35 years ago, wedding video meant one thing: A VHS tape of your wedding ceremony, start to finish. You might get some extras, but you could generally count on that tape of your ceremony. Prior to that, if you weren’t a member of the royal family, it’s likely that the only videos that most couples would have of their wedding is a few silent clips of a smiling couple. Film was expensive, and film cameras are noisy, so most couples didn’t opt to have those at their actual wedding ceremonies and relied on those handheld clips from friends or family with a Super 8 hobby.
As technology has advanced, wedding video has changed! There are a ton of options and variety, but there’s also a lack of clarity. Wedding video can refer to so many different products, and there isn’t even agreement within the wedding industry as to what certain terms mean. The important thing is that clients should know exactly what they are getting when they purchase a wedding video.
I can’t say this enough: watch sample videos and get a contract!
You should always review samples that are provided on a vendors website. Ask that vendor if what is on their website is representative of the package you are thinking of purchasing. Many vendors put only their best work on their website and don’t necessarily include samples of their more basic packages. If you ask, they can easily share with you another wedding that is more representative of the package you are thinking of booking. You may find that you’re happy with that base package, or you may see enough of a difference to upgrade to a package that is more like the portfolio work shared on their website.
Most of us who provide full ceremony edits don’t publish those on our website. However, don’t assume that a full ceremony edit is something that will be provided. This is something that should be detailed in your contract. If it’s not, ask about it. Many couples hire a videographer who specializes in short films then are disappointed after the wedding to find there is no full video of their ceremony.
Wedding Video Styles
If you go to any wedding videographer’s website, you’ll find that most of us list a Highlight Film as our main product. But ask 10 videographers what a Highlight Film is, and you ‘ll get 10 different answers. Each of those will have a collection of filmmaking vocabulary that doesn’t always mean the same thing from one filmmaker to another.
Video Montage vs. Narrative Film
A growing number of photo/video hybrid shooters (and even some straight video shooters) currently offer a short video set to music: a video montage. This video doesn’t include any audio of the vows or toasts, but may include some clips of big moments from the ceremony (entrances, ring exchange, kiss). Events may or may not occur in the chronological order of the day. Clips are usually not assembled in such a way as to tell the story of the day, simply to provide a visual overview of the events and details of the day.
Narrative films will include both audio and visuals from the day and blend them in such a way that tells the story of the day. At MotionWorks, we view the audio components at your wedding as half of our product. We’re intentional to capture great audio at your ceremony and reception, as well as candid audio throughout the day.
Even for our teaser films, while we don’t often use those very best bits of audio, we still assemble our clips in a narrative format. We want our teasers to be true teaser: don’t give away TOO much of the awesomeness of the wedding day, show just enough that you’ll be excited to see the full film when it comes out!
Documentary Style vs. Documentary Edit
This is one of my pet peeves: I hate to hear ‘documentary style’ described as boring. Personally, I *love* a well-made documentary. Documentary style films (both wedding films and others) can also be cinematic, emotional, and compelling. Documentary style simple refers to the filmmaking style in which the filmmaker does not direct the action or events of the day, simply captures events as they happen. A documentary style edit will not edit the film in such a way as to change the overall story. At MotionWorks, we lean toward a documentary style of filmmaking, though we aren’t 100% documentary shooters. We don’t ask subjects prompted questions during filming, we don’t request that you read things out loud. We definitely NEVER interrupt the flow of events to give direction. We occasionally will take a few minutes after portraits or a first look to get some close-up details or artistic shots and may provide some light direction for those few minutes. If the schedule of the day is a bit rushed, we may ask for just a few extra seconds to set up before some of the events during the prep part of the day (a first look, the bride getting dressed, gift exchanges, etc) but we generally can manage this with meticulous planning, and ask for a simple heads up for spontaneous events.
A documentary edit is a linear, chronological edit of an event. These edits are not creatively manipulated but can include multiple angles. The filmmaker will create the edit by cutting between the angles to feature the best angle for that section of the event. Filmmakers who use multiple angles will have more options to cut between as to avoid blocked shots and unflattering angles. At MotionWorks, our wedding packages include a documentary edit of both your ceremony and any toasts/speeches that are given at your reception. Originally, this was something we offered as an add-on to our basic package, but over the years we found that it was something all of our clients wanted, so we made it standard. We have 3-4 cameras at most of our events, which gives us a good selection of shots to choose from for this edit.
Cinematic vs. Traditional
The vast majority of wedding filmmakers are now creating cinematic films. This simply means that the wedding films they create have a similar style to movies that you might see in the theater. Clips are often much shorter. Watch a movie, and count how long each clip is. Most of them are less than 7 seconds. Filmmakers often use a variety of techniques to create smooth camera motion, while traditional wedding video will often rely on longer shots from cameras locked down on tripods or stands. Depth of field is often utilized to direct attention to an in-focus subject and a nicely blurred background.
None of these are hard and fast rules. For every one of these details, I can name a superb wedding filmmaker who chooses not to use motion, or prefers longer shots, or doesn’t like a shallow depth of field, who still creates beautifully cinematic wedding films. You can also find a legion of people who include all of these characteristics but still produce a less than cinematic product due to a lack of quality.
Wedding Video Trends
I am a bit of a stickler for not heavily following trends. Personally, I prefer wedding films that have a timeless, classic quality because I hope that when they are watched in the future, they won’t be dated by the shooting and editing trends we choose. I also want the films on our website to continually represent a consistent style so that clients know that the style of film that they see when booking their film is the same as the style of a film they will receive a year later when we’re filming their wedding.
If you are considering a highly stylistic wedding film, it’s likely that you are doing so because you like that specific style. Consider whether you’ll like it in a year or two and if so, confirm with the filmmaker that is the style you’ll receive for your wedding edit. Trends change fast, and a trendy filmmaker may have moved on to a completely different style by the time your wedding rolls around. This could also work to your benefit if you hire someone purely on their artistic merit and trust them to create a cutting-edge film for you.
It’s important to find a filmmaker that matches your personal style. Asking someone to create a film that doesn’t match their own style never ends well for either party.
For the past two years, slow motion has ruled the wedding industry. I definitely see how it can add to an emotional moment, and sometimes slowing things down a bit can add to a soft, dreamy quality of the day. Like all good things, it can definitely be overused, so we’re very cautious to only use the effect in small portions when we feel it adds to the emotion of the day. Speed ramping, where the filmmaker may edit a clip to go from slow to fast, or fast to slow, is another technique that has become increasingly popular over the past several years.
Color is another big trend over the past 5 years. From dark and moody, to light and airy; from the #lookslikefilm styles that accentuate teal and amber or flat gray greens, color is all over the board. When reviewing wedding films, be sure to check that each film is consistent and matches the style you prefer. We use a classic color look on our films; colors appear as close as possible as they did to your eye on your wedding day.
Editing programs have taken the once tedious process of cutting and splicing film and become a digital studio that is limited only by the imagination of the editor. Extremely stylized transitions and looks are edgy one day and overdone the next. Currently, I’m seeing a lot of slow cross dissolves that lend a double exposure look, actual double exposures, and flashy, fast transitions. While we do use these in some of our other art films, we still prefer a classic, clean edit for our wedding films. As much as I love these effects now, in 15 years, they will have all the class of a 1980’s star wipe.
If you’re currently checking our wedding video vendors, I’d love to chat with you more about our filmmaking process and how we can create a timeless, heirloom film that you’ll enjoy on your first anniversary, and on your 5oth! Start the conversation today!