildren to treasure in the years to come.

 As you plan your wedding, consider the value placed on the memory of the day. If your expenses are tight, consider what won’t be as important after the wedding as remembering the day through the timeless imagery of your wedding day movie. If you put the rings, the photos, and the video at the top of your list, you won’t regret it.

You may have noticed in this post that I have used the word movie instead of video. The objection that we hear all too often when someone tells us why they don’t want video, is that is is boring and they will never watch it more than once. As professionals, we pride ourselves on telling a story that is engaging and emotional, that no matter how many times you have seen it, your wedding movie will never will never grow old. For examples, visit our gallery page.

 Thanks to Phil Hinkle of Frogman Productions for inspiring this post.


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Winter Weddings

Here in the Philadelphia area, the wedding business is seasonable as it is in most of the northern states. Most weddings take place between April and October. However there are at least a few people willing to try for a winter wedding. Yes, there is a risk with the weather, but there are benefits. I have been learning this as my stepson Tim and his fiancee Alicia have chosen a January date.

For one thing most reception venues are often wide open. Photographers and videographers are more likely to be available and there is much less stress overall. There is also the chance that vendors may provide discounts for winter weddings. It depends on how business is at the time. You should ask, but don’t walk away from someone you like because they are not discounting their services. Consider the overall package and choose who you feel will do the best job. Don’t expect any discounts for a Christmas Eve or New Years Eve wedding however. These dates are in demand and many vendors would rather spend the day home with their families.

Another benefit is if you pick a date right after Christmas or New Years, you will often find that reception venues are still decorated for the holidays which will add a festive touch to the occasion.

The big issue is often weather. We have been lucky so far and have not been in a position where a wedding that we were shooting was snowed out. Part of this is that the Philadelphia region like much of the country has been having milder winters. If snow is in the forcast, keep in touch with your vendors. Let them know as soon as possible if there are any changes due to weather.

Another advantage of having a winter wedding is that your photographer and videographer may be able to deliver your photos and video sooner, as we may not have any backlog as we often do in the summer.

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Why Video?

It sometimes amazes me that only about 20 percent of the weddings in the US have a videographer. Why is this? For one thing, video is fairly new. The wedding videography industry is only about 25 years old, where photography has been around for 150 years. Therefore when planning a wedding, couples think of the flowers, reception venue, and photographer, but too often get a videographer only if there is money left over. Yet few people who have had a video have regretted it. In most cases they consider their video the most valuable item that they bought for their wedding.

While photography is certainly worthwhile (and you should have a photographer), consider what you will not get with your wedding photos:

  • There will be no record of the sounds of your wedding, no vows, no toasts, no readings, no music.
  • You will have only moments in time. Your first dance will be just that, snapshots, not the dance itself.

It is said that sound has a greater impact than images. With video you get both a moving record of the day, and even more important, the sounds.

But today a wedding video is much more than just a record. Many videographers will go far beyond that and create for you, your own wedding day film. We have the skills and the talent to capture and enhance the feelings and emotions. While a skilled photographer can also use artistry to move beyond pure documentary, we can do so much more, by the fusion of imagery, the spoken word, and music.

Here in the Philadelphia area we have a wealth of talent, perhaps more than any metropolitan area in the country. There is a lot to choose from in this region. No matter where you live however the important thing is to find someone whose style you like and who you can afford. But don’t cut corners and pick the cheapest videographer. In fact consider hiring your videographer before your photographer. You won’t regret it, and your videographer will probably be able to refer you to a photographer whose style is compatible.

You wedding day movie is something that you will always have, like your photos. But unlike the photos sitting in an album, your video will allow you to see and hear your wedding day as it happened.

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Church restrictions revisited

A few months ago I published this post regarding church restrictions. As restrictions can affect our ability to film your wedding properly, I feel that I should revisit this topic. Reception venues vary considerably on how much freedom videographers have. Most (but not all) non-church ceremony locations will allow us to work with no restrictions. Individual priests, ministers and rabbis may impose their own set of rules when conducting a wedding at a non-religeous location. The venue itself may have rules. So even if you are having your wedding ceremony at a reception hall or country club, it is important to ask both the manager of the venue and the officiant what rules or restrictions exist for videography.

When having a wedding ceremony in a church, you should ask about restrictions before hiring a videographer. While we can work well even when shooting from the balcony, we will still need to set up audio (wireless microphones and digital recorders for the groom, officiant, and for reading and music). Sometimes this is not allowed and we cannot properly capture the music and speech. Occasionally a church will not allow any video, although this is rare. Don’t assume that the rules are the same for videographers as they are for photographers. While most venues do have the same rules, there are some places that restrict videography but not photography.

Most of the time we have no problems and will be able to get the coverage that you would expect from us. But it is important to know ahead of time. Discuss any restrictions with your videographer. He or she will be able to tell you if they can provide adequate coverage.

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For the groom – Wearing a microphone

Most videographers outfit the groom with either a wireless microphone or a digital recorder before the wedding ceremony, so we have a clear recording of the vows.

We usually place a small clip-on microphone on the groom’s lapel. This picks up audio from both the bride and groom. Why do we only mic the groom? There are two reasons, Since the bride and groom are facing each other during the vows, the bride’s voice will usually be as loud and clear as the groom. The second is appearance. While a small dark colored microphone is almost invisible on the groom’s tux, it is quite noticeable on the bride’s dress. In addition, it is connected to a wireless transmitter or digital recorder. We can easily hide these in an inside pocket, or on the groom’s belt. It isn’t so easy to hide such a device on a wedding gown.

In most cases, we put the microphone on right before the ceremony, and remove it afterwards. It is important not to turn it off or touch any of the controls as this could cause us not to be able to record your wedding vows. Remember that once the ceremony has started, we can’t come over and fix anything.

The microphone is sensitive enough that you only need to talk in a normal tone of voice. As long as you speak loud enough to be heard by your guests, we will get a good recording.

Use of extra microphones is one reason to have a professional do your wedding video. We have the equipment and experience to allow the entire ceremony to sound great.

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Where can I find good information on wedding video

Here of course :).

While I do have some knowledge on this subject, and I make sure that what I say is accurate (let me know if it isn’t), this site is only one of many places where you can find information on wedding video. Here are some suggestions on where else to look:

  • Other videographers sites. While I would like you to choose us for your wedding video, I know that my colleagues have different styles, ways of doing business, and prices. An intelligent consumer will always shop around. Google their sites, read what they have to say, and view their samples. We hope that you will come back to us, but what is important is who is the best fit for you.
  • National videographers associations. There are two, The WEVA and 4Ever Group. Both have pages especially for brides, and WEVA also maintains a directory of videographers.
  • Local videographer associations. You might have to Google for these, but this is an excellent place to get a listing of local videographers. In the Phildelphia PA area, it is the Greater Philadelphia Videographers Association.
  • Other sites such as Brides.com and The Knot, have lots of advice. If you are looking for a videographer, photographer or DJ, check out WeDJ.com.
  • Blogs – Find some wedding related blogs, both from professionals in the industry and individual bride’s blogs.
  • Friends – Do you have friends who had video? Talk to them about it. Also if they were married recently, ask to see their video. In addition ask friends who didn’t have video if they regretted that decision. You might be surprised by the answer.
  • Books – Wedding planning books may be a good resource, however the information (particularly regarding video) is sometimes outdated. Our industry has changed a lot in the past few years. What we do today is quite different (and more sophisticated) than a decade ago.

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Is High definition important for your wedding video

While most couples are not asking this question (at least no one has asked me yet), we are moving rapidly into the world of high definition television. It is getting difficult to even buy a standard definition television these days. Wedding videographers are also moving into the hi def world, us included. We are in the process of acquiring high definition cameras and editing systems. Is resolution everything though? No. I firmly believe that content is what counts.

The reason why most couples don’t ask their videographer about HD, is that it is the content that is important to them, not how many pixels are on the screen. They want their video to be a beautiful, meaningful portrait of their wedding day.

And that is how we feel. We know that people who ask us to film their weddings are asking us because our something in our work has touched them. Not everyone who sees our samples will like our style, but for some, that style is exactly what they are looking for.

Yes, we will be going HD in the coming months. But it will not change how we tell your wedding story.

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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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Finding your videographer – The Meeting

Second in a series

You have picked out a videographer who you would like to know more about and have arranged a meeting. As I explained in the first part of this series, a meeting is not strictly necessary. If you feel comfortable with your choice, or it isn’t practical to arrange a face to face meeting (you are booking someone in another city for example), you might be doing everything over the phone. Even if you do, this article will still be relevant.

You might have the meeting at the videographer’s studio, in your home, or at another location (coffee shops are popular). First impressions are important. Is this someone who you would like to have with you on your wedding day? They don’t have to be the life of the party. I am much more of an introvert than an extrovert. That works for many couples though, as I prefer to stay out of the way and let my camera tell the story.

If you haven’t seen samples of the videographer’s work, now is a time to do it. Is their style what you want? Does it look and sound good. If you have a hard time hearing people, if the camera work is shaky and unfocused, or if the editing is choppy, you might want to look elsewhere. Ask if they have a video that was done at your ceremony or reception location. If they do, you can get an idea of how it will look in your video.

Ask how long it will take to get your DVDs. If you are getting a basic video in the off season, it might only take a few weeks. However it could take several months. Many videographers are heavily booked during the peak season, and it takes quite a few hours to edit everything, particularly if you are getting a high end package. So don’t be surprised if they say six months or more. I normally deliver the DVDs within two to four months after the wedding, depending on the package and my backlog.

Ask about payment plans.  Most videographers require that a deposit or retainer fee be paid to reserve the date. This typically varies from 20 to 50 percent. Some videographers require that the balance is paid before the wedding date, others before they begin editing, and some when the DVDs are delivered.

Most videographers prefer that editing decisions be left to them. You should certainly inform them of any special request, such as including a favorite aunt in your video, as well as anything that you do not want. However once we start editing, we prefer to edit in our style. We will usually make corrections such as misspelled names or other minor corrections if notified right after delivering the DVDs, but it is impractical to make major changes. If we do, we will charge for it.

You should ask if your videographer carries liability insurance. Not only is this a sign that he or she is a professional, but some reception venues require it. There was an example on one of the bridal shows last year where a couple had hired a uninsured photographer. When the reception location told them that vendors would have to have insurance, they were forced to get someone else.

When you have decided on a videographer, the next step will be to sign the contract and pay the deposit. Read the contract before signing. It explains what is expected and what is not. You should also know what the terms are if you have to change or cancel the date. In most cases the retainer fee is non-refundable unless the videographer can get another booking on that date.

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