What to know before booking a “full ceremony” video

There is a misconnection when it comes to full ceremony videos. Many couples believe that it’s easier and cheaper to just get a full video of the ceremony instead of a creative edit. While there may be some truth to that, it depends on your expectations. I’m going to break down how it all works so you can make an informed decision when hiring a wedding videographer.

The basic setup 

Let’s start with the basic setup. You can set up a camera in the back of the ceremony to capture the whole wedding. This is one wide angle shot that shows the whole stage. This is referred to as a “safety shot” by videographers. No matter where people stand, they’ll always be in the camera frame. Some venues offer this because they already have the setup ready to go. Check to see if your venue has a sound system that can record for the best audio. If you rely on the camera’s built in audio, your wedding will sound distant and echoey. 

Safety Shot

When you hire a professional videographer, this should not be what they offer. If this is all you need, see if you can rent a camera or have a friend set this up for you. If you do hire a professional videographer for this, make sure they have lapel mics. These are mics that are directly placed and concealed on the groom and/or officiant.

Fundamentals: Choosing Between Lavalier and Headset Mics
A lapel mic

The Standard Setups

Most companies will offer 3 camera setups but some will only offer two. Two cameras are not ideal but can work. Three cameras are standard. There are a couple different ways these can be setup which give you very different videos. A very important question is how many videographers they have. Though technically one person can accomplish the job, you risk a high chance of error. In a perfect world, you want someone monitoring every camera. That said, most companies will staff two people. Two videographers is the sweet spot for quality and price.

Let’s talk about types of camera angles. There are two main ways videographers will handle the cameras. The first way is called a “static” angle. This means the camera is placed on a tripod and never moves. This allows a videographer to leave the camera unmanned.

There are different names for the second angle, but many people call it a “floater” angle. This means the camera is always moving. This requires someone to man the camera. What’s the benefit of a floating camera? It allows the videographer to get different angles and focus on points of interest.

Two Cameras

Let’s say you hire one videographer with two cameras. If he sets up a safety shot and floats the second camera, he/she can get a close up of the bride giving her vows. Then he/she can cut to the safety shot to reposition the camera for a close up of the groom giving his vows. If you’re on a budget, this might be the best option as you’ll get a film that focuses on what’s important.

Two static camera set up

Now let’s talk about the disadvantages and risks associated with the above example. If you have one videographer, the safety shot will be unmanned. This allows for some very common issues that obstruct the safety shot.

  • Camera positioning: if the videographer misunderstands where the wedding party will be standing, the camera may not have them framed right. It can also lead to an out of focus, or blurry looking, image. Worst of all, a guest may accidentally stand in front of and block that camera’s view.
  • Large windows or outdoor weddings leave a lot of room for lighting issues. If it’s a cloudy day, the camera may be exposed for a darker situation. When the sun comes back out, suddenly everyone on camera looks like white ghosts.
  • Someone could accidentally bump the camera. This isn’t common but it could happen. If it does, the videographer can’t correct it because he isn’t manning the camera.
  • You can’t get good reactions from the bride and groom seeing each other for the first time. The videographer has to decide who to get a close shot of. In most cases, they videographer will focus on the bride because the groom is facing the safety camera.

3 Camera setup

With a three camera setup, your videographer(s) may either have 3 static angles (one on the bride, groom and a safety) or 2 static angels and a floater. This reduces the risk significantly as you’ll have another camera to cut to if the other two don’t have a good angle.

Three static camera set up

The best setup for this is to have a camera on the groom, a safety full-stage camera, and a floater camera. This will make sure you get the groom’s reaction and the bride walking down the aisle. If you only have one videographer, the groom may step out of frame from his static camera. Without two videographers, you run a high risk of missing the groom’s reaction.

The Advanced Setup

The advanced setup uses 4 cameras to ensure everything is captured. I wouldn’t recommend this be done by only one videographer. We use a 2 person and 4 camera setup when we capture full ceremony videos. You can see what that looks like below.

When running four cameras, you get static cameras on the bride, groom, and the full stage ceremony shot. On top of that, you have a floating camera that brings attention to details and gets close up shots of speakers.

Why you may not need a full wedding film at all

Most full edits should be fairly standard given the variables we talked about. However, creative edits vary significantly. Most companies should offer a creative edit. This showcases all the moments throughout the day. It’s important to hire someone that has a portfolio that aligns with what you like. Some creative edits are only edited to music. Make sure your videographer is recording speeches if you want that in your film.

Are you on the fence when it comes to getting full ceremony coverage? The following advice varies depending on what company you hire. When getting a creative edit, the videographer rolls the camera on the most important speeches. The mindset of shooting a full ceremony and a story film are quite different. Full ceremony films require the videographer to always have a clean angle at every moment to create one seamless video. That means a solo shooter has to make the safest choice rather than the best choice. Safe choices are further away, less intimate, and don’t get detailed up close shots of things like putting on your rings.

How a film can look better while staying in budget

When our company shoots creative edits, the videographer makes judgment calls on where to focus the camera. All the audio is still recorded separately. This means the videographer can get a close up on the person talking and then pan down to get a close up of the rings. He/she can cut out the camera movements so everything feels smooth. The speeches can be overlaid on other footage throughout the day. Below is an example of what our single shooter can accomplish with one camera.

As you can see from the above example, a creative edit doesn’t capture the whole wedding ceremony and speeches in their entirety. It does, however, showcase the big moments. If you want to capture the full ceremony and toasts, you’ll want to get a package that includes it. If you just want to relive the overall experience, a creative edit is your best choice. You can also get both if you want. Hope this has helped you understand the differences when picking ceremony coverage. Make sure to ask your videographer how he or she plans to film it before you book them.

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