Party Videography

The Party Video Page

Videography and Photography may look & sound alike but the two disciplines are very very different. Things are defined by their purpose, not just their components. Just because you can bang a nail into the wall with a shoe or a brick or a china vase doesn't mean those things are just as good as a hammer. Just because you can drive with one hand tied behind your back doesn't mean you should. If you want something done well, you get the right tools - and that means get the right people-tools too! Photographers and videographers are as different as... a bride & groom!

Motion Picture Camera Videography Tells a Story in Time and Motion
Movie cameras record 24+ frames per second with sound. That means you can hear people talk too! Movies want action, action and more action! We expect life to move fast and we position ourselves and frame shots to capitalize on that movement. The purpose of a movie is to tell a story. Each shot gives meaning to the shots that follows it. That's why it takes time to watch (and listen to) a movie. If you watch a movie out of order, you won't like it. You have to watch a whole movie in sensible order or else it's just gibberish. Movies are complex.

19th Century Photographer
Photography Freezes Time and Tells No Story 
Every time a photographer snaps a picture, he takes a living event out of time & space and drops it into eternity - frozen forever! You can watch a picture all day long and it will never move or speak. Photographers move around a lot when they're working because they have to get there before you move. If you move too fast, they can't get the picture. This is why photographers work in teams - to increase the odds of catching great shots before they get away. You can enjoy one picture all by itself - no need for context.


In the movies biz we say, "action!" but in photography they say, "hold that pose, don't move!" Do you see the difference? Photographers (not videographers) are the ones running around at your wedding. (See example at right)

It is physiologically impossible for a person to think, plan and shoot a proper video AND think, plan and snap gorgeous pictures at the same time. The videographer inside says "action!" and the photographer inside says "freeze!" It's like trying to drive a car with the emergency brake on. Just because the camera can do both doesn't mean the operator of that camera can do both - well. The operative word is "well." You can drive a car with the E-brake on but it's terrible.

Common Perceptions of Event Videography

Most people are very traditional about weddings and they do whatever their parents did since Ma & Pa are paying for this party. Most of your parents did not get videography because their parents didn't and their parents didn't and so forth. Lavish wedding photography didn't become popular until the 1990s. That's over 100 years since the invention of photography! Will it take that long for videography to become as popular? I've asked many busy photographers how often they see videographers at weddings and they usually tell me, "1 in 10 weddings has a videographer." What is the reason for this disparity? I can think of at least two dark & dirty reasons for this (please don't hate me for saying it).

Reason #1: Many event photographers don't understand it and they therefore talk it down to every customer they meet. The most obvious way they talk it down is by offering it. Nothing says "cheap" more vividly than offering to throw it in. As if Photography is "essential" but videography is "optional". As if your budget can only allow for pictures. The very opposite has become true in the 21st century.

Reason #2: Many (male) video enthusiasts are calling themselves videographers. They took a few classes at community college and now they feel ready because, after all, it's just a wedding. It's not like movie critics are going to watch this in a theater so it's okay not to bring your A-game...they think. Or worse - they're actually photography enthusiasts. Their work is average and they hustle like used car salesmen. They say things like, "That's the fair market value" and "I know it's an easy thing to film (funeral/speech) but I gotta keep up with the industry standard fee." That's a full barrel of hogwash. How's a bride or a grieving widow supposed to sort through all this flotsam of pretentious snobbery to find a qualified filmmaker who will capture her precious memory in a dignified way?

How Wedding Videography is Depicted on Television

And speaking of pretentious snobbery - Hollywood is chiefly to blame for the public's misconceptions about wedding and event videography. Whenever a wedding, party or funeral is depicted on a TV show or in a movie - there is never a videographer unless the videographer is committing a crime or some awkward comedy. The only exceptions to this rule that I could find are Picture Perfect with Jennifer Aniston and Faith of our Fathers with Candace Cameron-Burr (see clips below).

In Runaway Bride with Julia Roberts her 3 wedding runs are unluckily captured on video for later analysis and public scrutiny while her final wedding run is swarmed by paparazzi videographers in a final over-the-top public humiliation. When John Watson got married on Sherlock, they didn't have a videographer there either...and the photographer turned out to be the murderer (surprise, surprise). Liar, Liar had a wedding episode where a team of 4 wedding videographers commit the crime (no surprise there either). There's a British movie called The Wedding Video in which the videographer is depicted as an obnoxious amateur. The Wedding Planner, My Best Friend's Wedding, Four Weddings and a Funeral, Wedding Crashers and The Wedding Singer all contains no videographers at all. My Big Fat Greek Wedding also managed to overlook video and their photographer was conspicuously absent from the ceremony. Father of the Bride had no videographer and the photographer was only at the reception. So, you see, I am not making this up.

But you may be thinking, "what about those reality wedding shows? Surely they've got videographers." Ah, you'd like to think so, wouldn't you? This is where Hollywood snobbery really kicks into high gear. The TV film crew for the show is itself deemed video coverage for that featured wedding. They will do special segments on photographers, florists, bakers, planners and dressmakers but they will not give one dark frame to illustrate the benefits of a wedding videographer. I edited the raw footage from a Hot Hawaiian Wedding not long ago and most of the ceremony was missing because they didn't need it for the show. I think the couple might have liked having that, don't you? I once worked alongside a reality TV crew in Santa Monica who was making a show about the wedding planner. I was dedicated to capturing the wedding for the couple and our paths overlapped. They were pretty dismissive towards me .....because to them, people are measured by their paychecks or union affiliations...or perhaps just the size of I've worked alongside network cameramen at red carpet events and I get treated just as badly there. Hollywood is a dog-eat-dog world so I like my job doing weddings, parties & funerals. Yesssir.

So, the mischaracterization of event videography in media has lead the public to believe that I'm 1) criminally inclined 2) obnoxious & voyeuristic 3) irrelevant. Honestly, if I could sue Hollywood I would ...but it's a 99-headed snake.

Why does Videography seem so expensive?

Videography is typically the last thing people book when they're planning a party, wedding or funeral. Consequently, the $300 you have left over after you bought all the sentimental favorites cannot be stretched. You knew this from the beginning but you just had to have "the little things" - whatever those were. I taped a million dollar wedding in 2008 and she didn't book me until 2 weeks before the wedding. Budget was clearly not the problem - awareness was. Not even her planner had suggested it to her. It was one of her friends whose wedding I had just done a few months prior. That video became immensely important to everyone after the wedding!! It enabled the event coordinator to get his work written up in a magazine and submitted to a competition. (take a look at right)

And yet, photography tends to be much higher up on the budgetary food chain. Again, I think this harkens back to the public's lack of understanding and media misrepresentation. If people really knew what they were missing as this video becomes a time capsule of two families and a treasure in future years - everyone would book video first. I will go one step further to say that if you only have the budget for one or the other - videography or photography - then get the video. It is possible to extract stills out of a video recording to create a nice journalistic style photo book but you can never extract sound or motion from a photograph. If unobtrusiveness is ultra-important to you (like at a funeral), video stills are definitely the way to go.

Funeral Photo Book
  • Funeral Photobook
  • Funeral Photobook
  • Funeral Photobook


Planning to let an Amateur shoot your event?

Things to Consider.
1: Not everyone likes to work for free. In fact, no one does unless doing so saves them money. Wedding videography is work no matter who is doing it. It's easy to forget that in your obsession to plan the perfectly budgeted wedding but what's motivating you can never motivate them: namely, you get to go home with the love of your life and they just go home. If you do find a friend willing to shoot your wedding on their own camcorder for free, it's probably because they couldn't find a date to the party and they'd rather be busy than lonely.

2: People who have constant duties to perform at your wedding will never be able to relax and enjoy the moment with you. Are you asking your relatives to lay out the food or set up decorations? If you are, who's going to be sitting in the church to watch the ceremony? A bunch of tired, anxious and grumpy people, that's who! You can get professionals for everything now and frankly, even the worst professional is better than "A Friend Video Inc." because if things go wrong with a hired stranger,

you have recourse like a contract and the knowledge that you'll never see them again. BUT if things go wrong with family or friends, there's going to be weirdness between you forever....and ever.....and ever.

Still set on using an amateur?

If you still want to use an amateur, do this: Write him/her a thank-you card containing at least $50 and an apology that you can't give more. This is a dose of respect that will hopefully be reciprocated when your video is done and delivered - electronically. Don't ask for a DVD - just ask for a link. You can make your own DVD copies later. If that doesn't work, give me a call and I can edit the footage for you. You'll be surprised what I can do to improve amateur footage.


Have you ever wondered why darkness looks so dark?

 I have my degree in film production (not theater, not television, not photography). As a result, I shoot weddings and events like a movie. That means I like natural looking light. That also means...

1) I expect you to watch your movie in a darkened theater environment and not on your ipad in broad daylight at the beach. There are times and places to watch a movie and the darkness of a theater is best.

2) The video will look very much the way it did in reality. Outdoor light is bluish, indoor light is a bit yellowish, florescent light is green (avoid this), moonlight is blue. You gradually get used to it when you're living in it but on video it can be surprising.

3. I have a lamp on my camera to use for special moments like cake cutting or first dance (just in case the ambient light is insufficient) but I would never use it all night long. People don't like having light in their faces and if the room is really that dark, my camera light will make your video look like deep sea diving expedition and not a party. (unless that party is on the Titanic, I suppose.)

Example #1:
As a filmmaker, I believe these scenes from The Black Stallion are lit to perfection with a great true-to-life quality. (Cinematography by Caleb Deschanel) This image shows a poker game onboard ship under natural indoor gas lighting. When light is this low, the color of the light is orange. There are two people facing the camera in this shot. Can you see them? One is white and the other is shrouded in black. People often wear black outfits to parties - and you may imagine how invisible they become.
Realistic Interior Film Light
This second image is from an outdoor scene at night in the rain - and that's what it looks like. (That's Mickey Roonie crouched down with the hat). These filmmakers expected their audience to be sitting in a dark movie theater. Realistic Film Lighting Exterior Night

In contrast, here is an image from a famous Warner Brothers cartoon. This was intended to be screened in a dark movie theater full of young children. You'll notice that the artists used shades of blue instead of black for the night sky and the image is generally very bright even though it takes place at night. Here's why:

1) The target audience is comprised of young children who are typically afraid of the dark.
2) It's a comedy show. Darkness tends to convey seriousness which would be inappropriate for a comedy.
3) Hand-drawn cartoon characters are purely fictional and motions are exaggerated. This isn't supposed to be realistic!

And yet, many people (without thinking it through) expect every video to be this bright and evenly lit.

Cartoon Lighting
Hopefully you now understand that you are not a cartoon and why your choices in lighting will translate directly and realistically to film. ("film" has become a generic term for all motion picture media)


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