Audio is King

So you have raised some money or got a new credit card and gone out and bought a Sony FS7. The playblack of the 24p setting and 4K capability looks amazing. Yes – I know.

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And a you got ahold of a Red Rock Micro M2 and a few 35mm lenses – kicking the picture up another seven notches. So you think you’re ready to start shooting? Okay. But what audio solution have you picked-up? If you’ve spent $1,000 on a Sennheiser shotgun mic and another three hundred on headphones, then read no further.

However, if you are like me, when I was new to this – you might have just spent $75 on an external ‘field’ mic hoping that its specs will be more than sufficient for your movie. Well, if that’s the case – think again.

BAD AUDIO WILL KILL YOUR PICTURE FASTER THAN AN INAPPROPRIATE TONGUE-KISS. Watch this —

Alright – that was a bait-and-switch as that was an example of bad acting rather than bad audio. But Resident Evil is considered one of the greatest games ever, yet if you listened to the audio you wouldn’t believe me. Audio matters. Trust me.

I can’t stress too often that in low-budget or micro-budget movies; audio is king. Say it with me: AUDIO IS KING.”

Despite what you may have read or been told – audio will account for a great deal of your picture. The dialogue, which will probably occupy 60-70% of your screen-time is reliant on being crisp, clear and audible. Sure if you messed-up, you can try to fix it in ‘post’ – but the truth is, if you go that route, you are in for a world of pain.

In the immortal words of Aristotle, later appropriated by Mary Poppins : “Well begun is half done.” What does that mean in the case of audio? Well, simply put, you will need THREE things to acheive quality audio on your production. In themselves they don’t seem like much, but together they make for a powerful package.

1) SHOTGUN OR RIFLE MIC
You can spend anywhere from $500 to $1,500 on a shotgun mic and all the extra bits that you might need to run it. Aside from the mic itself, you will need some kind of ‘blimp’ or windshield. Also a boom pole and shock mount. And in some cases you might even need a thing called ‘phantom power’ – which is basically a little box that another battery goes into – to power the mic via long cables. All the extras soon add up. But they are usually worthwhile having and can mostly be purchased inexpensively as ‘used’ items. Myself – I bought an Audio-Technica because of its specs and price point. But I know others who will only use Sennheiser products. So you might want to shop around.

2) HEADPHONES
It makes no sense to have good, clean audio going into your camera, if you are monitoring it with your $20 i-pod headphones. Invest in a pair of ‘pro’ headphones, that feel comfortable. Get ones with good padding and ear coverage. It makes most sense to have headphones with a long cord – which adds to flexibility of use. Again price points range from $130 to considerably more. It is invaluable to be able to monitor your sound effectively.

Check out this reddit post on what headphones to buy.

3) A SOUND PERSON/BOOM OPERATOR
Yes – you can set up your mic on a c-stand or hide it behind a potted plant. And yes – your camera-person can monitor the audio. Don’t get sloppy here. Remember audio is king. If you don’t know an experienced sound person – try to find one on the likes of craigslist. The right individual will be worth their weight in gold. But if you don’t have that individual – find a person with good ears and attention to detail. Let them wrangle the boom and monitor your audio. Do some field tests with them. Remember – a shotgun mic is very sensitive with a narrow ‘cone.’ That means it must be directed correctly for proper reception.

With the above three elements in place, the technical quality of your movie will increase a great deal. So happy shooting and keep making kick arse video productions.

Tips on How to Save for a Wedding

Being a former actuary, I actually know a thing or two about personal finance. I try to hide my background because it’s something I’d like to forget because those were dark times. I remember dreading everyday, coming to work, going to the basement at Insura Tech only to find Blaine stole my stapler again. Those were dark times. Don’t’ ever be an actuary.

I really don’t like to talk about it. I only want to focus on the positive things that I have now. I have my own wedding film company. I know how to shoot the best wedding videos. I make the sweetest videos that get me paid. I don’t have to worry about Blaine or any silly stapler. I have moved on with my life.

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However, sometimes I get too much wine to drink at a wedding, and this is when I revisit the dark times working as an actuary. This is when the subject of how to save, or specifically how to save on a wedding comes up, because inevitably the subject of videography pay rates come up naturally in conversation. And when it does come up, people realize “hey, who best to give budget advice but a former actuary.”

So since I’m a nice guy, and nice guys end up with the sweetest gigs I’ve decided to write down my thoughts on how to save for a wedding.

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Having a wedding budget breakdown can help you get your mind organized when preparing for a wedding. If you are looking for ways to plan your wedding without going overboard on your budget or if you are dealing with a smaller budget, take a look at these tips which you can use as you plan for your special day.

With the help of spread sheets or worksheets you will find that many of them itemize the things that usually incur some expenses. This can be from floral and decors to the attire to food and other expenses at the reception such as music, tents, and so much more.

If you want to save yet have a great day, here are a few more tips that you can use:

  • If you are saving up for that Big Day, you can put your money in the bank to make sure that it is earning interest.
  • Decide on how much your budget really is. If you are thinking about borrowing some money from family, friends, or the bank, you really need to check whether you can afford to pay them back at a set date. You don’t want to be empty-pocketed after your wedding and a wedding budget breakdown will help ensure that.
  • Remember that it is about you and your partner. Wedding planning can be quite busy with so many things to decide on. Remember that your wedding should be the way that you and partner want it to be and not be dictated by what other people say. It’s mostly the marriage that you should be focusing on.
  • Get married off-season. Some dream of being a June bride but getting married in a different season might actually help you save more money. Since it is not peak season, you might be able to find great sales for your attire, venue, flowers, and more.
  • Venue. You might want to check out the university that you graduated from. They might have wonderful locations in which they’ll charge you for with an alma mater price. Have your reception and ceremony done in one place. This will save the costs of transporting guests and just the hassle of getting to and fro. The venue might be given to you at a bargain price because of the hours you spend there. Try to find a location which will minimize decorative costs. For example, if you have a small budget for floral decoration which you so desire, a garden might be the best venue for you.
  • Dress. Do your shopping at least eight months ahead of time. This will help you find the dress you really want and have enough time to get it fixed or have an alternation to make it your dream dress. Go with your personality. Stick to searching for dresses which are in line with your personality or taste. If you love vintage, search in stores that cater these or go directly to these sections in the store. This is about saving time too. Stick with your budget. You can still get your princess dress at an affordable price by checking outlet or discount stores, rent a gown shops, or perhaps your aunt’s closet.
  • Guests. You want to make sure that you have enough food than spending a lot on decorations. The ambiance is important and you should think about special rooms or places that can cater the old and young. Cut your guest list if you have to.

Planning a wedding on a budget can be a lot of fun as you think of different ideas and search for an alternative solution to a challenge. Having and sticking to a budget will be a great help, but remember that a budget doesn’t determine how fun or romantic a wedding is.

The Use of Videography in a Wedding Ceremony

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I was in a trendy, hip Brooklyn neighborhood and came upon one of my favorite restaurants. It wasn’t long ago that I made a conscious decision to leave soul sucking job as as an actuary for an insurance company and pursue my dreams of being a cinematographer. I read got some wedding videography tips and decided to give it a go! So here I am back in my old neighborhood ($2,000 now for a 1-bedroom?!).

I was here to talk to a potential client who wanted to hire me as their wedding videographer. The young couple was a little wishy-washy about the whole process. Like why is it so expensive? Why do we even need a wedding videographer when we’ve got a photographer. And most of all how do we become wedding videographer extraordinaires, like my good friends at 2Bridges Productions?

I genuinely believe that a genuine wedding cinematography can enhance the wedding experience and be shared for generations to come. Especially, if one uses a mix of montage style and documentary style in a wedding film, like my colleagues here:

Videography is a must for any Wedding!

Undeniably the decision of getting married is one of the biggest decisions you ever make in your life. It will also be the most exciting and joyful moment filled with something that you definitely wished to revisit as many times as you can.

To capture all the happy moments of your wedding ceremony will definitely require the services of a professional wedding videographer or in other words we can say it requires a person with huge experience in the cinematography field with a portfolio of great videos to back his claims. No doubt to hire a professional videographer for cinematic wedding video is a bit expensive but the expense is well worth it, because it is the best way to experience your wedding day whenever or wherever you want.

Moreover, photographs are called “still pictures” for a reason. Do still pictures talk? Can they move around like you? Yes – still pictures are beautiful and will etch the wonderful memory of your wedding forever. However, in the hands of a skilled cinematographer (and editor), moving images are even more powerful.

When was the last time you paid $20 to watch a photograph in a dark theater filled with strangers? Now, ask yourself, when was the last time you paid $20 to go to a movie cinema to watch 24 frames of moving images? When was the last time you went on Youtube or watched a cat video on Facebook? Do you even Netflix bro?

There is a reason why video is the most powerful medium today. It is the closest thing to mimicking reality (until virtual reality takes off). Imagine yourself as a 90 year old, and you wanted to revisit your wedding. Which do you think will make you cry more? A still photograph of your twenty year old self? Or a video of you dancing and talking with your loved ones and family?  Video is king.

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Why you need to hire an experienced professional wedding cinematographer to capture your dream moments?

Experience is with no doubt an important part of choosing a wedding videographer because there are a parts of the day that you cannot see, and it’s up to the camera guy or gal to cover different elements of the event. For instance the bride may be interested to see the groom getting ready or anything else. Only a videographer with experience will exactly know how to capture every moment of your ceremony because he has already done it a number of times before.

A professional and experienced wedding videographer will figure out the best points, get the angles right and use his skills to get a master piece with the latest effects. That’s why before you decide to hire a particular videographer it is good to look at a few.

Experience is not sufficient in the world of wedding videography; it is uniformly important to use the latest and greatest tools. An appropriate professional specializing in wedding videography will have the latest camera along with the fresh and latest software which allows him or her to produce high quality video to you. An HD camera shared with dynamic lighting equipment, a high quality microphone and software is the entire tools they need.

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This is why I’m confident that I’m one of the best around to capture an wedding and make it into a cinematic wedding video. After working for so many years as an actuarial insurance specialist, I was able to save enough money to buy the fanciest and best equipment out there.

I use a combination of DSLRs like Black Magic and Sony. My go-to camera of course is the RED camera (but I only bring those out if the client has the budget). For the basic musical montage (my most popular package and the most abundant video on Youtube or Vimeo), I only require basic lights, a Rode mic and a portable DSLR. Since these type of basic videos require only one video shooter, I need to capture all the necessary footage by myself. Hence, it’s really important that I stay mobile and the Black Magic is great for that. Just have your lens bag, pop in your favorite lense and shoot!

For the more complex shoots, I will use a combination of a Black Magic and a RED Weapon camera. I will hire an “intern” (I use that term lightly as they work for free) to use the Black Magic, while I use the RED to capture the wedding ceremony. This is probably overdoing it, but I want to get practice on my RED Weapon so when I’m ready to shoot my first feature film, I’ll definitely be ready (see what I did there?).

Finally, it’s good to show off the RED Weapon every now because it looks cool. I’ve gotten referrals in a wedding by just bringing that beast of a camera out. It impresses the client, gets me practice on my favorite camera and is a hit with the bridesmaids. Win win all the way. Of course, it’s not an inexpensive option, but if a client can afford my RED Camera, I can guarantee amazing results.

A number of options to choose from:

If a couple hires a professional videographer, they can be assured of a great wedding video. However, you need to have a discussion with the videographer about the various options includes delivery of the finished product. If you hire a videographer than he will definitely comes with a number of idea and samples to choose from. Make sure they have the following at a minimum:

  • A DSLR camera (duh!)
  • Basic sound equipment
  • A second camera and crew for complex shoots
  • Lighting equipment for those cinematic shots
  • Editing equipment like Sony Vegas or Adobe Premiere
  • A Van (or some way to get around to carry that equipment)
  • A website or social profile (to see samples of work and see how serious they are at their craft)
  • A Youtube channel or Vimeo (ideally both)

Those are the basics that one should look at when choosing a wedding cinematographer. I have all of these and my equipment is top of the line so I’m the most qualified to shoot any wedding. Finally, to make your special day more special and to re-experience it you need to find a wedding videographer adept in film editing.

You need to take a bit of research from your end and that will make your special day more special. However, the litmus test of a good videographer is the videos he has done in the past. Videography is the best option that will make you re-visit your special day whenever you want.

For the couple that I met the other day at the Brooklyn restaurant, I communicated all this information to them. I explained to them how to choose wisely:

 

I always find that the laid back approach the best. I want to make it as a cinematographer but I’ve found that the car salesman approach doesn’t help close the deal with a potential client. I told them the benefits of wedding cinematography and laid out why I’m the best at it (you gotta be confident!).

I showed them samples of my work on Youtube and Vimeo. I told them about my fancy camera equipment and if they opt for the full package, I can guarantee a full cinematic video that will last a lifetime.

After my pitch and a few beers (the secret sauce of any negotiator), I closed the deal!

Plot twist: This is my first wedding videography gig ever.

Sounds amazing doesn’t it? I’m definitely excited and apprehensive. All that hard work in studying and buying the right equipment has finally paid off. Now I’m ready for a big time career in cinematography!

But all those years pounding away at my calculator at an insurance company paid off big time. I got my expensive equipment to shoot a cinematic wedding video – heck even an indie film. Now, I’m ready to hit the big time. Because fellas – ladies – my life life is simply marvelous.