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The 21st-century wedding movie: Not your mother's wedding video
Special to the online edition of Windy City Times
by Steve Maxey
2016-02-09

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"Why spend so much money on that long boring video that we will only watch once?"

Aside from marriage equality itself, no aspect of weddings has changed more in recent years than the wedding video. In the era of YouTube and Facebook video, the wedding video has gone cinematic.

The cinematic wedding video

The cinematic wedding video combines video, audio and music to tell a story as opposed to simply recording an event from beginning to end. The change started shortly after Apple's introduction of iMovie in 1999 made it easier for wedding videographers to shape the footage after the fact. But it's only in the last few years, since around 2009, that the gap has really been narrowed, partly due to improved cameras. So the people shooting weddings started asking: Why can't this be more like a movie and less like a video?

Where we were: The old-style wedding video ( still available from some vendors as the "documentary" video ) typically uses a single camera, centered framing, static shots and the flat lighting of a TV news show, it is only lightly edited, and can last two hours or more.

Where we are: The cinematic wedding video is shot and edited more like a movie or a modern TV show. The cameramen look for telling moments and details. They look to framing and lighting, camera movement and varied lenses to help tell the story. Typically there are at least two cameramen, which allows the second camera to capture reactions—like your grandmother's tears—while the first camera captures you exchanging rings.

The editing is different, as well: Rather than including everything and making you wait for the "good parts," ( or skim through to find them ), the cinematic video takes all those bits and pieces and weaves them into a short story that helps you recall the feeling of the day. It uses the techniques of modern filmmaking—from music scoring to interview audio to color grading to playing with time—to create a short movie of your day the tells a story, that evokes an emotion.

But I already have a photographer

Posed portraits of you, your family and friends all dressed up for your wedding and wearing camera-ready smiles are wonderful keepsakes to put in an album or hang on the wall.

But you and your guests don't spend most of your wedding day posing like statues.

What photographs can't capture is the catch in your voice as you say your vows, the tears in your father's eyes and how he tries to hide them, your young niece's excitement about the new dress she got to wear to your wedding or your young nephew's chafing a his first tie, the unposed shared glance between your parents as they dance. It can't capture the feeling of anticipation as you put on your cufflinks, or how you share a joke with your friends in the bridal party to break the tension.

The long and short of it

Not only does the old "documentary"-style video use long continuous wide shots to catch as much of the action as possible, it is itself long, often 90 minute to two, three or more hours. By contrast, depending on the studio and the wedding, the modern cinematic wedding feature is typically eight to 25 minutes long. The cinematic wedding video studios typically also offer a highlights video of two to sevenminutes—perfect for sharing on Facebook or YouTube with distant friends.

Afraid that the shorter videos will leave too much out? You can still find documentary-style videographers. But consider this: If a friend sends you a link to his or her 45-minute wedding video, how likely are you to watch it all the way through without skimming? You know it from YouTube and from music videos: A well-edited three-to-five-minute highlight can actually communicates a lot more about your day than a 45-minute video.

How to select a videographer

Ultimately, it comes down to finding someone whose work, pricing and personality/approach meshes with you. But here are some things to think about as you start.

—Decide if you prefer a documentary or a cinematic approach to the videography and choose people who specialize in the style you prefer.

—Is video just an add-on for a photography business, or does the company focus on video? Photographers don't have to think about sound equipment or getting smooth camera motion, or how to choose a frame rate or how to choose an effective music track. You might save money getting a combined package, but is the company really committed to video, or do they treat it like an add-on?

—Look at sample videos online. Are all of the studio's videos alike—using the same music and the same shots so the the weddings look all alike? Or do the videos capture the different flavors and unique styles of the events? If you make it all the way to the end of a video of a complete stranger's wedding without clicking away, that's a videographer to consider.

—Read reviews or ask previous couples how the videographer was as a collaborator. Do you want someone who will give you a lot of direction to make the perfect video or who will work quietly in the background so that they can capture candid moments?

—Talk to the videographer. Does he or she seem to "get" you as a couple? Will you be comfortable having this person hanging around all day?


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