Christina and Brendan approached me a few months ago about being a videographer for their wedding. I hadn’t really considered trying my hand at a wedding video, but I was touched they’d entrust me to make a video of such a special occasion for them. They being co-workers of mine, who had always struck me as a cute couple and very kind people, I decided to go for it and “make” them a wedding gift.
I interviewed them ahead of time to get to know them a little, and get a feel for what kind of video might be perfect for them. I wasn’t interested in making a traditional “wedding” video that wouldn’t hold up to repeated viewings, so I opted for something that not only captured the story of their day, but did so in a way that might be emotionally engaging for anyone.
I went into the shoot planning to do a mini-documentary of the days leading up to the wedding day (rehearsal dinner, family get together, salon visits, etc.), possibly with some audio of guests commenting on Christina and Brendan laid on top. The idea was to have it lead into the big day and transition to a music video of the pre-ceremony, ceremony, and reception. Due to scheduling challenges and time constraints, I ended up focusing on the music video segment only. I had some footage of their rehearsal dinner, but decided to leave it out as it didn’t feel right to interweave it into the wedding day events.
I had a couple of songs in mind almost from the start when Christina and Brendan first approached me, but on the day of, as I was driving to the hotel where Christina was getting ready, I listened to the songs a few times and they just weren’t cutting it for me. They started to feel too melodramatic and predictable. One of the songs was “Just Breathe” from Pearl Jam, which is a beautiful song and would’ve worked, but the music seemed like it could be used for anyone’s wedding video. It wasn’t unique enough. I started skipping through my iPod looking for a track that would hit me with some inspiration. When I hit upon Rogue Wave’s “Harmonium”, my head filled with visual ideas.
The idea that made me commit to the song on the spot was using a time lapse video in the intro of the song of the bridal party getting ready. It captured the essence of a wedding day – many people running around, everyone trying to get ready, a build up of anticipation…it fit perfectly. The song wasn’t some over played tune, it wasn’t something you’d associate with a wedding, and and it felt like it could be unique to Christina and Brendan. For the rest of my drive, I started planning how to shoot all the ideas I had in mind – time lapse, slow motion, 2 cameras, dollys, etc. Fortunately, I had all my gear with me, so I had everything I’d need (except an extra pair of hands). I ended up using:
- Canon 5D and 7D cameras
- Canon 50mm f1.2 L
- Canon 24mm f1.4 L
- Canon TC 80N3 Intervalometer
- Glidetrack HD Shooter
- Zacuto Z-Finder
- Zacuto DSLR Rapid Fire
The shoot was hectic and stressful, but all in a fun and good way. My hat goes off to the wedding videographers out there who run around trying to get a lot of coverage. It’s not easy, especially if you’re working alone, trying to swap lens, and attempt some shots that require some setup. There were a lot of firsts for me on this one.
I had gotten my intervalometer a while ago, but had never used it and had never attempted to shoot a time lapse with it, so I took my chances and learned on the spot. I didn’t set the exposure correctly, so I didn’t get blurry movements which usually gives time lapse videos a beautiful look, but the staccato look I got actually worked to my advantage as it enhanced the frenetic feel I was going for.
The other first worth mentioning was using the glidetrack at the ceremony. Hadn’t used it before, but it being the ceremony, I had time to set up and do many practice pushes, pulls, and pans. I only used one of these shots in the final cut, but it’s one of my favorites. It’s amazing how a little dolly move can create such a cinematic look and feel.
Filming the guests was interesting. I really enjoy shooting with a DSLR camera since they’re so compact and easy to move around with, but I did not anticipate at all how people at a wedding would respond to it. Since it looks (and is) a photography camera, every time I tried to film someone, they’d stop, look at me, pose, and smile. Not what you want when you’re shooting video and are looking for those spontaneous moments. I resorted to filming people “by surprise”, which I hope didn’t get on too many people’s nerves. Turning around and seeing someone pointing a camera right at you is rarely welcome.
When it came to cutting the video, the first step was deciding how to structure the story. Conveniently, the song was ~6 minutes long, and every ~2 minutes the song shifted into a new crescendo. Perfect…~2 minutes for pre-ceremony, ~2 minutes for ceremony, and ~2 minutes for reception.
I did have some challenges though trying to “fill” the 2 minutes sometimes. The ceremony was trickiest as I had the least amount of footage for it – my 70-200mm zoom was at Canon getting repaired and wasn’t sent back in time, so I couldn’t get close enough to Christina and Brendan during the ceremony. The zoom lens I did have on hand wasn’t great in low light, so I had to crank up the ISO which made things noisy. In the end, I took some liberty with the sequence of events at the ceremony in order to keep the rhythm and pacing moving and avoid getting too repetitive with the shots of Christina and Brendan standing/sitting together. Some other challenges and lessons learned…
- Creating the time lapse video from the thousands of stills was easy with quicktime, but I didn’t anticipate the 5K size images would put a kink in the Final Cut workflow. Color didn’t support the large size, and the Magic Bullet Looks filters would error out, so I couldn’t color correct the stills until I exported the time lapse sequence as a resized video. After that, everything was back to normal.
- The shot of Christina and Brendan dancing at the end was actually part of a longer take where I stood outside and walked towards them as they danced with the door frame surrounding them. Playing this in reverse so I move away from them, provided a real nice exit for the end. Kind of like leaving them and saying “goodbye”. However, I was tired when I went for it and ended up being too sloppy with the shot. It was very shaky overall. I tried the SmoothCam filter in Final Cut, but it didn’t fix it, so I opted for the slow motion end, which worked just as well if not better.