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Tips for A Great Wedding Video

Aug 17, 2007
What factors should a bride and groom consider when choosing a videographer?

How the couple "clicks" with the videographer, the perceived quality of the work, price and value, experience, and professionalism are all important factors when choosing a videographer.

On the first item, realize that you will be spending lots of time on what is often a rather stressful day with this person. While a personable videographer will help the couple relax and enjoy their day, the exact opposite is also true.

The nicest videographer in the world, however, will not compensate for poor work. Shooting and editing videotape is an art form. Find someone with the right combination of excellent skills and excellent tools.

Price and value will always mean different things to couples on different budgets. The tired cliche, "you get what you pay for" is as true here as with any other service. If a couple finds out how much time is really involved in producing a great video, they will realize why prices will often exceed $1500 to $2000. Certainly, none of us will advocate going over-budget like they do in Hollywood, but a video that will hold up to the scrutiny of friends, family, and time will not come cheaply.

A videography studio that has done work in your facility, or one like it, is an invaluable help. That the videographer is on his 100th, or 500th wedding, is an asset to you. That videographer knows what to expect at the wedding, what questions to ask, and of whom, knows how to interact with the various people he/she will come into contact with during the day.

What are some questions a couple should ask when choosing a videographer?

We give out a sheet entitled "Comparison shopping questions" to our couples. This is a great place to start as you shop.

* Who will my videographer be? Will he/she be the owner, a partner, a full-time employee, a free-lance person, or other?

* Who will be editing the videotape?

*To what professional organizations does your studio belong?

*How do the crew members advance their professional educations?

*Is the sample tape I'm viewing the same format (usually standard VHS) and same generation (usually 3rd) that I will receive? Was the sample tape recorded and edited on the same equipment that will be used for my event?

*Is your main camera a 3-CCD (3 "chip") professional model, or something else? What about camera 2, or your back-up camera?

*How many wireless microphones will you use during the ceremony? Where will they be placed?

All the sources of sound should be clean and clear.

* What happens if an equipment problem occurs during my wedding?

*What guarantees do you provide?

*What input do we have throughout the shooting and editing process?

* How will you light the ceremony? How will you light the reception?

*Where will the videographer(s) be during the ceremony and reception?

*How will the crew be dressed?

What are some indications that a videographer might not be that professional?

You should think twice before hiring a videographer who

*Does not allow you to visit their studio

* Offers no references

* Avoids answering direct questions

*Speaks ill of other videographers, other industry professionals, or other couples

* Shows you a tape that he/she didn't produce, but claims to be able to make one "just like that"

How can a couple evaluate the quality of a wedding video they are viewing as a sample? What are some indicators that the video is very good--and indicators that the video is not that good at all?

Here is what I see as the best way to judge: ask yourself "Is this what I want my tape to look and sound like?" If your answer is "no", go on to your next appointment. If the answer is "yes", then it's time to move forward. Start with the questions that I list in number 2 above. Seeing a tape from your facility, under similar conditions, will be a great visual clue as to how your tape will turn out.

A major ingredient in the evaluation process is how the details show up in the tape. Do the flesh tones look right? Can you see eye colors? Can the brides gown be seen in fine detail? Same for the mothers' dresses.

Crank up the sound. At high volume, the sound should still be clean and clear, not distorted in any way.

What information should a couple give to their videographer before the wedding that could really help the videographer do his/her job well?

Knowing where to be, and when, is the obviously best way to start the day off correctly. Please let us know if anything out of the ordinary is going to happen, such as your sister singing with the band, or Aunt Mildred getting a cake in honor of her 85th birthday. Information that you are sharing with the other vendors, such as the caterer, about the schedule of events, should be shared with us.

Knowing what you expect of us, so that we can meet or exceed those expectations, is vital.

What should the couple include in a contract with a videographer?

The contract should protect both parties, and not be so restrictive that it needs to be referred to during the wedding. Obviously, there should be a clear accounting for what services are being included, and at what price. Available extras, and their prices, should be clear. If the contract is based on hours of coverage, that should be unambiguous, along with definition of and charges for overtime. Any rules about cancellation should be easily understood, along with the requirements for any guarantees. And since we work a very long day, meal breaks should be defined and included in the contract.

What are some great ideas for videos that the couple could have made that would be played either at the church or the reception?

Having been a judge for the recent Wedding and Event Videographers International Creative Excellence Awards, I can tell you that some outstanding videos are being produced across the country, and around the world. One award winner was told as an eternal love story, showing how the couple had been together in a previous life. They had Shakespearian-type costumes for that period, and it was shot with a soft-focus filter. The modern portion was shot with regular camera settings. Another entry told a funny "how we met" story, set to music. The Best of Category winner was actually rather simple, but told well. It showed the bride and groom arriving at an old mansion for a picnic, then cut back and forth between actual picnic scenes and posed moments. Those posed moments included the couple lip-synching to the background music, and it was a story told with subtle humor.

Do you have any suggestions on how a couple can make sure a video made ahead of time (perhaps one of them from childhood on or one highlighting family love stories) turns out extremely well?

Have a clear idea of what you expect to see before starting the production, and make sure the producer understands as well. View the tape before it is shown. See other works the studio has produced. Ask those people how their tapes turned out.

How can a couple save money on videography? Are there any ways they can negotiate for a better price?

This is a very difficult area. Some studios will offer discounts for off-season work. Just recognize that what is in-season will vary by region. A Friday night wedding could also bring savings. Cutting back on the services provided, or on the number of tapes received, can make a difference. Shopping with a friend, where both will choose the same videographer, can be helpful. Ask if the videographer offers a Bridal Registry program. We do offer this service, where friends of the couple can buy gift certificates toward the price of the wedding video. There are some videographers, however, that do not offer discounts of any kind, for any reason. be prepared to hear that answer as well.

What special effects can a couple request? Do you use any special effects in wedding videos that you think come out really well?

Most videographers have a bank of hundreds of available special effects. I believe that the best videos have the least intrusive effects. Certainly, the Creative Excellence award winners were F/X minimalists. Certain effects can make a tape look as dated as the fashions and hairstyles will in a few years. The classic film-making techniques, such as black & white, slo-mo, and letter boxing, also look great on video. The latest exploding, picture-breaking, fire-breathing effect will look as bad on your wedding tape in a year or so as it looks now on some late night locally produced cable TV used car lot commercial.

The best special effect is a well-trained human eye. How the shot is framed, how it's lit, how it's tracked, are all elements much more important than what can be achieved through clicking a mouse button.

What type of things have you done with wedding video that you feel really came out spectacular?

A personal favorite is where I assemble the key shots from the wedding ceremony, and edit them together in black & white letterbox. Then I superimpose a scroll of the wedding invitation over that.

Another favorite is when I had the bride and groom sitting on a bench, talking to each other. I started my shot with an extreme close-up of a tree, then moved the camera out to catch the bride with the most natural laugh you can imagine. While shooting next to a pond at a bed-and-breakfast place, we got some great reflection shots. And that first look always is magical, whether staged or real.

How can a couple help the videographer on the day of the wedding, so as to be sure the video comes out wonderful?

Relax and have a great time. If they have hired a professional, put their faith there. If they relax and have fun, that will shine through on the tape.

What type of equipment should a videographer bring to the wedding? What type of equipment should the bride and groom ask be brought?

How the equipment is used is as important as the hardware involved. While I did indirectly address the issues earlier, I'll review.

*At least two wireless microphones, plus at least one extra hard wire mic.

* At least one 3CCD pro camera, preferably two, and/or a back-up camera

*Tripod and dolly

*Proper lights

* A note sheet, with all the relevant wedding info, and a place to write new notes, if needed

*More than enough blank videotapes

What are your best tips for brides and grooms who want a really outstanding wedding video?

*Ask friends, family, and other vendors who they recommend

*Commit as much of a percentage as possible toward the video in the budget

*Shop around, and ask the questions in #2 above, so that you can compare apples to apples

* Relax and have fun
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