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On Assignment: At The Reception Tweet This   Forward This

5 July 2013

We had tried to tour the reception room the day before the wedding with the father of the groom. But it was being used for a business meeting. So we got our first look at it as we entered the door with the tripod.

An L-shaped room, the action was going to be in the small end, with round dinner tables packed into the longer end of the L. But the small end was crowded. Going clockwise from the main door and around the dance floor, there was the reception table where the gifts would pile up, the bar (which would be busy all night) the DJ's table and the table with the cake.

We scratched our head a while.

What was going to happen when? We had no idea. There had been a wedding planner on the premises but we couldn't find her at the reception.

In fact, we found out only by accident that the wedding party was going to dance their way into the room accompanied by their introductions from a master of ceremonies.

Reception. A look at the dining area from the DJ's table.

We'd stepped out of the restroom into the hall only to find the entire wedding party lined up there. "What are you guys doing here?" we asked the groom. And he filled us in.

INTROS | Back to Contents

So we dashed into the room, moved the tripod we had stashed into a corner by the reception table to a spot just on the side of the door, facing the dance floor. We could pan from a close-up of each couple as they entered the room to catch their dance as they were introduced.

Across from us, though, was the other still photographer, Marisa Bettencourt. We made a hand signal to her to make sure we were out of her shot and she nodded everything was fine.

Then she jogged over to point out that one of our tripod legs was a foot from the door. "In the excitement, someone might not see it," she pointed out. We thanked her and twisted the tripod until the leg was out of the way.

It helps to make friends.

Panning, as we noted in our previous piece, is not something this still tripod was designed to do. We loosened the lock and would have crossed our fingers, but they were busy.

We wouldn't have planned to pan but the intros -- and our position in the room -- demanded it. The couples came in on our left, tight to the camera, swung out onto the dance floor and took their place far to our left in front of the cake. We had to pan. And it worked out well to our surprise.

FIRST DANCE | Back to Contents

Our relief was short-lived (perhaps even only retroactive) because just as we finished catching the entrance of the bridge and groom, the MC announced their first dance.

Already? Yes, already.

First Twirl. We couldn't move from the door to catch the first dance, which happened immediately after the couple was introduced.

Fortunately we were a bit trapped against the wall by the tripod so we hadn't gone anywhere. We lined up the camcorder and turned it on. Then we grabbed the still camera to shoot our second camera video. We didn't want to miss this.

Flower Girl. Don't worry, Kim the bridesmaid (seen in the Twirl shot above next to her John, the bride's brother) danced with her later -- for what seemed like hours.

After the dance, the action moved into the dining area in the long part of the L-shaped room. We moved the tripod to a corner of the room, took the camcorder off the tripod, dropped it into the bag and, with the still camera in the other hand, made our way to our table.

TOASTS | Back to Contents

Just in time, that is, for the toasts. But who knew?

We put the bag down and quickly started capturing video on the still camera. It was the matron of honor's speech. She's the one who owns the camcorder and here we were capturing her speech on the still camera.

We didn't realize it at the time, but she wasn't going to be able to see her speech when we gave her back the camcorder. In fact, it will look like we missed it.

Taking Notes. During the toasts, the couple laughed and cried under cover of darkness.

But her video was the best of the three toasts. We switched to the camcorder but it had a hard time focusing in the low light. We panned a few times ostensibly to catch reactions but we were really hoping to refocus, too.

Why was the light so low? The speeches took place in the dining area where the speaker was surrounded by the tables. But there was no light on them. If you don't could the red Exit sign. The still photographers resorted to flash. We just kept the camcorder running. It's the audio that counts in a toast, after all.

And it was terrific audio.

Matron of Honor. She welcomed her new little brother to the family.

The matron of honor welcomed her new brother-in-law, an only child, to the family as his new big sister, who had his back.

The father of the bride gave a lovely toast, complimenting the groom (and his upbringing) for having asked for his blessing, a blessing for something he had wanted a long, long time.

And the best man, who was also the groom's father, sweetly promised these two dear people that love would be all they needed to best any difficulties life threw in their way.

To which even the videographer raised a glass.


The dark room made it difficult to focus but focus wasn't our only problem with the Sony. We had had a little trouble with, of all things, exposure, too. The touch screen lets you tap the area you want to focus on and set exposure for and that got us out of trouble a couple of times but we just weren't sure why exposure had drifted so far from where it should have been.

We didn't have that kind of trouble with the still camera because we were familiar with it. If it had a power zoom (and an articulated LCD), it would have been a superior solution. Although we avoided zooming in general (that's Rule 1 in the videographer's book).

That surprised us but the evidence was clear.

One other advantage the still camera had over the camcorder was pixel aspect ratio. The still camera made undistorted frame grabs, which we plan to use in the final video, while the camcorder distorted the stills. We worked around that (as in this report) but it took a few extra steps.

So our bias toward using a camcorder needs a little updating.

CHECKLIST | Back to Contents

If you're checking things off the groom's list of the things he wanted captured, you know we're going pretty well by now, with only a few things left.

Dinner came first and we were glad to shut everything off for a few minutes, indulge in the watermelon and feta salad and sharpen our knife for the main course. The help doesn't often eat this well, we knew.

Father/Daughter Dance. Sony capture (between a couple of flash-illuminated frames.

That's when we realized that in all our focused preparation for the video, we'd forgotten to bring the present. It wasn't on the checklist.

So between courses, we slipped away to the hotel room in the next building over, got the present and returned for the main course.

Mother/Son Dance. Olympus capture, handheld.

THE CAKE | Back to Contents

When the MC announced the cutting of the cake, we moved the tripod between the and the DJ's table. Well, in front of the DJ's table. We turned around to ask him if we were in his way and Skip Donnelly graciously tells me it's no problem. Later he wonders if we're working with the still photographers, everything has gone so smoothly.

The Cake. The wedding's nautical theme included the perls on top of the cake with the couple's initial. The bride is a designer.

They shot the cake cutting up close so we weren't in their way or even in their shots. We made sure of that. And again, we took the still camera to another view of the scene to shoot secondary video.

DANCING | Back to Contents

Next we shot the dance of the groom with his mother and the bride with her father, using the still camera to catch reactions.

During the tossing of the garter and the bouquet hurl, the camcorder shot the groom and the bride and the still camera bopped handheld on the single men and single women. We were getting the hang of this one man/two camera trick.

Bouquet Toss. The flower girl didn't stand a chance.

Garter Toss. The camcorder followed the groom while the still camera video caught the hopefuls.

We'd have to put the scene together in post-production, but it was great to have a couple of camera angles to work with for so many of the shots.

Then the shoes came off, the lights got crazy and the volume went up as everyone danced. We handled that much like we had the fly-over during cocktail hour. Casually.

But there wasn't really enough light to get clear video so after a few clips, we resorted to a few stills before turning off the cameras.

A Happy Bride. Just a break in the action, though. The night was still young.

But by then -- with two long audio files, 113 stills and 107 video clips from two cameras -- we'd captured what the groom had asked us to capture. And even if the night was still young, we were not. We found a chair and counted our blessings.

Two of them had just married each other.

(Editor's Note: This is the third of a four-part series on shooting a wedding video. Links to the other stories are in the main table of contents at the top right of each story.)

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