"The bride chewed gum all through the ceremony."
"The whole congregation stood up and I couldn't see the bride."
"The groom turned off the wireless mic and I lost the audio."
"The lighting director used colored floods that messed up my white balance."
We sure do a lot of complaining about the many things that go wrong during an event shoot, don't we? I know I do. I used to think that these were just annoyances that went along with the job, until I realized that they were my fault. That's right. My fault. And if these mishaps frequently befall you, they're your fault, too. I say that it's time we stop whining about these little problems that spoil our videos and take positive action to prevent them. Some problems we can address ourselves. For example, do you always…
- Have spare tapes and batteries?
- Have a backup camera and a backup audio source?
- Attend the rehearsal to check camera positioning and meet with the wedding party and the officiant?
- Make sure you have good directions to the wedding, the reception, and other venues, and a number to call if you get lost?
- Double-check the equipment, and go over your "must-get" shot list?
- Have an emergency kit with spare parts, tools, tape, safety pins, and aspirin?
- Have a back-up videographer you can call on if you get sick at the last minute or have an accident?
- Label your used tapes, lock them, and put them in a really safe place? (Your equipment bag doesn't qualify as safe; it could get stolen. Keep the tapes on your person.)
But the problems that are the most irksome are the ones that appear to be caused by other people. The solution to these problems is more communication. We have to educate our clients in how to make a good video!
Yes, you in the back row—you say that the client doesn't want to learn how to make a video, that she hired you so that she wouldn't have to bother with all that. Well, you have a point. I don't mean we need to teach them how to use a camera, compose a shot, or edit. But we do need to tell our clients about what they can do to make their video better. After all, we've seen this stuff happen many, many times, but it's all new to our clients. So speak to them well before the wedding, and make sure they know the following things:
- Smoking generally looks bad on video. So does eating. And chewing gum looks really, really bad on video.
- Facing each other, or even turning to face the audience, will improve the video of the vows and the ring exchange. Likewise, they should face the audience during the lighting of the unity candle.
- They should let their photographer know that they expect him to work with us, the videographers, and coordinate their shots and movement.
- They (or their officiant) should consider asking the guests to stay seated during the ceremony, to avoid blocking the official videographer and photographer's shots.
- The audio will be much better if the groom agrees to wear a wireless mic. (We should assure the groom that his private comments won't become public, and ask him not to fiddle with the mic setup.)
- They should try not to react to the presence of the camera, even if we are using a light at the reception. Reactions like waving at the camera, posing, or turning away will all detract from the shot, and usually render that footage unusable. Unless we specifically ask them to do something, they should ignore us and act as if we are not there.
- The video will look much better if the lights at the ceremony and the reception aren't turned down too low.
- Outdoor weddings will look better if they can be set up so people aren't out in full sunlight.
- Fancy lighting for dance recitals or plays can degrade the video. So can flash photography. (You may be able to get the client to ban flash photography at a play or a recital, but not at a wedding. There, the most you can hope for is to keep relatives and friends from standing up to take their pictures.)
There are several ways you can get this information across. One is simply to discuss it with the client during one of your meetings. A better way is to write out your "Tips for Clients" and give them a copy. Jenn and Brian Moak of Video By Moak have developed an excellent set of tips for their clients.
I think the best way of all would be to assemble a "blooper reel" that shows examples of Things Not to Do, and show it to the clients or give them a copy. That way, they can see for themselves what effect their actions can have on the quality of their finished product.
We should always remember that the quality of the finished video is our responsibility. We need to do everything we can do to prepare for the unexpected and prevent our own mistakes. But in addition to that, we need to educate our clients on how to behave in front of the camera. If they ruin a shot because we didn't inform them as well as we should have, we only have ourselves to blame.