The 21st-Century Wedding Movie: Grab the Popcorn
Few things about weddings have changed more in recent years than the wedding film. Sure, photos are now digital and guests are sharing events on social media, but the wedding video has grown up and become the wedding film.
This Is Not Your Mother’s Wedding Video
The cinematic wedding film 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 then: 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 now: The cinematic wedding film is shot and edited more like a movie or a modern TV show. The cameramen look for telling moments and details. They use framing and lighting, camera movement, varied lenses and editing to help tell the story. Typically there are at least two camerapersons, 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 forcing you to skim through a video to find them—the cinematic wedding film 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 that tells a story and evokes an emotion.
Why do we call it a film if it’s not shot on film? Most of the movies you see in the theater today are shot with digital video cameras rather than film. It’s not about the technology as much as it is about the techniques.
But I Already Have a Photographer
Posed portraits of you, your family and friends 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; your young nephew’s chafing at his first tie; the unposed shared glance between your parents as they dance. Photographs can’t capture your 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-minutes to 2, 3 or more hours. By contrast, depending on the studio and the wedding, the modern cinematic wedding feature is typically 8-to-25-minutes long. Cinematic wedding film studios also typically offer a highlights film of 2-to-7-minutes—perfect for sharing on Facebook or YouTube with distant friends.
Afraid that the shorter films 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-plus wedding video, how likely are you to watch it all the way through without skimming? You know the answer by how you watch YouTube and music videos: A well-edited, short 3-to-5-minute movie can actually communicate a lot more about how your day felt than a 45-minute-plus video.
How to Select a Wedding Filmmaker
Ultimately, it comes down to finding someone whose work, pricing and personality/approach meshes with you. It’s your wedding day, and you want to make sure the moments that make up your day are captured. But here are some things to think about as you start your search.
- Decide if you prefer a documentary or a cinematic approach, and choose people who specialize in the style you prefer.
- Is film just an add-on for a photography business, or does the company focus on cinematic film production? Photographers don’t have to think about things like sound equipment, getting smooth camera motions, how to choose a frame rate or how to choose an effective licensed music track. You might save money getting a combined package, but is the company really committed to film…or do they treat it like an add-on?
- Look at sample films online. Are all of the studio’s films from a ‘cookie cutter’ mold—using the same music and the same repertoire of shots so all the weddings look 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 complete stranger’s wedding film without clicking away, that’s a company to consider.
- Read reviews or ask previous couples how the company was as a collaborator. Do you want someone who will give you a lot of direction to make the perfect film, or someone who will work quietly in the background so that they can capture candid moments as your day unfolds?
- Talk to the filmmaker. Does he or she seem to get you as a couple? Will you be comfortable having this person following you around all day during your wedding?
This article was originally published in slightly different form by Windy City Times.