Sayson found his way to videography through work on the other side of the camera. "After college I dabbled with a little acting, but I was absolutely fascinated with what happened behind the scenes," he says. Sayson went on to record his siblings' weddings and shot his first wedding as a professional in 1988. He notes the obvious advantage of "going pro": "It's great because you're getting paid to do what used to be a hobby."
At the same time, though, Sayson was working in television broadcasting and production. The ways he applies the lessons he learned there have put him on the map as a Vancouver videographer. Part of his secret is technique and technology; Sayson's Web site advertises his use of "a steadicam and Hollywood optical filters" in many of his productions. But what's really getting the attention of his customers comes more from the hockey rink than the soundstage.
Ready to Rumble
A key part of the in-house hockey broadcasts Sayson produced were the intro videos his crew showed on the Jumbotron just before face-off. Familiar to any live sports fan, these clips combine hard-hitting, fast-shooting highlight footage of the home team with an uptempo soundtrack exhorting the crowd to "pump up the volume" or "get ready to rumble." Sayson knew a good idea when he saw it. "They're always showing intro videos to get the crowd pumped up [at sporting events]. I thought, ‘Wouldn't it be great to do this for the bride?'"
Sayson developed the idea into what he calls bridal intro videos. "The best way to describe them is like an MTV music video shown on the big screen before the bride walks in," he says. Sayson shoots these videos two to three weeks ahead of time—often on the bride's makeup trial day—and projects them onto a large screen in the sanctuary just before the bride enters. Like the bridal footage packages offered by many videographers, these videos show scenes of the bride preparing for her big day. But instead of serving as a component of a wedding video delivered to the bride and groom some months after the event—or, at best, as part of a wedding-day edit shown at the reception—they kick off the big day for all the assembled guests. Sayson believes these scenes can be used to fuller effect in this different context. "Bridal intro videos do two things. They help set the mood for the wedding and they build anticipation," he explains.
In the 20-30 minutes before the video is shown, the audience sees another popular component of Sayson's multimedia presentations: a movie theater-style pre-show that uses photos and text to introduce the wedding party (without the frequent reminders to visit the concession stand). This is an entertaining and helpful pre-wedding diversion, Sayson says, because many attendees know relatively few members of the wedding party. "It goes back to my broadcast training. We want to bring the action as close them as possible. We want them to identify with the hockey players," he explains. And in Canada, everyone wants to be a hockey player.
Get Up and Go to Church
One thing that makes the mood of bridal intro videos so compelling is the relaxed atmosphere of the shoot. Compared to the wedding day, when "the bride is always in a crunch for time," Sayson says, the 45-60 minute intro video shoot shows her when "she's relaxed and happy … you can really see that in her face."
Not all of the wedding guests catch on to the temporal illusion. "Many times people ask ‘How'd you put that together so fast?' We tell them we did it in the car on the way here," he jokes.
There are certainly challenges involved in producing bridal intro videos. Even in the weeks before the wedding, Sayson says, coordinating the day with the bride and her makeup people can be a hassle. But the biggest challenge to showing a bridal intro video is the facility; few wedding venues, it turns out, sport a sixty-foot Jumbotron. "Not all churches have the equipment, especially the more traditional, stained glass window-type churches," Sayson says.
However, a growing number of contemporary churches do have video projection capabilities. Sayson belongs to one of them, and some of his clients have their weddings in that church. "The church has been very accommodating," he says. "It pays to go to church." However, he also gives back to his congregation by volunteering his time to help with their video production needs.
Because coordinating with a church is so important to showing bridal intro videos, Sayson says it is "absolutely essential" that he be at the wedding rehearsal. For instance, he may find that a church's projector only supports VHS or that its DVD player will not play burned DVDs. For those clients whose church of choice does not support multimedia presentations, Sayson also offers same-day edit highlight packages to be shown at the reception, which he says have the same appeal to his customers and "are just as effective."
Big Fish from a Frozen Pond
Known as "Hollywood North" because of the large number of movies shot there, Vancouver is home to many small production companies, making it a competitive and discerning market for videography, according to Sayson. "We have a very sophisticated client base. Instead of asking ‘How many cameras do you use?' they ask, ‘What kind of camera do you use?'"
Sayson's innovative multimedia presentations have gotten him a lot of attention—both from clients and from periodicals like the Vancouver Sun, Richmond News, Richmond Review, and Real Weddings magazine. Sayson says he does "minimal advertising" because his bridal intro videos advertise themselves; impressed viewers often book weddings with him on the spot. Though the popularity of his product goes a long way, Sayson believes his background in broadcasting and the awards he has won (which include multiple WEVA Creative Excellence Awards, most recently a 2005 Gold for Wedding Post-Ceremony Production) bolster his reputation as well. He says they earn him "credibility and trust" in a market where almost all the potential customers who meet with him for consultations have visited two or three other videographers. An equally useful item on his résumé, Sayson says, is his experience broadcasting the Canucks: "People in our markets are very passionate about sports. Hockey in Canada is a religion." As an NHL "insider," Sayson finds he always has a way to relate with his clients, which is crucial in a field that he says is "all about establishing a connection."
Another way Sayson's costumers might connect with him is through a memorable character in his entertaining beef jerky ads. TV commercials, corporate videos, and streaming online video, constitute the other half of Sayson Video Productions' portfolio. Sayson stresses that doing big-name advertising isn't the only way to make money doing commercials. "We don't go for the Coca-Colas and the Nikes. We go for the small to midsize businesses," he says.
Similarly, commercials that make waves on the Web are just as important to Sayson as those on the airwaves. "Webcasting is the other avenue people are starting to see as a very powerful marketing tool."
His series of ads for Soo Beef Jerky is doing both. At a wedding he was shooting, Sayson was approached by a Soo official who asked him, "How do you make beef jerky interesting?" Sayson's answer—in ads that are being aired in Vancouver, Los Angeles, New York, and San Francisco—was this: give the jerky to a chubby, bespectacled nerd and show how much the ladies love him for it.
Sayson enjoys working with smaller companies like Soo because he can retain creative control of the commercials. He does everything from writing the script to shooting and editing to hiring hair and makeup people.
Though his broadcasting background has shaped the work of his company, Sayson says his real inspiration is "other videographers." The relationship is probably reciprocal at Sayson's own instructional sessions, including one called "Visual Magic" at the 2005 WEVA Town Meetings in Chicago and New York in which he shared tips for using filters and "getting the ‘steadicam look.'"
Sayson says his goal for his presentations is "to help videographers elevate their production value." This is an unsurprising mantra for a man who brings his broadcast professionalism to the videography world. "I have the same standard for wedding video. I expect all my work to be broadcast-quality."
NHL Hall of Famer Wayne Gretzky once said, "A good hockey player plays where the puck is. A great hockey player plays where the puck is going to be." Danny Sayson would doubtless agree, and anyone who wants to know where videography's puck is headed next might look no further than the bridal intro videos that are revving up wedding guests in Vancouver and beyond.