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Wedding shoot advice sought!

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Neil Orman
Wedding shoot advice sought!
on Nov 12, 2014 at 1:48:13 am

Gonna shoot my first wedding Saturday, using my Canon 5D Mk 3, and had a few questions below for anyone with experience in this area. I would greatly appreciate any advice, no matter how brief! And please feel free to offer any general tips if you've done this before, thanks!

-Hand-held rig for pretty shots, gliding down the aisle and such: Still haven't bought a hand-held rig for my Canon 5D, although I previously had some peers recommend a gimbal. Any quick thoughts? Wondering if this is the time to finally invest in a good long-term hand-held solution for general videography needs. Just watched the tutorial video below in which the guy used a rig called an Indiesystem Ultra Compact and a Glidecam HD 2000 for the gliding shots. So I was wondering if people liked those tools?

-Recording size: When you shoot something like a wedding with a 5D Mk 3, and you're planning to have lots of slow mo moments, is it best to shoot the whole ceremony at 1280 X 720 @ 60 fps, since there's no 1920 X 1080 @60 fps option? I was confused here because this guy also recommended keeping the second camera at 1080, and editing at 720, so you can do zooms and such in post. But when I've tried putting my 1080 footage before into a 720 sequence, I thought it looked a bit blurry.

-Two cameras: Shooting this myself and was planning to mount a second camera on a tripod in the back of the church, like was recommended in this tutorial. But this seems to introduce a problem since I was thinking I'd be close to the couple most of the time, making me visible from the second camera. Any thoughts?

-Audio: I'm planning to have my Rode Mic on the main camera. This video recommended miking the groom with a lav connected to a portable recorder, and also doing some other things like plugging a reecorder into the DJ's soundboard. Please let me know if you have any quick thoughts on capturing good audio as a one-man-band shooting a wedding.

-Monitor/loupe: Up to this point I've been using a pretty inexpensive loupe I bought for my 5D, but I was wondering if I needed to get a small monitor for this, especially for doing things like interviews.

Thanks again!

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Mark Suszko
Re: Wedding shoot advice sought!
on Nov 12, 2014 at 5:04:00 pm

The audio advice given in that clip is dead-on correct. If you can tap the church audio system, do it. Also, mic the groom with a wireless or at least a digital audio recorder. You can hide the lav mic in/under the flower boutonniere the groom wears, FIRMLY gaffer tape the mic inside the coat so it doesn't move or rub on anything Tape over the power and mic switches so it can't be accidentally or purposely turned off by the groom. A recorder can also be planted at the lectern, but I find 90 percent of the audio you use, will end up being off the groom's mic, the rest will be music/singing off another camera.

You don't say how formal or casual the ceremony is, but you should not be so close to the couple that you get into every wide shot from the second camera angle, or other still photogs. You are not the show: if you become noticeable, you're too close. It is super-important that you get together with the officiant for the ceremony and learn their "house rules" for your behavior in covering the wedding. Going to the rehearsal to confirm where you can, and cannot be, is essential. It also offers fun extra shots for the edit later.

For a hand-held DSLR, I would suggest a monopod is more use in weddings than a steadicam. The monopod gives your body a chance to rest and thus introduce less initial shake of long-throw telephoto shots, but it takes up very little space and lets you move around well in crowds anywhere. When lifted off the ground, the pendulum effect of a monopod leg also works as a steadying device. Finally, if everyone stands up in your way, the monopod lets you elevate your camera overhead to get the shot.

Your second and third cameras give a wider shot for context and a safety back-up. Have the church audio system connect to one of these cams, if possible. Many churches now offer a special audio service for people with hearing problems: it's a tiny wireless receiver, with a headphone jack, already tapped into the house audio system, so borrowing one of these is a great way to get good audio captures into one of your cameras. The second camera often is put in a choir or organ loft/balcony. A go pro can be placed on the floor in the main aisle, near a pew, for a low-angle shot of the bride and bridal party entering in, and this shot won't be blocked when everyone stands. Think about planting a go-pro in one of the flower arrangements as well.

Go to the rehearsal and see where everyone stands, so you can see if they will block unattended cameras. Sometimes you will find an acceptable place to put an unattended camera for the reverse-angle shot that puts the couple and officiant in foreground and guests in view behind them.

Plant your best camera, on a tripod on the groom's side, on the aisle, about 4-5 rows back. It is more important to get the bride's face for the vows and ring than anything else, and this position normally gets that shot. If a tripod is too obtrusive, you can adapt a mic stand into a sturdy but minimalist support for a smaller camera like a DSLR or gopro. Flat black mic stands are available online or from music stores, the threaded adaptor is available online at markertek, on amazon, or from musician's friend.

These 4 shots at the ceremony are do-or-die:

Entrance procession of the bride.
The rings, with good audio.
The vows, with good audio.
The conclusion and exit.

If you don't get those 4, you're fired. The rest is also important, along with getting some b-roll of the families in the first 3 rows, both sides, but those 4 are make-or-break, so you had better have 2 or more cameras on them.

As to the codec and rez/ frame size, if your main deliverable is a DVD, that's still standard-def, even though you can make it wide-screen. For DVD mastering, shooting in 1080 lets you scale and pan the full shot in a 720 sized timeline, great for re-composing frames or adding movement to locked-off shots. If the final deliverable is BluRay, or just high-def online delivery, you can do this same kind of thing by shooting in 4k and bumping down to 2k in post. Some wedding guys deliver the high def version pre-loaded into a new iPod or tablet, which lets the bride show it around to a small group in high def as well as plug into a nearby TV set for larger group viewing. You can offer that as a high end "added-value" item, and it gets around sticky problems like picking delivery codecs the users can view.

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Neil Orman
Re: Wedding shoot advice sought!
on Nov 12, 2014 at 7:15:00 pm

I really appreciate this great, detailed response Mark! So helpful. To answer your question I think it's a relatively casual wedding with 50-80 people, held at a hotel. You mentioned a lot of things I hadn't thought carefully enough about, like where to stand, and the monopod possibility, as well as that great list of make-or-break shots. And I'd thought about attending the rehearsal but your advice clinched it, I will go and do everything you said there. One person suggested I stand behind the officiant, which would be a great angle and out of the way, so I'm planning to try to do that. The only question with which I continue to struggle is the multiple cameras one. I will be a one-man-band, and I've heard a couple of other folks strongly suggesting I don't worry about using multiple cameras. Instead they recommended focusing on story and capturing the emotion of the day, rather than worrying about full coverage of the ceremony etc. And for the majority of wedding videos I see (online anyway), they are 4-8 minute trailer-type videos that don't seem to benefit overly from multiple cameras. They requested a full feature video too but the bride said she wasn't worried about super complete ceremony coverage. So I'm still leaning toward one camera, but would be interested if you or others feels strongly one way or the other. I definitely do want to get all those key shots you mentioned, and if it's impossible with one camera I will reconsider.
And just one last follow-up, for you or anyone else who cares to comment: The only lens I have for my 5D Mk 3 is a Canon zoom 24-105 mm. Is that one lens sufficient for a wedding or should I look at renting another lens? Was thinking this might be important, especially if I have to be a long way from the action during the ceremony.
Thanks again!

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Mark Suszko
Re: Wedding shoot advice sought!
on Nov 12, 2014 at 9:05:36 pm
Last Edited By Mark Suszko on Nov 12, 2014 at 10:42:36 pm

If you stand behind the officiant, you're going to be inadvertently photo-bombing every still shot anybody else takes. Not good. That's a place better reserved for a hidden gopro. Most ceremonies now have the bride and groom face each other during the vows and ring ceremony, so the people in the audience can see this better. Consequently, the camera angle is best at that point from the seats on the groom's side, or with a long telephoto from the aisle, down the center, far enough back so as to not bother the seated guests. If you see the rehearsal, you may get to give some input and suggest the face-to-face vows, if they aren't doing it that way to begin with.

As to long vs. short, what you see posted on youtube are just short compilations/montages but that doesn't mean the shooter ONLY shot for that form. Only that MOST people only put up short youtube vids. I would say 95% of weddings are shot "wall-to-wall", then the editor has maximum flexibility of choice to deliver whatever the clients want.

There's other considerations you'll learn, if you delve into the business further. What you are shooting is a documentary. People the bride and groom may never have met, and may never see again, extended family and friends, all have made the effort to travel to the event to be there. Great Aunt Tilly and Grandpa Joe may be dead next week, and the only footage the bride and bride's mom may get, is what you got at the wedding and reception. That stuff looks like junk to you, today, but may be gold, tomorrow. So you shoot with an eye to capture EVERYBODY, SEVERAL TIMES. Overshooting is insurance. If they were invited, they must be important to somebody. I'm not saying they must be in your short slo-mo montages, but you may want to toss in a few seconds of Aunt Tilly wiping a tear or smiling, in the long-form version of the wedding. You should be able to offer the bride a copy of all the raw footage you didn't use, in case they want it for historical reasons. As they say in news shooting: "The barn only burns down once", so get those once-in-a-lifetime shots whenever you can, even when they seem unimportant at the time.

Here's a short checklist of what *I* did for every wedding I shot:

Get to the wedding really early.
Get establishing shots of the church or temple exterior, show the weather, show nearby scenery.
Show the decorations being put in, show the groom and his guys arriving, get shots of the mom putting the boutonniere on the Groom, the guys helping each other with ties, etc.
Mic the groom.
Go over to the Bride's dressing room, ask to get in and get a few prep shots when she's mostly dressed and doing final details.
Pull individual bridesmaids and groomsmen aside to get a 30-second closeup with them giving a good-luck wish, giving advice, or telling a quick anecdote about the bride and groom, their personality, how much they love each other, etc. I like to put the camera in the middle of a fake football huddle and have the groomsmen all ring around it to give a little pep speech.
Get a shot of any decorations being put on the getaway car.
If the Priest or Minister has known the couple along time, see if they will say something like a blessing or advice for them to see later and be surprised by when they play the video.
Find b-roll shots like close-ups of the Unity Candle, some of the floral decorations, posed shot of the Program booklet, a shot of the rings on a pillow, candles, and b-roll of people sitting in their places, being attentive.
If the organist is playing incidental music, roll for one whole song while shooting some b-roll of the stained glass windows, etc. for later montage use.
Start and check all the second and third cameras.
Hang around the front by the altar, off to one side, and get shots of the Mother of the Bride and Mother Of the Groom being escorted in to their seat by the ushers. Then sprint back to your normal shooting position.

Be rolling before the doors open and the music starts. Cover the procession in, let the ladies and gents walk past the camera, don't follow them all the way to the altar. Leave the camera pointed at the back doors and running. Know what you're going to do when everyone stands up for the Bride entrance: will you go over their heads, push into the aisle a little, or go low on the floor? Track the bride and her dad to the altar, snap-zoom and re-frame to get the father giving her hand to the groom. Slowly pull out to a 3-shot for the officiant to enter, then get wider shots and slow pans to reveal the bridesmaids and groomsmen. Roll on everything, try not to stop the camera, but make any big angle changes super-quick so they can be covered with b-roll or edited-out later. Do those during the split second someone takes a breath or pause. Try not to duplicate shots your B and C cameras will be getting.

Shoot a tight 2-shot for the ring and vows, with the bride's face centered, if the groom has his back to your camera angle.

Have a plan to be in the aisle and set up already, when the bride and groom will turn and process out. The stills guy and you will jockey for position: let the stills guy get ahead of you, and shoot over the top of him. Let the stills guy be IN some of the shots, because it's a fun edit technique to freeze on his camera flash and insert the stills he actually shot, (or your own) later.
Get a little montage coverage of the stills guy working with the bride and groom immediately after recessional is done. Keep the groom wireless going if you can, you can get some classic audio.

Get the license being signed, and a shot of the rings on fingers, XCU.

Retrieve the wireless off the groom.
Go get with the line of people ready for the rice throw/car getaway.

Shoot the exit/rice/balloons/bubbles/doves, whatever... and getting into the car. Get behind the limo to get it driving away. Scoot over to the reception.

Get set at reception, tap into DJ mixer. Locate tripod place.
Shoot receiving line, get every person and try to get audio. The bride and groom use this footage later to identify who came and what they looked like. Take a shot of the gift table and the uncut cake. Shoot a place setting and get a wide establisher of the hall. Start running to tables with a mic and get well wishes on camera from the early birds that are already seated, before the music starts up and before they are in the midst of eating. The rest of the tables, you get to between food courses and dessert.

Set up for the entrance and introduction of the wedding party, shoot that, shoot the blessing, the toasts and speeches.

Shoot the garter and bouquet ceremony, if they have one.

Shoot the cutting of the cake and posing for cake pictures.

Shoot the first five dances. Then move around hand held shooting as many candid compositions as you can, plus any funny ethnic dances or gags, the bride and her gals getting down, the groom and his guys goofing off.

Get some rack focus shots of the band and /or DJ and their light show.

Don't bother trying to eat at the reception: it distracts you from getting key shots.

Find/ compose a tableau to end on; champagne glasses or lit, half-melted candles and things in foreground, dancers in background, and work some rack-focus shots and fades to closed iris.

With that list, you can make ANY kind of wedding video out of the pieces you gathered. Traditional to hipsterish.

"That's how Dad did it, that's how America does it... and it's worked out pretty good for us so far..."
- Anthony Stark

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Neil Orman
Re: Wedding shoot advice sought!
on Nov 13, 2014 at 3:20:21 pm

You're awesome Mark, what an incredible help. Very much appreciated.

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