Echoes from the Backyard
Posted Jul 21, 2005

Dear DJ,

I've been asked about doing an I Mag at a corporate fundraiser event. What's an I Mag?



Dear Mag,

I Mag is a term used to refer to a live-switched production that is presented on large screens for the audience in real time.

Depending on the size of the event, this can range from fairly easy to very difficult to accomplish.

The first thing to determine is how many cameras you will need to cover the event adequately. I'll go out on a limb here and say that three would be the minimum, with four being more likely. You'll want the primary, a secondary, a safety, and possibly a fourth camera for cutaways and reactions. Larger events may require more.

Next you'll need to live-switch these cameras. For this you will need a bank of video monitors to see what each camera sees, plus a preview monitor and a program (final output) monitor. You'll also need a portable video mixer (or multiple mixing devices) to do the actual switching. Another essential item is a set of two-way radios or an intercom system to communicate with your crew.

The final essential ingredient is time. You'll need to leave yourself plenty of time to set up and rehearse. This is key to having a smooth-running show.

Dear Mag,

What is the optimal length of a wedding video?


Dear Count,

This is a loaded question. Ask 100 different videographers, and you'll get 100 different answers.

Who you should ask are your clients. If they think longer is better, ask them, "If a shorter video means a more enjoyable and entertaining video that you will want to watch again and again, would that be your preference?"

For me, it's about focusing on the best of the best. Keep it moving fast, with no low points. That's not to say that shorter is necessarily or always "better," but the way I look at it is like this: If they hit fast forward, then I've failed as an editor.

Editing is more than just switching from one camera to the next or adding effects. In fact, I'm not certain I'd even call that editing.

Editing also includes cutting things. An hour-long ceremony doesn't yield an hour-long video.

On a lazy afternoon I can watch Armageddon for the 75th time and not be bored by it. It's not exactly one of the top 10 cinematic milestones, but I never get bored with it.

Why? Because it is constantly moving. The editing has energy. No one scene lasts more than a few minutes, no one shot more than a few seconds, before it propels the story forward.

Now look at a wedding day. The problem with most long-form wedding video is that the day is not all that exciting. There are many lulls that—even on the day itself—cause one's attention to wane. On video, even some of the more exciting bits can be boring if not produced properly.

You've got all these little scenes, and at the crux of it all, one big, long, slow one. That, quite frankly, drags the whole thing down. How about that 10-minute procession? Does it really need to be 10 minutes long every time? No. Cut it down to a minute or less.

Cut the homily down to two minutes. And as for the vows—do we really need to hear the officiant coaching the bride and groom? Bam! Half the time cut right there.

Dear DJ,

I find myself getting bored with the same old routine with each and every video and have been considering adding other services. Question is, what sort of add-ons to offer. Also, what inspires you when you get into a rut?



Dear Yawn,

These are excellent questions. First, as far as add-ons go, be sure to check out the article by Doug Graham and me titled, "The Upscale Wedding Video," an ongoing series that will cover just about every aspect of producing a comprehensive wedding video. Parts 1 and 2, which ran in May (pp. 20-24) and June (pp. 16-22), respectively, focus on just that: add-ons.

As far as inspiration, well . . . For some people, it seems, creativity is automatic. It comes naturally. Flip a switch.

When I need something extra to create a spark, I try to change it up as much as possible. Sometimes it's just getting away from the computer screen and taking a break. Sometimes it's something more involved.

Since adding photography to my services, I may go out and shoot some still life or some candid street scenes.

Other suggestions: Go for a walk. Go see a movie (something you would never normally see). Look at a magazine. Read a book. Go to an art exhibit. Eat some ice cream (maybe pistachio).

Seriously, I do whatever it takes to get my mind off the project in front of me, to decompress and get the juices flowing again.

And for the record, I'm not sure they still make pistachio.