FYI Page - Help Choosing A Wedding Videographer

Couples usually make their choice for wedding videography based on one or more of these considerations:
Priority, Price, Performance and Personality. Do you know which of these considerations are most important to you? How do you decide? The following tips will help you determine what you want to base your wedding videography choice on, and how to best ensure your considerations are met.

PRIORITY

The fact that you are reading this article means you have some interest in a wedding video, but just how interested are you? What Priority rating would you give Wedding Videography? Low, Medium, High?

If you said High then move on to the Price section, otherwise keep reading. Many people place a low priority on video relying on their minds and their still photographs to preserve the memories of the day. Well, forget about our minds being a great vault for memories, just think back on any great event in your life. Say high school graduation. How many quotes can you remember of what people actually said? How many actual moments of that entire day can you recall in perfect detail? See what I mean, we remember the day but almost no specific details. If it is worth remembering it is worth having a good video of it. Having a bad or insufficient wedding video can be worse than no video at all. Whatever a video shows will become your lasting memory of that event. Consider your own family films and video. Isn't what you remember of those past events mostly what the camera captured on tape? A wedding video that is disappointing in it's representation of your day will be a disappointment for the rest of your life; it may almost be better in that instance to not have a video at all!

Key Point
The best way to determine your priority is to project yourself into the future. It's easier than you think, you actually do it most every time you make a purchase. Whether you are buying a sweater or a car you imagine yourself with the product and then you imagine yourself without it. You think about what the object will do for you and how you will feel without it. If it is a sweater we are talking about, the process is almost subliminal; but if it is a car, why it is almost an adventure drama we go through! So buckle your seat belts because here we go. Fast-forward to a day 2 weeks after the wedding. The money has all been spent, the day went by in a flash (just like everyone said it would) and you still have some pretty vivid memories of your own, but already you can't remember hardly anything that was said during the ceremony itself. At least you have your still photography. Within the 300 prints are a mix of candids and formals, but mostly candid shots of you two, your family and friends. From those proofs you will choose your favorite photos to blow up and that will become your wedding album. The one and only record of your day. If the album contains
120 photos (that would be a huge album) then you will have a permanent record of about 2 seconds of your entire day. That's right, 2 seconds!

Each photograph is an exposure of a fraction of a second in time (about 1/60th of a second). Of course these photos were taken over the course of the day and cover all the days events, but only a second or two of each event is actually captured. One second of your entire ceremony, one second of your entire reception. None-the-less, the photos look great. OK, now how do you feel? Do you see yourself satisfied and content with what you have? Or do you feel a little anxious? Are you a little disappointed that you don't have more or are you fine with the fact that the only image of your spouse as you exchanged vows is a still one? Your friends and family too are captured on film but frozen, not exuberant like they were just before the ceremony and at the reception. Are you OK with that? If you are, then your expectations are Low and can be met by any friend or family member. Save your money for the honeymoon and save your time...don't bother reading the rest of this article.

If you feel your expectations are for more than photography alone can deliver, then your expectations are Medium to High, keep reading. Most of our clients have a High priority for video but occasionally we have a couple (or sometimes just the groom) who really don't want a video but are getting one because their parents or friends say they must. These are among my favorite clients because they are the ones who write me great letters after the wedding day saying, “We can't believe we almost didn't have a wedding video, IT WAS THE MOST IMPORTANT MONEY WE SPENT FOR OUR WEDDING!” (I literally have dozens of letters like this in my studio.) Chances are you may be saying these same words 2 weeks after your wedding.

Price

Percentage of the Budget
The price you are willing to spend for any service or product should be equal to the importance you place on that service or product. You have already decided that a wedding video is important to you, but it is only one of many things you have to budget for. You have probably already figured out that most of what you
spend your wedding budget on is for the benefit of your guests; nice ceremony and reception locations, attractive decor and decorations, food, drink and entertainment. Even though you will share these things with your guests and despite the fact that this is your big day, none of these things are specifically for
you. Your appearance, your photography and your videography are the sole exceptions; these are things you are buying for your pleasure. Of these three things, only photos and your wedding video will exist after your wedding, everything else will be enjoyed or consumed in one glorious day. So photography and videography, being the only lasting expense for your wedding, may deserve a high priority when it comes to a percentage of the budget. Unless food, flowers and other perishables are more important than
memories...that is for you to decide.

Price Range
The price you can pay for a wedding video will span the range from ridiculously low to eye-popping high. Why the large range? The wedding video world can be divided into 3 basic levels; Amateur or part-time hobbyist, Upstart and mixed services companies, and Full-Time experienced production companies. Generally speaking the more a videographer invests into his company and craft the more his product will be worth. Professional office environment, full-time staff, association memberships, insurance; there are many investments a videographer might make that won't affect the look of your wedding video directly. However, those investments have value to you in other ways, such as turn-around time or customer service during your relationship with your video company. There is a reason why a Lexus costs more than a Volkswagen even though they both get you from point A to point B just fine. Do you want a Volkswagen video or a Lexus experience?

Key Point
Prices vary across the country based on demographics, economics and other factors. For most urban markets $2,000.00 should be considered a bottom line price for the most basic of services. $2000.00 to $4000.00 would be a competitive price for a good quality wedding video with high production value.

Performance

Performance is a sum of the parts; Quality, Style and Experience.

Quality
Key Point
I am going to give you my key point for Quality right up front because it could save you a lot of reading and confusion. Here it is; don't use your limited understanding of video technology to try and determine if a wedding videographer is showing you quality work...use your senses! Use your eyes and ears. If the image looks good to you, then the quality of video is good enough, it doesn't matter what cameras were used. If you can hear everything you want to hear clearly then the audio is good enough too. Your wedding video will be a feast for your senses just like your wedding cake will be. You won't ask your baker what hemisphere his sugar is imported from or which frosting bag tips he prefers to use when making frosting roses, you are going to use your eyes and your taste buds. Why then ask your videographer about his choice of editing systems? There is only one caution to this approach, get assurances from the videographer that what you are seeing is what you can expect your wedding video to look like. If your event is indoors at night and you are only seeing beautiful outdoor ceremonies that isn't a fair representation. You should see samples of day and night, indoor and outdoor events to get a feel for the videographers abilities in varying circumstances. Ask whatever questions you need to in order to be assured that what you see is what you get. If you still feel you want to know more about video technology then keep reading otherwise move on to the Style section.

Since video is produced by humans using electronic devices the end result depends on the quality of both of the elements creating it. We will cover the "Quality" of the wedding videographer later, right now let's talk ever so briefly about the technological factors that affect quality. Acknowledge your limitations in trying to learn all about video. It takes the professionals you are interviewing years to master their trade, don't think you can develop a useful understanding in a few minutes. That said lets first talk about cameras.

Cameras
Most consumer video cameras use one microchip (CCD) to capture an image and translate that image to tape. Professional cameras use three CCDs (one for each color signal; Red, Green and Blue). Three CCDs, or “chips” as they are called, are better than one. Having 3 chips isn't the last word because some chips only have 210,000 active pixels (the tiny light sensitive elements that capture the light and collectively define the detail of the picture) while others have over 400,000. Again more is better. Also, the size of the chip matters the smaller the camera generally the smaller the chip and that means less performance. Chips vary in size from 1/3, to 1/2 to 2/3 of an inch, bigger is better.

Consumer video cameras and many professional level cameras have small, internal lenses. High-End Professional cameras usually have large, external lenses. The size of the camera does not define whether it is of professional caliber, but the size of the lens and the chips usually does. While a professional camera with an external lens produces the best images, it's size can hinder the creativity of the videographer. These cameras are normally used with tripods, not designed to be carried around for an entire day capturing spontaneous moments here and there. The presence of a large camera and all of it's support gear could be too intrusive for some couples. Smaller hand-held professional cameras have been developed specifically for the event and wedding videographer. These cameras deliver excellent quality and allow for maximum creativity and quick response. A videographer with a smaller camera may look more like a guest with a camera and less like a production crew.

Key Point
3 chips cameras are a must for superior color rendition and image detail. Cameras with larger external lenses produce images of better image resolution than cameras with small, internal lenses. However, hand-held, 3 chip cameras designed for wedding videography produce quality well above consumer level and allow the wedding videographer to be creative, spontaneous and unobtrusive.

Format
Format refers to the medium the camera records to. There are literally dozens of videotape formats available, and the only ones worth considering are digital. Gone are the days, and the wedding videographers, using VHS, SVHS or 8mm videotape.

Many wedding videographers are recording on the DV (Digital Video) format. Other good professional digital formats are DVCAM and Digital-S. These are all part of the SD (Standard Definition) level of video technology. The DV format offers good quality and is an established and stable format. A new higher quality format is available known as HD (High Definition). SD and HD are both digital and therefore offer excellent quality but HD produces a substantially better picture than SD. The cost of a wedding video produced in the HD format is likely to be substantially higher than that of an SD wedding video. Many professionals consider current HD cameras not light sensitive enough to be a good choice for wedding videography coverage. To complicate the matter futher, shooting in HD does not alone deliver super quality video. Standard DVDs cannot hold the detail of an HD program. The videographer delivering HD quality videos will be producing your wedding video on one of two HD disc formats; HDDVD or Blu-Ray Disc. You will need the appropriate player to to play whichever disc you receive. Yes, this is very complicated.

Key Point
Your wedding video will have professional level image detail if the videographer is recording and editing on any digital format. HD is great but it is currently a costly and unstable format ripe with compatibility issues.

Lighting
If your event is indoors your videographer will need to use a light, even if their camera is good in low light conditions. If they don't use a light indoors, the quality will be sub-standard. If their cameras are not low-light sensitive they may have to use bright lights to compensate. This will make for good video but at the cost of
being a bit obtrusive during the event. Camera light sensitivity is rated in 'lux' units, unfortunately, there is no common standard among manufacturers. Nonetheless, a lux rating of 4 or less is OK, 2 lux or less and the videographer will require only minimal lighting. Most of today's professional level cameras work very well in low-light conditions. This is not the concern it was, even 5 years ago.

Key Point
The video cameras used to record your day should work well in low-light conditions, having a minimum lux sensitivity rating of 4 lux or less. However many HD camera available have higher lux ratings than SD cameras.

Sound
Realize that your finished wedding video is more than just that, it is an audio recording as well. The audio portion of your video is equally important to the video and in some instances more important. Most video cameras come with adequate on camera microphones (mics) that work well for capturing the sound
directly in front of the camera. The challenge occurs when the camera is not near the source it is trying to record, or when the background noise is as loud or louder than the source we are interested in. Mics that attach to the camera with a cable (wired mics) can extend the audio reach of the camera but are restricted to the length of the cable. Wired mics are not the best choice for wedding videography because they are unsightly and cumbersome. Wireless mics capture sound from a remote mic and transmit it through the air back to a receiver on the camera, these are the best choice for wedding videographers. For example, at the
ceremony a wireless mic can be worn by the groom and/or officiant. As you may have guessed, not all wireless mics are created equal. Their function, quality, ability and price vary across a wide range; from low-end VHF units for $50 to highend true diversity UHF units for over $1000.

Key Point
Wireless microphones are a must for quality audio. While low-end systems work satisfactorily in some cases, a mid range diversity VHF or UHF system will deliver good sound, reliably.

Editing
With scores of editing systems on the market there is really no way to discuss the differences between systems, formats and components, and no real reason to either. What is important is that your video is edited and that certain basic editing techniques and features are used. Editing allows the producer to enhance the video image, improve the audio quality and levels, add music, move images and audio around to make the final program more compelling, add special effects (like slow motion) and computer graphics (like titles), take out bad audio and video, select which source of audio sound track to use and combine footage from different cameras. And that is just a shot list of benefits.

“In Camera Editing” is NOT editing at all. It is a term used by wedding videographers who do not use an edit system but try to simulate the effect of editing by selectively choosing on your wedding day which shots to record and which shots not to. It is, as it sounds, simply deciding when to hit the record button and when not to. While this technique is a very good one for creating interesting video, it alone cannot produce a video with all of the flair and features that an edited video possesses.

Key Point
While a whole lot more could be said about editing, let it suffice to say, that your wedding video will be much more entertaining and fun to watch if it is edited. Conversely, if your video isn't entertaining and fun to watch, why have one? Pay for an edited wedding video or don't pay for one at all.

Style
Style can describe the personal camera techniques used by your videographer when recording your wedding, or the techniques he uses when editing your finished wedding video.

Camera styles vary from videographer to videographer but certain standards apply. The image should be stable and in focus most of the time. Some exceptions should be allowed for efforts by the videographer who is trying to capture live action, on the move as it is happening. Better to get the shot that shows some focus adjustment than to have missed the shot because the wedding videographer was trying to move his tripod. Speaking of tripods, they are a must for stable results during lengthy parts of the day (i.e.: the ceremony) but should be abandoned during the rest of the day to allow the videographer to be fluid and reactive. Experienced wedding videographers should be expected to produce steady work without the use of a tripod for short periods of time (under 10 minutes at a time). Limited zooming and panning with the camera is a sign of a professional videographer. Multiple angles and perspectives of a scene or event is another professional feature which can only be obtained with multiple cameras.

Editing styles also vary among wedding video producers. From classic film techniques to an MTV music video look. There is no 'best' style, it strictly depends on what appeals to you. That said, you need to consider what you are basing your appeal on. Some couples think that techniques that incorporate lots of special effects and manipulations of the video image may be appealing when viewed on a demo tape. These same effects may not be so neat when they are a permanent part of your finished video. Over time you may find the special effects silly, distracting, over-done and dated. What looks 'cool' today may look 'cheesy' tomorrow and even date your video just as much as hairstyles and lapel widths. Others find this approach flashy, modern and 'professional looking'. Our brides and grooms prefer a video that is produced using time tested movie techniques. The kind of understated style that is used by major movie and broadcast producers to tell their stories. This proven style may not be as flashy but will likely hold its appeal over generations.

Two videographers or just one? This is a very big Style question and a Value question as well because a company that uses two videographers will most often cost more than a company that uses just one. By using two videographers and multiple cameras your video will be able to show multiple perspectives of all the events as well as simultaneous coverage from different locations. This approach produces results like those seen on television and movies and raises the character of the wedding video from mere documentary to that of a dramatic presentation. Because this style of production requires twice the man power and at least double the equipment not every wedding video production company will be able to offer this level of service.

Key Point
When considering style, consider both what appeals (or doesn't appeal) to your senses immediately; and what may be appealing (or not) the 5th, 10th and 20th time you and your family watch the wedding video.

Experience
This is an easy subject. The more experience your videographer has producing videos of weddings like yours the better. Note I didn't say, “the more experience your videographer has,” period. A professional, talented and experienced television producer would have just as tough a time producing a good wedding
video, as a wedding videographer would producing a TV show. All videos are not the same animal. You want a videographer with as much wedding experience as possible and hopefully with weddings like yours. Perhaps even at the same locations or under the same circumstances or even working with the same vendors as you will have.

Key Point
The more experience your videographer has producing videos of weddings like yours the better.

PERSONALITY

I don't have to say much about this issue, it is inherent in us all that we will gravitate to some personalities and run from others. Listen to your instincts about the person and the company you are considering. From first phone call through out your first meeting, listen to your gut reaction to the things that are said, what is
presented and how. You will probably know in the first few minutes what your decision will be. Some good questions to ask yourself are.

"Is this someone I want to work with, and can work with, through the process of creating my wedding video?"
"What is important to this videographer (what do they emphasize and talk most about)? Is that what is important to me?"
"Do they talk more about what they can do for me, or more about what I want? How does that make me feel? Confident or concerned?"

Of course you can only evaluate the person you have contact with. If it is a one man operation that is fine, but if the company has more than one principal what then? With larger video companies that have more than one person involved it will not be likely or practical to meet everyone involved. The person shooting or editing your wedding video may not be the person who meets with clients. That is fine as long as you feel good about the person representing the company that you are meeting with. You don't meet everyone at the reception facility either and they are going to have more contact with you and your guests than the videographer will on your wedding day. A good videographer shouldn't have to say more than 2 words to you on your wedding day. Unlike a photographer who interacts with you, touching and posing you, a videographer should be hands-off and mouth-shut capturing the day, not directing it. You do want to be sure of one thing though; that the work you have been shown was shot by and is representative of, the videographer(s) who will be taping your day. Meeting the actual videographer and actual editor is really no more necessary than meeting your food servers, chef or limo driver.

Key Point
You should have a good gut feeling about the company and the representatives you meet and talk with on the phone.

Other Tips

Ask your photographer, coordinator, church and reception catering manager for a wedding videographer referral. This is the best way to find the names of good videographers, if one of your other wedding professionals has a company they can recommend there are probably good reasons why they recommend one company over another in your area.

Past bride referrals are a good tool. Ask your friends and associated for a lead on a good wedding videographer. Asking a videographer that you are interviewing for the names of some of their past clients that you may call. Won't really help much of course no professional is going to refer you to one of their past clients unless they know the bride will have something good to say. Stick with referrals from others you trust.

A good reputation within the industry can be reassuring. Ask your facility representative, coordinator and other wedding professional for a recommendation. These are the people who would have worked with the videographer the most and seen them in action more than once.

In the wedding industry as a whole many vendors work out of their home, videography is no exception. Don't discount a company because they are home based, there is nothing about an industrial park studio location that represents an advantage over a home based studio. However, a company that has an established, professional studio is one that has invested in their profession and has probably invested in other ways that will benefit you as well.

Wedding videography companies differ in what they will show you as a sample of their work. Some may show a copy of an actual wedding, others may show you a sampling of their work. Seeing a copy of an actual wedding may sound like a good idea, but many videographers customize their work for each client. Viewing someone elses wedding video may be just that – some other couples video and may not represent the videographer's preferred approach or what they could do for you. Whatever you are shown should satisfy you that the videographer has a style that you like, if it doesn't then move on. When you finally see what you are looking for you'll know it. Assume that what you see is what you get. The work you are shown should be representative of the results you can expect. You don't have to see a video shot in your church and at your reception venue to know if you should choose a company. You should, however, see work shot under the same conditions as you will have; indoors or outdoors, daytime or nighttime, etc..

From The Authors - Ashley Video Productions

We produced this guide in an effort to promote and to raise the standard of wedding videography for the benefit of the industry at large and brides and grooms everywhere. The tips we have shared will lead you to a choice that will do one thing, meet your expectations. If expectations are met then everyone benefits. Since wedding videography is a technical art, consumers have traditionally had difficulty evaluating their options with their limited understanding of the medium. With the short education you have received here, hopefully you will be better able to shop for videography and make an educated decision. In the process wedding videographers will be forced to address the important issues and hopefully only those offering quality and value will flourish.

Who is Ashley Video Productions
First of all you need to know that even though we are experienced, qualified video professionals we don't put a lot of emphasis on our equipment or our technical ability. More important to us is or emphasis on service and our knowledge of people. We chose wedding videography as a career because we wanted to use our talent in a field that would allow us to work with and serve people in a social environment, not a corporate one. Many video professionals view wedding videography as a step up the video ladder to "more important" work like corporate or commercial productions. We on the other hand LOVE recording weddings and could not think of a more important or rewarding challenge than creating what will ultimately become someone's cherished family heirloom.

We enjoy using our creativity in subtle ways that show people and their experiences naturally. Our videos tell a story just as a writer would, the story of your wedding day. They are more detailed, thought out and comprehensive than a mere videotape. Just as a writer uses descriptive phrases and adjectives to describe a setting and help the reader visualize a moment, we use images and scenes to portray an experience. The people featured are revealed, the details big and small are exposed, the experiences of those present are shared by the viewer. We capture not only actions, but reactions, not just motions but emotions. We don't just videotape what is happening in front of us we seek out all elements of the moment and combine them artfully to portray the full experience. That is why we are known as the Emotion Picture Studio.

Any company can tape your day and give you a video of it. There are scores of videographers in Southern California to choose from. Some are professional corporate producers who also do weekend events, others are amateurs, who have successfully taken advantage of the increasing interest in wedding videography topractice their avocation. There are of course several dedicated videographers who specialize in taping weddings. Most of these legitimate wedding videography companies rely on technology rather than talent and creativity to qualify their work as "professional." Ashley Productions is none of the above. Admittedly utilizing the advantages of professional equipment, technology and training may qualify a person as a professional but it does not guarantee a valuable wedding video and it is not what we at Ashley Productions place a value in nor base our success on.

How do we do all of this . . .? As I said before, we know people. We understand why people enjoy looking at photo albums, and hearing stories and reading books and watching movies . . . it is all about sharing and reliving wonderful experiences. It is not about two channels of stereo sound or 3 chip broadcast cameras or 14 to 1 telephoto zoom lenses but it is about capturing the moments of our lives. We at Ashley Productions are more in the memory business than the video business and it is to capturing memories that we have dedicated ourselves and our talents. We appreciate your consideration. Thank You.