What would you do?
I am kind of in a bad situation here, folks. Totally my fault, but mistakes happen and I could use some advice.
I have a relatively new wedding videography business. For the first time this past month, I had to hire another videographer ( Joe) because I couldn't be at the entire event. The bride and groom understood, and I told them I had seen Joe's work and he was very capable.
Well the night was just a BAD night for vendors all around. Limo got in an accident, songs were skipping, etc.
Joe plugged into the Dj's sound system, ran a check with the microphone, and it was great.
Dark hall, so he put the Frezzi on.
Well, it's time to roll and the light burns out! Like a hair dryer does when it's on too long.
Then, at the last second the dj changes the output. Only music, no mic, is coming through. So Joe has to think fast and flips on the boom mike. Their introduction is muffled and the toasts are audible, but not at a professional level. And boy is it dark. You can still see what's happening but not at a professional level.
And THEN, to top it off, Joe is in Manual focus the whole time but never adjusts it. So the footage of them eating the cake is too bad to put in.
I doctored it as much as I could in post. Out of the whole video, this bad footage only takes up a minute and a half but it's so bad it feels like it's 5 minutes,
Also, their ceremony was only 10 minutes long if that ,and because they were late to the reception everything was rushed so the whole video is only a half an hour.
Alrighty! So I'm thinking send them their DVD with a note telling them to keep the final payment and explaination of what went wrong? I'm not the most tactful person by nature, so I'm not sure if I am going about this the right way.
Needless to say I am never doing a wedding where I cant be there the whole time.
Lessons to learn:
Not everything that happened was yours or Joe's fault. Unlike corporate shoots or tv spots, weddings can have unpredictable changes. You can only do the best you can under the circumstances.
Camera light - bulbs do burn out
Bring extra bulbs (extra tapes, extra batteries, etc)
Shoot with the best light sensitive camera you can get for your budget class. I use a Sony PD-170 since many couples want NO LIGHT and rarely will I use anything beyond 10 watts. This leads to another wedding reality. There may come a point when you have to change, bulb, battery, tape during a key moment and you're the only camera. You try to avoid that as much as possible but it can happen.
DJ Sound System output - Risky at best since it is the DJ's board. You can't control that. Going to Shotgun is reasonable backup plan. Split the audio so one channel always gets shotgun and it's always on. There's always the possibility of the wireless mic signal getting hit with interference. Always keep shotgun going on one input. You can't guarentee "2nd sound" unless you control it. It's a nice bonus when you can get it. If you want to ensure it you have to take on the difficult task of setting up your own "2nd sound."
Focus - Joe has a choice between manual and auto as we all do. If he's looking while shooting he should have switched to auto if he couldn't adjust manual. Was he using the camera he normally uses? If I hire a camera person I prefer them bring their own.
Video only a half hour long? Did the couple have a desired length? Didn't you/Joe shoot filler? I always do a walk around the tables. Not interviews, but simply circle each table so I've got nearly all the guests. I also spend lots of time shooting the dance floor, focusing on various couples with emphasis on bride/groom, parents, bridesmaids, groomsmen, couples "cutting the rug" etc. Just the tables and the dancing can fill up 30 minutes to an hour.
Hiring camera people - use a person as "2nd camera" before you trust them to do a job alone. You need to judge camera talent, technical understanding and troubleshooting ability. Someone has to be good at all three to fly solo. Ultimately you are responsible.
What the client paid for - There's a reason why two camera weddings are better than one. There's something to cut to. One camera weddings have greater "risks" involved. Charge appropriately and offer a two camera package.
I'd make the video as long as possible based on reasonable "footage." "Dress" it nice and send it to them, no note other than maybe "congrats and enjoy." If they make negative comments THEN have an honest discussion with them and reconcile. Let them know there are elements you can't control especially with a one camera shoot. You are responsible for Joe's camera work though. You are responsible for backup bulbs, batteries, tapes etc. You're not responsible for the DJ.
We did have a backup light, the bulb just burnt right before they came in and Joe figured it was better not to miss anything. That's why the first dance, etc. was better footage.
And he got table footage but alot of it is out of focus.
Thanks for your input!
[Danny Boyee] "he got table footage but alot of it is out of focus"
I hate to be this way, and I know it does not help your problem, but it does not sound like you hired a professional.
More like a weekend wanabe who hasn't learned how to use his gear.
[Craig Seeman] "Dress" it nice and send it to them, no note other than maybe "congrats and enjoy." If they make negative comments THEN have an honest discussion with them and reconcile"
I think as the producer if you really feel that the work isn't up to what you believe is your best or at least worth what you are charging, or if it doesn't live up to what the couple saw from your demo, then you should offer a discount. Not sending a note or offer may not be the best idea. The happy couple may never say anything to you about the finished product. But then they may never say anything good to anyone else about recommending you.
Bob Vick sr promo guy @ ch3 wwmt tv, kalamazoo, mi
I would talk to them first and let them do all the talking just to make sure everyone
knows what if anything is bothering them. I have been surprised before in situations like this thinking I had screwed up and they didn't notice and VICE VERSA.
or perhaps you already have...
if the conversation doesn't go well I wouldn't necessarily make a decision right then and there how to compensate them - the reason is I usually never make good decisions in the heat of the battle... I wait - tell them I am going to consider how best to compensate them... maybe get a "sorry note" from Joe - yea sounds wishy but weddings are terribly psychological and you want them to know you tried everything and that Joe feels bad unless he doesn't.
Play chess - try to end positive...
based on the camera work you describe I would offer several copies of the DVD for free
UNLESS the wedding video was 2 hours long and everything else Joe did was great.
But it sounds like it is only a 30 minute job so I would definitely compensate.
Sounds to me like you are on right track.
Oh did anyone else at the reception have a video camera...?
a family member once saved my but.
the last thing you want is bad press. anytime this is not good, but when you are just starting out it can have long lasting consequences. Perhaps you could have them over to "preview" the video together. You should be able to get a read on their reaction. Based on the reaction you could offer them some from of compensation (I suggest you have it already in mind prior to meeting).
Either that or offer a refund or additional free services (i.e. film to DVD xfer, etc) right up front. That is of course assuming that the product they are going to receive deviates significantly from the product they were shown via your demo.
The lenght you described doesn't "bother me". I have delievered many videos that were around 30 mintues or less. If you can effectively tell the story of their day in 30 minutes that is all that really matters, after all no one said wedding videos mus be a certain lenght (unless you committed to a lenght of course).
Two major issues- Joe seems to have been inexperience as a professional operator of the gear and you trusted him without having worked with him to confirm his knowledge and experience level.
So if you intend on having to refund the client money speak to Joe about the reduction in his fee for poor,sloppy,unprofessional and downright unacceptable work.
A camera operator who cannot focus properly is either blind, stupid or just incomponent and should not be paid as if was qualified.
Joe needs to learn along with you that screwing up on the job will have consequence because both of you will have to suffer. If Joe was hired as an employee you can't hold him responsible as some states have labor laws which protect even an incomponent employee. However as a freelancer contactor the case may be different.
Ultimately both of your reputations have been damaged.
I would never hire Joe again and the bride and groom will most likely tell all their friends never to hire you also.
It a tough place to be in and I wish you the best in the future.
To let you know, Tony. Joe Videotaped my own wedding with my cameras and did a spectacular job. I would have never hired him if I didn't think he was perfectly capable. Maybe he was nervous because of the pressure for this one.
If I were you I would put in a lot of work in post to try to improve the footage and make the most of a bad situation. Spend as much time as possible colour correcting to raise the midtones and brighten up the dark shots. If it is a stylised edit you could try adding other effects to mask the poor work: sepia, letter-box, motion effects. Anything which moves the content further from reality but cushions it artistically. I would also try taking the out of focus footage and reducing it in size to a smaller frame. Add another smaller frame alongside playing at the same time of something else such as cutaways of guests. You could even drop a background behind. This technique will help to lessen the emphasis on the out of focus footage.
Try bringing the audio into a decent mixing programme like soundtrack pro and see what you can salvage.
Wherever possible embed the poor sync sound within added prerecorded music.
While I realise that these techniques will not solve the problem, they may lessen it. And if you are able to manipulate the effects skillfully and create something emotional which connects with the couple then they will be more likely to overlook the poor technical issues.