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Wedding Video Advice


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#1 Kate Maier

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Posted 03 February 2008 - 01:31 PM

Hi everyone

I know it's not pure cinematography, but I'm looking into starting up a wedding video business- any suggestions or input would be helpful. I live on the East End of Long Island and my roommate already has a successful wedding photo biz -- a lot of her clients have been asking her about video, and she wants to expand.

I graduated in 2003, and concentrated on film and video at Sarah Lawrence College -- not exactly a film school, but I do have some experience. I've been working as a print journalist for the past few years, and haven't picked up a camera since college.

After doing some research online, it seems that there's a lot of crap out there -- wedding videos that look not-so-professional are selling for thousands of dollars under the guise of a "documentary edge." There is certainly a market for this in "the hamptons" -- my roommate has about 10 weddings booked so far for the upcoming season and most of them are still looking for someone to shoot video.

My question is, what are people in this line of work shooting on these days? Can I get by with a Canon XL1 or 2, or do I have to go hi-def? We were thinking of purchasing one camera, probably a package of some sort with a mounted light and a shotgun microphone, and spending maybe around $3K on a new mac with final cut. Until we raise a bit more money, we could probably rent a second camera for shoots. I'm sure there'll be a learning curve, but I've used this equipment before and could probably pick it up again with some practice.

My boss at the newspaper also donated a Bolex to my cause, with three of the standard kern/switar lenses. I have no idea what type of condition they're in. Where's a good place in NY to get them cleaned and checked out?

Basically, I'm asking if my business plan thus far seems feasible, and if anyone has any advice on what kind of equipment we should purchase. Top of the line would be nice, but our budget calls for bare essentials for now. Any suggestions?

Thanks!
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#2 timHealy

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Posted 03 February 2008 - 11:58 PM

These people could help you out.

http://www.weva.com/

Basically having done a few weddings myself, wedding videos are at the bottom of the totem pole when it comes to wedding priority list. The dress, and the wedding cake, and photography are at the top. After all the other stuff many consider a video a luxury or perhaps they don't have money left or don't want to spend money on it.

Personally I don't know how wedding videographers make money unless you just shoot as much as you can and slap together something in editing and spit out a few DVDs. And don't spend much time on it.

If you are interested I make these for friends and family and I shoot them in 16mm

http://healyweddingf.../portfolio.html

Not many people shoot film and when some people see want I am doing with the camera I shoot with, the reaction I get is often akin to seeing the Earth open up.

I am not a professional editor so I put in an extrodinary amount of time into editing, color correction and making versions for the web and DVD's. Even though I am physically wasted after a day of handheld shooting, the editing and putting something together that is a wonderful gift is creatively rewarding. For me anyway.

Best

Tim
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#3 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 04 February 2008 - 01:02 AM

I point-blank refuse to do weddings - so far I've even managed to avoid doing them as personal favours for friends and family, and I have to admit I'm shameless about my motives for doing so. From my limited contact with the field, it's obvious that Mr. Healy's comments are entirely correct - nobody has any time for the video. There's no money, no support, no time, no interest in it - until the point they watch it, at which time they expect it to look like Four Weddings and a Funeral. There's also no understanding of exactly what a three-hour TV production actually feels like to sit down and watch, so you'll be expected to produce a War-and-Peace-duration epic which will bore to death even the in-laws, let alone any other party, regardless of how avidly interested they might have been at the start.

Consider how much footage you will end up shooting (hours and hours and hours) and how long it will take to cut that footage into a presentable form. Consider how you will respond when you are criticised for not having perfect angles of the "I do" moment ("But you can't see her face properly!"), despite the fact that a fretful mother-of-the-bride insisted that absolutely no cameras be visible anywhere. Consider how you will light your shots and rig them for sound in an environment which is generally hostile to both and with no cooperation from the subject, and consider the reaction to these issues of people who do not understand that you cannot make the production they're thinking of without completely wrecking the day. Once more with feeling, darlings!

Wedding photography is nothing like wedding videography. Photographers get the full cooperation of the wedding party for half an hour at the end of the day and can prepare their material for presentation in a few hours. Videographers get nothing, and are immediately committed to at least days of postproduction, if not weeks. Making wedding videos is miserable and horrible and everyone expects you to do it for $50.

Run screaming!

P
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#4 Brian Dzyak

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Posted 04 February 2008 - 01:35 AM

I've been roped into doing a few for family and a couple of friends. Usually after I've been invited they hit me with the "since you'll be there anyway" question. Hard to get out of it at that point. :angry:

So when I have agreed, I can't just go halfway. It's bad enough shooting a frickin' wedding, so I might as well put my all into it. The last wedding I did was for my brother in law in Ohio. I used a BetaSP for the main "up the aisle" camera mainly so I could put an RF mic on the priest and one on the groom. Then I had five other small DV cameras (borrowed from the other relatives) locked off in various places around the ceremony.

No timecode means a little grief in trying to match things up, but for the most part, it goes smoothly.

The important thing is the sound though, so anything a wedding videographer can do to achieve that will go a long way toward a better final product.

I've never done it for money so I have no idea what these hacks out there make. I shot a friend's wedding at St. Monica's in Santa Monica and the regular photographer and the wedding coordinator both complimented me on what I shot and how I shot it. I only covered the event the way I would when doing behind the scenes on set, so it wasn't anything extraordinary as far as I was concerned. The guys who do this all the time must be like bulls in a china shop. I haven't seen many final products from other wedding videographers, but if the one from my brother's wedding is any indication, they shoot crap with one cheap camera, cut it together as fast as possible, and charge a mint for it. I have too much professional pride for that kind of garbage.

I know that people make money off of this for a living, but whenever anyone asks me now to do it or for recommendations, I don't hesitate to suggest that they do NOT hire a wedding videographer. For one, the quality is usually crap. More importantly, it isn't worth the money at all. Most people watch it ONCE, the day they get it and it goes away forever. I suggest that they take whatever they planned to spend on a videographer and put it into getting a better wedding still photographer. Those pictures are the ones that will be out for display all the time while the video would sit degrading in a drawer somewhere. <_<

If someone really wants to see the ceremony afterward, they should get a copy of their uncle's tape and be happy with that. That's just my .02 but I have yet to see any wedding video that has been worth the exorbitant money that people pay for it. And as much as it costs, I can't believe that the videographers/editors make enough money from those (only on the weekends) to make it worth it. What do they shoot the rest of the week?
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#5 Kate Maier

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Posted 04 February 2008 - 10:31 AM

hmmm... I agree with you guys, like I said, they all look like crap. The only ones we saw online that we thought were decent were the people who actually took the time to incorporate super-8 or 16mm footage. Maybe I'll stick with the bolex and we can offer a short "antique film" for an extra grand along with the photography services. Believe me, I know wedding video is cheap and cheesy, and the farthest thing from real cinematography. but being working class in the hamptons is tough, so I'm trying to think outside the box.

Personally, I'd rather have some 16mm footage of me walking down the aisle and dancing with my dad, capped off at 5 minutes. But if these rich idiots are willing to pay 5K for a docudrama on their "special day," well, it might be worth it in the long run. I'm going to do some more research on the demand. Thanks for the input. :-)
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#6 Tim O'Connor

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Posted 04 February 2008 - 01:44 PM

I haven't done weddings for a while but when I did; they really helped with the rent
and I found that I could give people something that was worthwhile.


Video that has decent illumination and sound can do things that the greatest still photography
cannot do. Having a couple of minutes of video and audio as your great grandfather tells that
classic story can be really powerful. If you get those moments, yeah, the bride will be thrilled. She
wants to see her first dance with her father and hear the whole song or her husband saying his vows and
pledging himself to her.

Get decent exposure and good audio and people will be happy. Look at local access television. There's
not much incredible cinematography in a station's coverage of the high school's graduation but
if people can see and hear their kids with decent picture and sound they're thrilled.

I figured out that despite what people say, nobody wants to watch a two hour wedding video. I edit
20 minutes out of the entire event. To me, it's the wedding's greatest hits album. Sure, I give the
bride the raw tapes but even friends coming over can enjoy a simply cut short video of the sweetest,
funniest moments of vows and toasts and dances.

I'd recommend shooting with a good smaller 3-chip Mini-DV camera. It's light and easy and better
in low light than HD cameras. Often a 30 to 50 watt light works great and looks great and doesn't overwhelm
people and you can get in decently close. A 250w ENG light is crazy. You blast people away and can't see
the background and have to stay away farther and zoom in which is tough handheld. I would often use the
small on camera light for close-ups, critical to wedding videos, and one or two lights on stands at the
reception for the wider activities like cutting the cake, throwing the bouquet, etc..

I think the special productions like what Tim does in 16mm are great as well as all the others who get
tapped into doing a wedding video and are forced by their own values to do the type of work that they do
in the industry.

If you want to make money, get a clean image and clean sound. If you took a film program you may know
a lot more than somebody who bought a lot of equipment but makes those junky videos that you've
been checking out.

Do what you can do well, getting heartfelt moments, friends and relatives talking, the looks exchanged in a
father-daughter dance that take a couple of seconds and are important moments that can never be captured
by a still picture.

Shooting wisely and editing with a good NLE and not spending time on a lot of schmatlzy stuff; you can turn
these around quickly, I think.

Another big help is keeping your overhead down. I hooked up with caterers who offered package deals.
I was a subcontractor so I got paid a lower rate but it was worth it. I still got paid very well and I never had
to meet with anybody and show my work and make a sales pitch. That's probably why weddings were so
good for me to do. It was like a weekend job that supported my freelancing and related cash flow
issues wiating to get paid from a production company or having a slow week or month.

Good luck. If you do shoot weddings, even for money, shoot them like you're shooting for your best friend.
Make them great treasures.
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#7 Mark Dunn

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Posted 04 February 2008 - 04:09 PM

Your business plan- and your outlook- needs some work if you regard your client base as 'idiots.'
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#8 Andy_Alderslade

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Posted 04 February 2008 - 04:57 PM

Tim Healy is right, wedding videos come down low on the priority list of things to arrange (and pay for) when organising a wedding, however its only afterward when all the money paying for it all has gone and memories of the day seem to fade that a wedding video or movie really shows its value - something to remember the day as it really was!

The thing that jumps out to me about your situation is that you're not starting this from scratch but launching off your friends still photography business, and there seems to be an appetite for it where you're based - the question is are these people in your business catchment area willing to pay the money to make it profitable and worth while for you.

Two years ago when my sister was getting married, I searched around online to find a possible wedding videographer and was shocked how poor and yet expensive they were, so being a fan of Tim's 16mm weddings I considered doing it likewise myself or with friends.

In the end I was unable to shoot it myself (I had a shattered collar-bone) and got two friends to film it, one operating a Super 16mm Arri SRII and one operating a Beulieu super8 camera - the logic being that the super8 camera, being lighter and smaller could maybe get in for tighter and more intimate moments and by using super 8 labs and telecine could get more footage for my money than the 16mm.

In the end so fustrated with super 8 UK and European labs and telecine (poor quality, slow tunraround) , I had the super 8 processed and telecined with the 16mm in a proffesional lab, and the super 8 actually came out more expensive per minute! We shot 1000' of 16mm and 5 rolls of super 8 and totaled about 40min of rushes which an editor friend cut into an 8 minute film with music. I also brought a small DV camera along for the day to record the speeches, to be put on as extras on the DVD.

In the end the whole thing cost around £1000, including stock, dev, telecine, DVDs, SRII rental and traveling cost for my friends - hopefully I will put a sample of it online soon, i've been meaning to do it for a while.

Of course, all my friends and I who did it, did it for nothing and many of us where just out of Uni, unemployed and had time on our hands to do it, so in your situation can you make a profit to cover your hours worked in the film and especially the editing.

I guess your success really depends on your creativity to make it worth the money that people will pay for it. And also making it a fine art that you avoid unecessary expenditures in both time and money.

Mixing DV, Super 8, 16mm, styles seems a good way to go:

http://www.filmjones.com/

http://www.reel60.com
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#9 Kate Maier

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Posted 04 February 2008 - 07:51 PM

Wow - Thanks a lot for the tips and links to good websites. I totally want to shoot on film and even if it's only shooting some "idiot's" wedding :-) I'm really looking forward to it! I think the super8 angle would work perfectly out here. I went along on one of my friend's still photography shoots in Oct., and even though it was physically demanding and stressful it was a lot more productive and fulfilling than my usual secondary source if income -- waiting tables in the Hamptons. (that's where i get the wisecracking bad attitude from!)

By the way Phil, it takes Kat days to edit, crop and color-correct her wedding albums, and I know what film editing is like -- I'm not going into this totally blind. The warning you posted were just what I was afraid of -- but I think it may be possible to avoid a lot of that by establishing different parameters from the start, that we're shooting on film, that we're being artistic, and we're not outputting a three-hour DVD... let's hope, anyway. We have a test shoot scheduled in May, and if that works out we're going full swing with it. Thanks guys!
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#10 timHealy

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Posted 04 February 2008 - 08:49 PM

Hello again,

Hey Andy, when you get a chance, do post your wedding film online. I would love to see how it turned out. Also I did some Super 8 combined with my normal 16mm on my sisters wedding. It is the one titled "Deirdre and Colin" if you are interested.

And just to address what Phil commented on and discuss my own work method.

Film is expensive so personally I don't shoot a lot. Instead of shooting hours of video, I shoot about 6 - 400 foot rolls of film. The first one I did, I shot perhaps 2 - 400 foot rolls, and the last one I did 6.

And I depend on daylight because I do not want to get any lighting involved. I usually don't have the help. I would love to have the help though. It would be great to have someone around who could work with a small battery powered light to help "clean up" the negative in the shadow areas.

So I really don't cover the ceremony at all, unless it was outside.

And sound ... fuggitaboutit ... I don't even bother. I use some nice R and B or jazz soundtrack. Something upbeat which makes it easy to edit the picture.

So all this works for me. It is what I like to do. I couldn't creative do any other form of wedding film or wedding video. I wouldn't be interested.

Best

Tim
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#11 Keith Walters

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Posted 05 February 2008 - 06:12 AM

And sound ... fuggitaboutit ... I don't even bother. I use some nice R and B or jazz soundtrack. Something upbeat which makes it easy to edit the picture.

I've done sound successfully by just using a cheap USB-type MP3 player with an inbuilt mic and record function, just slipped into the groom's pocket. It's not fantastic quality, but it's clear enough, and a lot better than what you pick up with the average camera microphone from several feet away! You can use a clapper board to help you with sound sync, or just clapping your hands in front of the lens is usually good enough!

Generally the advice to "run...screaming..." is quite sound though:-) Apart from all the logistical problems, after volunteering my services, my wife somehow expects me to both sit next to her during the ceremony and also shoot interesting video!

I've only ever done one that I was proud of, and that was in a beautiful church with wonderful acoustics, lots of natural light, and a string quartet playing in the corner! The bride and groom and bridesmaids were all very photogenic and the priest didn't mumble. I couldn't borrow any professional cameras, so I did it all with two cheap Handcams, one running continuously near the pulpit for the sound track, and I wandered around with the other one for cutaway shots.

They had a lot of relatives come from overseas for the wedding, so the resulting DVDs were very much appreciated, particularly since they expecting nothing more than a VHS tape of what I shot! Saved me buying an expensive wedding present.

But yes, generally shooting video at weddings can be painful, particularly when every time you get a nice shot framed up, the damned stills photographer barges into it :P
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#12 Hal Smith

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Posted 05 February 2008 - 09:28 AM

My dad shot a lot of weddings during the years he owned a photo studio. Talk to your still photographer friend about "money" shots. They're the obvious ones: rings, leaving the church, etc. I believe Brian mentioned using locked off miniDV's for coverage, good advice. My dad shot with a 4X5 and sometimes had me floating around with a 35mm camera to make sure nothing was missed. And since it was weddings I was dressed in a suit, no teenage attire allowed.
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#13 Thomas James

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Posted 05 February 2008 - 05:21 PM

I think weddings are best shot with a progressive scan high definition video camera and delivered on the Blu-Ray Disc and or the Toshiba HD-DVD format. The problem with shooting on super 8mm film is that it just does not have the resolution of high definition video. 16mm film would work but there is the cost of the film and the conversion to high definition video.
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#14 timHealy

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Posted 05 February 2008 - 06:04 PM

I think weddings are best shot with a progressive scan high definition video camera and delivered on the Blu-Ray Disc and or the Toshiba HD-DVD format. The problem with shooting on super 8mm film is that it just does not have the resolution of high definition video. 16mm film would work but there is the cost of the film and the conversion to high definition video.


Thomas,

Many people who use Super 8, like myself, are not thinking about the "problem" of resolution that compares to any HD format. I use Super 8 for it's aesthetic and inherent look. It is just beautiful the way it is (though I do miss Kodachrome!) What format one chooses to shoot something is a creative choice. There is no right or wrong. If Super 8 is not "right" for you then fine. Besides, there is no reason one cannot shoot Super 8 and transfer to HD with all its tiny negative glory. If one wanted to.

Best

Tim
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#15 Thomas James

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Posted 06 February 2008 - 01:29 AM

Yes but things are changing rapidly in the wedding business. In the past super 8 could hold its own against a standard definition DVD release. When high definition cameras were first introduced since most of this footage was down converted to standard definition super 8 could still hold its own. However today wedding filmers can easily author high definition Blu-Ray or Toshiba HD-DVD discs. There is no way that super 8 can hold its own against this. If super 8 is so great name me one major Hollywood production that chose to shoot on super 8 as an artistic choice?

And there are wrong choices in the wedding business. It is wrong to use obsolete equipment and to shoot a wedding in standard definition. Wedding videographers get away with this because they think no one owns a HDTV. But the good wedding videographers shoot and deliver in high definition.

If someone insists on shooting a wedding using film why not use 16mm film ?
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#16 Andy_Alderslade

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Posted 06 February 2008 - 10:32 AM

Yes but things are changing rapidly in the wedding business. In the past super 8 could hold its own against a standard definition DVD release. When high definition cameras were first introduced since most of this footage was down converted to standard definition super 8 could still hold its own. However today wedding filmers can easily author high definition Blu-Ray or Toshiba HD-DVD discs. There is no way that super 8 can hold its own against this. If super 8 is so great name me one major Hollywood production that chose to shoot on super 8 as an artistic choice?

And there are wrong choices in the wedding business. It is wrong to use obsolete equipment and to shoot a wedding in standard definition. Wedding videographers get away with this because they think no one owns a HDTV. But the good wedding videographers shoot and deliver in high definition.

If someone insists on shooting a wedding using film why not use 16mm film ?


Thomas,

I don't know if its worth trying to explain something so obvious but resolution isn't the be all and end all of picture quality and artistic tastes.

If that were true every big hollywood film would be shot in 65mm, most could afford it. Instead even highly commercial filmmakers, like Speilberg would rather shoot 1.85 35mm and super 35mm for its more textured quality, even avoiding 35mm anamoriphic.

And Super 8 is at times used in major hollywood productions, like JFK, Varsiety Blues, even David Mullen used Kodachrome for a dream sequence in the 35mm Twin Falls Idaho.

Now Super 8 may not be used to shoot the whole film, but in segments its distinctive look becomes usefull. May I also point out that no major Hollywood production have ever shot on prosumer HD equipment, the Z1s, JCV HDVs, HVXs that high definition wedding shooters use. Instead digital hollywood productions use the Sony F900, Varicam, Panavision Genesis, Thompson Viper, Arri D20 - all of which would be close to impossible to use on a wedding!

You seem to also assume that Super 8 equipment is obselete - well why? Many high end super 8 camera out there are being used on music videos, shorts, commericals, film schools and wedding videos, very creatively. And just because equipment is old or no longer manufactured doesn't mean that it is obselete, things become obselete when they can no longer be used. In the special effects and animation world many 80 year old Mitchells are still in use, just because they are old and no longer produced doesn't mean they don't have excellent registration and remain highly versatile and reliable pieces of equipment.

Why use super 8 rather 16mm? because if the look desired is super 8, then nothing better will reproduce that image, so use super 8, and it may even serve other advantages too.

Finally, screw resolution - when I get married i have no particular desire to see more wrinkels or spots which high definition equipment is so brilliant at bringing out - bigger does not necessarily mean better!

If Kate, wants to have an edge in this field then something like super 8 may be a usefull option to provide, it certanly gives these people a distinctive look seperating them from the hords of z1 shooters:
http://www.filmjones.com/
http://www.reel60.com
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#17 Kate Maier

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Posted 06 February 2008 - 04:36 PM

I concur. Most brides would prefer soft focus and dreamy to high definition and pimply. :-) Have you ever really looked at a newscaster's clumpy makeup on your hi-def T.V.? It's crisp, but not pretty.
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#18 Thomas James

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Posted 06 February 2008 - 04:36 PM

First of all there is nothing wrong with 65mm film photography. The reason why this format is rarely used anymore is because of the multiplex theatre. Rather than spending all of your money to distribute expensive 65mm prints to a traditional grand theatre that could play only one movie at a time it was thought that it would be more profitable to distribute 35mm prints to the multiplexes. So what this boils down to is that it is assumed consumers prefer quantity and more choices over quality. However once Blu-Ray and HD-DVD become more mainstream consumers will again demand a more quality picture than they can get at home. In the future 65mm film production may take over however 4k digital may be the likely sucessor.

As far as prosumer HDV cameras holding their image quality in a big screen Hollywood production there is no doubt in my mind that if my prosumer 720p HDV footage were to be digitally projected that it would hold up on the big screen. However once the footage is transferred to film and it is copied it would suffer multigenerational losses and I would lose a lot of resolution. However this is not a concern for a wedding business because all releases will be in high definition digital with no quality loss.

As far as resolution and hiding imperfections goes high definition gives you a lot of choices. For a softer look 720p may be preffered over 1080p but when you are shooting 720p you have to hold the frame rate down to 24p or 30p otherwise you may have too much temporal resolution if you shoot at 60p.

As for the hordes of Sony Z1 1080i interlace scan shooters it may be that this is the official papparazi camera however not everyone owns this cameras. I myself own JVC JY-HD10 that shoots 720p progressive. A lot of people complain about horrible HDV 15 frame long GOP compression, However my camera uses a short 6 frame GOP compression which is halfway in between inter and intra compression.

As far as setting yourself apart it is true that even though a lot of videographers shoot in HD but very FEW actually DELIVER in HD. This is probably because of the HD-DVD and the BLU-RAY war. However there is no need to spend a lot of money buying equipment to support a dying format. HD-DVD discs can be authored using conventional media and conventional burners. The Sony Playstation 3 can play raw HDV M2t Data files without rendering or conversion. Blu-Ray authoring may be a little more tricky however most Blu-Ray players support the AVCHD format that can be authored on regular DVD media. And Windows WMV-HD is a wonderfull format for people with Windows XP computers.

Whenever I deliver in HD nobody even asks me for a standard definition copy. The problem with wedding videos is that people usually only watch them once. But if you deliver in high definition there is a compelling reason to watch the movie over and over again because high definition is a truley an immersive mind blowing experience. With high definition you can relive your memories over and over again as if you were actually there and capture details that you may have forgotten about.
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#19 Thomas James

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Posted 06 February 2008 - 04:53 PM

First of all most high definition news broadcasts shoot at 60 frames per second to give that live news look. However if you shoot at 720p at 24 frames per second and limit your shutter speed you will introduce motion blurring that will achieve that dreamy look.

As far as complaints from the Bride's parents most have complained about the lighting which I had no control over because it was a last minute run and gun shoot. High Definition requires a lot of light and it is not good for those romantic low light weddings. However newer HD cameras are appearing with big half inch chips that have better low light performance.

Also I get complaints about shaking the camera. Shooting at 24p or 30p either requires a steady hand or a tripod or you will introduce motion sickness. Most of the brides parents have been not so much impressed with the camera or the equipment but the skill of the photographer. However a properly shot and properly lit demo reel in high definition can be very impressive and can give the illusion that you just graduated from film school
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#20 timHealy

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Posted 06 February 2008 - 06:02 PM

If someone insists on shooting a wedding using film why not use 16mm film ?


Well that exactly what I do. But I only do it for friends and family. And not only do I shake the camera, I pan and tilt, zoom in and out all the time. Who needs a tripod. That's boring. Well for me anyway.

http://healyweddingf.../portfolio.html

And actually the wedding titled Deirdre and Colin has a few Super 8 shots mixed in it. Though I don't think I used it quite right for my own taste.

One thing though Thomas, you seem to be on HD high horse. I think the point your missing is that one should use whatever medium is right for one the project, and two the filmmaker. If you don't like Super 8 for whatever real or irrational reason you may have fine. Please do use whatever is best for you. But there are a lot of people around here who simply love it.

I am currently experimenting with transferring Super 8 and 16mm to HD and Apple's ProRes 422 HD format.

In addition to Andy's list of movies and TV, Globetrekker uses some Super 8 for cutaway shots of their travels.

Best

Tim
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