The Accidental Wedding Video

Vinx is a world class musician with a long and colorful history. From his website.  “VINX has recorded and toured with some of the music industry’s greatest icons: Stevie Wonder, Sting, Herbie Hancock, Sheryl Crow, Branford Marsalis, Ernie Watts, Taj Mahal, Ricki Lee Jones, Darius Rucker, Vance Gilbert, Cassandra Wilson, Brenda Russell, Cher and numerous others.  His songwriting credits are a long list ranging from Tom Jones and Will Downing to The Lion King and Sprite™”.

Anyway, Vinx moved to Chalabre, France last year, two doors down from our house, joining a growing group of talented people including my wife, sculptor Laury Dizegremel and others. We, along with the Mayor, are taking actions to ‘put Chalabre on the map’, i.e., make it a destination. There are good reasons for that, but in short, this area is ‘France’s best-kept secret’. It’s ‘the other southern France’.

For brevity, I won’t say much more than that except that I have been accumulating footage of all of the extraordinary things that happen around here, including the things that are not far from here (the Med is a 90 minute drive through one of France’s best wine regions, we’re 40 minutes from skiing, an hour from Andorra and Spain, surrounded by Cathar castles mounted impossibly on steep rocky mountain tops–and much more, not to mention a perfect climate).

Vinx’s wedding was just one of those things I wanted to get some footage of. It took place at the chapel on the hill that looks down over Chalabre, a view featured in the opening shot of this video (night for day shot–a gorgeous daytime time lapse made to look like night–sort of). I planned to go and shoot some clips for my eventual promotion video for the area. And I planned to go to the concert he organized afterward in the covered hall in front of our houses.

Because I was meanwhile busy with renovations, I didn’t realize there was a connection between the two.

The concert was called ‘A Night of Serenades’ whereby musicians would perform and dedicate a song to someone sitting in a chair in front of the stage. There were about 20 serenades. Vinx’s serenade to Jennifer was to be the last. But by then the front chairs, including the chairs of honor, were full of crowd, so I organized a chair for Jennifer to be put on stage. By then I decided I’d do my best to cover Vinx’s serenade and use it to be the soundtrack for a short wedding video, weaving the two performances together.

And so it was that I came to shoot an accidental run and gun wedding video.

It was shot on September 3rd and edited on September 4th.

No prior planning except for an 11th hour idea.

No audio out of a mix board which didn’t exist. Because my hand held camera would be moving around, I put my Zoom H2 in front of the stage and hoped for the best. Not getting what I hoped for I improved it as much as I could with the iZotope RX 5 audio editor (the best) and some FCPX Eq tools.

Poor lighting in both locations But I only used Neat Video on 3 shots. Otherwise the Sony PXW X70 performed well enough at +32db.

It’s only 5 minutes long, and given the circumstances, a bit unique.





What Does a Good Wedding Video Cost?

Interestingly, even though there are more expenses involved with wedding video production, rates for a good wedding video track pretty closely with good photography.

The reason a perception exists that wedding videos should be cheaper than photography is that there is a bigger glut of new videographers out there than there are new photographers.

To make it in photography, one generally needs some training background as well as a lot of experience. And the cost of cameras and lenses used by good photographers is relatively high.

Yet somehow newcomers to video feel they can get away with little training or experience. HD video cameras can be obtained for much less than the cost of a quality SLR, and many editing programs (such as iMovie) are free.

This is the YouTube generation and many of these new videographers are simply from the School of YouTube.  And it’s not a very good school.

Anyway, let’s get back to costs.

Costs and Quality

In both videography and photography, you can consider that there are broadly 5 different classes of product available:

(the following rates are summarized arbitrarily from a search of websites and blogs on the subject)

1) FREE  (Uncle Joe films or photographs your wedding).

2) BASIC (generally new, un-seasoned and unestablished videographers and photographers establishing their portfolio).  Rates: £350-£550

3) PROFESSIONAL QUALITY.  Trained and experienced professionals who know what they’re doing and can competently produce a quality product that won’t disappoint. Rates: £650-£1100

4) TOP PROFESSIONAL QUALITY.  Two factors influence this category: 1) specialized expertise gained from long experience in a particular genre, 2) equipment.  By equipment is meant not only top quality cameras, but specialized camera support systems similar to that used in Theatrical Film productions. Rates: £1200-£2500

5) UBER PROFESSIONAL QUALITY.  This refers to famous photographers who can charge whatever they want (typically in the 10s of thousands of pounds) and who are booked solid years in advance.  I’ve not yet heard of videographers having achieved this status, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t any.

The Difference Between Videography and Photography

There is a difference. I say that because some videographers in the BASIC category as well as the PROFESSIONAL QUALITY category spend too much screen time shooting inanimate objects which they must think is “arty” or something.

Let the photographers do that.

Video is about capturing motion and telling a story.

And the fundamental conventions of that subject have been developed over the last 100 years. There are lots of books and texts on the subject and whatever has been written about cinematography is equally applicable to videography. It’s simply a different medium.

To give a perfect illustration of what I mean, please click on the video below. You don’t have to watch the whole thing. Just watch the FIRST SHOT and see the choreography of motion and emotion that unfolds in the first 20 seconds.

That’s video.

And that’s the sort of thing a good videographer captures and puts into your wedding video.

A photograph can’t do that.

So What About Video Costs?

I mentioned above that more expenses are involved with video. If nothing else,  those costs involve the hiring or paying of additional cameramen.

You simply can not produce a professional film of a live event with a single camera.  That’s what Uncle Joe can do (bless him). He’ll have to be zooming in and out and all over the place to get everything and it will make you dizzy. And he’ll miss half of it in the process.

In the PROFESSIONAL QUALITY category you will generally find that the company will provide at least two cameramen. That’s bare minimum. Better still is two cameramen and a 3rd unmanned camera shooting a wide shot of the church or ceremony.

Now assuming one camera is in a fixed position and assigned to the actual ceremony full time, the second cameraman is free to shoot alternate angles of the ceremony, shoot from 2 or 3 different positions in the venue to provide different viewpoints, and also shots of various of your family and guests. All that, done to a plan based on having attended the rehearsal, and with the footage from the unmanned 3rd camera, it is possible to produce a very professional video edit.

So, for about the same cost as a professional photographer, a professional videographer will automatically also be incurring the costs of at least one if not two additional cameramen.

Then to produce the video, he will have to import and synchronize as much as 4-5 hours of video (or more), in addition to separate digital audio recordings from devices placed on the groom or pastor (or both) and often one at the podium where speeches are made. Then he has to organize all of it in the editing program (electronically label everything) so it can be found when needed in the edit. Once edited, the sound has to be mixed, music added, titles, etc.  And this generally takes about a week full time for a given wedding.

You can start to see that at a rate of £950, with cameramen expenses taken out, the videographer is making probably less than £100/day to produce a wedding video.
And this is assuming that it is a professional who will go the extra mile to make sure it is something you will love and he will be proud of–as opposed to some sort of assembly line throw-it-together edit which wouldn’t be professional anyway.

A Little Story

I was actually prompted to write this article after a recent series of emails with a prospective client, a lovely girl who is trying to nail down all the major vendors for her wedding next year.

I wasn’t able to come down to her budgeted cost.  She was so persistent that I almost considered a compromise, but first asked her where the wedding was to take place. It turns out to be a huge beautiful church, almost a small cathedral.

I knew at once that I’d need a 3rd manned camera during the ceremony and told her so.

She protested, explaining that there were only 130 guests and that the wedding was to be held in a certain portion of the church.

Then I realized what she didn’t understand.

It wasn’t me trying to jack up the price.

It was me knowing by long experience that in a large beautiful venue like that, you can not cover it with one fixed camera on the ceremony (which is a must!) and only one other to shoot the various angles around the church (from the back to the front, from the front toward the back, audience shots, family shots, bridal entrance, etc.  One guy running around like a maniac trying to be in all the right places at the right time during a fast moving ceremony 1) couldn’t do it, 1) would be a distraction.

You split the task between two cameraman who can each have one or two different spots to shoot from at different times while still giving full coverage from various angles of the ceremony itself. And its’ all done according to shoot plan which is worked out during the rehearsal which is attended by the primary cameraman.

You can get away with two cameramen in a typical smaller church or venue, but in a large one with scope and grandeur, you’d be silly to not have at least 3 cameramen in addition to unmanned cameras.

Look at it this way: The location you’ve chosen is obviously an important and significant part of this very special day. You’ll expect it to feature as the backdrop to your wedding. Yet you’d be disappointed if so much time was spent on the church that you couldn’t see yourselves during the ceremony, and you’d be disappointed if so much footage was on the ceremony or flower arrangements that you never get to see the church, and you’d be very disappointed if the ceremony footage was always the same camera constantly zooming in and out on you….

The art of cinematography and videography has much to do with the seamless integration of multiple viewpoints from multiple cameras.  Two cameras can be made to look like 4 or 5 cameras if one has the freedom to change position. Three cameras can be made to look like 6 or 8 when two have the freedom to change position.

A good editor puts it all together so seamlessly you’re not even aware of the cameras. Instead you’re given the best possible opportunity to re-experience the event.

And a good videographer will automatically do all this without you’re having to ask.
So  in considering costs, don’t expect a professional video for less than £650 which is probably border-line for professional quality anyway.

And don’t expect one if the videographer only uses one manned camera.

And don’t use price as the only gauge. Look at their work!

Are they being glorified still photographers or calling attention to their marvelous qualities with fancy camerawork,

or are they capturing the essence of the wedding, cherished moments and emotions that bring tears to your eyes every time you watch?

Is the editing style seamless (you don’t even notice it because it flows so smoothly from one shot to the next) or is it distracting with dated electronic transitions and effects?

You do get what you pay for. But just like anything else, there are those who will charge you more than they’re product is worth.

You’ll know by their samples if they are good enough for your wedding.

Wedding Video Critique–or–How to Choose a Wedding Videographer

Recently a colleague at the IOV (Institute of Videographers) requested a critique of some wedding videos. My reply could be of interest to those seeking wedding videographers

I thought I’d reply privately as “constructive criticism” can sometimes draw in a gang-bang of irrelevant comments on forums.

I watched the video you linked to and then watched half of the one on the home page of your site.

It looks like you’ve done quite a few wedding videos! So don’t think you have it all wrong.

I’ve never been influenced by other wedding videos I’ve seen particularly. My background and training is in cinematography and the disciplines of good story telling along with about 6 years of video documentary work and the need there to move in and out quick while thinking on your feet.

But my approach still goes back to the basics of cinematography. “Videography” is not really different, as it’s just a different medium, but I believe it has largely been influenced by the “MTV” age and also by a plethora of would-be movie-makers who, owing to the relative low cost of video equipment and editing programs, launch themselves into the field with no schooling except what they’ve seen on MTV or YouTube, etc. Their approach, therefore, can be a jumble of “gimmicky” shots edited with no sense and covered up with pointless electronic effects offered up by their editing programs.

I wrote a couple of related articles on my blog some time ago I’d like you to read:


Camerwork, Purpose of

Anyway I have only two observations that might be helpful, beyond what you may agree with or not in the two articles I wrote inasmuch as they may also be helpful to you.

First is that I see a tendency to record on video what is normally in the purview of wedding photographers.

Wedding photographers normally do all the “conventions”–photographing details and doing all the usual posed shots of the couple and entourage, etc.  I wouldn’t mix that up with doing video of the same or similar material.

Video is not really a glorified still photograph.

Now don’t get me wrong. It’s not that you shouldn’t shoot these various set-ups as they are happening. I shoot everything–or as much as I can. It’s more because of the documentary aspect–meaning, one shoots as much as one can during a live event just to have the material to cover the edit. It doesn’t mean that you necessarily have to use these things, but your purpose for using them is different than the purpose of the still photographer.

Now let’s hold that thought for a minute…

My view of the end product of a wedding video is that it should distill down the essences of the event and meld together memorable images (memories) in an artistic fashion such that anyone watching it (even just Joe Blow off the street) would enjoy and be moved by it. But more importantly, the couple and their friends will want to watch it over and over and over again and experience the emotion again and again.

How long should it be? Well, that depends on the wedding and any particular requests of the couple. But I’d say even the grandest events in all aspects can be edited down to 30 minutes, more or less.  Ironically it takes much longer to do that than to just put it all in there, but will they want to watch a 60 minute or 90 minute pure record of the event with a few cutesy shots over and over again? I doubt it. Twice maybe. Friends and family, once.

It should have emotional impact and should present what they want to see or remember, not what the cameraman thinks is cool.

Along those lines, you know that many more moments than they will ever know which are recorded on your tape, are not really what they want to see or remember.

Sometimes it’s fleeting expressions, nervous gestures, or awkward stumbles and other things–right on down to the obvious (scratching an itch or whatever).

For example, in one of the two I watched, the groom really stumbled badly on part of the vows. While they might socially laugh about that, you must know that it’s really something that makes the groom cringe and which could make the bride “wonder”.  Those kind of things, wherever possible, I would cut out.

But it goes back to creating a moving montage of wonderful and poignant memories.

Part of that is “who was there”.  So going back to shooting photographer set-ups, I tend to use them to get close shots of the people, or two-shots or three-shots where they are interacting, for the purpose of including faces in the video I may have not gotten otherwise.  And I usually do all that kind of stuff in slow motion to their chosen song.  That’s just my approach–the ceremony (or the essential parts of it) real time and most of the rest in slow motion montages interspersed with any necessary real-time footage such as speeches, or highlights from speeches.

But the reason I do it that way is to create a piece that they will want to watch over and over because it’s got so many memories compacted into a short space.

Which brings me to a second point.  I feel that your shots go by too quickly. You’re editing nicely to the tempo of the songs, but, for the most part, you don’t need to cut on every beat. What happens there is that it’s all going by too quickly in terms of those memories they’d want to savor. It’s a subtle point, but just a bit too fast to allow the various bits to be soaked in.

I personally never stage anything. I prefer to try to capture as many good candid moments as possible while being as invisible as possible. That way they’re seeing themselves as they’ve never seen themselves before. If they’ve posed something, they’re not seeing anything they don’t already know.

However, you have some beautiful shots there–walking in the woods, etc.  So your eye is good–and I’m not saying to never do that. I’m just saying, consider using that eye more to capture moments without them ever knowing they were captured–and those moments will have a lot more emotional impact for them.

Again, it’s all about presenting an emotional memory package to those who want to share or re-experience the memories.  And when you accomplish that well, it will always exceed their expectations and they will always tell you so and you will know that they really mean it. And that, I feel, is the end product one should go for.

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