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    Wedding Videos Now and Then
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    Senior Member Peter C.'s Avatar
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    The other day I got a request from a friend to digitize her VHS wedding video. Luckily I hadn't got rid of my vhs player which I had planned to toss to trim back all my old tech lying around.

    Watching the wedding video from 1990 it's amazing how much tech has improved and the way weddings are filmed. This one no doubt used one big shoulder eng camera. No fancy editing, multi camera angles, slow motion, gimbal, shallow dof, etc. As a viewer with no vested interest, I actually didn't care about all the stuff I normally obsess over and appreciated simple documentary approach being able to see the whole event not only focusing on the bride and groom. You appreciate all the little ordinary things of the day. Contrast with today's approach of crafting a cinematic short that eliminates all the "boring" stuff.
    Last edited by Peter C.; 02-07-2021 at 01:28 PM.


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    The change and appreciation is a part of life. You've lived a handful of decades to understand.

    People in the 80s would have the same enlightening (and some, appreciation) if they were to watch black and white weddings captured on silent film cameras @15fps.

    For like 75 years up to the point when you could pretty much have anything you wanted in video production, the main objective for most single camera operators was to just point this box at things and capture, document.


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    Funny about both mentioning a wedding and you saving that old VHS unit. A friend offered me a Sony Beta desktop recorder/player along with a camera that hard cabled into the recorder, ie. no tape in the camera. He just knew I liked any kind of quirky gear. I kept it for years as a curiosity. Then when I got into post production I put it up on a shelf as a conversation piece. This was around 2003. A few years later a young man came with a Beta tape of a wedding on the Caribbean island of Guadaloupe. I hooked up the beta unit and loaded the tape. Behold! It worked. It was a beautiful service in a small sun-drenched chapel with a small group of people. Someone was singing (not sure of the language), accompanied by acoustic guitar. It was nothing like any wedding I've been to in Canada. Not ostentatious or showy, more like a close knit clan or group from the same village. The mood was almost reverent. Just after the wedding portion ended, the deck jammed the tape. Keee-rap. But I had the entire wedding digitized successfully. When he came back to pick it up on DVD he was visibly overjoyed. I didn't risk ever using the deck again but I was feeling good about having kept it up to then.

    Many of today's wedding videos seem to be trying too hard for me. Bart Simpson would say they "smack of effort." They incorporate contemporary effects and staged antics with the bridal party. What do I know but I expect they'll be cringy to watch two or three generations of family from now.


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    Senior Member Peter C.'s Avatar
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    My point is that the filmmaker and client can and often do have completely different viewpoints. I'm thinking of meeting or exceeding the current style and looking to use it for reel material to show off my skill. Where as the client might really only care that you captured the entire day so they can look back 20 years later to re-live it. But I do think both the client expectations and filmmaker approach is heavily influenced with what is currently in fashion. Today's emphasis is creating a highly crafted slick view that makes the wedding better, more exciting, romantic than it actually was. Seems to be more about showing off to others than faithfully documenting what happened. I won't go so far as to say it's bad but just different.

    Independent of that its funny to watch any wedding, all the pomp and circumstance.
    Last edited by Peter C.; 02-06-2021 at 11:28 AM.


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    Totally agree, and I was just thinking about that this morning.

    If videos were hairdos:


    When you're just starting out, it is a juggernaut just to overcome technical hurdles (focus, exposure, sound). In the '80s and '90s, if a wedding video overcame these hurdles, it usually still was unexciting, with static, locked-off shots that were allowed to go on forever.

    After you have read a few books and made a few things, you often steer too far to the other extreme, in an overreaction to amateurish videos. The product is overwrought. It's pretty but superficial and strange, like it was maybe someone else's wedding. In the '80s and '90s, this manifested as animated transitions, baroque titles, and cheesy video effects. Nowadays, the effects are more subtle (black and white, slow motion) but still fatiguing after several minutes.

    I did wedding videos 2000-2004. I had made lots of videos as a teenager and gone to film school. So I could pull off the technical better than many, who often were just dipping their toes in the water of video production with wedding videos (Smack! Wedding videos are the most challenging kind of video I have ever attempted). Furthermore I tried for a more organic style. Meanwhile one of my colleagues remarked of this new "cinematic" style that only uses cuts or fades --- none of her fancy fly-ins, wipes, and other digital transitions. Another literally used picture-in-picture in one of his ceremonies. But recently when I rewatched mine, they were still painfully overedited. I had tried too hard to make the video not boring. I got good reviews from clients, but now I feel like I got my grubby little fingers too much all over their stuff.

    I won't go back to wedding videos, but if I did, I would strive for something even more naturalistic. It's hard to articulate, but once I saw a documentary called A Conversation with Gregory Peck. It is well-executed technically, with decent audio and was even shot on film. And clearly, shots were trimmed and assembled into a story. But it still has that laid-back, naturalistic feel that years ago I might have thought was a little too boring, but now I would say is more immersive and less annoying.

    You kind of have to skip through this clip to see what I mean. The beginning is maybe like a ceremony, and the end is kind of like a reception:



    I think certain ingredients in the typical modern wedding video are the culprit:

    • slow motion
    • non-stop musical beds
    • fast cutting, trying to match the same shot length as music videos or at least scripted films
    • nonlinear editing

    I think if I did it all over again, I might not use any of those techniques, at all! If I did, only in very small doses, like a spice or frosting. With modern wedding videos, those are the main ingredients, and watching them feels like eating nothing but cake frosting for dinner.
    Last edited by combatentropy; 02-06-2021 at 12:20 PM.


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    Senior Member Peter C.'s Avatar
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    Good points yeah sounds like we both feel the same way.


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    Oh, this brings back memories. I remember shooting a number of wedding vids in the early '80s for a fledgling outfit that started a wedding video service. Shot on big 2/3" three-tube cameras with big NiCad batteries that lasted about 30-40 min. Pumping the image down a 1/2" thick 10-pin cable to Sony 3/4" Low Band 'U' Matic recorders with a maximum record time of twenty minutes per tape. I ended up pulling tape from the 60 min large cassettes and reloading the twenty-minute small cassettes as 30-minute loads to make life easier, especially on nuptial masses and speeches. All edited masters were no longer than 60 minutes as that was the longest tape you could get. Dubbed to a 60 minute VHS for client delivery. As mentioned, in those the wedding video was just a good chronological record of the day. I remember the first time we did a "highlight" segment. In '84 I cut the best bits of a wedding to Knopfler's Local Heros track "Going Home".

    Chris Young

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    Around weddings and many videos I think there is a thing.

    I really struggle looking for that S35 17-150 lens, that bright enough to see in the sun monitoring solution, those 5 hour batteries, that synched audio, those instant click ND filters. Yet youngsters skip along to a wedding with a Gh5 on a gimbal.

    How can this be?

    Clearly the 'modern' shooter is going to miss a load of moments and fill out the video with smooth shots of bunches of flowers, expensive shoes and posed bridesmaids aged 6.

    But a wedding is about tears and smiles not shoes and little girls in nice dresses.

    So really the 2/3 camera with the ND and the wide to tele zoom is the tool (unless you have a fleet of operators).

    It is of no suprise to me that wedding films of the 2/3 era contain engaging content.


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    Senior Member ahalpert's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Peter C. View Post
    I actually didn't care about all the stuff I normally obsess over and appreciated simple documentary approach being able to see the whole event not only focusing on the bride and groom. You appreciate all the little ordinary things of the day. Contrast with today's approach of crafting a short cinematic short that eliminates all the "boring" stuff.
    It's funny - when I first started shooting wedding videos (only about 6 or 7 years ago), that was what I was aiming for - a home video with good operating. But then it became clear that the companies and brides didn't really want that. they just want to look good and show off the blizzard of expensive decorations to their "friends" on social media who will lose interest after a few minutes. (But people also still do half-hour long+ "documentary" edits if they want to pay extra, and those have much more "flab" and are probably more like what you're talking about.)

    Quote Originally Posted by morgan_moore View Post
    So really the 2/3 camera with the ND and the wide to tele zoom is the tool (unless you have a fleet of operators).

    It is of no suprise to me that wedding films of the 2/3 era contain engaging content.
    I don't think this is true because usually you're in a limited-range scenario and you have time to change lenses in-between. So, for example, I might start the day in a hotel suite where the bride is getting dressed. A 24-70 or so will handle the scenario because I'll never be more than 12 feet away from a target. Autofocus is way more useful than a long tele end in that scenario because it will grab focus while I frame and you won't miss the laugh.

    Then, when you're sniping people on the dance floor or at dinner, you can be on your 70-200 or 85.

    Plus, there are usually 2 shooters and typically you each have a different focal length range on.

    Like it or not, people often want glitzy Glammy s*%t. The photography side has gone way in that direction. I'd say there's an equal weight between capturing strong emotional moments (which are often my favorite - I love good dad tears, and I fondly remember a groom sobbing more than any man I've ever seen cry as he read his wife's letter to him before the ceremony), and capturing flattering fashion shots.

    Quote Originally Posted by combatentropy View Post

    • slow motion
    • non-stop musical beds
    • fast cutting, trying to match the same shot length as music videos or at least scripted films
    • nonlinear editing
    When I'm editing a wedding film (only about once a year, I usually just shoot), I typically edit it linearly throughout the day so you tell the story from start to finish. It's still fast cut to music, but I agree that chronologically disjointed wedding films suck, which is most of them unfortunately.

    Kids these days. I filled in a few times for a videographer who seems to make hip-hop wedding videos for a mostly African-American clientele. Extremely fast cut, on the beat, all slow motion, and generally shot as much like a rap video as possible. That's what they want!

    These people aren't thinking about posterity and remembering dear friends in 30 years. They want to look like ballers right now.


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    I don't think this is true because usually you're in a limited-range scenario and you have time to change lenses in-between.


    Maybe british church weddings can be on a bigger scale. (than a hotel or private chapel??) people tend to hire castles and all sorts!

    The car drive up can require a big wide, but if you are going in on the girl you want 200 (or more)

    Same inside a church you can want the walk in at S35 15 push to 100 and then do ring fiddling and tears at 300

    Of course well trained pairs of operators can get around a zoom as can certain builds of two different cameras.. its not that I would ever want to actually zoom during the shot!


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