Has Wedding Filmmaking Gone Too Far? Too Hollywood?

Patrick Moreau of StillMotion at Canon Cinema workshop. Photo copyright William Chang Photography.

Yesterday’s post about this Epson ad caused quite a stir. Definitely was one of my most read blog posts this year. The discussion raised an interesting topic: has the advent of steadicams and jibs at weddings taken the art form too far? Some would say that the stunning results are worth the slight intrusion. Others argue that the sanctity of the day is diminished with one or two people flying around with steadicams, let alone a jib flying in over the guests (a jib is a mini-camera crane). Are they necessary?

By far one of the foremost authorities on the topic is Patrick Moreau of StillMotion from Canada. So much so that Canon hired him and his team to drive around the country on a bus teaching other filmmakers how to use it (among other great topics). But even Patrick has admitted that one of his most viewed videos (and their work tends to get tens of thousands of views from filmmakers all over the world), was the first wedding they shot entirely with a Canon 7D. It was shot with just one person (Patrick), shooting with two pre-production 7D’s,Β  four lenses, a monopod, a tripod,Β  a camera slider (which was used sparingly during prep shots), and NO external lighting. But the majority of the footage was done with the monopod (see below).

So, if you can do work like this with just one person, a DSLR, and a monopod, why the need for glidecams, steadicams, etc.? (For the record, I’m not asking because I disagree with the use. I use a steaditracker or a Glidecam myself. But, I think it’s a topic worth discussing).

A few things to point out:

  1. Brides know what they’re getting when they hire these guys, so it’s not like it’s sprung on them.
  2. Anyone experienced and trained enough to shoot with a steadicam, is also trained enough to stay OUT of the way of the aforementioned photogs in the Epson ad
  3. The end results are so magnificent, it just may BE worth it.

What say you?

18 thoughts on “Has Wedding Filmmaking Gone Too Far? Too Hollywood?

  1. I think this is one of those debates that hinges on who is behind the camera. For years I have worked with wedding videographers bringing monsterous tripods on wheels and setting up in the center of the isle or on the dance floor with bright lights. And in the past few years I have worked with videographers that are now using steadicams and such with the DSLR systems. I have seen the good and bad of both and it always hinges on the person behind the camera. Do they know how to be unobtrusive with what they have?

    1. That’s a great point Mattion. I think you’ll find anyone skilled enough to shoot with a steadicam vest apparatus will be a star to work with. The question though it, what will guests think, or will they care. Depending on the wedding, some guests may think it’s totally cool.

      1. Ron, I love the shots possible with all the toys but I don’t use many of them. A few years ago someone mentioned on a video forum that he shot a first dance with a glidecam. He circled the couple, moved around the dance floor and got beautiful footage. I’m sure the customer loved it. After he finished shooting the first dance he moved to the corner of the dance floor and a guest sitting there said to him, “I bet you got some beautiful footage.” That made him realize the guests had spent the first dance watching him instead of the couple. That’s not what we are there for. I now shoot with a DSLR and A1s. For dancing I shoot from one corner on a SteddiePod and stay there. I may pick up and “fly” it from one corner to the other for one moving shot. Then I stay where I’m at. Closeups from a DSLR on a first dance capture emotion as good as any flying shot can do. My steddiepod does all I need it to do for occasional flying shots, is a great small profile tripod that is mobile and can be a monopod. That’s all I need to get all my footage. My DSLR, no need for rails, viewfinders, follow focus add on stuff. A good pair of strong reading glasses makes focusing a snap. My kit is a SteddiePod and reading glasses. Nothing on my camera except a few vintage lenses. We can shoot great video and not stick out or be in the way if we think about our jobs. Just cause you got a jib doesn’t mean you have to use it at a wedding…same with vest flying system.

        Just my opinion.

        Jibs….leave them at home for a wedding.

  2. I don’t shoot weddings anymore, however when I did to be honest they werent in the way. I have attended some where the videographer thought they were the rockstar over the bridge and some where they felt bad for having to intrude, did their thing and bolted. Very courteous.

    Saying all of that to say, I dont miss the wedding business because its the one area of creativity that everyone thinks their little world is the most important. I can understand that passion, its a part of my psyche but combine a wedding planner, a photographer, a videographer and occasionally a creative member of the wedding party and its often drama waiting to happen. Who gets best billing, primo locals during ceremoy/reception, etc. Each with distinct visions of how they want their creative take on the wedding to be and someone intruding, its an easy recipe for disgruntled people and tongue in cheek lines in ad copy.

  3. Hey Ron, I don’t understand how that ad dissed filmmakers. What am I missing there?

    And I think that a good filmmaker will use only what they need to get the shots they need and should always give the client what they want. If the client wants a Hollywood production, that’s up to the client, not the inlaws.

    1. Hey Dave, thanks for the comment. I mentioned it in the original post, but the diss was: 1) equating the videographer to a hot dog vendor; 2) suggesting the videographer is “in the way”, and 3) perpetuates an already long standing “feud” between photogs and videogs regarding the issue.

      You point about the client wants is dead on. πŸ™‚

  4. I completely agree with Mattion. It’s all about who’s behind the camera. I do own a jib and I have used it for weddings. Do I use it at every wedding? No. I’m well aware that my job is to capture the mood and the emotion of the event and not to be the event. If the jib contributes towards that, great! If not, then I won’t use it.

    If I plan to use it I do check with the brides first and always look for a corner or a place where is not on the way. I’ve never found a bride that doesn’t like the idea of enhancing the video with a jib . I’m sure there are brides out there that won’t like it and if I ever have a bride like that I simply don’t use the jib. Like I said, it’s their event.

    Now, we did sign a couple a few months ago for a 2011 wedding and the first thing the groom told me was that they called us because he just want our jib in his wedding. He was at another wedding we shot where we use it. So, I can take all the critics about using my jib but as long as my brides and bank accounts are happy I’ll be happy too.

  5. HAHAHA….this is hilarious….I laughed out loud. In my opinion this is absolutely NOT what you want at a wedding. Now I have directed massive wedding shoots, 14 foot jib cranes, dolly track, etc….but that was on request. there is no way I would just show up with this. for one…it pulls focus…everyone is looking at you, rather than the bride…I find in the wedding biz, less is more.

  6. I think when used at the right times and the right way, they can be effective and non-intrusive. Don’t forget there are times at a wedding when you aren’t focused on the B&G. You are getting establishing footage/b-roll shots and the tools mentioned can greatly enhance those shots. During the actual ceremony though, I agree that only if the couple is ok with it and it isn’t too intrusive.

  7. I thought it was funny and take no offense. It is a well-earned reputation. Every photographer has dealt with that video guy. This is the guy who has three cameras on tripods around the cake because “the client ordered a three camera shoot.” I kid you not, and this was just told to me by a photographer I respect only three weeks ago. Thankfully, clients do have a choice and there are many very talented filmmakers in our industry who command more money than their photography counterparts because it’s not the same old thing.

  8. It depends on your market. For my little corner of the globe here in Brisbane, Australia, most clients want the video producer to create a nice candid record of their wedding day without getting too involved or becoming a diversion on the day.

    I shot solo for most of my weddings because I’m trying to run a more profitable business & need better control over post production, so even though I use minimal equipment (everything can be carried on one person all at once) I still manage to pull-off good cinematic style work. I think it comes down to having done enough weddings to know what you’re doing, the newer video guys are the ones (much like new photographers) tend to shoot everything without any real thought or plan, they seem to rely on sort the mess out in post. And its not just video either, look at how many photos inexperienced photographers take of the toasts!

    My clientele like some aspects of the Hollywood-style end product but they’re not willing to put up with the intrusion so in the end its all a bit of a compromise.
    Thanks for another great blog post Ron πŸ™‚

  9. I feel the same about photogs and videogs. It is a wedding. It is about the bride and groom. It is not a photo shoot. When what you do interferes with the day….too much, you’ve gone too far. The end does not justify the means. Shooting over the minister’s shoulder isn’t ok. The shot is not worth distracting from the moment. We can not always be flies on the wall, but we should all strive to be.

  10. This question is an interesting one for me today because last night I just finished using a jib for the first time at one of our weddings. We only used it because the B/G requested it. They are Ballroom Dance instructors, and their first dance (one slow song, one fast) was coreographed and included some of their dance students as well – so they wanted the jib to capture some of the overall excitement. As for how it looks, I was glad we were only using it for part of the evening. It is pretty obvious, especially when it’s in use. In fact we shortened it a bit because it looked so intimidating in the relatively small space we were working in.

    I think as far as excuses to use a jib at your wedding goes, they had a good one. Normally I would not want to use it on the wedding day. If I’m doing a high-end engagement shoot or have some dedicated time and choice of location to do what I want with the couple prior to the wedding I would also consider it, but by no means would it be mandatory.

    Steadicam @ ceremony? No. Steadicam @ reception? In moderation. Vest and arm? No. (No Robocop @ weddings, IMO).

  11. I just started to ues a jib with good results.But I agree with the other poster that when it becomes a distraction you have gone to far.


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