Should we have our South Florida wedding recorded on video?

If you feel the occasion is a significant event in your life and you would like to share it with friends and relatives
who weren't there (perhaps even future descendants), video is a good way to do it.  Video can record character,
personality and emotion in a way that still photos do not. At a recent wedding fair, a presenter said: "I am holding
two boxes. One contains your great-grandparents' wedding photos, and the other contains their wedding video.
You can open only one. Which do you choose?"  The audience choice was unanimous, to the surprise of some-
everyone chose the video.  

Won't the video cameras annoy guests and ruin the atmosphere?

That depends. There are a wide range of video cameras, and video camera operators. Believe it or not, it is
possible to have professional video unobtrusive enough so that guests do not realize a videographer is present.
For example, I normally work without any additional light, and people have commented that the photographers
with their flashes were much more noticeable than I was. This can involve trade-offs. While it is possible to record
in dimly lit reception halls, extra light can improve the video image in these circumstances. You may prefer to have
additional light during the toasts and the first dance so that the audience, as well as the cameras, can see people

My brother has a video camera, why not just put it on a tripod in the back and let it run?

This is possible, but you may not be satisfied with the results. I have done many event videos using a fixed,
unmanned second camera and the notes that follow are based in large part on that experience.

First, remember tripod legs stick out and if the tripod can be knocked askew by the foot of a passing guest, it will
be, with virtual certainty, unless someone re-checks it after everyone else is seated. Event coordinators have
been known to move unattended tripods. If you've found a good viewpoint, the photographer may like it too and
stand directly in front of your camera. Maybe even on a stepladder.  

Second, consider the viewpoint and zoom setting: do you know exactly where everyone will stand, and where they
will move? You are probably setting up the camera while the room is empty. When the guests are all standing,
what will the camera see? At outdoor weddings, the parents / grandparents in the front row often bring parasols
for shade, which may block your view completely. Even indoors, an unwritten rule of events is that the tallest guest
will sit, or stand, directly in front of your camera.  

Third, how long does your battery actually run? Older batteries may not give the expected service even if they
appear fully charged. It's safer to plug the camera in, if an outlet is within reach, but arrange the cord to prevent
anyone from tripping over it.  

An unmanned camera in the back of the room will give you some video, but as you would imagine, it is not as
interesting to watch as a manned camera that is skillfully framed and smoothly follows the subjects of interest.  
The sound from the back of the room will have room echoes and will not be very clear. Without a good sound
system, quiet speech from the front of the hall will likely be difficult or impossible to understand. Even if there is a
good sound system, the recording will have room echoes (if indoors) or very likely wind noise, traffic, airplanes
etc. if outdoors. The saying that "sound is more than half of the whole" is widely held to be true in video and movie
production. If you can record sound separately from a mic near whoever is speaking, either direct to the camera
or assembled later in editing, you will get a much better quality video, but this involves more equipment and more
time and setup than just one camera and tripod.  For example, if the bride, groom and officiant are in one
location, readings are made from a second location, and musicians play in a third location, that requires a
minimum of three microphones & associated sound gear to properly record.  Often a venue is accessible for
setup only one hour before the ceremony starts. Properly setting up and checking out several microphones and
cameras in this time-frame is not trivial even if you are familiar with and have practiced with all the gear.

Our friend has a camcorder, perhaps they'd be happy to do our wedding video as a gift?

See the previous question above. Depending on what you want, this might work. If you just want someone to keep
a camera in the back pointed in the right direction, and you don't need to hear the vows, readings etc. Clearly,
this would be reasonable.  If you're looking for a video that's interesting to watch and listen to, and your friend has
all the camera gear and sound gear, and is skilled and experienced, you might get a great wedding video with
clear audio and a logical presentation of well composed and focused images.  Just keep in mind that a good
quality full-length video will occupy several weeks of editing, so be aware of the magnitude of this gift.  If your
friend does a good job, they will be focused on the camera, and will experience your wedding as a camera
person, and not as a guest.  Some volunteer videographers are put in an awkward position when members of the
wedding party treat them as hired staff. Consider the effect on your friendship if the video does not meet

Another consideration- does your friend have two cameras?  Most wedding videographers will use at least two
cameras for a ceremony, for example one camera showing a fixed-wide angle shot of the entire area, with another
for selected angles and closeups. Normally couples want to see the entire ceremony, but it's pretty much
inevitable that the shot from a single camera is blocked or unusable at times, for any number of reasons.  Does
your friend have several external microphones and/or can record direct from the venue's sound system?

Is an edited video worthwhile?  Why not just get raw tapes of the entire day?

Raw tapes are useful for archival purposes, but the edited video is the one that you will want to show friends and
relatives. Of the many differences between amateur and professional video, one of the most important is editing.  
A well edited video flows smoothly from start to finish, combining the best camera views and audio tracks at any
given time, engaging the viewer's attention and emotions.  A highlight video compresses time to a concise view of
the most significant events, again flowing between them seamlessly.  People remember quality productions, and
want to see them over again. A more common reaction to viewing straight unedited tapes is boredom or
resentment at the time involved.

How can we insure the best video quality?

A professional videographer should use a modern video camera with 3 CCDs that delivers "broadcast quality".
The smaller cameras used for wedding and event video are not much larger than a typical consumer video
camera, and provide reasonable image quality in moderately dim (if not "dark") conditions.  Additional lights can
improve the image quality in very dim situations.  Large shoulder-mounted cameras of the kind used by television
news teams can provide superior images under difficult conditions, but they are also more obtrusive and may not
be the first choice if your event is an intimate gathering.  A camera mounted on a tripod will give the most stable
image and is preferred for the ceremony. Monopods or hand-held cameras are most frequently used at
receptions for the best angles on dancing and spontaneous action.  Shooting with a moving camera in a live
event without recording shaky video does require a skilled operator.

Using at least two cameras is particularly recommended for the ceremony, since this can provide good views of
the entrance, ceremony and exit without requiring a camera to be directly beside the couple.  More than one
camera angle also provides a much higher likelihood of a smooth finished video since this is a "one-take" event
and unplanned incidents often happen, for example a photographer, guest, or wedding party member may block
one camera view at times.

Is it possible to record weddings in high definition video?

Yes, the latest Sony HDV cameras record video in a high definition format (1080i). With good lighting conditions,
you can see significantly more detail from this type of video than is possible from traditional "standard definition"
(480i) cameras, and the clean and detailed image from HDV cameras is a noticeable improvement over older
MiniDV cameras, even in playback from a normal DVD. Note that weddings shot with HDV cameras are normally
distributed as traditional video on standard DVDs at this time, since Blu-Ray / HD-DVDs are not yet widely
available. HD now available at United Sound & Video!  Please call for pricing.

How can we insure the best sound quality?

Camera-mounted microphones are simply inadequate for good sound at a wedding ceremony.  Generally a lapel
mic is placed on the groom's jacket, which is connected either to a recording device in his pocket or to a wireless
transmitter that sends the sound to the camera. The bride, groom, and officiant normally stand close enough so
that all three are recorded clearly by this mic.  Any readings that take place should be covered by another mic.  
For a ceremony with live music, it is best to record the music separately with a third microphone that is closer to
the performers and farther from incidental audience noises.  For a reception with a DJ, the best sound will be
recorded direct from the DJ's board or by a microphone placed next to the speakers.

We'd like a professional-quality wedding video, but isn't it too expensive?

Rates vary somewhat by region.  Advertised package rates for wedding videographers range from $600 for
someone who has never done a wedding before, to $8000 for a high-definition video package with "everything
and the kitchen sink". Lower fees are possible if you have video for the ceremony only. The most popular
packages seem to fall in the $1500 to $2500 range. In general the more expensive packages will involve more
material (childhood photos, "before" preparations, etc.) and more editing time (more camera angles, highlights
recap, musical montage).  More than just the cost of equipment, you are paying for the on-site camera operating
and post production editing skills needed to make a quality video production of your one time only event.

Should we get DVDs? How long does a DVD last?

The old standby VHS tape is still sometimes requested, but is quickly becoming obsolete.  DVDs offer better video
quality than tape, and can have menus and chapters for skipping directly to a particular segment of your video.  
Currently, most videographers are delivering wedding videos on DVD discs. If you do not already have a DVD
player, they are now available for under $40.  Since DVDs do not break or tangle like tape and there is no
physical wear during playback, they are generally considered to be durable. In truth, no one really knows how
long they last, since the recordable DVD format has been widely used for only 8 years. For now, the best advice
is to get several copies, and ask your videographer if they will provide a replacement if needed.
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