A Wedding Tale

Jason + Blair 2.13.10 from kylee pena on Vimeo.

 I haven’t blogged much of my own work lately, mostly because it’s been largely work-related rather than personal projects. However, two weeks ago I shot a wedding with Katie and I finished up the edit tonight. We were asked if we could shoot the wedding by Katie’s friend Jason (the groom), so it was sort of a thrown together affair for us. He knew that we weren’t professional wedding videographers – in fact, I had never shot a wedding, and the only one Katie has done was mine. We don’t have enough proper equipment to make a professional living out of this right now, but we decided to go ahead and get the experience of it with a relatively low stress “client”. And plus, they wouldn’t have been able to afford wedding videography anyway, so we were helping them no matter the outcome.

Now that I’ve built up that we are noobs, I actually think we did a pretty good job with this considering. We definitely can see room for improvement and the type of equipment we really need if we ever go pro (unlikely as we’re both editors but you never know), but for a first wedding where we had no idea what was going to happen next, I was happy with our outcome. Here’s the breakdown of our process.


We tried to keep in touch with the bride and groom before the wedding and get a gameplan going, but it seems their wedding was also kind of a tossed together affair. That’s totally cool and I can respect that having spent far too much of my life planning my own wedding to death. However, since we had no idea about the order of events, the people involved, or ANYTHING at all about this besides the date, time and place, we were forced to completely improvise the entire time.

Katie has a Sony HDV camera that shoots a pretty good picture and has a great onboard mic. She also has a solid manfrotto tripod and a crappy sunpak lightweight tripod. That was it for our equipment. I insisted that we have at least two cameras running during the ceremony. There was no way to cover even the smallest church wedding properly with one angle. So, with much hesitation, I scrounged up my crappy Canon Z90 minidv camera. I was extremely perturbed that I would be mixing HDV with DV and bringing the quality of the whole thing down, but I figured if we could get good cuts in and really cover the whole wedding properly, that would be more important than HD. Luckily, the groom offered his Flip camera that records 720p for a third angle.

So in case I’ve lost you, we have three formats for this one ceremony. HDV at 1080i, DV at 480i, and some sort of Quicktime wrapped files at 720p. Yikes. Kind of setting ourselves up for a post production nightmare, but we told ourselves that we could just pretend that we didn’t shoot the footage and make it an extra challenge. Yea…

We arrived about an hour before the ceremony was to start to get set up and look over the church space, which was a typical standard sanctuary luckily. We set up the Flip (which we got about 20 minutes before the ceremony from the groom and I had to quickly figure out how to use) at the back center of the church on the lightweight tripod for a wide overall angle. The canon went on the manfrotto on the side, giving full view of the bride’s reactions at all times. Katie took control of the Sony and handheld it for closeups and cutaways, as well as nice shots of the action. I realize we could have told that camera to shoot in standard def, but I figured it might be useful for motion stabilization or re-framing to have the large quantity of extra breathing room around the frame.

We got some pre-ceremony shots of everything and tracked down the bride and groom for a quick 3 minute interview about their past and feelings, hoping that we’d be able to work it in somewhere to make the wedding story more than just a simple wedding. Just some simple questions about their courtship, proposal, what they like about each other, etc. While we were in the bridal room, I stole a few shots of the bride and her (I think) mom and grandma doting over her dress and hair, which was nice to round out the build up to the ceremony.

During the ceremony, Katie took the sony and wandered about the sanctuary on the bride’s side to get some shots of the groom’s reaction, while I made sure the two stationary cameras were running. I was concerned that the Flip might have shot length restrictions that I didn’t know about, but I didn’t have a chance to think about it so I just hit record and hoped for the best (and it went straight through the 40 minute ceremony, so woo hoo for that.)

The reception was even less planned out than the ceremony (even the DJ didn’t know what was going on), so we camped out in an out-of-the-way corner and made friends with the DJ so he would let us know what was up. The reception was pretty improvised in terms of shots because we weren’t sure where they were going next, but it was a very small room so we didn’t have to worry too much. For some of the events, Katie ran her camera handheld and got in closer while I did an overall shot with the Flip.

One thing I realized during the various ceremonial dances was that it was incredibly difficult to keep shots of people swaying back and forth captivating. I tried a few different things, but when the people dancing don’t seem into it at all, it’s hard to make it seem like a “moment”. The bride and groom had some great shots and I thought Katie managed to get quite a few nice shots of their first dance, especially given the circumstances.

There didn’t seem to be a designated end time and we didn’t have all evening to sit around and drink all their punch, so we decided to go off-load the Flip files onto my laptop in the car so we could stick the camera back in the groom’s pocket before we left. Lucky for us, they decided they had had enough of the reception and were in the process of their departure, so Katie grabbed the camera and got a few shots of them leaving the church in their decorated car.

Overall, it was a pretty stress-free wedding, despite not knowing what was going on. I think part of the reason for us not feeling totally pressured to perform well was that we knew we would perform at the maximum level we could with the tools at hand. The difference between me and Katie (and Aaron too though not on this shoot) from 2-3 years ago versus now is simply confidence. Katie and I especially have shot together a lot in the last year as interns, and we have a “feel” for coverage along with our editing sixth sense that tells us what we’ll want for cutaways and other fun stuff in the edit. That, and the fact the clients in this case put no pressure on us as they were hoping for a simple video of their ceremony.


I took control of the edit on this one, though I’m sure Katie will be producing her own versions for her portfolio and reel. I decided to do two versions. One would be a full video of the ceremony, and all the highlights of the reception. The bride and groom would keep it forever probably, but few people outside those two would want to watch ALL that stuff. So I decided to do a short version for the web (and their DVD as well) that they can show people to get a feel for their wedding day and the love they share. Their first dance (and “their song”) is Smother Me by The Used, so I decided to cut the whole shortened version to that. The song has a lot of movement luckily, lots of opportunity for cutting nicely tot he music.

I listened to the music a few times and placed some markers on the timeline at points where I felt like there should be a cut or a certain shot (colored markers in FCP = the bomb). I didn’t use the interview footage in the main video, as I just wanted that to be a straight record of events rather than an introspective of the wedding. I started to lay in footage and the whole rough cut came together very quickly, within a couple of hours. It fell together very easily. I very much liked the structure of the ceremony contrasted with their pre-ceremony thoughts about their life. I especially liked the cut where the bride is talking about how she told the groom she would marry him one day, which leads into a L cut of her putting the ring on his finger and taking her vows. And the shot of her walking up the aisle with the groom musing about how they met. I think this is a really nice way of breaking up a boring generic wedding ceremony, and I like how it flowed in the edit. I wish the audio had been better with the ceremony, but ah well…we need to invest in a mic I guess. Also, I chose to stick with simple cuts and long dissolves since there are a lot of breaks in time and it made sense to me that it be flowy. 30 frame dissolves = romance!

I wanted this cut to be about the bride and groom, so I stayed more intimately with them throughout the whole thing. I put in bits from the best man and maid of honor speeches to further illustrate the bond between the bride and groom – as if to support the idea that they belong together with eye witnesses. Ha! I did put in a couple of shots of them dancing with other people to show the joy they shared, and the bouquet and garter toss to show their humor and how they shared in these typical wedding traditions like a storybook. Katie happened to grab the last shot of the car and moved the camera down quickly before turning it off, and I ended up liking this for an ending rather than a fade to black. It’s almost like a film reel running out at the end, and imperfection to reflect the imperfections of relationships? Who knows. All I know is I liked it.

I color corrected with FCP 3-way corrector – a task and a half with fixing dv and hd footage together on this! I tried to take both footages to a somewhat neutral and acceptable match, then grade with Magic Bullet Looks. I won the Magic Bullet Suite in October at Postapalooza and I’ve used Mojo a lot for quick grades, but I’ve not touched Looks all that much and this seemed like a perfect opportunity. I thought it would be best to go with a warmer and brighter palette on this to draw the viewer in and make everything more romantic and intimate. I just wanted to make everything brighter and less dingy than the original footage – those interior lights in the church gave everything kind of an icky orangey dull look. It was a bit difficult to get the footage from the hd cameras and the dv to remotely match and it might not be perfect, but I think it’s pretty passable, particularly for the web. I ended up building off the “Warm Soft Spot” preset in Looks, which ended up giving the footage a nice pop.

I also treated the entire video with a bit of a Misfire Vignette filter from Magic Bullet. It’s not a cheesy totally round harsh vignette, it simply gives depth to the video by darkening the edges a little bit in imperfect ways. I like it a lot. It’s subtle, and if you aren’t really looking for it you might not notice it’s there.

Once I finish up the long, less artistic version of this video, I’ll be producing a dvd with both versions and mailing it to the newlyweds. Hopefully they enjoy it muchly.

Here are some comparison shots between the original footage, basic color corrected, and then graded…because I love seeing footage evolve.