Wedding Video–Part 1–Acquisition

imageThe geekiest thing I’m doing right now is editing a wedding video for my friend Stuart. 

I’m very glad I did this wedding as a gift – ie, not getting paid.  If I were to get paid, there’s a lot of things I would do differently. Here is what I have learned:

Pre-Wedding Checklist

  • At least two of the same kind of camera, preferably of a resolution higher than the final product.  
    • You want better than the final resolution for stabilization – any software needs to loose some pixels in order to stabilize. 
    • Hint: film at 1080p, render at 720.   Unless you are Über with your camera moving Skills.
    • Cameras that do well in low light – the dancing at the reception, for example.
  • Two GOOD tripods, which extend at least above head-level high.   OR, a Balcony. 
    • When everybody is standing, it will be challenging to get the right folks in the video.   I had one tall tripod that didn’t move well, and one short tripod that did move but was no more than head high.
    • The $55 tripod at Target is not it.   While moving, it jars and shakes – that’s where an actual video tripod is worth the $.  Next time. 
  • One audio recorder to keep somewhere in the altar area.  In my case, it went in a flower pot.
  • As many extra little cameras as you can afford – to cover the angles when none of your other cameras has a shot.  I had a GoPro near the altar area in front of the entire congregation, on the floor. 
  • A gray-scale/color card.  These can get expensive – but you can cheat and print your own.  It doesn’t need to be perfect, its mostly to color balance between different cameras.
  • An assistant to run the other camera is REALLY nice.
  • Enough battery power for N+2 hours on each camera.  
    • I planned poorly for mine – I came prepared for 5, but it turned out to be 8. 
    • Enough time to charge all batteries. You may not get it onsite.
  • Enough card space for N+2 hours on each camera. 
  • A pair of silent black shoes, and a black outfit, to not draw attention to one’s self.   I used these guys.

Rehearsal Checklist

  • Ask the question:  Where will the congregation be limited to?   If I had asked this, I would have know about additional places I could have put camera #2 that would have not been affected by standing folks.
  • Film the entire rehearsal like you were doing the real service.  It helps you know where to be and where to point at any given time.   I changed my plan about 3 times during the rehearsal.
  • Get B-Roll video of the performers performing – mostly their fingers (since they will not be wearing the same stuff during the real thing)
  • You need a reception rehearsal as well – or at least ask the questions:
    • Where will the bride and groom enter from?
    • Where will the cake be cut?
    • Where will the toast be delivered from?  (I assumed the table, but it was from the singer’s microphones)
    • What’s the general order of events? 
    • Where is the dancing going to be?

Post Rehearsal Checklist

  • Re-charge all batteries.
  • Offload and clear all memory cards.
  • Final plan on where the cameras will be.   Remember the 180 rule

Pre Wedding

  • Place all the cameras, tripods, etc, in position.
  • Get some audio without anybody else there – to establish baseline noise (to be used later in noise reduction)
    • I used AGC (automatic gain control) on my recorder, but it would be better to have that turned off if you want high quality audio – however, that also needs practice.  My fear was that I’d have the gain turned too low, so I went with AGC turned On.  That makes noise reduction harder.
  • More B-roll.  By this time, all the flowers, etc will be in place.
  • 5 minutes before action time, turn everything on. 
    • Use a checklist.  Yes, I DID turn on the audio recorder.  Yes, I DID turn on the GoPro.

During the Wedding

  • If you have an assistant, one camera should be fixed on a subject at any point in time.  This is where the stationary Go-Pro or wide-angle cameras really help – you can always fall back on them even if everything else is moving.  
    • If you are a solo act, this works out – I would adjust one camera, pad over to the next (in my silent shoes), adjust it, then back to the first, etc.
  • Slow slow SLOW sweeps. 
    • This is where the good tripod really helps.
    • Do NOT zoom in all the way.  This is where recording at a resolution higher than the result is helpful – gives image stabilization room to play.  This is where having the grid turned on helps – keep most of it inside the center grid.   (But, if you are recording at the final resolution, obviously, don’t do that)

After the Wedding

  • Record the entire receiving line.  
    • From an angle where you can see the guest’s faces.
    • These are the people who are important to the Bride and Groom.  

During the Reception

  • You probably will not get to eat a full meal.   Plan accordingly.  
    • Why: Some of the footage you will want is people getting served food.   That cuts into eating time.
    • Then, while eating, the toasting will probably begin.    Or, people will demand they couple kiss, and you’ll want to be ready for that.
    • This does not exclude Cake.  Cake can be eaten easily.
  • Friendly kids and throw away cameras make for great video.   10 years later, its whatever the kids did, that gets watched, not the boring grown-up stuff.   I was blessed with two volunteers.


That’s probably about it, on lessons learned.   Don’t worry – while it sounds like I had a train wreck; au contraire, I’m 90% proud of what I’m able to produce – I have good editing skills.     The editing part is a separate post.

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