How to Film a Wedding Like A Pro
I am sure you have seen a videographer or two at a wedding you were invited to. You see them capturing special moments of the day and might wonder what all is involved. Well when I got married wedding videographers didn’t have to go through all the stress that we go through now. They still had to get great shots don’t get me wrong, but they usually shot the wedding by themselves, did the edits in camera, did not focus on capturing the best audio. Most importantly, they did not have to deliver a wedding film that felt romantic as well as being cinematic. My point is the wedding filmmaker of today has much more responsibility to be creative than the wedding videographer of yesteryears. I am not going to lie, 20 years ago I thought shooting weddings was lame. For me I need to be creative and just the thought of shooting and editing a long format video just wasn’t for me. However, back in late 2008 when Canon released the Canon 5d Mark II weddings films took a turn for the better. This new camera could record full-frame video and the image was superior to that of the old camcorder. It was a few years later that I was interested in weddings and I was intrigued in learning more about how I could incorporate storytelling in wedding films. As a filmmaker, there are many facets in recording a wedding. Let me start off by stating each wedding is different and you deal with several personality types. It’s important to get to know your wedding couple and help them understand what and how you will capture their wedding.
Learn about anything special that they request and give them ideas on how best you can record that moment. I strongly believe in communicating with the couple and letting them know what you need from them in order to better prepare yourself for their special day. Sound can make or break the wedding film. If you have great sound (quality as well as what was said at the wedding) your film is on its way in becoming great. It is important that your mic your groom the officiant and plug into the sound board during a ceremony. Having multiple audio recordings gives you more reassurance that you have recorded what you need. Some may say it is overkill, but you never know if a mic may fail. At least this way you can choose the best mic that recorded the best audio quality. Wedding filmmakers also need to plug into the DJ’s sound board so they can record the audio from the speeches. It’s important to make sure your audio levels are not weak and that they are not clipping. If the audio is distorted because it was clipped because of high volume levels, you will not be able to fix it in post-production. Good speeches go a long way when it comes to the storytelling of the couple. I love when the wedding party gets the microphone and starts talking about how the groom or bride has changed over the years, or how they knew that the bride was perfect for the groom. The stories that the wedding party share only enhance the wedding film. Their audio gives the film the emotional connection and the viewer can feel for the couple. It’s these moments that help propel the couple’s wedding film. Anything can happen at a wedding. As a filmmaker you need to be ready for the unexpected. I relate shooting weddings to shooting news. When I was a photojournalist I was trained to be thinking on my feet, making quick decisions, and being as efficient as I could. I really do think that the skills I learned as a photojournalist have helped me become a better wedding filmmaker. You can’t ask the bride to walk down the aisle again because you weren’t ready. You can’t ask the groom to kiss the bride again because you didn’t press record (I am sure he wouldn’t mind though). Anticipation is crucial when filming a wedding. When I shoot short films for businesses, I have the luxury of using several lights to illuminate the scene I am shooting. However, it is a different story when it comes to weddings. You mostly use available light and you need to know how to make the light you have in the room to work to your advantage. The one exception is when filming the speeches. You can set up lights to help illuminate the person who is speaking; however, the hard part is making sure the one doing the speaking stands where the direction the light is shining. Oh, and let me not forget that wedding filmmakers do not rely on just one camera like the wedding videographer used to. We usually shoot with two or more cameras especially during the ceremony. This gives the viewer more angles and keeps it interesting. By shooting with a two camera setup or more, you can make sure the entire ceremony is covered. If the filmmaker needs to switch out their media or battery from one camera you know that the other camera will cover you. The second camera can also come in handy if you use a gimbal. You can have one camera shooting cinematic moving shots, (like following the bride and groom) while the other camera can sit stationary on a tight shot. When you combine these two shots you have different perspectives and it helps drive the imagery of the film. There are many other aspects of wedding films, but my hope is that you now understand how involved and invested wedding filmmakers are in their craft. We are not the typical videographer. We are constantly looking for the best shots, selecting the finest audio to help tell your story in your wedding film.
How to Edit a Wedding Film Like A Pro
Here is the scenario: You just finished filming a wedding that had a great atmosphere, the speeches were heart-felt, and the wedding couple looked stunning, now what? You have to create a wedding film that ties all the puzzle pieces together. It can be hard at times, but I would like to share some ideas with you on how I edit my films. Hopefully you can gain some pointers or at least you can brush up on some ideas that you may have forgotten about. The first thing you want to do is download all the footage to your computer drive. It may be easier to create separate folders as well. When I shoot with two cameras, I label each folder (camera 1 and camera 2), so it is easier for me to distinguish what is what. Once you download the footage you may want to save a copy of the wedding folders to another drive just in case something happens to the drive you will be editing from. You want to open the film with an establishing shot, so the viewer knows where this wedding is taking place. For example, if I start out the film with sound from the bride reading a card her fiancé wrote to her, I might want to show the outside of the building she is in. If she was at her home, I would show the outside of her house with sound under the shot. You can create emotion when you use establishing shots, because they lead the viewer to the destination it can seem as if they were there too. One thing I do not incorporate in my wedding films are outdated transitions. You know the oldschool star wipe or the barn door effect? Those will never see the light of day in my films because they are not needed, and they do not help tell the story. I use cuts only and I do use in camera transitions. For example, one shot is of the bride and groom and the next shot is a close-up of a wall that I pan the camera from and reveal the couple. You must be clever with the in camera transitions but don’t overdo it. If you stick to cuts only you will be on the right track. Trendy transitions can only make your film look dated after a few years. Using cuts only will never date your film. Another important topic is using and choosing the right type of music for the film. The music needs to reflect the couple as well as the mood and style of the wedding. You wouldn’t necessarily want to use cinematic music for a country wedding, right? It’s important to use royalty-free music so that the film can play on social media without being flagged. This means you cannot use the music you hear on the radio but you can use music from royalty-free sites such as www.themusicbed.com or www.soundstripe.com Both sites have fantastic songs to choose from. If your wedding was full of great speeches and dialogue you may opt to use a cinematic instrumental track that you can lay under the speeches. You can also choose songs that have lyrics as well. Don’t underestimate the power of the music in the film; it plays a huge emotional role. When you choose your shots for the film be selective and choose the best ones. Don’t use any of the shots that contain shaky footage, or you are getting the couple in focus. Wait until the shot becomes steady and focused and then use that portion. Also, allow the subjects to enter the frame and exit the frame. Use cutaways to help the direction of the film. Using cutaways will help you cross the 180 rule. You can’t have a ton of wide angle shots of the couple. Switch it up. Use a wide shot, then a close-up of their hands, and then cut to a medium shot of them looking at one another. I love shooting my own footage because I know what I have captured before I enter the edit room. If you are using the speeches to drive the film, you will want to use the appropriate shots for what is being said. If speaker is talking about how they knew the couple would end up together, than show a shot of them holding hands, kissing, or gazing into each other’s eyes. All the other shots can be used when there is a break in the dialogue. If you use a gimbal for your moving shots, please use them sparingly. Yes, I know, they look epic, but less is more in this case not the other way around. Use your best gimbal shots where they will shine. After you have viewed the speeches make note on which guest said what. Select the best portion of the speeches and edit them together to tell the story of the wedding couple. Use the sound that is most sincere and make sure the music dips under the dialogue so that the viewer can hear what is being said. You do not want the music blasting while there is talking. Fade the music in and then out after the clip that has the dialogue. Equalize the dialogue too if need be. If there is a slight buzz from the feed (which happens when recording from a DJ’s mixer at times) equalize that buzz out of the dialogue. You want the viewer to be involved and inspired on what is being said not the hiss or buzz in the speech. I like to shoot my weddings with two cameras. You can edit one scene that has two camera which will look outstanding. For instance, when the groom kisses the bride during the ceremony, you could use a camera that is located to the left of the couple and then cut to the camera that is located center aisle. The combination of the edit looks great and if one camera is wide and the other is a close-up shot of the kiss, all the better. Lastly, make sure there is color consistency within all the different shots in the film. Make sure to color balance each shot as well as color grade them. You want each shot to stand on its own. When the shots are not color balanced it throws off the film and people tend to be fixated on how poorly the film looks instead of what occurred at the wedding. I know there are other tips that could help an editor, but these are just some of the principals I abide to when editing my wedding films. I hope you found this helpful.
Five Tips for Wedding Videography
1. Talk to the couple who hired you to film their wedding. Get to know them and explain your process to them. Answer any questions or concerns they may have. I believe by talking to the wedding couple you build trust and they will believe in you and your ability.
2. Ask the wedding couple for the wedding day itinerary. Nothing is worst, then not being in the right place at the right time. You don’t want to miss the couple cutting the cake or their first dance. Some videographers go around the venue to get glamorous shots, but in doing so they lose track of time or they don’t have a schedule and they could easily miss some special moments that they can't recreate.
3. Make friends with the wedding photographers. Ask them how they plan on shooting the wedding and if there are any instances that (you) the videographer need to be aware of. Explain to the photographer how you plan on covering the wedding, especially where you will be during the ceremony. You don’t want to get in their shots, and you do not want them in yours. The couple hired both of you to do a job so play nice and get the job done.
4. When you have time, tour the venue. Locate all the best locations that will make the film stand out. By venturing out and locating special locations you can highlight what the venue has to offer. This is also a great time saver too. Wedding couples are limited on time with both you, the photographer and their guests, so this will for sure be a great way to spend your time wisely with the couple.
5. The last tip I have for you is to Relax. Wedding videography can be stressful no doubt, but if you are constantly stressed you lack concentration and creativity. During a wedding you need to be on point when you film a wedding. Moments only happen once so you need to focus on the big picture. You should be able to deliver a stunning wedding film for the couple.