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A little advice re: Shooting HD/SD events

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Matt SepetaA little advice re: Shooting HD/SD events
by on Mar 2, 2009 at 9:04:56 pm

So.... My buddy just moved back from a job out east, where he had started a Wedding Video Production Company. He could not find anyone willing to commit to a startup project, but now that he is back, he has asked me to help due to my experience with graphics and photography, but I am not too experienced in video, especially industry standard (For my work I only produce web video).

We have two pairs of friends/acquaintances getting hitched late summer, and they have agreed to let us "Practice" on their two weddings, so we want to get this right.

With that out of the way, let me just ask a few questions...

I have never worked with HD footage, and we are definately going to try to use HD cams, maybe HVx or something similar.

Can my IMac handle that workload?
Its 2.8 ghz core 2 duo, 4 gb 800 mhz ram.

Having poked around these forums for long enough, I have read about different "boards". like Kona or black magic, what are the uses of these exactly? Are they more for broadcast standard stuff? Is it something we would need to look into eventually?

Furthermore; Has anyone heard of a service that provides Video/Photo/Music for events? Is that even a feasible bundle of services to offer, or do you think clients would rather have options for each aspect?

Thanks a ton!

-Matt S.

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Mark SuszkoRe: A little advice re: Shooting HD/SD events
by on Mar 3, 2009 at 4:29:37 pm

Your iMac can probably handle an HD edit in final cut or imovieHD, perhaps not as fast or smoothly as a mac tower, most likely adequate enough for occasional use, maxing out your RAM is essential... but you're going to want to keep the footage on its own external firewire drive(s), and not tie up the system or "c' drive with the footage. HD footage takes up a lot of room. The system drive needs room and time to run your actual apps, standard practice is always to keep the media on a dedicated drive of its own. That drive needs a fast enough access time on it so it won't drop frames.

If you shoot using a Focus Enhancements firestore clipped to your camera, that drive can just be plugged into the iMac and away you go. No digitizing, edit right off that portable drive.

Otherwise, you need a way to import footage, this would either be thru your firewire port, like you do for SD home movies in iMovie, or thru an external box like an AJA io. (no room inside the imac to add a Kona card, wrong physical format) The box would also give you a monitor output so you can see what things look like on an HD tv set. You might be able to live without the box, but it does add some ease of use.

As to output: you want to shoot this in HD, but how are you going to give it back to the married couples? In HD? You'll need at the least to buy a copy of Toast or Adobe Encore to burn a bluray disk, and an external bluray drive to burn it on. That's going to run several hundred, I imagine.

Or you could burn it to a data DVD or put it on a portable drive as a quicktime, and they can view it on their computer, but not in any DVD player. The HD part is what makes everything tougher for distribution. If your final output is a wide screen SD dvd, you can play that anywhere, and it will still look very good and you already have all the software you need to do that. The HD issue tends to complicate and elevate costs, be sure the extra bother is worth it. Just a few things to think about.

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Matt SepetaRe: A little advice re: Shooting HD/SD events
by on Mar 3, 2009 at 8:56:32 pm

Thanks a lot for the feedback, that cleared up a ton of questions. Look like SD is clearly the way to start. How much RAM can my imac hold? There are 4gb in it already. D

o you have any recommendations for a good camera? We are planning on renting for the first few times, so cost is not really an issue, we just need to get spectacular results.

How about lighting? I was looking at LED panels that mount on the hot shoe, would that work or would you recommend more of a directed light or maybe set up some standing lights?

Thanks again!

24" Imac | 2.8 ghz duo | 4 gb

Mac Book | 2.2 ghz | 2 gb

pscs4 | idcs3 | macromedia suite 2004 | fcp5

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Mark SuszkoRe: A little advice re: Shooting HD/SD events
by on Mar 3, 2009 at 10:13:15 pm

I think renting is usually a great option for this, that's all I ever used when I did wedding videos was a camera, rented just for the day. Smart business because you're only paying for it when you're actually making money with it, and not paying for it when it's just sitting around. Be sure you get over to the rental place well in advance, days ahead, and get familiarized with it in their shop, let them teach you everything about the settings you need, etc. so you don't make dumb mistakes in the field. Get to the church ahead of time to shoot some of the decorations being put up and the groomsmen getting their flowers on and the bride primping in her dressing room. Roll backand watch the footage a little to check that you have no head clogs and are getting good recordings, then carefully roll forward again past the end of the original material so you don't run over good stuff re-recording.

You're going to need a wireless lav mic to hide on the groom's lapel and catch the vows clearly, rent that as well, try for a Zaxcom or Lectrosonics, pricey but worth it. You may want a hand held wired mic for interviews, do not count on the on-camera shotgun for any critical work. You may need impedance adapters to tap into the DJ or the PA system at the reception. Have all the right plugs; quarter-phone, phono, RCA and mini, stero and mono, plus adaptors. Monitor your audio at all times, viewers will forgive slightly bad video, but cannot tolerate crappy audio. AT least one of your cameras, probably the one in the back getting the wide cover shots, needs to tap into the church sound system to get a clean feed. Scout the church well in advance to see what you need for connectors and adaptors to make this happen.

Go to the rehearsal dinner and make sure the camera angles you plan will work for you and also that the officiant and others will know where you'll be and that you're okay being there. This is the last chance to put in your two cents about any of the staging or choreography of where the bridal party stands, and where you get to stand, so it's smart to go to the rehearsals even if you don't shoot. Also, take extra pains to have a good heart to heart with the priest or rabbi, tell them you know this is their place and you want to play by all their rules, and they'll reward your respect generally by giving you the run of the place. But you have to take the initiative ahead of time.

For lighting, in the church you're generally going to be stuck shooting with existing light, so when picking the camera, go for one with more clean low-light ability, over other features. In drag racing, there is no substitute for cubic inches; in videography, there is no substitute for BIG lenses and BIG sensor chips. At the reception, you have more freedom. The lightpanels LED thing is good for short-distance interviews of people at about six feet in front of you, for shooting the cake cutting and such. The down side of LED is most of them are still a bit blue in color temp for my liking, you risk mixing too many color temperatures and creating unflattering color shifts, so be careful about where and how you white balance, or you'll have lots of color correction work awaiting you in post. I would still prefer a Frezzi light with the dimmer control, so I can dim down to a glow for intimate dancing shots or dial up a blow torch to see across the ballroom. Hang some diffusion over the on-camera light to make it less harsh, or bounce it off a piece of white foamcore.

Use decent, fluid-head tripods, rent if you can't afford to own yet. Especally for the long-shot camera.

You may not need both cameras at the reception, I never did. Just keep thinking ahead and planning what shots to expect and what you'll need to tell the story. Make a list of all the "gottas": the entrance/introduction, the oldsters of the family that are not long for this world, and need to be documented, the littlest kids, the cutting of the cake, the prayer, the toasts, kisses of the newlyweds, any special well-wishing messages from each reception table, LOTS of full-length flattering shots of her wedding dress, what the food looks like, the table with the gifts on it, the first dance, the parent's dance, the bride and bridesmaids getting down after a few drinks, the Dj or the band, the garter and bouquet shots, the silly ethnic dance of choice, etc...

Think always about cut-aways, detail closeups, transitional shots, as well as establishing shots, wides, mediums and closeups of the people, particulaly candids. Little things like closeups of the centerpieces ansd the cake topper, the sign outside the hotel if it mentions them, etc. and get up on a sturdy chair for a couple sweeping high angle shots of the ballroom too.

Compose a nice frame and Let people walk in and out of shots, don't make every shot begin and end with zooms or pans. Don't shoot jump cuts; finish a medium shot, stop rolling, set a closeup or a wide, compose the frame, roll again. It's called "editing in camera"; if you do it right, you have very little you need to remove or re-arrange in post. Try a few times to run ahead of the wedding party and alrady be rolling as they come into shot and interact, instead of always chasing alongside or behind them. As soon as you get done with the receiving line or entrance of the bridal party to the ballroom, steal the groom's wireless and plant it on the head table where it will pick up the toast/speech by the Best Man. Better yet, tap into the ballroom's sound feed on one channel of the camcorder, use shotgun on the other.

I was always more nervous than the wedding couples whe I shot weddngs: the barn only burns down one time, as they say, so you have to be VERY prepared and ready to adapt to any problem, and get it the first time. Extra batteries, extra tape, extra cables, extra everything, always have contingencies and backup plans. Be self-sufficient to the extreme.

Remember to dress and conduct yourselves with class, because wedding gigs are mostly won by referrals from the ministers, the happy customers, and the guests that attend and see you work. Act professional at all times. Don't try to eat during the reception, you should be working or getting ready to work at all times. I swear to you, the minute you put the camera down to do something unrelated is when the best shot of the day will happen. Count on it.

That's the beginning of a list of do's and don'ts, in no particular order. Like Pascal said, if I had more time, I'd write it shorter.:-)

Good luck!

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Matt SepetaRe: A little advice re: Shooting HD/SD events
by on Mar 4, 2009 at 3:32:46 pm

That is extremely helpful, thank you!

-Matt Sepeta

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Clint HayesRe: A little advice re: Shooting HD/SD events
by on Mar 23, 2009 at 4:21:11 am

This is outstanding. Thank you very much for taking the time to do this. We're shooting our first wedding in less than a month, so we'll be consulting this again.

Clint Hayes
Dallas, TX

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