Friday, August 14, 2009

How To Film A Wedding.

So, you're going to film a wedding video... Panic!

Sounded like a good idea at the time didn't it? The big day is drawing closer, and it seems an awfully long time since you volunteered (or more likely were volunteered) to film the biggest day of any happy couple's life. The quality of the video archive of their momentous occasion depends wholly upon your filming and editing skills. Phew, you finally admit to yourself, (but to no other) that the task is daunting. This is way beyond anything you have ever tackled before and frankly you do not have a clue where to start.

Don't worry, help is at hand...

The Plan

The first thing to bear in mind is that having a good plan is the way forward. Equally think about how you would like your final movie to look and match that to the natural sequence of events that happen at a wedding. If you take a little bit of time over this, then you will end up with a high level Shooting Plan that looks something like this,

• Opening Credits (Video montage of photographic stills of happy couple as babies children and fledgling couple, preparations of bride and groom on day of the wedding, arrival, including guests at wedding ceremony), at ceremony

• The Wedding ceremony itself starting with the arrival of the bride through to completion of vows.

• Video Montage of shots after the vows, departure for and arrival at the reception, including footage of still photographic shoot.

• The speeches (Bride's father or Sponsor, Groom, Best Man, Others)

• The First Dance (With cutaways to video montage of the day's events)

• Best Wishes (Interviews with the principal guests wishing the happy couple all the best)

• A Day to remember (Video Montage of the day's key events and closing titles)


For the above plan to be effective there are a number of preparatory steps to be taken.

1. Meet the happy couple well in advance of their wedding. This allows you to assure them that all will be well on the day. You can also ask for photographs (or better still video) of them both when young (baby, starting school, teenagers, when they first met, engagement photos etc) for inclusion in your video montage. You can also confirm their output requirements (Widescreen?) and music taste.

2. 'Black' your DV tapes (put the lens caps on and press the record button until the tape is finished and then rewind). This writes time code to the tape and saves any hiccups at the editing stage.

3. Attend and film the rehearsal, if there is one. This allows you to get permission from the priest, minister, rabbi etc to film the wedding and gives you a good idea of what is going to happen on the day. It also allows you to check if power points are available. If not invest in extra battery power. Equally the rehearsal presents a big clue as to when to change your tapes - don't want to do that mid vows do we!

4. The rehearsal also allows you to set appro ximate timings for the event. For example on the big day you don't want to change video tapes during the vows! Not a good idea!

5. At the rehearsal, use two video cameras if you can, to establish the best shooting position for both cameras. You should also 'man' both cameras! Use camera one for the main footage and use camera two for general shots of the guests and other events.

6. Check all your batteries. Remember to have spares for the camcorder itself and to be quite certain about how long the powe r will last. We have already mentioned the importance of not changing tapes mid-vows. Equally you will not want to run out of battery at the crucial moment. Don't forget those other important sundries. For example if your external microphone uses its own batteries, then make sure they are new and certain to last for the duration.

7. On the subject of microphones, please do inve st (if you have not already done so) in a good uni-directional external microphone. I have often watched wedding videos where the sound on the vows and/or speeches is frankly muffled. A good microphone will avoid this.

8. If you have not already done so, invest in a set of headphones for your camera. We shall discover later that it is important that you, the camera operator, hears what the camera is hearing. Test the effect of panning and zooming at th e rehearsal.

On the wedding day itself

1. If the Bride and Groom have agreed to you filming their preparations, then arrive early at their home. Stay in the background and be as unobtru sive as possible. Obviously you will have agreed befor e hand the boundaries of what you may and may not film.

2. Arrive at the Wedding Venue early; this is particularly important if you have not had the opportunity for a rehearsal. Confirm your filming positions and other arrangements with the person conducting the marriage.

3. Get some additional footage outside of the church/re gistration office/synagogue/mosque/whatever, of guests (and Bride and groom etc) arriving. This allows for good video montage and title sequence shots.

4. Return to the wedding area and check your camera settings for exposure and focus. Despite what the manufacturers claim, modern consumer video cameras do not perform well in indoor light. It may be OK for you New Year party, but remember you are filming a wedding. Adjust your exposure and focus settings accordingly!

5. Before the arrival of the Bride, take the opportunity to film the nervous Groom and guests. Makes for good background footage and gives you a final check on your microphone, tripod and earphones..

6. Return to your plan and film the bride walking down the isle and the wedding service itself. Keep your camera as static as possible and only zoom for a specific reason (not just because the camera can do it). For example you may want a very slow zoom stopping at the close up of where the Bride (or Groom) says, 'I do'.

7. Avoid 'panning' (moving camera from side to side) during the vows. The reason for this is as the camera moves so does the microphone. Therefore you run the risk of losing, or diminishing the audio quality of the vows (This also applies to the speeches). The use of headphones should confirm that the audio is good!

8. This part of the wedding ends as the happy couple leave the wedding to depart for the reception. Take this opportunity to replace your film and check your batteries. Whilst the stills photographer is busy outside the wedding venue, make your way to the reception venue in good time and repeat the checks you made on exposure at the reception venue.

9. Usually at wedding receptions there is a huge break between arriving and serving the meal. Use this opportunity to film the principal guests. Simply ask them to record their best wished for the happy couple. This is best done without the knowledge of the bride and groom and adds a lovely and welcome touch to the finished video.

10. Typically the last main event of the wedding is to film the First Dance, take care to get uninterrupted coverage of this. Pick a good uninterrupted view to ensure that your filming is not interrupted by the usual Wedding Paparazzi! Also, take a note of the First Dance song, you may want to use a CD copy of this at the editing stage.

General Tips throughout the Video

1 . Keep filming. Remember video tape is cheap , memories take a moment and last a lifetime (don't miss them).

2. Camera person doesn't talk/laugh/cry etc (may be difficult in the unlikely event of an original speech)

Editing and Presenting the Video

1. Frankly this is a topic in its own right! How ever if you have stuck to your plan, th en the video will make itself.

2. The only tricky bit is how you build your video montage. The only advice to give here (it is ultimately a matter of choice and taste) then keep it snappy. Typically choose very short clips (5 to 8 seconds) and match the clips to suit the tempo and style of your music. Go light on the transitions, ultimately they are a distraction to the viewer. Transitions should be used sparingly and for a specific purpose. Don’t use transitions just because your software allows you to!

3. As for presentation style, then that also is a subject in its own right, and beyond the scope of this particular article. Meantime just keep it simple and consistent!

Above all enjoy the day! Remember that Filming anyone’s big event is an honor and a privilege. With a little bit of planning, and little bit of foresight, it really is a rewarding experience.



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