The Upscale Wedding Video, Part 2: The Wedding Day
Posted Jun 1, 2005

In Part 1 of this series, we discussed the nature of the upscale wedding video and covered a number of add-on features that you can produce before the wedding day itself. To recap, in brief, an upscale wedding video isn't just a multi-camera production, or one that features extended reception coverage. It's a video that delivers superior production values, includes extra features highlighting multiple locations, and uses extra care in post to justify a premium price and establish a videographer with deeper-pocketed clientele.

In this installment, we'll talk about the things that you can do on the wedding day to add that "upscale" factor for your clients—premium elements beyond the coverage of the ceremony and reception themselves, which will be the topic of Part 3.

Before the Ceremony

There are many different ways that the couple, their families, and the wedding party might arrange the events prior to the ceremony, but you will have an opportunity to get at least some shots of the various wedding day activities that precede the main event. Remember that with multiple cameras and crew, you can be in two or more places at once, so get the details of the client's plans and lay out your own schedule accordingly.

The following are some examples of wedding day events that make great shooting opportunities, and some suggestions for making the shots come alive.

One is bride and bridesmaids primping. A shot of the bride's reflection in a mirror, pulling out and panning to the bride herself, is always good.

Another shot is a lockdown with an empty mirror or bed. Without moving the camera, bring the bride into the scene. In post, adding a cross-dissolve between the two shots can make the bride "magically" appear. Meanwhile, the groom and his attendants may go out a play a round of golf, or just hang out watching a game on television.

There may also be a formal bridal-party photo session at the bride's house or another location. You might want to attend this for some candid footage of the bridal party and/or the bride's parents. Just don't slip into the lazy habit of poking your head in behind the photographer to catch the formals on video. Posed formal shots make for good wedding photography, but lousy wedding videography when overused—the kind that makes videographers unpopular with photographers and in- essential to brides.

Sometimes, there will be a brunch or other pre-wedding event for close friends and family. This may create a nice opportunity to get some casual footage of these important players you may miss later on when you're focused on the ceremony.

The wedding party will often create good shooting opportunities by driving around to different locations for formal photos. This is particularly common if the wedding is in a scenic or historical location.

Another good wedding shoot scenario is groom and groomsmen dressing. Some videographers specialize in this segment, spoofing popular films by depicting the groom as a master spy, a superhero, massively hungover from the bachelor party, or fighting a heroic kung fu battle against his groomsmen, who are determined to prevent him from getting to the wedding. Even if you don't go so far as to do a "themed" segment, you can shoot the groomsmen horsing around with the groom. You can also get some good shots of the groom getting his boutonniere placed by his mother.

Detail shots, sometimes even in macro, are valuable footage. Here's one example: Find the marriage certificate, the two ring boxes, and a pair of sunglasses. On a table, stand the marriage certificate up and place the rings in front of it. Place the sunglasses so they "wrap" around the rings. Set the camera on the table and set up a rack-focus shot starting with the rings in focus and the certificate blurred. Adjust the focus so the certificate comes into focus. There are many opportunities for additional detail shots: the bride's shoes, the wedding gown on a hanger or a dress form, the bride's earrings and other jewelry, the flower girl's basket, or the bouquets and boutonnieres.

You should also get some dramatic shots of the church exterior. A nice shot might start at the top of the church steeple, then pan down to reveal the entire building. Try to take architectural shots at an angle, not standing flat in front of one wall. If the church has a pretty tree or flowers in the right position, here's another chance for a depth-of-field shot, focusing on the foliage, then changing focus to the building. If there are no plantings in the right place, you can fake the shot by bringing along your own bit of artificial foliage and having an assistant dangle it in the shot.

While you're at the church waiting for things to get going, be sure that you or an assistant pick up copies of the wedding program. In fact, get copies of all the printed material; a wedding invitation, the program, souvenir napkins, etc. These make good props or cutaways that you can add in post. Put them in a folder so they won't get mussed or creased.

Finally, be sure to capture the wedding party arriving at the church. If the limo takes them, try to get a shot of the limo departing the bride's house, and another of the limo arriving at the church. If there's room in the limo, and you have sufficient crew, one of you might ride with the wedding party for some additional shots.

Being There

When covering the "morning before" events for an upscale wedding, it's easy to get confused or lost, trying to find your way to the next location on time. At the very least, be sure you discuss all the times and locations with whoever is doing the detailed planning—the bride, her mother, or a professional planner.

Carry a map of the area, and have written directions to each location. As a navigation aid, especially in a strange town, a GPS receiver can be a real asset. Also, be sure to carry a cell phone, and have the numbers of the bride and the planning person handy. This way you can get updates on the inevitable schedule changes.

The Same-Day Edit

Not for the timid or easily stressed producer, a same-day edit (SDE) can be a profitable and notable production add-on. [See Eric Schumacher-Rasmussen's "The Art of the Wedding-Day Edit," February 2005, pp. 20-24.] You will need a portable editing system and a place where you can set up at the ceremony and/or the reception location, a dependable crew that you can rely on to get the shots you will need to edit into the final piece, and finally, a "core program" that you use as a framework for your edit timeline. This could be as complex as a Love Story or Romantic Interlude or as simple as a photo montage.

You will want two versions of this core program: one in a completed state and ready to show, just in case you are unable to complete the SDE; the other, with music and timings all set for you to drop in pre-designated shots from the wedding day itself. It would also be a good idea to schedule with the bride and groom a time later in the reception to make this presentation, allowing you additional time to complete the SDE.

We'll talk more about SDE editing requirements in a future installment, but here we want at least to suggest a timeline for production and post.

Arrive at the ceremony location and set up the portable editing station while shooters go out and capture the necessary pre-ceremony shots. These will include establishing shots of the venue, detail shots of decorations, the arrival of the wedding party, etc. Have your shooters note the timecode values of specific shots so you can find things quickly.

As the ceremony begins, the editor will begin loading and editing the pre-ceremony shots into the core program. As the ceremony ends, strike the portable editing station and prepare to move it to the reception venue. With a laptop, it might be a good idea to do any rendering while in transit. Be careful to avoid jarring the computer, however, as any sudden shock might damage your hard drive and make your efforts meaningless in the end. Take the raw footage and timecode notes from the ceremony with you, leaving at least one camera person at the ceremony to stick with the bride and groom and capture their exit, complete with rice, bubbles, or whatever guests throw.

Once at the reception venue, set up your edit station and begin loading the ceremony footage. When your crew arrives, have the final tape delivered to you, capture the closing shot, and complete the edit. If you have the time, make a second version that includes one or two shots from the first dance.

Close with a kiss shot, fade out, and fade in "presented by" and your logo for 3-5 seconds. Voila, the SDE, guaranteed to amaze the audience! That logo at the end will be the best marketing you could ever hope for. Be sure to have some of your business cards handy, because you'll be asked for them.

One caution about SDEs: while the production flow we've outlined is fast and efficient, it's a lot easier to complete an SDE if the wedding day schedule has a couple of free hours between the ceremony and the reception. A successful SDE is much harder to pull off if the reception immediately follows the ceremony.

After the Wedding

There are a number of techniques and elements you can use for post-wedding coverage that will set your video above the crowd and establish it firmly in "upscale" territory.

One is Hollywood-style credits. Some videographers include credits in their productions, and this can be a blessing or a curse. A minor typo could force you into a costly re-edit. Making credits an add-on alleviates some of this potential liability and gives you another unique selling point for an upscale package.

Another valuable post-wedding element is the Wedding Day Story. Inside Story columnist Ken Erhart has pioneered this technique as his Storyteller edit. Similar to the Love Story, the Wedding Day Story involves interviewing your clients soon after the wedding. Instead of just repeating the Love Story questions, get them to talk about the events at their wedding. Then edit their responses with the wedding day footage. The result? Their wedding video, as narrated by the bride and groom. Not only does the viewer get to see and hear the events unfold before them, they also get to hear the bride and groom (or even the additional wedding participants) describe what was going through their heads at that moment. How many times would your daughter or granddaughter watch such a story?

If the final production is delivered on DVD, this can be made as an optional audio track, allowing the viewer to experience the wedding video itself, or the Wedding Day Story.

DVD Options

Speaking of DVD, here's an add-on taken straight from Hollywood: outtakes. Was the ceremony a little long? Had to cut the homily down? Or maybe the readings? By offering an outtakes option, you can include the uncut content as a supplementary feature. Because the outtakes are not integral to the finished production, you can increase the compression of these segments to fit in limited space on the disc, and even leave them in raw, unedited format. It's an outtake . . . it's not supposed to be perfect. With a minimum post time for you, your customer receives the maximum benefit.

A variation on this is the blooper reel. These are outtakes with a humorous twist. The bungled bouquet toss that had to be done over. The rehearsal footage where the groom messed up his vows. The Romantic Interlude shot where the groom dropped the bride. The fast dance number where one of the bridesmaids lost her . . . well, maybe not that one. You can use special effects to emphasize the funny bits.

Or, for the ultimate in videographer vanity, why not record a director's commentary track? Take the opportunity to explain your style, edit decisions, how much fun you had working with the couple. Don't tell them about it. See if they accidentally find it subtly placed on the DVD. If you don't hear anything from them, on their anniversary send them a card and ask them what they thought of the hidden audio track. For them, it'll be like watching a whole new video.

And that brings us to the close of this installment, with one final Hollywood-style DVD feature: the easter egg. An easter egg might contain a simple quote from someone, a guest singing, whatever you want. Our suggestion is to make it something fun or meaningful, and not too difficult to find. Maybe a doorway in a still menu that becomes highlighted, or a bouquet.

That's it for this month's installment. We'll leave you here at the church, and meet you back here next month to talk about how to set up multiple cameras to cover the ceremony, and discuss what you're likely to encounter at the reception.