Wedding Videography: Getting Started

videographer example

Want to get a critically acclaimed, action-packed, tearjerker of a wedding video. Here’s what you need to know.

A videographer combines the skills of a documentary filmmaker with the eyes of a movie director, and options abound when it comes to capturing the spirit or shaping the story of your wedding day. Here are 10 issues you should consider to get the video you envision.

Viewing Vibe
The first question you have to ask yourselves is how do you want the video to “feel”? Would you prefer it to be more cinematic — a movie telling the story of your wedding day — or more like a documentary? This choice between a cinematic and documentary style will be the filter through which you make all other decisions, from who you hire to how the day is filmed and the footage edited. But don’t feel like you have to commit to one or the other — many videographers these days use a combination of both styles in the finished product.

Camera Cues
Two types of cameras can be used when shooting video: DV (digital video) and analog (non-digital). Analog was standard until DV technology became affordable — DV is now much more widely used, and the advantages are clear. Digital produces crisp, pristine images where the color and skin tone rendition is flawless. Better yet: The cameras are significantly smaller than analog, can be handheld and are twice as sensitive to light as analog, meaning that free-standing, blinding room lights are a thing of the past. (On-camera lights are still required to illuminate faces, however, and smaller, handheld off-camera lights are used when staging a specific shot — backlighting a veil, for example).

You can even include home video or snapshots of you two growing up or during your courtship.

Next decision: How many cameras do you want at your event? Two or more may seem obtrusive, but one cameraman can’t be everywhere at once. With two cameras you’ll get a choice of perspectives — you can shoot the father/daughter dance and the expression on Mom’s face. Or you can have one camera covering the bride getting ready and one covering the groom. The cost of additional cameramen is either a flat fee or prorated according to how long the extra coverage is needed: pre-wedding prep only, ceremony only, and so on.

Tag Team
You may see ads for companies that offer both photography and videography services. Besides a cohesive look to the final products, there are other advantages to this group effort approach. For example, two people with different agendas may jockey for position or get in each other’s way. Two people who work as a team can look out for each other and keep in touch about what’s happening. It’s also easier on you guys — that’s one less vendor you have to worry about. Another plus is that still images taken by the photographer can quickly and easily be added to the video. You may even get a discount if you book both with the same company. If not, ask about getting free extra copies of your video (for family and friends) to sweeten the kitty.

Just be sure both products meet your high standards — don’t be blinded by ease alone. Another consideration: If you want your photos to have a formal, old-fashioned feel and your video to be flashy and fast-paced, be sure that two people from the same company can nail these divergent styles.

Sound Bites
Who wears the wireless varies. During a church ceremony, a wireless mic is attached to the groom behind his boutonniere — the bride’s dress prohibits this — and if the church is large and full of echoes, or there are readings, a mic on the podium is advised as well. What if your ceremony is outdoors? Everyone will have to have microphones, including the groom, readers, and musicians. Luckily, some cameras can receive sounds from up to eight different mics at once.

An on-camera mic records ambient noise and conversations, which can be blended with music. The music can retreat to the background when particularly juicy comments are made. Voiceovers — taped interviews or statements — can be recorded separately and used to enhance certain scenes. For example, a mother’s well wishes for her son’s marriage might be filtered in over scenes of the mother/son dance.

Soundtrack Savvy
Music sets the ambience for your video. You’ll choose different songs or pieces to accompany each section — getting ready, during the ceremony, etc. — which help mark the progression of your day. Within each section, music adds texture to the otherwise cacophonous din of conversation or ambient noise and takes a backseat during guest interviews and the ceremony.

A common question is whether footage is edited to music, or music to footage. There are two schools of thought: Some videographers like to know the couple’s general choice of music — rock, jazz, classical, country — for different parts of the day ahead of time so that they can shoot accordingly. “For example, if they want to use fast music during the cocktail hour, I will use faster camera cuts while shooting. If they choose jazz, I will use a smoother, slower approach,” says Di Lauro, who encourages people to choose tracks from his library of songs because “sometimes the songs people bring in don’t lend themselves to video editing.” Other videographers collect the music, provided by you or selected from their library, after filming but before editing.

Subject: Us
What mix of content goes into your video is up to you. Want to include every minute of your hour-long Mass? No problem. You can also include home video or snapshots of you two growing up or during your courtship, pre-wedding activities (a day of dress fitting and lunching with bridesmaids, wedding weekend activities with guests, the rehearsal dinner, getting ready), behind-the-scene glimpses, environmental elements or scenes of wildflowers or mountains that establish the ceremony setting, and post-wedding events such as the morning-after brunch and even honeymoon footage and snaps (that you provide, of course). Videographers charge a flat fee or by the hour for these extra appearances, or you may be able to apply a couple of hours from what’s allotted in the package you choose. Don’t try to do too much: The final product should be no longer than two hours long, and often half that.

Preview Power
Once filming is finished, some videographers will send you the raw footage to preview before editing begins to note scenes that you definitely want to keep or cut. This is important because a videographer doesn’t know what — or who — is most significant to you. For example, during the reception, a videographer would choose only the most interesting dance scenes, whereas you might want those, plus a specific shot of a friend from overseas whom you don’t see very often. Other videographers will allow couples to preview the raw footage by request, but most people don’t have the four to six hours needed to watch it. Regardless, you will be charged for changes to the final edit, so try to watch it once, and we mean just once — any more might ruin the surprise of the final product. (The raw footage may be available for purchase or as part of your package.)

Edit Made Easy
The best editing system is non-linear editing, which means that the original footage is stored digitally on a computer hard drive, edited via “cut and paste” techniques on the computer, and then output back to VHS tape, CD-ROM (the quality is not as good as DVD but it can be played on your computer), or DVD. This method allows the videographer to create seamless transitions between scenes, titles, and special effects.

Personal Effects
Some couples are of the mind that adding lots of special effects will guarantee that they get their money’s worth. Although this may spice up a standard TV sitcom-style video, keep in mind that the goal of a documentary-style video is to achieve the virtually invisible transitions of a feature film. Special effects are used to enhance your wedding, not upstage it. That said, the range of ways you can augment a video is mind-boggling. While filming, a star filter can be used to accentuate candlelight for the dream-sequence effect you’ve seen on TV, or a soft-effects filter can be added to airbrush a sometimes too-realistic clarity (in other words, helps mask those bags under your eyes).

In the editing room, text can be added and animated or written, scrolling (for example, in a split screen with your vows on one side, your ceremony on the other), and fly in at different speeds and angles. Color can be super saturated (intensified), de-saturated (softened), washed with a sepia tone, or converted to black-and-white. Single elements can be highlighted with a spot color against a black-and-white background (like the little red dress in the movie Schindler’s List). Images can be slow motion; transitions can be fast or slow fades (from or to black), or dissolves (one scene dissolves into another).

Final Format
Analog videotapes (VHS) start to deteriorate after 15 years and quality declines in duplicate tapes. DVDs last longer, there is virtually no loss of quality in duplicate copies, and there is no pesky rewinding. If you don’t have a DVD player, no problem: Shoot the wedding with a digital camera and purchase the final edit on both a DVD (this will be your master copy) and VHS tape. This way you have a superior quality image secured in a long-lasting format but you don’t have to go buy a DVD player to watch it.

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