The Enthusiastic Amateur
So you decide to have your cousin video tape the wedding with his camcorder, the first thing to remember is that he’s family and you must vow to forgive him. However there are a few tips to help make his efforts a success.
Tip #1 Insist he use a tripod especially during the ceremony. Shaky shots make video unwatchable and weddings shot by a single camera are inherently a series of real-time lingering shots. Even if his camcorder has a built-in image stabilization it can only compensate for so much motion. A good tripod is almost more important than the camera. A fluid head will make his pans smooth instead of jerky. Be sure ask about it. Offer to rent one if he doesn’t own one. Curiously, one place to get one super cheap is a local cable community access channel. Our town will loan you a good tripod for any event if you’re willing to give them the finished product as a program. You get a free fluid head tripod and a way to let all your friends get a copy of your wedding.
Tip #2 Take him to visit the venue, be it the ceremony or the reception. He needs to know where he can store his gear. He needs to see where he will set up his shots. He needs to see the lighting. These are things the pro will know how to deal with but can end up being a surprise for the amateur. Take him to lunch after.
Tip #3 Audio is probably 80% of good video. Unfortunately, the microphones built into most camcorders are fairly basic, recording audio from any direction, plus the camera is almost always further away than the microphone should be. Most camcorders have a jack for plugging in an external microphone. Be sure he uses one. There is also a place to plug in headphones. He needs to use those to monitor the audio he’s getting. Wirelesslavaliere microphones are super cheap to rent. Lavs are designed to clip onto the clothing of the subject near their mouth. Lavs are small enough that you can even hide one somewhere in a scene say the flowers to pick up better sound than a camera mounted mic. While you’re at the rental house pick additional external mic for the camera. Remember his on-camera microphone cannot be placed any closer to the audio source than where the camera is. Even the best on-camera microphones will not do an adequate job of picking up soft sounds at a distance like “I do”. It’s the most important line in the show and most amateur videographers miss it.
Tip #4 Lens cleaning packets. Make sure he has them. No matter how careful you are the lens is going to get smudged while you’re cutting the cake. Lenses get dirty and that fingerprint is forever. Extra tape and batteries are a good idea too.
Tip #5 Make sure he knows how to pan or zoom. One of the most common video mistakes is making constant movements. He should only make changes for a reason. Go over when you want him to zoom like placing the ring on the finger or when its time to kiss the bride. When he can, he should forget about the zoom all together and zoom with his feet. If he is taking a shot of something he should leave it on the scene for 10-20 seconds, before shifting to take another shot. He should always shoot with slow, smooth, and deliberate motions.
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