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Continuing Education: On the Job Training with Mark & Trisha Von Lanken
Posted May 19, 2006 Print Version     Page 1of 1

Mark and Trisha Von Lanken--award-winning videographers, same-day edit pioneers, and masters of the moving camera--recently decided to extend their acclaimed educational efforts beyond the familiar confines of the training DVD and trade-show seminar with a marathon two-day workshop held on April 24-25, 2006 in their hometown of Tulsa, Oklahoma. The first in a series of workshops that Mark and Trisha will present this year, this inaugural offering boasted an intimate class size of six videographers, and featured in-depth, hands-on training in all aspects of wedding video production. While each attendee paid $595 to participate in the two-day "On the Job Training" workshop, Mark and Trisha invited me along to report on the proceedings.
     The Von Lankens advertised the workshop on VideoUniversity.com and their own website, and the six available spots sold out in one week. Participants included Barry and Carolyn Pett of Arista Media Productions (TX), Sandy and Steve Dial of A Mind's Eye Film (TX), Jamie Player of Absolute Video Productions (SC), and Rob Teifeld of Cinematic Elegance, (CA).
     Everyone arrived for the "optional" Sunday night which worked out well since it gave all the participating videographers a chance to get to know each other ahead of time before going right to work on Monday morning. All of the participants had previously attended the Von Lankens' presentations at video conventions or had purchased various training DVDs, but didn‘t know them personally.

All of the videographers are relatively new to the business. One participant had been in business for just seven months while the most experienced team had been doing video for 3 1/2 years. All have websites with streaming video. Having "some" wedding experience is recommended to reap the full benefits of this sort of teaching. Regardless of experience, they all had one thing in common: a passion for wedding videography and an eagerness to learn from one of the industry's best husband and wife teams.

As Barry Pett said, "At the risk of sounding like a groupie, the initial event that sparked my passion for cinematic wedding videography was randomly stumbling onto the Von Lankens' website and watching their demo. It really was an epiphany of sorts. Attending WEVA Expo several months later took it to another level."

Monday morning started off with the fundamentals of using the manual settings on your camera. There were a variety of cameras represented, including the Sony PD150, Canon XL2, Sony HDR-FX1 and Sony HVR-Z1 Participants practiced framing, composition, and reveal shots. As a videographer, flexibility is very helpful for meeting the physical demands of the business, so we practiced deep-knee bends and leaning exercises. These exercises have become a running joke amongst those who attend their various workshops, but Mark says doing these will help you achieve the camera movements that he uses and teaches.

Newlyweds Caleb and Julie Howard, who were married in February (with their wedding video produced by the Von Lankens, of course), served as the "practice" wedding couple for the workshop. They brought their tux and wedding gown to the studio so everyone could practice bride and groom preparations. The also re-created their first dance. As we ate lunch, Julie commented on various demo DVDs that videographers sent in the mail. She said she preferred watching a 20-minute highlight to sitting through a full ceremony. I was a bit surprised to find out that she doesn't own a computer, so she couldn‘t visit websites. She found Mark and Trisha through a friend's referral.

We then drove over to the First United Methodist Church of Tulsa. This is the beautiful church shown in the Von Lankens' Moving Camera Techniques DVD. This was very much a hands-on seminar as Mark had everyone use their own camera for various shots. Mark typically operates the front camera during the ceremony so those who shoot upfront went with Mark and those who shoot back camera went with Trisha. Videographers typically get only a few minutes with the couple after the photo session, so they showed how to maximize your shooting time with the couple. Everyone practiced shooting couple footage on the altar.

Mark and Trisha gave personalized attention to everyone and made sure each participant understood how to get a particular shot. Mark discussed audio and how he uses four MiniDisc recorders instead of iRivers because they still work. We then moved outside to practice exterior church shots and fountain shots. We went to downtown Tulsa to practice more shots with the couple. We then moved on to Gilcrease Park to practice more Love Story shots. One fun moment was when Mark gave the couple his PD150 camera and let them shoot footage of each other. Julie had no problem hamming it up with Caleb operating the camera. This would make for a great spontaneous moment in the Love Story.

After dinner at a BBQ restaurant, we all went back to the studio where everyone shared examples of their previous work including weddings, concept videos, love stories, etc. Note to future attendees: Check your ego at the door and be open to constructive criticism. I saw several examples of great work mixed in with examples that needed improvement. One of the attendees said he was a bit intimidated showing his work, but knew he had to do it in order to get better. We were supposed to end at 10pm, but Trisha and Mark graciously stayed much later as we watched more videos and discussed various aspects of the business.

Day Two started with the Von Lankens showing examples of good and bad editing. They also discussed the impact of sound bites and how to get them. Les Petersen of Petersen's Photography, joined us for a networking lunch to discuss business issues. Les said that the number one reason businesses fail is because of price--people don't charge enough for what they do. As for marketing, Les said that repetitive direct mailings work for him.

Mark and Trisha also demonstrated Glidecam and Stabilizer techniques. We watched them shoot a wedding cake and illustrate off-camera lighting for desired effects. We saw Mark set up 3-point lighting for interviews. Their duplex-mate, photographer Mark Thompson, joined us and gave us his insight on how he lights couples for portraits. Mark said you can make an inexpensive reflector by getting a 99-cent solar blanket (sold at camping supply stores), and using a spray adhesive to attach it to foam board.

We had dinner at a nice Italian restaurant. Then it was back to the studio for more casual discussions and watching more videos. Once again, we had another late night. I personally had a great time getting to know the attendees and picking up some tips as well. No matter how long one is in business, you can always learn from others. Some of the best learning occurs just sitting around talking. The chemistry of the group really made for learning in a relaxed, fun atmosphere.

Mark & Trisha gave personalized attention to everyone and made sure everyone understood what they were teaching. The pacing was perfect as no one felt rushed, and everything went as planned. All the participants agreed that the workshop was well-worth the cost (which included lunch and dinner on both days) and would recommend this workshop to others. For anyone who wants to get their shooting, editing, creativity and marketing skills up to speed quickly, this is the best 48 hours you could spend your time and money on.

Their next "On the Job Training" workshop is scheduled for June 26-27, 2006 with a few openings still available at the special introductory price of $595. Future workshop dates in July will be announced shortly. For more information on how to sign up for the Von Lankens' workshop, or to purchase their various training DVDs, visit www.TulsaWeddingVideos.com.

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