Friday, April 22, 2011

8 Things You Should Know Before You Hire A Wedding Videographer

I wrote this article a long time ago, but it's still one of my most popular posts and I think worth re-publishing (I've updated some of the parts regarding technology... hey, it's been a while!). Plus, I feel it's a necessary refresher since I still get questions as to why I charge more than other vendors who claim they "get the same results for a fraction of the cost" (yeah, right). So without further ado... 8 Things You Should Know Before You Hire A Wedding Videographer:

1. Are they really pros?

Recent advancements in technology have made camera equipment and editing software very affordable. The downside of this is that now there are a lot of wannabes calling themselves "cameramen" and "editors" when really they are just "guys with a camera and some software."

How do you tell the difference? Experience. The ideal cameraman has experience shooting not only weddings but documentaries and live television. These are the people who really understand the art of "anticipate and respond," which what you want because when it comes to your wedding, there are no second takes.

A lot of wedding cameramen edit their own work, but editing is a craft in itself so a truly professional crew might have a separate person who edits. In professional video, cameramen tend to be outgoing and animated people whereas editors tend to be introverted, detail-oriented and prefer the solitude of a dark editing room. These are two separate art forms that demand different skill sets. Make sure that the company you hire to do your video is good at both shooting and editing.

2. What kind of cameras do they use?

Consumer camcorders you see at your local electronics store are typically "single chip" cameras. These are small and lightweight and great for home videos and vacations but are entirely inappropriate for shooting weddings. You want someone with a "three chip camera" (sometimes called "three CCD") which is bigger and several thousand dollars more expensive.

Three chips produce much clearer and more accurate colours (even in low light) than one chip.

You also want someone who has all the bells and whistles: a wireless lavaliere microphone, a camera-mounted light, a tripod and/or monopod and some extra lights just in case.

Pretty much everyone is shooting digitally these days so they can edit digitally as well and output digitally onto DVD. The benefit of keeping the capture, edit and output process in the digital domain is that the footage experiences little to no quality loss. You should definitely hire someone who is up-to-date with technology.

3. What kind of lights do they use?

You probably won't like it if your videographer mounts glaring hot lights on an elaborate scaffolding. After all, this is your wedding, not a film set. The camera equipment should absolutely not compromise the d├ęcor and ambiance of the wedding.

An adjustable camera-mounted light works really well. It moves around with the cameraman (who moves around with the couple) and it should be used only when necessary. It should be soft and subtle, and its intensity can be adjusted so it is not overly bright. The way to find out if the cameraman understands this is to look at his footage and watch for any "deer caught in headlights" reactions from his subjects. The people in the video should not even realize he's there: they should be enjoying the wedding!

4. What do the cameramen wear?

It's tough, physical work, but they should be dressed nicely. Asking them not to wear running shoes, jeans, etc. is not unreasonable.

5. Can they do multiple camera shoots?

You will benefit from a two camera shoot if you have a lot going on. Your coverage will be a lot more complete and then your editor can cut between the two cameras for a dynamic and entertaining wedding video.

Strongly consider having a second camera, at least for the ceremony portion of the day. You'll want to get both the bride's and groom's reactions and close-ups of the rings going on, etc. and everything happens very quickly and 2 cameras will catch a lot more than just one.

Just make sure that BOTH cameras are the same quality (three chip) and both cameras are manned by separate qualified cameramen; do not let them leave a camera unattended on a tripod.

6. What is their sound quality like?

It is easy to forget about sound when you are thinking of video, but please do not make this mistake. Insist on a videographer that uses a wireless microphone: they are small and unnoticeable and amazing at recording vows or people coming up to you to congratulate you, etc.

7. What is their editing style?

This is a very important question! Make sure their style suits your taste. Don't be seduced by a lot of dazzling animation and special effects - it might not be the look you want. And it might look cheesy in the years to come. Classic simplicity never goes out of style.

8. Do they have a demo DVD?

They had better! Don't fall for a "music video" or a series of carefully chosen shots timed to music, because anyone can look good that way. Ask to see actual, sequential clips from a wedding (or even an entire wedding) incorporating recorded natural sound mixed with music.

When you are watching the demo DVD, be sure to look for:

· clear, bright picture, even in low light
· clean natural sound
· audible, consistent audio levels
· smooth, non-jerky camera movement
· artistic camera composition
· seamless and dynamic editing
· relaxed bridal party and guests who hardly notice they are being taped?

Most importantly, ask yourself, "Is a story being told? Do you feel the emotion of that magical day?" Because after all, you want a video that becomes more valuable as time goes by, something that is true to your personalities and tastes and not some form of torture on your unsuspecting dinner guests in the years to come! A good wedding video will enable you to relive one of the best days of your life.