May 31, 2007

Rainy Day? No Problem!

Last Saturday I shot a wedding in which rain was our constant companion. The church of the Heavenly Rest on 90th and 5th provided a sanctuary from the rain, but the rain also provided some memorable moments. When the bride arrived, her father was there to greet her with a beautiful white umbrella. The footage I got was priceless: father grabbing the hand of his daughter while carefully sheltering her from the constant drizzle with an umbrella right out of a fairy tale.

Following the ceremony, the groom took over the role of valiant helper, guiding the bride from the church to the waiting limo, making sure that she was covered every step of the way.

As they made their entrance into the beautiful glass enclosed Power Station at the Museum of Natural History, I even thought the groom might take off his coat and lay it over a puddle that stood in his way. Fortunately good sense won out over chivalry, but it would have made for excellent photos and video!

The footage of the impressive Power Station at the museum was even more beautiful because of the water on the 40 foot high all-glass structure. The high quality image I get using an HD camera enabled me to zoom in on a single rain drop on a window with great detail and then pull back to show the entire room and area surrounding it.

My purpose in writing this is not to have brides flipping through The Farmer's Almanac and planning weddings on "100% chance of rain" days. I too hope for sunny wedding days if only to make it easier on my equipment and to have a more well-adjusted bride to work with. However, when rain does come, I don't let that dampen my spirits or creative energy and you should not let it effect how you feel about your day and the passion you put into planning it. If rain is inevitable, use that same energy you used while choosing the cake, flowers and favors to buy umbrellas, ponchos, and other rain essentials that are as equally in sync with the wedding theme and style you worked so hard to create!

May 23, 2007

Telling Your Story: Inside the Wedding Edit

If I don't write a very interesting first line to this blog entry, you probably won't want to continue to read. You still there? Well, I passed that test. Are you still reading now? Good. I've still got you interested in what I am writing and you are anticipating the next sentence, hoping it keeps moving this blog and story along.

Well, the editing of a good wedding video is done much the same way. Many people hire a videographer and assume that as long as that person knows every detail of their camera and owns top-notch gear, the wedding video should turn out great.

That's not necessarily the case, however.

While it is very important to have a videographer who owns the latest equipment and who knows how to use it, what's more important is that once that footage gets back to the studio, the editor knows what to do with it.

If the editor doesn't get a feel for your wedding day and you as a couple, the finished product can sometimes feel like somebody else's wedding. It's all about choices: what music to use, how long to keep a shot on the screen, whether or not to use transitions, natural sound or music, all of the toast or just the parts that won't embarrass people upon video viewing....

As much as I love to film weddings, it pales in comparison to the joy I receive when I get to edit that footage into roughly a one-hour movie that tells the story of YOUR day. I am a painter and the footage from the videotapes is my paint. What I do with those tapes and that footage will determine if your video is viewed as a priceless Picasso or a $5 painting from the flea market.

Telling your story involves more than just putting the footage on the computer and adding a few songs. It's about getting a feel for what makes you tick as a couple, understanding the ambiance and mood you established for your wedding, grasping your style and flair, knowing your preferred musical tastes, knowing what details are important to you and more. It's about knowing certain conversations with bridesmaids and groomsmen before the ceremony are better served NOT to be covered by music while other conversations due to content SHOULD be covered!

Before I even got into filming weddings, I was a writer and storyteller first. At the University of Michigan, I minored in Film but majored in English with a special interest in creative and expository writing. Upon graduating I wrote two manuscripts (one of which is getting published in 2008) and worked as a reporter at Sports Illustrated. One of my greatest challenges at Sports Illustrtated was to come up with a lead line so compelling that the editor would not only want to keep reading, but that he might comment to me later that he enjoyed the story. If this were the case, then I knew that the readership of the magazine would most likely also be just as riveted.

It's the same feeling I take to the editing bay when I sit down with your video. You are that editor from Sports Illustrated who I want to win over and your friends and family are the general readership who I aim to please just the same.

When you play the finished DVD, I want the story to grab you and those you are watching it with. I want you to anticipate what is coming next without thinking about how terrible the music is or that the 30 second dance sequence with Aunt Doris is on screen for 29 seconds too long. I want each moment to move to the next and each part of the day to come naturally, all the while telling your story in a style that suits you. When the video ends and the credits roll, I want people to be disappointed that it's over already but at the same time feeling that they didn't miss a moment.

And like a good writer who starts with a good lead line, I make sure your video ends with a powerful close as well. Once the credits roll and the excitement and the enjoyment sink in, I just might throw on a few outtakes- perhaps even that forbidden conversation mentioned above- a memorable close in the most important movie you will ever own!

You still reading? Great! Glad to see I took you to the end!

May 11, 2007

Allegra & Josh; May 5, The Puck Building

One of the first things I noticed when I arrived at Josh and Allegra's apartment on 61st street was a chalkboard near the kitchen in which Allegra had left Josh a message kindly reminding him A) when to get dressed B) when to leave for the ceremony C) not to forget to the rings and D) to not even think about having more than one or two cocktails!

Josh was busy putting on the finishing touches when Adam and I arrived, and we filmed his last minute primping as well as nervous conversations with his groomsmen and a quick message to Allegra. We followed them a few blocks to Patsy's Pizzeria, where I promised Josh I would tell Allegra he was just drinking orange juice.

Allegra was getting ready a few blocks away at her parent's apartment. When we arrived the hairdresser was busy fixing up one of the bridesmaids while Allegra was in the bedroom getting her make-up done. Allegra's mother and two bridesmaids then helped her into her beautiful Vera Wang dress and Jimmy Choo shoes before we headed outside for the waiting limo ride to the Puck Building. Fortunately there was enough room in the limo for me to come as well, which allowed me to get some great shots of Allegra as we headed downtown.

The Puck Building is one of my favorite places to shoot, and when we arrived Allegra's father met us outside to help his beautiful daughter out of the limo. We had called ahead to tell him to clear Josh out of the bridal suite so that he would not see Allegra before she came down the aisle. Inside I found Josh nervously pacing and talking with his groomsmen and family as the guests found their seats near the beautifully arranged chuppah.

The service was interfaith with both a minister and rabbi alternating throughout, and incorporating pieces of both Josh and Allegra into the ceremony. When Josh broke the glass and it was official, they retreated back to the bridal suite for the ketubah and license signing as well as a celebratory toast.

One of the nice things about getting married at the Puck Building is the beautiful opportunity for photo and video both inside and outside of the building. Husband and wife photographer team (Weddings by Two) took Josh and Allegra out to Houston Street for some quintessential NYC street shots. I tend to follow the couple and photographers documentary-style trying get some artistic footage while also trying to catch snippets of conversation. The cocktail hour at the Puck building is also one of my favorite to shoot because of the beautiful views, angles and glass walls that help make creative, artistic shots come in bunches. We were also lucky to get a beautiful sunset with spectacular colors that allowed for some amazing photo and video.

The reception was fantastic, highlighted by an amazingly choreographed first dance by Josh and Allegra, a rowdy hora and and an inspired performance from the Hank Lane Band on hand. My parting words to Josh and Allegra were to make sure they logged in to my blog at the end of the week to enjoy their video at the incredible Four Seasons in Maui. I also reminded Josh that once in Maui, he was free to enjoy the Mai Thais!

May 10, 2007

Wedding Video Lighting

One of the most frequently asked questions I get from brides and grooms is about lighting. It seems that many of my clients have been guests at weddings where the videographer has lights hanging from the ceiling, the camera, the floor, the tables and anywhere else you can imagine. Instead of the bandleader announcing the bride and groom for the first time, with all the lights set up you expect to see Madonna walk out to put on a show.

While I might be exaggerating slightly, the perception to many is that videographer lights are obtrusive and annoying. This perception is the reality only some of the time, but for most people it only takes one bad experience to scar them for life.

In fact, many couples decide outright not to even hire a videographer just because they were so turned off by the experience they had attending another wedding. Many of these couples are the same ones whose biggest regret after the wedding is not having a wedding video to remember their day.

While I cannot speak for all videographers, I can say that many of us are in tune with the needs of our clients and have limited the size and use of our light kits. I use one small light on the top of my camera that I never use during the ceremony and only sporadically throughout the evening when the room is so dark that I have no other choice. It's at these moments- the cake cutting, first dance and sometimes the toasts that the light is actually a benefit to the other guests as well, in that they are able to see these great moments occur instead of otherwise being left in the dark.

What I have learned after years of shooting weddings is that it's the special moments such as the above which you will look most fondly on later, but they are also the same moments when you will be so completely wrapped up in emotion that we could be shining spotlights on you from a helicopter and you still wouldn't notice.

Fortunately, for most of us, helicopter spotlighting never has to happen. Today's cameras are designed to work extremely well in low-light conditions, so that if a videographer knows what he is doing, adjusting the iris, shutter speed, gain or pre-set modes on a camera can be just as good as using a light. Even in the direst of lighting conditions, a skilled videographer will know how to adjust their camera to compensate.

It also comes down to a videographer having the common sense and decorum to know when not to use light. I shot a beautiful wedding at the Rainbow Room at NBC Studios recently in which the cocktail hour was sparsely lit. The only lights to speak of were from sporadic candles on tables throughout the space. Even if I turned on my light at it's lowest level, it would have been obvious in this atmosphere. I decided that I would instead use the natural light from the candles to help my shooting without turning on the camera light. While I sacrificed some potential deer-in-the-headlights shots of people drinking martinis, I preserved the amazing ambiance that the couple had worked so hard to achieve.

For couples who ask me to describe my lighting technique, I tell them that I might not use huge light kits like some other videographers prefer and because of this the image at times might be about 10% worse than that of the videographer with a Steven Spielberg lighting kit. However, I am quick to tell them the good news- which is the experience of their guests and the ambiance of the day will be 100% better because of it!

May 03, 2007

Davin & Karyl's Wedding; April 28, Yale Club NYC

(Above article published in New York Times Wedding Vows, April 29, 2007)

Upon walking into the bridal suite at the Yale Club last Saturday to start filming the wedding day of Davin and Karyl, I knew this would not be an ordinary wedding for me. Normally I don't get a kiss from one of the bridesmaids when I enter the bridal suite. Jessica, though, happens to be the wife of my good friend, Ed, who I have known since we lived together in the dorms at the University of Michigan. We were roommates for 3 years in NYC as well, while Ed attended Columbia Business School. It was while attending Columbia that Ed met Jessica. It was also at Columbia that Davin met Karyl.

At Ed and Jessica's wedding in October, Karyl and I gave two of the toasts and helped our friends celebrate their wedding day at the Bryant Park Grill. On this day, Jessica not only provided a warm welcome, but she helped to save the day for Karyl by fixing an unfixable broken zipper on the wedding dress. Panic ensued amongst some of the bridesmaids, but Karyl remained surprisingly calm and Jessica used some amazing skill to fix the problem. It's always a good idea to have a sewing kit around while getting dressed and even better to have a bridesmaid who has MacGyver-like skill fixing a broken zipper without a sewing kit!

Being that they met at Columbia, it was only fitting that the ceremony be held in beautiful St. Paul's Chapel, steps away from the Columbia Business School. I joined Karyl and Jessica for the car ride uptown to Columbia, catching some snippets of conversation between the two on film as Karyl anxiously awaited her imminent vows. Davin- having arrived 45 minutes earlier via a shuttle bus with his groomsmen- paced nervously in the bowells of the church.

The ceremony was beautiful- and we captured it with two cameras to better show the space and feeling of the church. My assistant Adam took footage from the balcony that complimented my shots from the front of the church, which you can see in the highlight edit below. Photographer Kristine Foley made great use of the campus beauty and Grand Central Station across from the Yale Club to get both posed and photojournalistic shots before the reception.

We spent the evening at the Yale Club highlighted by the spectacular cocktail hour views from the 22nd floor balcony and a night of dancing, toasts and great memories in the incredible second floor main room.