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All About Videography

Martha Stewart Weddings, Summer 2004

Capturing sound, movement, and all the emotion of the day, videography keeps the memories of your wedding vivid for years. Here's everything you need to know.

Do I Need a Videographer? It's not essential, but couples who hire a videographer are usually glad they did. Still photography captures important moments, but only videography will show your walk down the aisle and the smiles you shared during your first dance. "The only way to really relive the day is through video," says Robert Allen, of Robert Allen Videojournalist. "You can hear the way people speak, see the way they move."

How important is such a detailed recording? "The whole day was a whirlwind," says Marissa Coyne of her December 2001 wedding in Cold Spring Hills, New York. "You can forget so much of what is going on." Videography allowed her and her husband, Christopher, to once again experience the moments they remembered, and it also revealed things they had missed, including their parents' teary smiles as the couple exchanged their vows. Couples also often find that, years later, their children love watching the video of their wedding.

Are There Different Styles to Consider?
The current trend for wedding videography is toward documentary-style work. These videos piece together the events of the day, often blending color with black-and-white footage for a natural and timeless approach. This seemingly straightforward style requires considerable artistic skill from the videographer, who must be able to capture the mood without special effects while keeping the focus on you. The more traditional video style utilizes some technical tricks to summon a mood. Although contemporary videography has become much more subtle, many professionals still use fade-outs and insert still shots, such as baby or family photos or first-date mementos. Both of these approaches may incorporate music, interviews, and titles.

The best way to end up with a film that you will view again and again is to communicate with your professional in advance. Let the videographer know what attracted you to his work, such as the blend of candid moments and still photography. How the elements are combined during the editing is as important as the way the video is shot, says Jeremy Faryar Mansuri, owner of New York City's LifeStories Films. Editing, he explains, "really sets the pace" of a video. Also discuss sound, including your choice of songs for background or theme and the mix of music with live, happy chatter that will accompany the final product. As for length, most videographers will offer a range from a thirty-minute summary of your day to a two-hour documentary.

A professional will know to include key moments and footage of the entire wedding party, but if there are special guests or events that you want on film, tell him so. "A couple should be as involved in the process as they're comfortable with being," says Allen. But at a certain point, remember: You've hired a professional because you admire that person's skills. On the day, let him work. The best moments, as Lara Laitala, who was married in New York City in April 2000, discovered, will not be the ones you planned: "I was dancing with my brother, and all of a sudden my veil began to fall off," she says. "I threw it out into the crowd. I didn't really realize I did it, but on the video we have this great shot of me throwing it and my brother and me laughing."

Won't a Videographer Get in the Way? Videography can be even less obtrusive than still photography. Bulky, glaring lights and huge, television-size cameras set on tripods have been replaced with smaller, handheld models that can be easily maneuvered through a crowded dance floor. These newer digital video cameras, which rely on computer chips rather than tubes, allow videographers to work with available illumination, even candlelight. With their tools, videographers can work their magic without attracting attention, which makes for a better final product. "What's important is letting the wedding unfold the way it's supposed to," says Allen. The interviews during which videographers corner guests and ask them to "say something for the couple" are also out of style. The better videographers know how to elicit feedback in a more sophisticated manner. "We'll touch base with the wedding party," says Michael Callahan of Boston's Black Tie Video. "And the folks who have something to say will come up to us." If you have any doubts about how the videographer will fit into your reception, ask someone who used him whether his presence was bothersome in any way (it's always wise to check references). The answer you want to hear will probably echo Marissa Coyne's words about her videographer: "You didn't even know he was there."

What Do I Need to Know About the Technology? For the best-quality picture and sound, make sure that your videographer is recording with digital cameras, ideally those with broadcast-quality equipment. These cameras contain three computer chips, which store much more visual and audio information than simpler cameras designed for home use.With such equipment, clarity and sound will be first rate. It isn't likely that any additional lighting will be necessary, although Mansuri always points out to his clients that in very low light -- such as in a candlelit chapel -- the range of color may be restricted.

Think about your technology at home, too. How will you want to watch your video, and what format will best preserve the images? Increasingly, DVD is the format of choice because of the quality of sound and picture and because of the disc's longevity: Properly stored in a cool, dry place, DVDs should last a century. Videotapes have a shelf life of only about twenty years, says Allen. Most videographers will offer copies in varying formats.

How Do I Find a Good Videographer? Start by asking married friends and your other wedding vendors for referrals. Or contact a professional organization, such as the Wedding & Event Videographers Association (941-923-5334 or, for lists of members in your area. In addition to meeting the videographer, view tapes of complete events, not just "best of" videos, says Genie Seybold of AfterImage Productions in Concord, Massachusetts. Look for visual elements that interest you, and for the mix of sentiment and style that appeals to you. Also consider, says Seybold, whether the composition is interesting with varied angles, and if the videographer finds the emotional focus of the wedding. Clarify all basics about prices and delivery times. And find out if the person you like -- the one whose style you respond to and whose personal manner will fit into your festivities -- will be the one to show up at your wedding; this should also be specified in your contract. It may seem basic, but some companies have several videographers that they assign to events.Once you have chosen a particular person, he's the one who should create the record of your day.

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