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The Upscale Wedding Video, Part 1: Pre-Wedding Productions
Posted Jun 23, 2005 Print Version     Page 1of 1

Deck: As wedding videographers, we're all looking for higher-end clientele; besides the bigger paycheck, working upscale weddings generally means we get to break out the expensive gear and shoot with bigger crews. But acceding to that rarified air means much more than more shooting time, more cameras, and pricier equipment—it means developing a more sophisticated product that will stand above the crowd. In this multi-part series we'll explore all the dimensions of upscale wedding productions, beginning with pre-wedding features that will distinguish your offerings right from the get-go.

There has been a lot of debate lately about how to structure a wedding video business. One school of thought advocates a low price and a basic, no-frills product. On the other side of the fence are the videographers who prefer to shoot fewer projects, but offer a more elaborate product, at a premium price. These videographers are catering to upscale wedding clientele, and this series of articles will explore just what goes into a wedding video for this market.

What is an "upscale wedding video?" For the purposes of this discussion, we'll use the term to describe something more than just a wedding with coverage of the ceremony and reception. It encompasses any event that's upscale enough to justify using more than the traditional two cameras in order to provide extra point(s) of view. The "upscale wedding video" is one that features superior production values, coverage of additional locations and events, and extra care taken in post production. The result is a product that stands above the crowd--one worth a premium price.

For some, an upscale product is the norm. For others, it can be the inclusion of additional features added to package-style offerings, providing a more complete, or--dare we say it--grandiose experience. This month we are going to start with these add-ons, all of which fall under the rubric of pre wedding-day productions. In the coming installments we'll cover ceremony and reception production and finally wrap it all up in post-production.

An upscale product often means additional features, some of which can be shot well before the wedding day. Here are several ideas for your consideration.

Get to Know Your Customer
Almost any one of these pre wedding-day productions allows you a wonderful opportunity that will pay off as you continue to produce your event: getting to know your customer. This extra personal attention is an important factor in providing a premium product. You might want to consider taking some notes, or providing questionnaires for the bride and groom to fill out. Find out what their likes and dislikes are. Have them name their five favorite movies, songs, bands, television shows, etc. By doing so, you can gain an insight into your clients that you can later use to your advantage. For example, let's say the groom is a Star Wars fan. You can use this knowledge to create a short scene where he closes his eyes, lifts his hand and the ring box is summoned to him using "the Force." Done properly, you can avoid the cheese factor, yet still make the finished production personal to him.

By using a song from a favorite band you can accomplish the same thing. The key is subtlety. Without calling attention to any one thing, by tailoring your production to suit the couple, you'll capture that "extra something just under the surface" that will make their video all the more special to them.

The Love Story
The Love Story is an interview with the bride and her fiancé during which they tell the story of how they met, and how their relationship developed to bring them to this point. Apart from the wedding vows, the Love Story is probably the most emotion-packed segment of your project.

The interview portion of the Love Story should be set in an attractive location, either indoors or out. Gardens, parks, and locations along the shore are good outdoor choices. Museums, upscale homes, and restaurants (if they're not busy and noisy) are possible indoor spots. Ideally, you should find a location that has some special significance to the couple--perhaps the spot where he proposed to her, or the site of their first date. Or it can simply be shot at the bride's home, which is usually convenient for the bride and groom. If you have your own studio, you can shoot the interview there, with complete control over lighting, audio, and backgrounds.

You can use available light to advantage, but be prepared to control and supplement it to produce flattering lighting on your subjects. We suggest using a wireless microphone to get good audio. Be careful of wind noise outdoors, and use a wind sock on the mic element.

You can interview the couple together, but our experience has been that you'll get better responses if you interview the bride and her fiancé individually. Ask each of them the same questions, and avoid any question that can be answered as a simple response. What you want to avoid are simple "yes" or "no" answers. You want them to relate a story, so you should try to phrase your question, not as a question, but as a directive, such as:

  • Tell me about yourself…just a little capsule biography. (You can use this as voiceover later if you're doing a "Growing Up" photo montage.)
  • Tell me how you met.
  • Tell me about your first date.
  • Tell me how the relationship deepened and grew.
  • When did you first know he was the "one"?
  • Who was the first one to tell the other "I love you," and when was that?
  • Tell me about how you/he proposed.
  • What do you like best about him/her?
  • Tell me about your most embarrassing moment with him/her.
  • Someday your kids will watch this video. What can you tell them about how to find the "right someone?"
  • What are your plans for the future?

When cut together, the juxtaposition of the two viewpoints can be funny, touching, poignant, or all three.

Romantic cutaway shots are an important feature of the Love Story. Get footage of the couple walking together, sharing a glass of wine, playing, embracing, kissing. If you like getting this type of footage, there's another added feature to consider: the "Romantic Interlude" is what David calls it. In a nutshell, this is a Love Story without the interview portion. This makes an excellent add-on for those couples that might be reticent about speaking on camera, but still want to have a presentation at their rehearsal dinner or reception.

The Photo Montage
Photo montages represent another great way to tell the bride and groom's story, dating back to when they met or even to their childhood—it's all part of the story of how they arrived at this day. The investment in production can be minimal yet highly profitable, while at the same time enabling you to bring new life to otherwise neglected photographs.

We'll talk more about photo montages in a future installment, but before leaving the Love Story, it's worth pointing out that a "growing up" or engagement photo montage can mix very well with a Love Story segment, with the interview responses used as voiceover beneath some of the photos.

Engagement Music Video
Working with the photographer, you can produce a music video of their engagement photo session. Behind-the-scenes candid footage mixed with the resulting photographs and set to music can result in a cutting-edge presentation for their wedding day.

By providing a promotional copy to the photographers, you can turn this video into a free advertisement for you and them and also provide them with an upgrade option for their engagement sessions.

Bridal Elegance
It's all about the bride, and this segment makes no bones about it. It features the bride, in her wedding dress (and possibly also in other attractive outfit(s)) in a scenic and romantic setting such as a lovely garden. This segment generally has no vocals, just a music bed. Lots of soft focus, lots of slow motion, all staged and directed shots.

Use a variety of camera angles. Have the bride dabble her fingers in a pool or a fountain. Shoot her from a high angle as she leans back while your assistant drizzles rose petals on her. Rack focus from a flowerbed to the bride as she picks a blossom and smells it. Get a closeup shot as she lowers her eyes and smiles to herself.

You'll want to capture at least ten minutes or more of raw footage to ensure that you'll have enough good shots to cut together to a single musical number. Because the bride will likely have her hair and makeup done as a test run in advance of her wedding day, like the Engagement Music Video, this is something that you can schedule with the photographer's own Bridal session. By doing so, you'll help consolidate the bride's schedule, as well as providing an additional revenue stream for both you and the photographer.

For the Groom Only
A small but growing number of brides are interested in the "R"-rated version of the Bridal Elegance segment: boudoir video. This is also all about the bride, as she models some sexy lingerie, posing and/or dancing seductively. The intended audience is the groom, of course. Better put this one on a separate DVD! Gents, if you're asked to shoot one of these, you might want to have a lady assistant present, to help the bride with her makeup and provide a chaperone. It is also a good idea to have the bride bring a friend along, regardless.

And above all else, remember this: The rule of the day should be tasteful and artistic--not pornographic.

The Movie Trailer Preview
Peggy and Steve, a bride and groom who are not videographers, gained some level of notoriety for an online movie they created to announce their own wedding. Titled The Rules of Engagement, this action-packed short was fashioned after a movie trailer for an action film. They followed it up with a full-fledged silent film (using Woody Allen-style titles and New Orleans jazz) called Proposals that proved equally popular.

Consider doing something similar with footage from any of the pre-wedding productions, keeping in mind that while shooting, you may want to give some minimal direction to achieve specific shots. It's a good idea to have some sort of script to shoot from for this as well as the Love Story, Engagement, and other pre-wedding productions. It makes production and post-production much easier.

The Rehearsal and Rehearsal Dinner
Attending the rehearsal is something that many clients appreciate. It gives you a chance to see the wedding venue, watch a run-through of the ceremony, and judge where to place your cameras (although floral arrangements on the wedding day can surprise you!). It also provides you with an opportunity to consult with the officiant and discuss your needs and any restrictions the church or other venue may have on your positioning or movement. While you're there, you can also check out the venue's sound system and make sure your wireless mics won't cause interference. But why not turn this into an opportunity to provide your customer another add-on?

If you bring a camera and set it up exactly where it will be placed during the ceremony, you can get footage for one-half of a special effects shot: dissolving between the bride in civilian clothes to the bride in her wedding gown in a "Cinderella" type of effect.

As long as you're at the rehearsal, consider going on to the rehearsal dinner. You might have a chance to capture relatives and old friends meeting, or some special toasts or presentations.

If you've put together a Love Story, Music Video, photo montage, or any of these pre-wedding productions, a profitable add-on is to offer to show the finished piece at the rehearsal dinner or the wedding reception. For that, you'll need to buy or rent a projector, a screen, and a portable sound system.

We suggest you also hire an assistant to handle the setup and execution of this service so you are not distracted from the many production tasks you have before you.

Film. Real Film.
Up to this point all we've discussed are service-related add-ons. Now we want to take it a step further for those looking for something to make their productions unique: How about film? Not cheesy film effects from your NLE, but real, honest-to-goodness Super 8 color or black & white film.

Adding a roll or two (or three or four) of actual movie film can give your production a distinctive flavor, and a retro-chic appearance that will awe your clients. You wouldn't think that something that is so contrary to the evolution of better-quality video would have such an impact, but it does.

To offer this option, you'll need one or more movie cameras. One popular source is the photographic section of eBay. You will also need a means of transferring the film footage to video. Moviestuff (www.moviestuff.tv), a small company in Texas, makes a line of film transfer systems that are well worth considering.

That's it for Part 1. In our next installment, we'll look at some of the things you can do on the wedding day itself to add the upscale touch… things besides the standard coverage of the ceremony and the reception.

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