Welcome back to our series on producing upscale wedding video. Last month, in Part 3, we covered all the major elements of the wedding ceremony and the approaches you'll need to take to elevate your work to "upscale" level. This month, we're going to talk about lots of tips and tricks for getting outstanding ceremony footage and audio. Let's go!
Get The Word
One of the basic tenets of upscale wedding production is the use of multiple cameras—preferably two or three, possibly more. You should be using not only multiple cameras, but multiple audio sources, as well. For one thing, it's vital to have a backup in case something happens to your primary audio source. For another, to get the best results, you usually need to place microphones in several widely separated locations. Besides placing a lavaliere mic on the groom, other useful locations include the following:
• The officiant (or a second backup mic on the groom), to ensure coverage of the vows
• A small mic hidden in a flower arrangement at the altar or the altar rail, for the same purpose
• The preacher's pulpit
• The reader's lectern
• The choir loft
• The church's soundboard
You can capture the audio from these microphones by using wireless mics and recording directly to your camcorders, or by using MiniDisc recorders or MP3 solid-state recorders. Or of course, you can hardwire the mics to your camcorder, although this will increase setup and teardown time and limit your mobility.
A note on capturing top-quality audio for outdoor weddings: Even a gentle breeze can produce a surprising amount of low-frequency wind rumble in your microphones. Make sure that your mics have wind screens on them. The long-haired "furry" ones work much better than ordinary foam, and you can get these for lavalieres as well as for your larger mics.
Like a Rock
Most, if not all, of your cameras should be on tripods for the ceremony. If you have any "roaming" cameras, they should be equipped with monopods to provide the steadiest shots possible. Handholding a camcorder for an entire ceremony (especially a Catholic one!) quickly ceases to be fun and soon becomes agonizing torture.
Communication without Aggravation
The upscale wedding typically involves more than one camera operator. There are exceptions, but more often than not, you will have at least one camera operator besides yourself, which brings up the question of how you will communicate with your crew.
Some teams simply have a prearranged script of who's going to be on what shot throughout the ceremony. Others have a policy that an operator does not change her shot if her teammate has his hands on his camera. Some use a system of hand signals. These are all good ideas, and certainly should be included in your bag of tricks.
The most reliable approach, however, uses some form of radio communication. The Family Radio Service (FRS) walkie-talkies can work well. However, they have two drawbacks. First, they are simplex. That is, only one person can talk at a time, and you can't break into a conversation. Second, it's awkward (and looks funny) to wear both a set of radio earphones and a set of headphones to monitor your camera audio.
One alternative is to use an ear bud with a PTT (Push To Talk) mic on your lapel. You can also use a set of full-duplex radios made especially for production crew communications, with custom headsets that let you plug one ear into your camera, and leave the other free to listen to your partner.
Whatever you do, don't use your cell phone. In fact, turn it off entirely. Cell phones can produce interference that will mess up the recorded video from your camcorder. Also—and this may be the same cause and effect—some cameras utilize electronic image stabilization, which can be affected by FRS walkie-talkies. Disabling image stabilization when you are on a tripod will make this a non-issue. If that's not possible, such as in the case of handheld coverage, route the earpiece, mic, and radio on the left side of your body. This will not eliminate interference, but it can help to minimize it.