Weddings are special, and many brides love the idea of an amazing, romantic video of their special day. The truth is, though, that many wedding videos shot by family and friends, while special, could be much better. Here are a few tips and ideas to help you create a video that theyíll want to watch over and over again. It can be hard work but itís worth the effort!
If your budget allows, itís best to have two cameras, especially for ceremony coverage. If you can't afford the equipment at this time, try using a video camera rental. I typically set one camera up in the balcony or in the back of the venue to capture a wide shot of the stage area, and one camera on the right side of the venue, as close to the stage as possible without being blocked by the groomsmen (usually back two or three chair rows from the front). The right side gives you the best view of the bride, and especially her face. As long as you have the wide camera running in the back, you have a little freedom to re-position if someone is blocking your shot and you need a better angle.
When you choose the cameras youíll be using, the camera in the back with the wide stage shot is not too critical - any camcorder will usually be fine. For the camera youíll be running on the right side of the venue, you want a camera and tripod that will be steady, easy to zoom slowly and steadily, and a good pair of audio inputs. I find the Canon XH-A1 to be a good camera to shoot with, as well as a good sturdy tripod with a Bogen 501 head.
Youíll also want to have a wireless microphone or a standalone audio recorder wired on the groom to pick up the vows. Donít put a mic on the bride - wires are usually black, and you donít want to mess with the dress anyway. Just mic the groom. Usually theyíll stand close enough that your mic will pick up the brideís voice too. If you have a spare mic, you might ask the officiant if you can mic him/her as well.
I like to also have a shotgun mic mounted on my camera to record the room sounds - cheering, live music, and the venueís sound system. Any external mic will be better than the in-camera microphone, and itís worth the investment if you can afford it. I split the camera audio inputs left and right, and run the shotgun mic into the left channel, the groomís wireless mic into the right channel. Depending on your cameraís audio input you may need a Beachtek adapter to do this.
If you have time before the wedding and itís your first time using the gear, do yourself a big favor and set it all up and test it. Make sure you understand the settings and familiarize yourself with the cameras and mics. Weddings donít wait.
The first sign of an amateur video is unsteady camera work. You need a steady tripod for starters, but you also want to think about where youíre going to position yourself. It can help to get close to the action. Donít zoom in and out quickly or whip the camera. Steady and calm camera work, even if it isnít perfect, is much more enjoyable to watch later.
If you have a good wide angle camera as a backup shot, that will help cover up camera mistakes made during the ceremony, and also help during the processional.
I do a lot of handheld camera work during a wedding, but the ceremony, speeches, and first dances are always shot on a tripod.
Test your audio settings. Sacrifice your great hairdo and use those headphones! Donít just assume that because you can see audio levels on the camera, that you know whatís going on. Your shots can look amazing, but horrible audio distortion or no sound at all can ruin a great wedding video.
Here are a couple of audio things that can cause trouble if youíre using external mics.
Make sure you know at least a rough schedule of the day beforehand, and know what the bride and groom expect. Hereís a basic run-down of what I typically shoot:
Also it can be fun to shoot the professional photos, especially outdoor photo sessions. Donít try to copy what the photographer is shooting or itíll be boring. Get people laughing, goofing off, shoot some of the photographer -- remember that youíre not taking pictures, youíre shooting video, and those are two different things.
I donít shoot people eating as a general rule, but before the grand entrance I do try to get a few shots of guests having fun, laughing, drinking, etc. I would recommend shooting everything at the reception on a tripod until the open dancing starts, and then maybe shoot that handheld.
My technique for better audio at the reception is to take a wireless mic and set it up so that the mic dangles in front of the DJís speaker. If you do this, you have to make sure you adjust the micís settings so that it can handle the high volume levels, but youíll have a nearly direct feed without the hassle of plugging directly into the DJís board. No matter what you do, the most important thing at a reception is to use headphones and be sure that your audio is not distorting because itís so loud.
Plan for plenty of editing time. If you shoot just the ceremony and main reception events, you can expect to spend a fairly full day editing, more if you donít have a lot of editing experience. The more footage you shoot, the more time itíll take.
When I finish a DVD, I deliver three separate video tracks - a full wedding edit, a long reception edit with full toasts, full first dances, etc, and a fun 10-15 minute highlights edit that they can easily sit down and watch with friends and family, or post and share online.
Thereís a lot to think about, and itíll be a challenge, but hopefully itíll also be a fun experience and will mean a lot to your bride and groom. You can do it, and theyíll appreciate your work for many, many years to come.
Here's a sample video shot by Center Street Productions.
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