Most wedding cinematographers have come to realize the value of producing same-day edits (SDEs) for their wedding clients. It’s a wonderful opportunity to show off our shooting, editing, and storytelling talents and a rare opportunity to actually get paid to put our work in front of a room full of new clients, simply by carving out some time in the day to do what we do best. But there’s one part of it that has little or nothing to do with our signature skills: presentation. But it’s every bit as important as the edit, because if we encounter problems in projection and playback, all our hard work on the edit was for naught. For those of us who produce SDEs, hiring an AV company to display our hot-off-the-press film often winds up eating into the profit of producing the SDE. You could opt to have the client locate and rent a projector and screen, but that can potentially lead to trouble. Unless it is a reputable AV company that you know and trust, you might find yourself with no sound system to hear the audio or, worse yet, an incompatible projector that won’t accept the HDMI cable out of your DVD player that you planned to use, or whatever playback device you choose to present it.
In this article, we will explore what is required to cut out the intermediary and implement your own AV gear for your SDEs. We will also talk about newer technology that allows you to speed up the time it takes to get your finished video from your editing system to the big screen.
Choosing a Screen and Projector
At Edit 1 Media, we tell our clients that we take care of the screen and projector for them for all of our SDE packages. It helps us sell the SDE because the couple knows they won’t have to pay an additional expense for an AV crew. We could charge for projection services separately, but our same-day edit packages are already priced high enough to cover the cost of having an additional person to help out. Usually, the assistant who operates the third camera during the ceremony is in charge of setting up everything for the SDE.
To deliver your own SDEs without outside crew or gear, you’ll need a screen, a projector, and a DVD player. A good-quality screen will run you between $250 and $500. We’ve found success with the Da-Lite Insta Theater pop-up screen. Insta Theater screens come in standard and widescreen formats in 60", 80", and 100" sizes. The great thing about the Da-Lite is the portability and quick setup. The screen pulls up from the carrying case that it comes in, and it can even be set up on a sturdy table. I can literally have the screen up in less than 2 minutes.
For projection, make sure your projector has a lumen rating of 2000 or better. The lumen number refers to the overall brightness output. Usually, 2500 is sufficient for most reception halls, but if you plan to show your video in a room with large windows, a projector with 3500 lumens is recommended. The good news is that, for less than $1,500, you can get a fairly decent projector that will work in most situations. Just make sure that it has all the necessary connections that you will need to display your video. It’s better to have several options in case you have to connect your projector to another source.
You also want to make sure that your projector can display full HD video. Many projectors list their screen resolutions based on laptop connections. Your projector should be able to display 1280x720, 1440x1080, or 1920x1080. Be aware that although home theater projectors will display HD, they often have a low lumen rating because it is assumed that you will be viewing the video in a dark room. Look for a business projector that also will display HD video. The Optoma TH1060 projector features a 1920x1080 resolution output at 3600 lumens and sells for less than $1,750 online.
Delivering in HD
Speaking of HD video, most videographers film wedding videos in high definition. Wouldn’t it be great to show your SDE with the same quality it was filmed in? Now you can! Displaying a SDE in HD has often been a challenge, particularly for those of us delivering from burned discs because of the time it takes to author a Blu-ray Disc. Even burning to DVD can take significant time. As SDE producers, we know that we need all the time we can get.
Fortunately, there are several products on the market that will play media files from an external hard drive or USB thumb drive. These media players include an HDMI port and will play most video and audio file types, as well as display photos. Some even include an Ethernet connection so that the player can be networked with your computer.
This allows you to stream videos straight from your editing computer.
For showing your same-day edit, I recommend that you export your timeline into an HD file format (AVI, WMV, H.264, or QuickTime) and then load the file onto a hard drive or USB stick. Both Western Digital and Seagate have media players that would serve SDE producers well. These players have an on-screen display similar to a Blu-ray player, and some even offer the ability to stream Netflix movies.
Another option for displaying your video in HD, if you’re shooting HDV on tape, is to export back to tape from your timeline. From there, it is simply a matter of connecting your video camera to the projector and playing back the tape. You can even use a small consumer camcorder or an HDV deck that has an HDMI port.
If you plan to show your video in standard definition, a DVD player will work fine. In fact, because DVD players are so inexpensive now, it’s a good idea to bring an extra one as a backup just in case other options don’t work.
Now that you have your screen, projector, and player squared away, it is time to think about your audio options. For the best sound quality, I recommend sending the audio directly to the DJ. The DJ’s sound system will be able to project the audio to the entire room. I also bring a backup portable sound system in case I am not able to connect audio to the DJ. When we play our SDEs from a DVD player, to make things easy, I place the DVD player on the DJs table and run a short audio cable to his mixer. Then, I use a long S-Video cable that runs out to the projector. This setup is nice because I don’t have to stand next to the projector to run the DVD. If you plan to use a media player, you’ll need 50'–100' of audio cable to run to the DJ.
Another solution to send audio to the DJ is using a set of wireless microphones. Connect the transmitter to your DVD player via 1/8" jack/RCA cable. Do the same with the receiver when connecting to the DJ’s sound-board. This method is not ideal because of the potential for interference and dropouts, but it’s one possible solution when the DJ is at the opposite side of the room from where the video will be shown.
Speaking of connections, it’s a good idea to buy plenty of various types of audio connectors. Make sure that you can connect your audio feed to the DJ no matter what type of input is required. The most common connections are RCA, XLR, or 1/4" audio jack. I have several Ziploc bags that are full of splitters, RCA cables, and adapters. It is imperative to also have backup cables in case one fails on you. And it’s a good idea to have a cable to connect your laptop to your projector in case you need to play your SDE directly from the timeline. You never know when a DVD burner or media player may go out on you, and having another option to play back the video is key.
No matter how you choose to display your video, it’s a good idea to make several DVD copies of the SDE after it is shown. We print labels ahead of time and give the bride and groom three copies at the end of the night. We also create several additional copies to give to the wedding coordinator, the photographer, the catering manager, and the DJ for marketing purposes. It is a great way to build your referral base.
You can also offer DVD favors for the bride and groom to give to their guests. Built into your SDE package at $5 per guest, it’s a great way to create additional revenue.
Another great service you can offer is to create a DVD that displays the couple’s monogram on your screen. This is great for situations in which the screen needs to be set up in the room for the entire reception. Instead of having a blank white screen, you can display their names and their wedding date in a nice script font.
Keeping Your Presentation Gear Organized
Now that you have a good grasp on the equipment that is required to show your SDE, it is a good idea to think about how to keep everything organized. I have a large plastic bin that holds all of my cables, a projector, a DVD player, and several power cords and power strips. When I get to the reception location, the first thing I do is find out where the video will be shown. Then, I stage all of my gear and get the audio squared away with the DJ. If I’m using a DVD player for the presentation, I’ll set it up on the DJ’s table and play an audio CD to make sure all of the connections are good.
I also have my projector on a small tray with a tripod plate mounted on the bottom. This allows me to use my existing tripod as a projector stand. It helps speed up the time it takes to set up and take down the screen and projector.
I hope this article will help you get a handle on what is required to display your own SDEs. Even if the bride and groom hire an outside AV company to handle all of the projection services, it’s good to have all of your equipment with you just in case something happens with the AV company. You’ll be there to save the day!
Chris Randall (info at edit1media.com) is co-founder, with his wife, Laura, of Seattle-based Edit 1 Media, an award-sinning studio specializing in corporate and event video production. Two-time EventDV 25 honorees, the Randalls have spoken at international conferences on same-day edit production.