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Studio Time: The Happiest Place (to Shoot Weddings) on Earth?
Posted May 1, 2006 Print Version     Page 1of 1

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to shoot a wedding at Walt Disney World in Florida? Unless you are a Disney cast member—or plan on becoming one—you can probably keep on wondering. Less than 1% of couples who have a "Disney Fairy Tale Wedding" hire a non-Disney videographer. Outside vendors can't work as easily within the Disney system to produce the same results. The Wedding Pavilion has three remote-access cameras, and these can be operated only by Disney videographers. If a couple wants to bring in their own videographer, they must pay a media rep fee if any wedding activity is shot outside the Wedding Pavilion or convention space. You can see how this practice strongly discourages brides from using outside videographers.

Disney did hire outside videographers to videotape wed-dings up until six years ago. Today, a Disney videographer is a full-time, salaried cast member who works as a part of the Disney Event Group. The Disney Event Group covers such items as entertainment, floral, photography, video, audio-visual, and multimedia services within the Disney Wedding Pavilion and other park venues.

When not shooting weddings, videographers are doing other video-production work such as editing or video-taping in and around Walt Disney World, including working in the video department of the Disney conference program. Weddings can take place from early morning until late in the evening. Extravagant couples have been known to get married at Cinderella's castle and have their own private reception there.

Given that Disney generally discourages couples from hiring outside vendors to work in the venue, they rarely allow videographers to tour the facility. But they made an exception for EventDV.


The Disney Wedding Pavilion was built in 1991. At that time, there was no thought of planning for video-taping, which is evident in the building's design, with its surrounding windows and the fact that the sun sets in the west behind Cinderella's castle. The window behind the altar cleverly frames the castle, which provides a beautiful view, but one that's not particularly conducive to videotaping. A coat of tinting was added to the windows after the fact to help with the backlight, but there isn't too much one can do about it. Those details aside, it's a breathtaking view and a beautiful wedding venue.

This is the place where a girl's childhood dreams first begin to take shape. When I visited the Pavilion in January, I met the Dale family from Houston. They were in the process of planning their daughter Sarah's wed-ding, scheduled for June 16, 2006, at the Wedding Pavilion. The parents reminisced about how they had stayed at the Grand Floridian when Sarah was seven years old, and how after seeing a bride on the staircase, she announced she wanted to be married at Disney World. Sarah then went on to intern at Disney. Today, Sarah, 22, and David Warren, 25, are engaged, and her parents were more than happy to do what it took to make their daughter's dream come true. When I asked if they would get a video, they said yes. I pushed my luck by asking if they preferred video over photography. The mother of the bride, Alison, said she is into scrapbooking, so photographs are really important to her. (Maybe when she sees her daughter's wedding video she'll start thinking differently.)

There are more than 800 wedding ceremonies held each year at the Disney Wedding Pavilion in Orlando. Video supervisor Mike McLean says that more and more couples are purchasing wedding videography, but that the service is still considered an extra in Disney's wed-ding package.

Wedding ceremonies are performed in numerous locations throughout Walt Disney World, but the videotaping of weddings at the Wedding Pavilion is unique in that it has three remote-control, mounted cameras and the videographer actually sits in a back room watching a five-screen monitor and live-switching as the wedding progresses. Videographer/editor Tim Toccalino showed me how the live switching is done. I had the opportunity to test this out and can verify that it's not as easy at it looks!

It is interesting to note that the photographer does not have any restrictions when photographing and that the videographer must work around the photographer to keep him or her out of the video shots. This probably sounds all too familiar to some videographers.

There are three remote-control cameras in the Disney Wedding Pavilion: one just above the door through which you enter the Pavilion and one on each side of the altar, perched up on a pedestal. When I first entered the Pavilion, I didn't immediately notice these, as the camera casing is white to blend in with the rest of the décor.


The cameras used at the Disney Wedding Pavilion are ParkerVision products with Sony interiors. These cameras have manual presets and are adjusted through-out the day as necessary based on time of day, available lighting, etc. The cameras are about six years old. For other weddings on Disney property (plus everything shot before and after the ceremony), Disney uses Sony 500 DSR cameras. They shoot in DVCAM format because DVCAM tapes will hold up to three hours of footage as opposed to the 60-80 minutes available with MiniDV.

The three ParkerVision cameras feed into a Sony switcher for a live cut. An additional three decks that ISO the three cameras, which means that each camera feeds its own deck. If anything is switched incorrectly, the editor can go back into the individual deck and get that footage. The raw footage is archived on DVCAM tape and kept for six months.

The camera in the back was moved down to just above the door, but it is not enough to get the whole castle in the shot—another reminder that the Wedding Pavilion was not built with video in mind, given that profession-ally shot wedding video was still in its infancy in the early 1990s.

For audio, Disney places wireless microphones on the groom, on the officiant, and by the podium if there are any readings. There is also a microphone on the music as well. There are microphones throughout the Wedding Pavilion. The audio is all set on presets, so all the videographer has to do is turn the mics on.


I was lucky enough to be at the Disney Wedding Pavilion (on a Monday morning) when a couple was exchanging vows with about ten friends and family members present. Disney considers this an "Intimate" wedding, and pricing starts at $3,200 for the entire production. They had a photographer but no videographer, so I could stay in the back room and watch the ceremony on the monitor.

Disney's video packages start at $1,200 and go up to $2,650 for ten hours of coverage, with three-camera coverage of Pavilion weddings and two cameras used for ceremonies and pre- and post-ceremony videos shot elsewhere. The package includes one DVD with digital titling and graphics. Available add-ons include additional DVDs and a 40-photo montage. Wedding photography packages, by comparison, range from $2,665-$5,220.

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