Pro video blog…Produced by Philip Johnston DoP/Editor

phyllis + adam // same day edit from stillmotion on Vimeo.

My main problem using a DSLR at a wedding is the photographers reaction when you produce a camera almost identical in spec to his then trying to explain it’s for filming !

I spent over 15 years filming top end wedding videos for clients and finally pulled out five years ago but the biggest bugbear at any wedding was the photographer. During my last 3 years filming weddings I would take a digital photograph of the happy couple and ask the photographers permission or if I knew he was a pain in the ass I would wait for him to leave then get my picture. The picture was used for the DVD cover shot.

Convincing the photographer is just one of many problems you will face using an HD DSLR…

Filming time is limited to 4GB (Canon 5D2) then the camera will stop filming automatically, remember you can film 4 x 4 chunks of 4GB on a 16Gig CF card but what are you going to miss when the camera stops 4 times. This is far from satisfactory in my books can you imaging loosing part of the vows !

TASCAM-DR-100Sound is a nightmare we have a camera that produces crap sound so bad that you are forced to use an external device such as a Tascam DR-100 now that is fraught with danger. You have many things to do at a wedding and remembering to switch on the sound unit just before the bride comes down the isle is playing with fire. The battery may run out, you may forget to put it into REC mode then you have a major problem because you wont be able to rely on the camera sound !

Extra time is something you don’t want in an editing situation, weddings take long enough to edit, the best part of two days the last thing you need is adding to this and I can assure you by the time you have finished editing a wedding with your HD DSLR you could add an extra half day converting 30p to 25p and as a colleague of mine found out recently MPEG Streamclip a program used by many Canon users does not transfer frame for frame leaving you with horrendous sync problems leaving you with Compressor which as you know takes an age to render lots of clips.

Weddings are a one off where you get one chance to get it right so don’t burden yourself further with technology that is in my opinion is not fit for purpose… and is nothing short of a phase, I hate to say it but when Japan wakes up to the film look we will get a proper film look camcorder and this nonsense of using a DSLR will be at an end. RED are producing such a camcorder called Scarlet but at about £8K plus may be out with most of your budgets.

I have seen far too many badly produced wedding videos in my time to set loose a further band of cowboys who think the Canon 5D2 is perfect for filming weddings.

On a more positive spin I came across a wedding edit by “stillmotion” in the USA using one Canon 5D2, two Canon 7Ds and is quite remarkable, steadycam, tracking shots you name it…have a look.


Having been working in the video business since 1988 I have amassed a great amount of knowledge of both the kit and production values over the last 30 years.

12 thoughts on “Weddings and the DSLR

  1. People said that digital photography would never catch on…. Think it’s the start of something new, rather than a phase. Give the technology time to mature – you’re judging it very harshly in it’s infancy. I think that we’ll see more and more convergance between video and stills over the next few years. Sure, the 5DII isn’t up to pro videographer’s standards for a lot of things, but it’s the first of it’s kind. Can you think of any new innovation that was perfect in it’s first generation?

    And as you yourself admit, there’s some people out there doing incredible things with it already. It’s not going away, and it can only get better (the 7D already addresses some of your issues like frame rate, and it’s only the second model on offer).


  2. Dougie I am only pointing out the obvious, I have a 5D2 and have seen some amazing results for myself…pictures that jump right off the monitor but I like to think I have enough experience with professional video to know that as good as the 5D2 is it’s not a replacement for a professional video camera with XLR sound inputs. The camera gives you a look (shallow depth of field) and is good in low light…nothing more nothing less.

  3. Would never dispute your experience, or the fact that you know vastly more than I do on the matter. But I don’t think that Canon intended it to be a replacement for a professional video system – rather it’s the first step along the road to something that might handle both stills and video with professional quality somewhere down the road. I didn’t mean to question your comments on the suitability of the 5D MkII, I was really commenting in response to the statement:

    “technology that is in my opinion is not fit for purpose… and is nothing short of a phase.”

    I’m happy to defer to your judgement on how fit the 5D MkII is for use as a primary camera for wedding photography (though surely you’ve got to admit that it might be a good tool alongside a dedicated video camera?). I don’t believe that it was released with that in mind though, regardless of how people may be using it in the field.

    I’d disagree about video in DSLR cameras being a phase. I think it’s just the start.

    Time will tell… Should be an interesting few years either way.

  4. Dougie, Canon/Nikon/Panasonic are all dipping their toes in the water and don’t get me wrong it’s refreshing to see, some of my colleagues like Philip Bloom have embraced the technology with some spectacular results but as you so diplomatically put it “the first step along the road” I am possibly becoming a dinosaur in this field, it has been very hard to embrace solid state media in the video world which I belong though with a lot of effort I got there and many of my fellow practitioners are still waiting to jump on the solid state HD bus, so it’s nice to still be a trailblazer of sorts.

  5. Hi I am on the frontline of wedding videography so to speak, its what I do, i shared the same concerns about the 5d and skipped it. I didn’t think it would be up to the run and gun nature of event videography. I never really get a chance to do things twice and the 4 gig thing really would never had suited me ,let alone mixing 30p into existing workflows ect.
    I do have eyes though and just love the images from it.
    So I waited and got myself a couple of panasonic GH1s. Unlimited recording time,Native 25p. fold out screen , stabilized. I use a rode mic on one of them and a Senhiesser wireless on the other.
    I shot my second wedding with them last week. I kept the XHA1’s in the bag next time they will just stay at home. The panasonic is are great little cams for me. Mind you I am not an artist nor am I a film maker. I am an Event Videographer , I work to a brief.
    I deliver entirely in SD , I offer HD but no one really cares for it! So I shoot it all in 720 @50. The overcrank is handy for highlights ect.
    I have two 7Ds on order as I type this . So it is the way I will go for now. I prefer tape still. Tape gives me a no brainer archive. These weddings run out at around 300 gig a pop. So I am going through a lot more HDDs.
    Faced with the dilemma of upgrading gear it wold be hard to steer someone past the new lines of DSLRs. Though we are this year at a cross roads. If I had any advice it would be wait lol

    Jack Atley

  6. Jack thanks for that insight we all forget Panasonic were the 1st on the block with semi usable DSLR cameras though not so good in low light due to the noisy sensor and f4-5.6 lenses. I would love to know how long it takes you to edit your DSLR weddings ?

  7. I would probably spend about 20 hours in Final Cut actually editing. Capturing is still about a 1:1 ratio. I usually have about 7 hours of footage to wade through. I dont log my captures I just pull it in and make it Pro Res .I spread this work over two machines though so I should always in theory have a machine that is not tied up.
    I shoot the ceremony and speeches multicam. No timecode so I just align audio peaks for sync. Although I used a Zoom H4 for audio I found the audio from the Panasonics to be uasble. I do use external mics.
    Shockingly for me there are no audio meters on the Panasonics! So a pretty generic recipe got me though. On the 7ds I will have no histogram but audio meters…
    I deliver about 3hours of color corrected footage. Some of it is basically scoped in FCP. The highlights usually find there way into a Color project so add another hour for that.
    I use Compressor droplets to conform for SD DVD pal.
    I have made templates for the titles, bottom thirds and my DVD Studio Pro projects. So they are drag and drop.
    So maybe 25 hours but spread over two machines. Finish a Seq export a self contained movie, drop it in compressor on another machine. Come back start the next SEQ and so on. I plan to add another Mac Pro this year My current Quadcore does all the heavy lifting at the moment with my editing mostly done on a 15inch mbp with a second monitor.
    Add to this the ten or twelve hours taken to shoot these things.
    Jack Atley

  8. Jack you spend a lot of time in post I hope you are charging the customer for all your time. Who told you the 7D has metering, I am not aware of this. How does this compare to video (time wise).

  9. I thought that the 7d had audio metering? , but no histogram. In any case these types of omissions confirm these cameras as just a fork in the road. Not a solution. At least the panasonic warns you to turn on the external mic!
    I wish that Nikon had of made something worth while in the area. I have a studio full of nikon primes at my disposal! Oh well there is always the adaptors.
    I think I charge a fair amount for my work, Most of my stuff requires a simple bump in the blacks to correct. Before I had steadicams I used to do a lot more with compositing. And I was not as sure how much would be enough. As you understand these things are never really finished. I found this to be my biggest dilemma when I first started.
    I end up doing about three solid days of work, for which I charge about 3k for a single operator coverage. I aimed to do about 30 to 35 a year which I achieve. I am in the process of setting up a second team of shooters and training them. So I can take on more work when it arises. This weekend our studio did four weddings back to back Friday and Saturday.
    I am the second most expensive in my area, I charge what the market will support. I am also educating a client base, who still regard Video as the poor cousin of photography.
    I also shoot stills out of a studio here. So that keeps me busy on the other weeks.
    Compared to the hourly return for stills , we Videographers are definitely fighting an uphill battle, but I do believe we are the tip of the sword so to speak and we have a bright future.

    Well there are no savings in time as far as I can see. The conversion to pro res pretty much takes as much time as a typical capture. The render times are faster though with Pro Res. The file sizes are much greater. And you don’t have that tape as an archive which I alluded to before.
    Mixing HDV material with DSLR stuff is a task I did not enjoy. the extra step of transcoding from HDV to ProRes was just more things to do. Hence my shift to all DSLR now.
    Jack Atley

  10. Nikon won’t be far behind the 300Ds has HD video, let’s hope Nikon read my blog and bring out a camera that suits the bill for proper filming (Audio metering included). I was charging £1000-£2000 per wedding 5 years ago in Glasgow in fact I took my pricing from a pretentious wedding photographer who told me he did not go out the house on a Saturday unless he was making £2000. Now we both know it takes a lot more skill to produce a wedding video than it takes to photograph a wedding so why should the photographer make more than us ! It’s only the cowboys that keep pricing low but if you go for the top end of the wedding market you don’t need to worry about the ten gallon hat brigade.

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