By Dominic Boisvert, Gear Technician at LensProToGo
With my summer completely wiped free of all video work, I can’t help but reminisce about past gigs, and recently, a scorching hot island wedding came to mind.
Here’s the scene: It’s mid-July 2019, it’s a 100 degree day, and wedding gigs are still a thing. My AC doesn’t work in my ‘07 Ford Focus, and I’m crawling through Boston traffic. I’m on my way to shoot a wedding video by myself, with multiple locations, and various modes of transportation involved. I wipe the sweat off my brow, and look at my gear in my backseat:
- Canon C200
- Canon C100 MkII
- 2 x Canon 24-70mm f/2.8L II
- 2 x Canon 70-200 f.2.8L III
- Sigma 18-35mm f./1.8 Art
- 2 x Sachtler Ace Tripod
- 2 x 128 GB SanDisk Extreme Pro
- 2 x Extra C100/C200 Batteries
- 2 x Large Water Bottles
- Large Domke Camera Bag
You’re not seeing double: I brought two of almost everything, which leads me to my first solo wedding video shoot tip: shoot on two cameras at once. If this is not within the realm of possibilities don’t worry, one camera will get enough of the action to cut together something lovely and memorable. However, to truly cover an event with so much going on, I highly recommend keeping two cameras ready to shoot.
I recommend this strategy: follow a sequence of planting one camera, roaming with another camera, and circling back to adjust the planted camera. Once your “B” camera’s shot is set, lock it down, grab your “A” camera and shoot just as you normally would. This strategy is very useful, but try not to get too picky about what your “B” Cam is capturing and focus on your shot (at the very least, your “B” Cam is there to save you from a gap in coverage).
Keep your “B” camera far back and wide, but not exclusively… get creative with it! I like to put a telephoto lens on the “B” Cam, point it at the cake from across the room, and have people dance and cross in front of it… simple and cinematic!
This strategy will greatly improve your shot variety and give you extra coverage overall, something you will be thankful for while editing. In linear editing scenarios, like the ceremony or speeches, this will give you something to cut back to when your “A” Camera was adjusting to a new shot. While combing through your footage later, you may be surprised that a nice calm wide shot from your secondary camera fits in the edit perfectly. The shot from your planted “B” Camera won’t always be gold, but you will be glad you had it.
While editing the video for this wedding, I noticed a few instances where I could seamlessly cut between my handheld A Camera and by static B Camera…. Sweet satisfaction.
This particular wedding had a lot of moving parts: it started at a church in the city, then took a trolley to the harbor to board a ferry, which then took the party to the reception at an island a mile off the coast… also, did I mention it was pushing 110 degrees that day? If I hadn’t consolidated my gear before I left for the shoot, I would have been playing catch-up all day. This might mean keeping your cameras assembled, putting two tripods in one bag, or stuffing everything into a rolling case. With this, I offer another tip: keep everything on your person, or at least, very close by. When you are solo-ing a wedding, you do not have the pleasure of having your co-shooter make a gear run for you, or vice versa. There were several moments during this wedding where I had to pack up all my gear at the drop of a hat and roll out.
Here’s an example: the trolley that took the party from the church was double parked on a crowded South Boston street, and I had basically 30 seconds to get on that trolley with all my gear or be forced to take the next one with friends and family (not where the action was at). I hopped on, found a place for my gear, and got in position to get some trolley footage. These shots ended up being very useful: they filled a gap in coverage and acted as a great transition sequence. The take-away: I would not have gotten those shots If I didn’t have my gear close by.
Is it starting to sound like I am suggesting you need to be everywhere at once?… because you do. Here’s where my next tip comes into play: be one step ahead of the action. This means anticipating where the action is going to go, and getting your shot set before it happens.
Generally, a wedding videographer should be like a fly on the wall, silently taking in the essence of the room while trying to go unnoticed. However in certain circumstances, it is totally acceptable for that fly on the wall to say, “Do you mind holding? I need to go there first”. Your newlyweds should understand that your interjection is for a good cause. Here is an example from this wedding:
I knew the shot of the couple getting off the ferry was going to be important, and I really wanted to get it from the pier side rather than the ferry side. So right before the crew opened the gate, I politely (but assertively) told the party I was going to exit first to get my shot setup. This shot ended up being one of my favorites in the whole edit. No one was offended, and a photographer even followed my lead.
My last tip is a general one, but is very helpful in a single-shooter scenario: always be ready to shoot! Your newlyweds are not going to make sure you’re rolling to have a precious moment… it just happens. This is why it’s important to always keep an eye on the couple (they’ll get their private time, this is YOUR time), especially if you are the only one responsible for capturing video.
As a final note, during some down time, try to gather some B-Roll. This will help break up the edit a bit if something in your edit isn’t flowing right. I’m particularly proud of this f/22 shot of the Boston bay shown below, taken when there was really nothing else going on. So, if you are ever asked to shoot a wedding by yourself, don’t stress: it’s totally do-able!