Echoes from the Backyard
Posted Aug 4, 2004

Welcome to the first installment of Echoes from the Backyard. Trust me, there's a reason for the title. This will be a regular column for EventDV readers to answer your burning and not-so-burning questions, and at the same time allow others to benefit from the give-and-take. Think of it as a "Dear Abby" for event videographers. And although there are no stupid questions, feel free to sign an alias...You know, just in case.

Somewhat tongue in cheek, but always candid and hopefully thought-provoking, I hope you will find this an enjoyable and clip-worthy read.

By the way, I'm David Chandler-Gick. My friends call me "DJ." I have been shooting and editing video since 1987, weddings since 1992. I've been an outspoken, no B.S. evangelist for the event videographer since the "early days" of 1995 and the Video Machine forums on CompuServe. And if you remember the heyday of either, smile. You're getting up there, too! So, without further ado…

Dear DJ,
I'm new to wedding videography and I'm curious what to do. I have a client that wants the raw footage and edit master. Should I surrender them?
Under Siege

Dear Siege,
First and foremost, do whatever works for you. I can't tell you how to operate your business, but I can outline some of the ramifications.

Pitfall #1: The Forgetful Bride
This raw footage is shown to friends and family. Innocently, a friend asks, "Who was your videographer?" and the client answers, forever attaching your name to your unedited, unfinished work. The friend thinks (to herself so as not to upset the newlyweds), Man this stuff sucks. It's moving all over the place and half of it's out of focus. I'm not calling this guy when I get married.

Raw footage, which by definition is raw, should not be seen without a full disclaimer that the finished piece is oh-so-much better. Can you guarantee that a client will do this on your behalf?

Pitfall #2: The Sunday-Morning Spielberg
By definition, editing is supposed to make the story better. It's supposed to flow. A start. A middle. An end.

As an editor, it's your job to make the viewing of this story an enjoyable experience. Even if that means cutting Aunt Martha from seven minutes of raw footage down to ten seconds of screen time. It also means removing objectionable material such as drunken guests saying lewd things about the bride.

Once Mom (or anyone else) gets ahold of the raw footage, you run the risk of having to deal with her making the editing decisions, and turning a beautiful piece of work into junk.

Don't believe me? Think of ten of the best movies that you can. Then think of ten of the worst or most forgettable. Now, count the number of writers clogging up the credits. Too many cooks in the kitchen can spoil the soup.

My advice is to sell you. Sell your vision. After all, isn't that why you are in business for yourself?

If you do give away raw footage, make sure you add a watermark stating that this is raw, unedited footage. Never release Camera Originals. As far as Edit Masters go, unless you are not using an NLE, make two and sell them one.

Dear DJ,
I have a Mother of the Bride that wants to review and sit in on the edit of the final cut. The problem is, I work from home and have two dogs that are very friendly-to the point of obnoxious. What should I tell her?
K9 Cutter

Dear Cutter,
I also edit at home and one of my dogs likes to curl up around my feet while I do so. Your stated problem has an easy solution: give the dogs a rawhide or pig ear and close them into the bedroom for the duration.

The problem you left unstated is more about the MoB. Unless I was billing by the hour, I would not want someone hovering over my shoulder telling me what to edit. It really does slow down the process. (Plus, I may edit at 3:00 in the morning in my skivvies. Not a pretty sight.)

For corporate clients, who are used to paying a la carte, I usually make them a timecode window-burn and have them create a shot log from it. 98 out of 100 usually will let me do my own thing. Of the remaining two, at least one will start the log, realize what a chore this step is, and join the other 98.

Again, sell you. Sell your vision. Charge hourly for any "assisted" editing.

Dear DJ,
What's the best camera for low-light conditions?
Stumbling in the Dark

Dear Stumbling,
Tough one. I've always been happy with the performance of the Sony line (PD-150/170/250) for low-light conditions. Compared to the other cams geared towards our market (Canon GL1/2, XL1/1S, etc.), it tends to handle low light the best.

That's my answer and I'm gonna stick with it. Until something better comes along, that is. I'm currently accepting cameras from manufacturers for review. So if anyone at Sony or Panasonic or Canon wants to send me the latest and greatest, I'm not above a bribe or two.