The most stressful part of my day!
Having been filming weddings for around a year and a half now, in a variety of venues with different lighting, space, capacity etc, I have developed my ideal way to film a ceremony to get the best angles but crucially being as unobtrusive as possible!
There's a lot of people to consider when filming a wedding - the couple, the officiant, the guests, the photographer - all of whom may be irritated by seeing a videographer moving around during such an intimate time. With this in mind, I use a set up that is aimed at allowing me to remain as still as possible for the majority of the ceremony. This results in me using 4 cameras! Yes, I know what you're thinking - 4 cameras?! Surely that's even worse?! Well, by using telephoto (long/highly zoomed in) lenses, I can put 3 of these cameras on tripods as far back as the room allows.
Ideally, I will have my first camera on a tripod up the very back of the room - most people won't even see this one. This is my "safe" angle, capturing the officiant and both the bride and groom. Something I am considering for future weddings, or for tighter venues, is to use a wide angle lens on this camera, to capture the whole area. My only reservation with this option is it then really does become just a safety angle, and won't really fill a purpose for the ceremony video other than filling space when my other cameras don't have an angle that could be used. My second camera, also on a tripod, would be positioned out to the side, positioned on the groom's face, to capture his reactions and spoken parts from the ceremony. My third camera would mirror this but for the bride. With both of these also being on telephoto lenses, it makes the positioning of these cameras crucial. If I'm not positioned pretty close to perfectly with them, the angle of view could look really off, or I may end up being positioned more towards a bridesmaid or groomsman!! Not what I'm after! My final camera is on my gimbal, and the one I can move around with when needed. The only time this is used during the ceremony is to get the bride walking down the aisle, the signing of the marriage license, the first kiss (always worth trying to get a few angles of this just in case!!) and then the exit from the ceremony. With the gimbal camera I typically use a slightly wider angle lens as it's far easier to get a smooth movement and if essential, I can always move closer.
So with so many cameras, why is the ceremony the most stressful part of the day for me? It's more the build up. When I arrive, I initially get my tripods into a rough position of where I think will be appropriate. However, until the groom has arrived I can't be too sure. There's also a good chance he will re-position himself once the bride has arrived, or that one of the bridesmaids will have stood somewhere blocking the camera, so even with setting it up as soon as he is there, it doesn't mean it's going to be right. I don't want to be moving around during a ceremony so it's always stressful in the initial moments to try and get round each camera quickly but unobtrusively to check my framing and focus. Typically, the way I do this is I stand at the front while the bride is coming down the aisle. When she is in position, I peel off to the camera at the side for the groom, check my focus and composition here, then head to the camera at the back, do my checks there, and finally move to the camera for the bride and do my checks. Once those three have been checked, I can stand back, out the way, and allow the ceremony to proceed as low-key as possible. Ahead of the ceremony, if I get the chance, I'll explain to the photographer(s) what my set-up is, and because I have three angles at all times, I have no issue with them standing in front of any camera to get a shot or two at an point during the ceremony - so long as they don't stand there indefinitely!! I also request that the side angles remain clear if possible when each of the couple are saying their vows, as that's the most important part of the ceremony video and those angles for me become crucial. All the photographers I've worked with have been extremely accommodating with this, and it's fantastic to be able to work alongside so many reasonable people in what is a highly stressful environment!
Another reason the build up to the ceremony is extremely stressful for me is the audio side. For anyone who doesn't know, audio from the camera's themselves is terrible, and you'd never want to use that unless you had no other option. Shotgun microphones to sit on top of the camera do improve the quality a bit, but the trouble is if the shotgun microphone is not close to the subject speaking, the gain will have to be so high it degrades the quality significantly. So for me, the closer the microphone is to the speaker, the better the quality will be. For this reason, I use some Zoom H1 recorders with lapel microphones attached as my main source of audio in the ceremony. I will usually try to put one on anyone speaking during the ceremony, but prioritise: the groom, the officiant, and anyone doing a reading. I "only" have four Zoom H1 recorders, so if there are multiple people doing a reading, or they are females wearing a dress with no pockets (and therefore difficult to mic up), I will look for a stand or table that I can place a Zoom H1 on and point it towards roughly where they will be standing when doing their reading. This doesn't result in as good an audio recording as a lapel microphone, but is good enough for the short time they'll be speaking and again allows me to remain very unobtrusive. With the groom and the officiant wearing lapel microphones, one of these will be close enough to the bride to get a good recording of her audio as well, so there's no need to mic up the bride! If the venue uses microphones themselves, I usually still try to apply everything already mentioned, but additionally will ask to plug my Zoom H4n pro into their sound board to get a recording of everything that's said into any microphones. This is usually a brilliant option as it covers everything, but I like having the back up of the lapel microphones too just in case something goes wrong with the sound board recording (I am never comfortable relying on sound boards for some reason! Never had an issue with them to this date so I don't know why!). The stress in the build up comes from trying to locate all of the people I want to put a microphone on! Fortunately the battery life is long enough to last for hours and hours so battery life isn't a worry. I usually try to locate those needing a microphone moments before the bride is due to come in - I typically ask for a couple of minutes to go and mic up the groom and officiants just prior to the bride coming in and usually I find there is time for this - but it's still stressful with all the moving parts.
The final stress is typically straight after they've walked out, as usually there will be a confetti shot or some form of celebration immediately after the ceremony, but I need to stop the recording on possibly up to eight devices!! Again, this is not a huge issue as they are usually all within close proximity to each other - if the sound board is a long way away or hidden in a cupboard I'll just leave this recording and sort out later.
Once the ceremony is complete I let out a big sigh of relief and my stress levels reduce significantly!!