Before they hit the big screen, all movies go through a certain process: the budgeting, the crew-hiring, the equipment selection, the shooting, the editing. The same holds true for your wedding video. Though it's not a Hollywood blockbuster, your big-day film will undoubtedly make it onto your own personal top-ten list. So make sure it's created with the same attention to detail as a multiplex masterpiece.
Couples are often tempted to enlist a friend or relative with a camcorder to tape their wedding. While an amateur video is better than no video at all, it's usually way below the quality that a professional can deliver. "Just because someone has a kitchen doesn't mean they can bake a wedding cake," Rudy Childs, president of the Professional Videographers Association of Greater Washington, D.C. (PVA), points out. If you'd like a professional-looking video, you're going to have to go with a pro.
Act One: the Search
To find a videographer, start by asking friends and family for recommendations. You can also contact a professional videographers' organization, such as a local PVA (check the list of locales at videographer.com/local_PVAs.htm) or the Wedding and Event Videographers Association International (online at weva.com). And don't forget to search Brides.com's Local Services section.
After you've identified a few candidates, meet with them in person so you can see examples of their work. Roy Chapman, chair of WEVA International, recommends that you take a look at a full-length wedding video in addition to demo tapes. "Trust your eyes and your ears" when selecting a videographer, Chapman advises. "If you don't like the look or the sound of a video you're being shown, or if you are bored watching it, that's not the fault of the wedding. It's up to the videographer to produce a high-quality video that's entertaining to watch."
Act Two: the Selection
Make sure you ask questions about the videographer's professional background (such as the number of weddings they've shot and any special training they've received). According to Kit Slitor, founder of the PVA, the most important thing to look for when choosing a videographer is experience: "A seasoned professional will be technically and artistically proficient. He will know how to gather the right footage, how to properly frame and focus shots, how to discreetly and properly light a scene and take care of audio considerations."
Since videographic technology is changing quickly, find out if the person is up to speed with the latest equipment and techniques. "The best format to tape with today is digital video," Slitor says. Videos recorded digitally can be transferred to a VHS tape or to a DVD, an increasingly popular option. DVDs make it much easier to edit the video, meaning your pro can, according to Chapman, "manipulate images, rearrange scenes, add tasteful special effects, change colors or backgrounds, and improve picture quality."
Chapman suggests that you also ask how many cameras the videographer will use. "This comes down to budget, but it's really preferable to have at least two cameras; you're limited with one." (Chapman also recommends checking with your clergy member to be sure that at least one camera will be allowed up front in the altar area.) Also, find out how the videographer records sound. A new audio advancement is tiny, wireless microphones that "can be clipped to a lapel and that are almost invisible. This lets you have nice, clear, uninterrupted sound."
Learn what type of editing the videographer uses. Chapman explains: "Some videographers use in-camera editing (which is basically just the footage as it was shot, with little or no editing afterward), which is the least costly but most limited method of editing. Others may spend up to 20 hours editing your video and making it television-quality."
When it comes to video style, you've got a range of options. The "love story production" or the "relationship segment" is increasingly popular. "These videos are the story behind the story, how the couple came together. It's important family history," Chapman says. "Sometimes these segments are produced in the relaxed style of A&E's Biography or a high-energy TV special. The videographer might take the couple to some of their favorite spots, interview them about their relationship, or get reactions from friends and family. On the wedding video, the love story segment usually appears as a prelude to the actual ceremony." Another emerging trend is videos shot in an MTV, music-video style.
How to make a good style match? "Tell the videographer what your television viewing preferences are," Chapman advises.
Finally, if you're dealing with a videography studio, be sure to indicate in your contract the specific person you want to shoot your wedding. Often, studios will employ more than one videographer, and it's important to make it clear which one you want to work with.
Act Three: the Wedding Day
You can make the videographer's experience a little easier by supplying a schedule of the day's events. Be sure to introduce the videographer to the key players in your wedding—for example, your parents—to ensure that these VIPs are featured appropriately. You might want to pay extra to have the videographer shoot the rehearsal dinner. This will familiarize him or her with your ceremony and allow for prenuptial mingling with the important folks.
And remember: Your videographer needs to eat! Supply a meal—and if there are assistants, feed them too.
Post-Production: the Final Cut
Some wedding videos take months to complete, so when you sign your contract, make sure you get an idea of when you can expect to see the finished product. And find out exactly what you'll get: Discuss with your videographer whether you will receive just an edited copy of the wedding video, or if you will also receive the raw footage, i.e., all the material that was shot over the course of the day. Some videographers include the raw footage, some don't. If you have a preference, hire accordingly.
Once your video's in, make a party of it: Invite over the video's stars, whip up some popcorn, and wait for the applause for your big film debut.