The DOC-ing Station: Wedding Videos

This installment of the DOC-ing Station is the first of a series of posts that all deal with the documentary form known as the wedding video. The idea of a wedding video used to be pretty simple (and slightly boring!). You had an aunt or uncle or distant cousin whose name you can never remember for the life of you, set up a dinky little camera at the back of the church or building. They press record and boom it’s done. Now, the wedding video is truly a documentary piece. It could, quite fairly, be considered an art form and a lucrative one at that. With the dawn of the DSLR age, wedding videos are no longer considered just “videos”.  They are marketed as “films” because of the artistic style and cinematic quality they possess. Do a quick search on Vimeo and you’ll be amazed at the quality you find. Here’s one for example:

Now, I was approached by a friend at the last minute to shoot their wedding. Their family member, who was supposed to record it, came down with a sudden illness.  Because of the circumstances, I decided to take the gig free of charge.  It seemed like the right thing to do, especially considering I had zero experience shooting weddings. However, this also took a lot of pressure off me. I could tackle the gig as a learning experience. There was no fear of not meeting expectations or not getting paid. It was purely a chance to be as creative as I could be and do my best in the process. It sounded like a blast!

So here’s a run down of the gig:

– I was asked to shoot the wedding about a week before the big day

– My gear consisted of equipment I borrowed and what I had on hand already

– I would be the only one filming the wedding

– The wedding took place in Lubbock, TX so I had no way of visiting the site in advance

So taking these considerations in mind, preproduction was going to be key.  I had to keep myself organized and had to develop a plan of attack for the event.  Regarding gear, here’s how my preproduction went down.

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My CAMERA of choice was a Panasonic AF100.

I own a Canon DSLR, but the AF100 I borrowed came with a Nikon lens adapter. This allowed me to use the wider variety of Nikon glass I had on hand. This was going to be key if I was going to get all the shots I had in mind. I also needed the ability to shoot around location restraints which I’ll get into later.

The couch unfortunately is sold separately.

The couch unfortunately is sold separately.

My LENS choices consisted of a 50mm, a 24mm-70mm, an 11-16mm and an 85mm

In order from foreground to background: 50mm, 24-70mm, 11-16mm, 85mm

In order from foreground to background: 50mm, 24-70mm, 11-16mm, 85mm

The AF100 has 1.5 crop factor (which if you don’t understand that concept I’d be happy to explain it in the future). The crop factor made my 85mm more of a 127mm which was perfect for a long lens. It would give me the close ups I needed while maintaing my distance. I wanted to stay out of the way of guests and the photographer’s shots as well. The 50mm is just a great all around portrait lens that has a great feel. The 24-70mm is a Sigma lens and has a beautiful look as well. As a zoom lens, it would also allow me to be more flexible in the heat of battle (if I was shooting in situations that were a little less predictable). Finally, I used an 11-16mm to use for my wide shots. In retrospect, I really didn’t need the 50mm but seeing as this was my first gig I wanted to make sure all my bases were covered and these lenses definitely did the job.

In terms of AUDIO…

I brought a wireless mic system solely for the purpose of capturing the vows and words the pastor had to share. This took a bit more work and coordination, but it has made SUCH a difference in post. Creatively speaking it guides the edit so well and I’d be screwed if I didn’t have it.

My two ACCESSORIES…

were a shoulder rig and Kessler pocket dolly. I knew I really wanted some slider shots and having the shoulder rig was going to be critical for getting relatively stable footage.

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PREPRODUCTION

So the plan was relatively simple. I did as much homework as I could and researched the location where the ceremony was taking place online. This allowed me to get somewhat of an idea of the shots I wanted before hand. Knowing that the location was going to be super tiny, I developed a lens package accordingly to shoot around space constraints.

They managed to squeeze fourty people AND a string quartet in here. It was snug to say the least.

They managed to squeeze fourty people AND a string quartet in here. It was snug to say the least.

Finally, I touched base with the bride and groom and was able to get an itinerary for the day. This allowed me to plan where I needed to be and when. Considering I was the only guy filming, I had to have as much information as possible. I wanted to make the final edit feel like there were multiple cameras shooting. I would find out (amongst many other things) that this was going to be WAY harder than I imagined…but still a fun challenge!

Anyhow, I think I’ll conclude this part for now. Next time I’ll talk about the the wedding day and how it went. I’ll include some videos I took during the course of the day where I discuss some challenges I faced and observations I made while shooting.

I’m sure there are A TON of things I might have glazed over very quickly or missed completely so if you have any questions or comments I’d love to hear from you. Also, I know my first entry was a vlog and, though I’d love to continue vlogging, I think a written article is just so much easier to keep up with. This isn’t to say I wont post videos from time to time, but for the time being I think written articles are the way to go.  Anyhow, keep shooting and keep it real.

Cheers.