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My First Wedding Shoot (video)

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mweiss

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Aug 10 2005, 11:25 PM

We shot our first wedding with the VX2000 (and my wife shot stills with a new Olympus E300—what a camera!!) last Sunday, August 7th.

The wedding video was planned back in March. We had decided to use three cameras, our two VX2000s and our TRV900. I had arranged to have a relative who is going to school for commercial graphics apprentice as a camera operator. She had done a reasonable job at an event we taped last summer, so I decided to offer this job to her.

The morning of the wedding started off smoothly… we dropped our 15-month-old daughter at the baby sitter’s and arrived at the client’s home 5 minutes ahead of stated time.

We started out with taping the bride and her brides maids getting their hair done. We videotaped the dress, as it was arranged on a bed, and all the related items. My wife and I also took turns taking still photos with our Oly E300 dSLR. I used a zoom lens to get some fantastic portrait shots, achieving nice differential focus effects. Two of those portraits can be seen here http://i16.photobucket.com/albums/b28/mwei...loseupsmall.jpg and here http://i16.photobucket.com/albums/b28/mwei...073560small.jpg .

Things got more hectic as we started to pack up and move to the wedding location. My wife dropped a tripod and a handle/knowb broke off of it. I spent a minute or so trying to fix it, but the party was starting to leave, and we had a ton of equipment to pack and haul back out to our truck. So it became very rushed from there.

We drove like a maniac to catch up to the wedding procession of cars and followed them to the West Haven city where the Savin Rock Conference Center is. This is a nice spot next to Long Island Sound. Beaches, oceanfront view, boardwalk that goes for miles. Nice place.

I had arranged for the driver of the car that the bride was riding in to do a go around after I got my camera ready, but somewhere along the line, something got lost in the translation I guess. Anyway, we taped the bride exiting the car. Then we started unpacking our gear. I got most of the gear out to the hall and went back to fix the tripod. We have three: One older one that my wife broke two years ago. The one she broke today, and a new and very expensive Manfrotto that I’ve had for a year. I was able to take the knob off the oldest broken tripod and make one good tripod, so now we had two with pan bars that work and one with a broken knob for the pan bar. That last one would be used to support the TRV900, unmanned.

After we got into the venue with all our gear, I noted that it was 10:50 am. For some reason, I thought the wedding ceremony started at 11:30. But my apprentice camera operator was nowhere to be found, so I called her. When she answered, she gave a lame excuse that she was sick that morning, but that she could be at the job site in 45 minutes. I went around to some people to ask when the ceremony would actually begin. Turned out that was to be 11:00 am! I told the apprentice to forget about coming today, as we don’t need a third camera operator after the ceremony is over and hung up.

The ceremony was outside, in front of a gazebo, in the broiling hot sun. And boy, it was bright that day! Sun reflecting off the ocean is quite awesome.

The next 10 minutes were a blur. I raced to unpack all three cameras, set up tripods and unravel mic cords, set up mic stand, insert mics, plug things in…. Cam 3 (TRV900) was to get the back shot facing the justice of the peace. Cam 2 was to get the lavelier mic audio. Cam 1 was to get the audio from a stereo pair of cardioide condensers set up at the edge of the local where the B&G and justice of the peace were located.

In the frantic rush, I was unable to hear any audio on Cam 2, despite putting batteries in the laveliers. It later turned out that the Line/Mic switch on the camera had been set to Line somehow overnight. So we went without lavelier audio.

The ceremony began. One of the Filipino friends gave an invocation. It was during that invocation that Cam 1 powered off suddenly… about five minutes after turning it on… more on that later…

I powered Cam 1 back on and began taping again. The rest started to come together, but my wife was still taking still photos and no one was manning Cam 2. After a while, she did finally operate Cam 2, but only briefly, until the ceremony ended and the procession left the gazebo. Then she went back to taking stills. I was tethered to the mic cables, and couldn’t move from the tripod, and had assumed that my wife was taping from the front of the procession. I later found out that was not the case…

Back to Cam 1’s shutdown… long after the event was over, it dawned on me that I never pressed the RECORD button. That was why the camera shut off. It had timed five minutes and powered down. It was a ‘gotcha’ that got me during a taping of two former orchestra members at the Danbury Symphony concert I taped in June… the confusion stems from being a driver. You see, to me, green means GO, Proceed, A-OK, etc. and red means Stop, trouble, bad things… and mentally, in the hot sun where I could not hardly make out a thing on the LCD, which was over my head, on a tall tripod over 7’ in the air, I somehow equated the green STANDBY indicator with tape rolling. It didn’t occur to me that the red REC indicator was what I really wanted to see. Oh well. Chalk another one up to ‘be more vigilant next time.’

None of this would have likely happened if I didn’t have zero setup time. I mean, they were coming down the isle, literally, as I was putting cameras on tripods! Lacking my assistant to help carry the gear out there (a long walk to the parking lot) we took much longer, making five trips to the truck to get everything. And no help setting up. So with a panic state of mind, I didn’t have a moment to calm down and think about why the lav mics weren’t working into Cam 2. And perhaps if I was not so rushed, I would have remembered to press the REC button on Cam 1. I did remember to REC on Cam 3.

The ceremony began. It was one of those justice of the peace guys who does hundreds of weddings a month and doesn’t bother to find out the correct pronunciations. Needless to say he mangled the pronunciation of the bride’s first and last name so badly that I was really wondering whether her parents were her original parents! That was, until some of the guests spoke up to correct him. I taped the rest of the ceremony with that terrible sinking feeling that we had missed part of the core presentation. (As it would later turn out in post review, we didn’t do so badly—we had good footage on at least 1-2 other cameras and audio from the TRV900 in a pinch. I will have to do a phenomenal job in editing to put this all together seamlessly and fill in the missing audio across cameras.)

The ceremony over, all moved to the building where the reception was held. Here was a different kind of nightmare—the large wall of windows facing the –you guessed it—blinding oceans reflecting the sunlight. I had to plan my shots so that the windows of this hexagonal room were mostly behind me. A difficult task, considering that the dynamic range was probably at least 15 f-stops between outside and inside and that some windows were always in the shot. But I managed on manual iris and forced the background to blow out serverely in order to get a decent pickup of the people in the room.

For close to four hours, we had Cam 1 taping all the background activities at the B&G’s table, again from their backs because of the windows, and Cam 2 was the roving eye.

We arranged for various key guests to give their wishes for the B&G on tape, so one by one, we asked and escorted them to a seating location in another room away from the DJ and crowd noise and got their thoughts recorded.

Back in the main hall, we taped quite a bit of the major events, the dancing, the garter toss, etc. It was a little crazy because nothing was clearly planned as to when it would happen. It just happened and we did the best to be alert to each important event.

At the end, we arranged to have the B&G walk along the beach as we taped it. We also had them pose for still shots. I got out my 40-150mm lens and the E300 and took some fifty or so portrait shots. It was hot, and the B&G were squinting, so I changed positions to avoid them looking into the sun so we could get better shots. But it was really hot and bright that day. Several shots came out just dazzling.

Finally, we taped them getting into their car and leaving for the honeymoon. Packed up slowly and trekked out to the truck, taking inventory and rechecking that all was packed. And we made the drive home, arriving just in time for me to produce a 2-hour show for my weekly radio broadcast and then to drive up and do the program live. What a long, greuling day!

After I returned home from broadcasting, my wife and I reviewed all six tapes that we shot that day. Things were not nearly as bad as I had feared. We’re going to be able to cover our few mistakes. Such as not having a video cam on the aisle for the procession… we might use the stills my wife took and do slow zooms and dissolves from one still to the next and make it into an artistic effect. Sometimes when you’re forced by unfortunate mistake to do something creative, it can work out with desirable effects. We hope that is the case with this project.

Lessons learned? Next time, I will call my hired help an hour or more before the show and make sure they are on-schedule. And I will make it clear to my wife that if we are down one videographer, that she becomes the #2 camera operator and to forget the stills, as we are being paid for video, not stills. Old Man Murphy was definitely on the guest list at this wedding! But I think it will turn out fine.

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