Wedding Videography Dev Log

The point of this ever-growing blog post

The idea here is to make a “development” or “lessons” log of all the tips & tricks that I learn along with every milestone I hit… or just simply everything that I learn along the way.

I’ll log this in REVERSE CHRONOLOGICAL ORDER because I’m assuming once I’m only a few logs in, it’ll be hard for anyone to see when it was last updated.


January 2019 – Successfully Delivering Packages

Shortly after the holidays are over, people slowly return to reality. Some people make “New Years Resolutions”. Unfortunately, those are all non-scientific fluff and statistically these Resolutions rarely work out. So, I wrote a blog named “2019 is the year of “Less Stuff”. It explains my intents for the upcoming year. It also reflects a bit on 2018… and my lack of accomplishments during that year.

Delivery #1

As of January 9th, 2019, after all the bumps in the road, our 2nd wedding ever produced was delivered. In-person, on a USB flash drive to the bride, Anne.

The moments following the hand-off have you hoping you technically did everything correctly and that creatively, everyone enjoys your work. But then that moment passes and you move on to completing the next wedding for the next couple.

Here’s the first 2018 wedding video!

Price Corrections

Defiant Sheep’s first wedding was one that we produced in 2017 as a demo. The one that just got delivered was our second wedding video ever, but first of the 2018 batch.

Though we got paid $2500 for that initial 2017 wedding video, we didn’t raise our prices in 2018. That price raise would reflect the amount of equipment, skill, stress, time, and overall work that goes into wedding videos. This month, we adjusted our prices to something that math has dictated what our current worth is. Our lowest package is now $4000 + HST (Canadian Dollars) and our top package is $6000 + HST.

Looking at those prices after having done our accounting for the last year makes me laugh. Our top line wasn’t nearly enough and that’s exactly why. We weren’t charging enough. We kept on thinking our work wasn’t good enough but also didn’t want to miss out on being paid. Because I personally don’t have much of a fallback plan, I was stuck. I had to take pretty much whichever work or clients came my way. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have any money coming in.


December 2018 – Heart Attacks and Holidays

However much you plan to get done during the holidays, always expect other things to get in your way. These “other things” typically aren’t “bad things” but they are distracting things.

The Balancing Act

As a freelancer/small business owner, you have to decide which battles to choose and which things to give up. Spending some time with family and friends is VITAL. The time that you sacrifice with family and friends is the time that you’ll never get back. So I’ve learned to take it while you can. Yes, you have to maintain a balance between personal time and working to make sure your business continues to run. However, the holidays are a fantastic excuse to live life.

My Grandmother’s Heart Attack

It just so happens that my grandmother, Nora, had a HUGE heart attack during the month of December. That’s an example of an “other thing” being a “bad thing”.
Bad news: it was pretty traumatic. She had to be resuscitated four times on the way to the hospital in Newmarket, Ontario.
Good news: she still beat everyone in cards mere DAYS after her heart attack and she’s as sassy as ever. Side-note: 3-13 is their current favourite card game. Along with that, we got some amazingly emotional stories. One, in particular, makes me tear up:

After the initial action-packed scramble to keep Nora alive, it was quiet at the hospital. My grandfather, Peter, was found holding her hand, saying “you can’t leave me… I love you too much.” She used all the energy she could muster up to squeeze his hand in acknowledgement.

Sometimes it take a dramatic event to jolt people out of their day-to-day routines and into an appreciative mindset.

So, on the side of wedding editing, not much happened during this month.


November 2018 – Outsourcing & Financial Realities

When you have to deliver a lot of content for various projects at all at once, outsourcing is key.

Outsourcing the Editing

Outsourcing the initial editing to someone is what I’m talking about here. Someone who is not attached to the footage nor the couple. This unattached person can be an important part of creating a better final product in a shorter period of time.

In my top wedding video package, the couple gets:

  • Highlight Film (typically 5-10 minutes)
  • Ceremony video (great audio and 3-4 cameras)
  • Speeches (great audio and 2-3 cameras)
  • Dances (3 cameras)

I don’t actually outsource the last three items on the list –ceremony, speeches, or dances (multicam edits). Those items are more technical than creative and I can work my way through them fairly efficiently and quickly.

The problem for me is when there is a complicated edit which I am personally attached to. Inherently, I’ve been with the couple throughout their wedding day and want the best possible product for them. Rough drafts can’t be “perfect” and so this is difficult for me.

That’s where having a third-party come in and take control of the initial edit comes in. In doing so, they can provide me with an “almost complete” version of the edit. From there, I can finalize the entire product easier, better, and faster. It helps everyone!

Outsourcing means I still do work

Once I get the initial rough edit back from my editor(s), I still need to do the following:

  • decisions to keep certain shots or trash others that don’t work (also known as Killing Babies or Killing Your Darlings)
  • change the timing of cuts or create entirely new ones
  • do all the audio work and choosing which channels and audio devices have the best audio samples
  • colour grade every single clip and sequence
  • add titling and credits if needed
  • finalize the edit
  • deliver the content

As you can see, even though I’m outsourcing the initial edit, I’m not handing off the entire project. I’m just offloading a lot of the initial work to someone else and then finishing off the edit.

Financial Realities of Wedding Videography

Payment to these third-party contractors is the cost of doing business. With everything involved with wedding video production, I’m not making much in the end. Especially for the amount we’ve been charging.

So much time is involved in Wedding Video Services that most people don’t consider. Here’s a list of some examples… and I’ve probably missed some:

  • insurance
  • transportation
  • hiring a second shooter
  • video gear
  • audio gear
  • drone/UAV pilot lessons (did you know Transport Canada requires these courses and it’s illegal to operate commercially without these?)
  • pilot certification for the drone/UAV
  • insurance for the drone/UAV (not cheap)
  • supporting accessories
    • batteries
    • filters
    • tripods
    • sliders
    • steadicams/gimbals
    • shoulder rigs
    • mount adapters
    • lens adapters
    • lighting
    • extension cords
    • cases and/or bags for all of the above
    • trollies
  • storage space x3
  • data backup solutions
  • hiring an editor
  • editing rigs
  • software costs
  • all the small things (USB drives to deliver footage on for example)
  • and finally, the depreciation of that gear. Knowing that every couple of years you’ll need entirely new gear and get a minimal return for your used gear.

Put simply, from the first sit-down and consultation with each bride and groom to the final delivery takes many, many days of manhours, tens of thousands of dollars of equipment, along with the costs of running a legitimate business. Suddenly $4000-6000 doesn’t seem like much to ask for.


October, 2018 – Editing

Editing’s where I’m at right now so that’s where we’re starting. I have a lot to say about the actual production but that will come later. As for editing, here’s what I’ve learned about managing five wedding edits. 

The excitement of file organization

Oh man, you must be ABSOLUTELY RIVETED after reading that heading! You must be thinking “THIS IS WHAT I’VE BEEN WANTING TO LEARN ABOUT SINCE POPPING INTO THIS WORLD! FINALLY BEN HAS THE ANSWERS! This is the most exciting topic! Thanks Ben!” 
Off the bat, I’d like to say “no problem and thank you for your kind words!”. 

Annnyyyway, although some might find File Organization excruciatingly annoying, tedious, and boring, I find that it’s one of my guilty pleasures along with storage management as a whole. 

This is how my files and folders inside my Media Folder for weddings used to look:

Backups

I would dump the files to deal with later on. And that’s actually fine, especially because once I’ve finished dumping all the assets on to the hard drives from the SD cards, I duplicate those hard drives as a backup. Then I go back and double quadruple check that I’ve copied everything from those SD cards before deleting the files on them.

Just a reminder that if you only have files in ONE LOCATION, THEY’RE NOT SAFE and are essentially on the edge of a cliff and could be wiped off the face of this planet just… like… that. One hard drive malfunction and that extremely valuable footage is lost. SO ALWAYS BACKUP YOUR DATA TO MORE THAN ONE LOCATION!

Organizing files into folders

After all that, only then do I begin organizing those files into three main folders, “Ceremony”, “Speeches”, and “Dances”. Those are the multi-cam sequences that need to be synced for each wedding… But everything else? Yeah, all those other B-Roll files kinda just stayed in a mess of folders for me to sort through during the compiling processes (before the “editing” really begins).

This is how my files and folders look now: 


Yaaaasssssssss ORGANIZATION! CLARITY!

DOESN’T THAT LOOK SO MUCH MORE UNDERSTANDABLE?! I think it does! And if you can’t appreciate it, that’s entirely alright with me… but you can at least see what “parts of the day” I have and know what to expect when you click on each folder. It won’t be a surprise because YOU CAN READ WHAT’S IN THERE! This applies to me as well.

I have 01 through 13 as the start of those folder names so that I can EASILY SORT THEM from the beginning of the day to the end of the day instead of having to search up and down, using a list that’s alphabetically sorted. I do this with a lot of my files in all other parts of my life as well. Forced file sorting order is valuable and saves a lot of time!

As you can see, the first shots of the day are that of the “01 Bride Prep” and “02 Groom Prep”… and then we go right on over to the Ceremony! After that, we do what I think is the more important B-Roll section of the day (where we get all the most spectacular cinematic visuals), the “04 Post-Ceremony Photo-Video Shoot”. And then there are nine more folders that go to the end of the day. I think you get the idea though. 


September 2018 – PACKAGE OFFERINGS LESSON #1

I have 5 wedding edits with varying packages.

I may only offer one package next year because I can see why other wedding productions do that… because:  

  1. Keeping those packages straight is difficult for both clients and myself
  2. Even on the least expensive package, my time on the day of is still around 9-12 hours to get the ceremony (usually setting up around 1pm) until the speeches wrap up (usually around 8pm). Combined with prep time, getting home, offloading and backing up… they’re still 14+ hour days.
  3. Money can be tight during weddings. When it comes to all the money that you’re pumping into your wedding, don’t you want something (a FILM!) to be left behind? It’s kind of like a movie set: you spend a LOT of your money on making your dream “wedding set” and then what… you don’t want an epic film? It’s almost a waste! I feel bad if I’m showing up to a wedding without filming every last detail and NOT being there for 12-16 hours. I find that time ranges gives me a lot of coverage and flexibility to get the shots that I want.

Put simply, quality over quantity is always a big dilemma in the creative industry. Eventually, creatives realize that in order to put food on their plate, they need to run their business like the for-profit business it is. It can’t be run as an accidental “charity”. It’s not something to feel bad about, but I still feel guilty about charging for my services. And I know for certain that other creatives feel the same way about charging. Even though, from an outside perspective, it doesn’t make much sense.

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Ben Durham

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