Let me start by admitting that I am not a professional wedding videographer. I’ve done it about four times, two of those times for relatives. Therefore I am by no means an expert in the business of wedding videography. Having said that. I do have plenty of experience taping local city events, news conferences and celebrations. This type of work is similar in nature to wedding videography. The similarity is that you are capturing an event as it unfolds. It isn’t like directing a scene where you have control over the action.
Video taping weddings is almost like Electronic News Gathering (ENG), which is the exact same thing your local news camera operator does. The only fundamental difference between taping news and weddings is that in news you are shooting quick shots for editing later. Weddings are edited too, but the video clips are longer in length. This means that the camera is seen continuously for longer periods of time. In news they only record a quick interview or two, some short b-roll, and dash off to the next assignment.
News and other local media outlets are sometimes referred to as the Industrial Media market. This market covers a wide range of film and video production services from weddings to commercials for television. I make my living in non-commercial government and educational television, which is a little bit different than news. We capture more footage at these functions than local news does. We actually record and broadcast the WHOLE news conference. Local news devotes about 20 seconds per story and may repeat it two or three more times. Government, educational and PA television spends more airtime on these events, and the programs are often repeated for months.
Whether it’s a wedding, office party or car show, it can be considered a special event, which is different than say, making commercials. The idea of videotaping a special event is to capture the spirit of the event. So my camera experience may offer some help in shoots like these. This is not so much about the business end of special event or wedding videography. That is beyond the scope of these segments. Anyone can record a wedding, but you have to hustle, know the industry and local market to make a living from it. This three-part series is more about getting the footage you need, and putting it together the way your client expects.
After shooting the footage, your final product is essentially an edited video package of the highlights. Special event production companies like wedding videographers, may also give the raw footage to the customer, unlike still photographers who keep the negatives. I assume they keep an edited master copy for any duplication services they may offer, and might even encode their DVDs with an anti-copy feature.
In industrial television we often work with a PIO (Public Information Officer), department manager or media consultant. For events like weddings, special gala celebrations, or outdoor car shows it is often an Event Planner (EP). In the case of weddings the videographer might be hired by the EP or by the still photographer. Other times they work as independents. Now before jumping into techniques it is important to understand how any EP, PIO or otherwise sees things. Obviously an EP’s objectives are much different than someone who operates a camera. This is a reality you will face. Part of succeeding is learning to adapt.
The bottom line is that you’ll have little control over what’s going to happen at a special event. Remember that any EP sees things as the audience sees them. Sometimes the featured guests are the center of an audience’s attention, as in a wedding. If a planned activity occurs, the objective is that everyone will be able to see it. An EP decides who sits where and has already planned where special moments will take place with this in mind. The setting could be a lavish banquet room with a picturesque view, or outdoors overlooking the majestic mountains. EPs do not see things the way a camera sees things. A special moment may take place in front of a large window or with the setting sun behind their shoulders. EPs have their list of activities and are on a tight schedule. The clock dictates their event. A videographer is expected to keep up and get what is required. The EP won’t stop everything because you’re not ready.
At certain points during a wedding the still photographer takes over. Other than some b-roll, this is break time for videographers. Photographers determine where the next settings will take place, then assembles and places the participants. This is because photographers have it different. They have to capture one single moment in time. One shot that will last forever, and it has to be perfect.
A photographer often has a mounted, or easy-to-carry strobe light to brighten any dark areas. You’ll see photographers darting in and out during the ceremony, quickly getting what they need. They are normally in charge when it comes to family shots before or after the ceremony, and during the reception. Sometimes they’ll even go as far as setting up a mini portrait studio off in a corner somewhere. They are often seen herding young children back into the shot, coaxing them to smile, getting everybody to look at the camera at the same time, rushing here and rushing there. It can get very demanding at times for a wedding photographer.
It’s slightly less stressful for videographers, but there are other considerations. A video camera operator must often stand in one place for longer periods of time. So they are usually regulated to locations out of the audience’s general view. Even more restrictions are placed depending on where the ceremony is being held. I once did a church wedding that wouldn’t let us place a camera behind the priest for full-face shots, with or without an operator. They only allowed us to place cameras at the couple’s sides near the far walls, leaving us with zoomed-in separate profiles of the couple during the ceremony.
A photographer’s main advantage is that they can adapt to situations easier. In video it takes place wherever it takes place. Special moments can be anywhere, sometimes in dark corners with people crowding in all around you. Use a light? Are you kidding?
Be it a wedding or a banquet honoring a member of the community, a ceremony can take up to 30 minutes to transpire. I once did a Catholic Quinceñera. It’s sort of like a girl’s Sweet 15 party, except conducted more like a wedding. The church ceremony alone lasted an hour. Until you stop rolling you stay there. So you’d better be using a tripod. With video you are expected to capture almost every moment, all the way through to the end.
Just remember that it is what it is, and there’s not much you can do about it. Just adapt. You might be able to garner a few concessions by using your diplomatic skills. Good skills to learn and hone for any production. So now that you have an idea of what to expect, our next segment will move on to camera tips and getting the best footage in difficult situations. Stay tuned.