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Cinematic vs Documentary

What style wedding video is an important question to ask prior to seeking to hire a professional.

We know exactly who we are as a company and the style of films we produce – it is second nature, because that is just who we are.  To those recently engaged bouncing from site to site to find the right professional(s) for their wedding day the task may seem daunting.  For some, they may not even know what they want – for others the options are clear.  In this post we will delve into the styles of wedding cinematography just a bit and help explain the styles and where Perry Productions lands on the spectrum.

First, let me share with you the opening words from an inquiry we received a few weeks back…

Nate,  Thank you so much for the quick reply, and the package info! I have looked at several videographers, but I keep coming back to your work because I love how you capture so much of the audio from the ceremony/bride and groom and overlay it, as well as make the highlight video a little longer than most.  I’m noticing a lot of people just use a song, and maybe that’s their preference, but hearing our voices and special things said is really important to me!  ….Future Bestbride

We will circle back around to Perry Productions style in the end but first let’s look at the options to be considered…

Cinematic Wedding Film

A cinematic wedding film is an art form in which a story is told.  The story is told through speeches, video clips, audio soundtrack(s), and other words spoken (toasts, vows, prayers, etc.) .  To succeed at producing a quality cinematic wedding film the professional must keep the story in mind throughout the process.  We will highlight a few steps in the process in line with planning, filming, and post production.

Planning:  To plan for a cinematic wedding film the professional must have a plan before arriving to the wedding day.  The planning is a collaborative effort with the couple and the professional.  All parties must agree that to achieve the best cinematic film a little prep goes a long way.  Couples can plan to write love letters to one another (see our blog post on 3 tips for writing wedding day Love Letters).  Professional can begin to gather information that is important to the couple.  Other information in the planning stages can also help the professional get a feel for the style of film that will be created (ie.  band vs dj, formal setting vs other, other vendors hired, etc).  The previously listed planning items go beyond the additional timeline planning of events.

Shooting:  The film is shot very intentionally where a cinematographer will more than likely shoot in a creative manner to best tell the story.  This will include creative angles that will help move the story along.  Lighting is a very important piece to this story telling.  Back lighting a subject with sun/natural light or using lights on the formal dance area will add an element to the story.  Capturing audio is critical to a cinematic wedding film and various mics should be used throughout the day.  Other tools and techniques should be used in the shooting process to aid in the cinematic story telling that will unfold.

Post Production:  After all the planning and shooting have come to an end the professional should have a good sense of how this story will best be told.  He/she will have gathered enough information about the bride and groom as to their personality, style, and preferences and begin to pair this information with the footage captured to create a unique story that celebrates the joining of the two.  (**Yes, a great cinematic videographer will pay attention to what songs you sang along to in the morning during bride prep and later at the reception).  The professional will typically find soundtracks that help move a story along without overpowering the story itself.  Words are broken up and fit on a timeline to tell the story paired with video clips that will guide the viewer.  A cinematic videographer will weave in and out of the highlights of a wedding day and craft a piece of art that tells a brand new story.

Documentary Wedding Video

A documentary wedding video will typically play for the viewer the events as they happened and how they happened (chronologically).  A documentary/traditional videographer will plan, shoot, and edit without much creativity involved.  This type of videographer is on site because they were hired to document everything that happens and shoot general footage continuously.  For the sake of comparison we will break down the same three areas..

Planning:  A good traditional videographer will have a good plan for how the day will go.  The specifics and timeline should be enough to put together a solid documentary wedding video.  A better documentary videographer should still plan a little further to be sure to capture details important to the bride and groom.

Shooting:  There are strategic ways to capture the day as it happens from start to finish.  The professional should be sure to have multiple angles for the big moments of the day (ceremony, formal dances, and toasts), but for the remainder of the day a couple lenses, camera, and monopod should fill out his gear pack.  The creative shooting is not (as) necessary as it would feel a bit out of place in the flow of a documentary wedding video.  “Don’t do anything fancy – just get the shots,” may be the approach of a documentary/traditional wedding videographer.

Post Production:  With the lack of creativity in this style of film the post production process should be much less time consuming.  Sorting the video so that it plays back chronologically and not stressing elements of suspense, built up emotion, and moments of celebration take a back seat to getting the most footage to the client.  For these reasons the documentary wedding video will be much less “polished” in the final product.

Perry Productions – What style are we?

We pride ourselves in our cinematic wedding films BUT…
A good bit of what we do is also documentary wedding films….  Let me unpack that..

Planning:  We plan each wedding we shoot exactly the same.  We always believe the most information we can gather the better the video is going to be (no matter which style is preferred).  We have a wedding questionnaire we send to each and every couple that is interested in our services.  This is always sent out on the first time we connect with couples.

Shooting:  We cover the day with all of the above.  We shoot very creatively throughout the day but also do not think it is right to turn into a director working as if in a studio calling out scene changes.  We understand a wedding day is the day of the bride, groom, and families.  We do plan for and find ways to set aside small amounts of time to shoot elements that will help best tell a cinematic story.  We shoot the main portions (ceremony, formal dances, toasts) of the day with knowing these edits will be shown in their entirety on each DVD we mail out.  Sometimes it gets tricky with knowing we are shooting for both styles on any given wedding.  A creative shot may be killer and with knowing other cameras have the documentary shot covered we can navigate to get the creative shots needed for a more polished look we would like.

Post Production:  With our post production most of our time is spent developing the cinematic wedding highlight films.  We have layers upon layers of media and weave in and out of each wedding day to best tell the unique story of each particular couple.  Every story is different and we like to display that in our videos.  There is no template or plan until all the elements are on the table – that is when it gets really fun!

However, as mentioned above, we also spend a good bit of time getting each client the most footage possible in developing traditional wedding options for each DVD we mail.  Each of our packages includes Full Ceremony, Full Formal Dances, and Full Toasts – how they happened from start to finish.  In addition to these traditional edits, we also offer (packages three and four) a documentary edit of the entire day.  We created these options and included them in packages because we heard so many people say what was important to them.  Everything!  We agree.  We dislike discarding footage too.  So, to make us all happy we developed a documentary style edit of which we can deliver the footage couples most likely wouldn’t want on social media anyway, but still will cherish years down the road.  Often I’ve referred to this edit as a “glorified home video.”

So, we pride ourselves and share all of our cinematic wedding films online.  These are films which your friends, family, neighbors, and even people you’ve never met get sucked into the plot and cannot stop watching.  There is an engaging element of genuine uniqueness to each film where the viewer has to see how it ends…  This is the best way to share your entire day in a way where people will enjoy the show.

But the keepsake, lengthy, “polished home video” is still there for those closest to you to have available on your DVDs for years down the road to watch and relive whenever you’d like.

Perry Pro – best of both worlds

I guess we are the best of both worlds as we cannot be put in a box.


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