Ask and ye shall receive… a cheap videographer!

April 5, 2010 at 1:16 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Well, the unthinkable has happened: we’re arranging a videographer for our wedding.

Okay, I guess it’s not that unthinkable, but until recently I thought that getting a videographer was the surest sign that someone was stupidly spending too much on their wedding. Really, a wedding is pretty damn special as it is. You have photos. Everybody is there. You plan it for months. Do you really need someone to make a custom documentary about it just for you?

After all, everybody knows that weddings are an industry. After months of immersion in marketing specifically directed towards brides, I’ve come to the firm belief that manufacturers of wedding stuff, much like greeting card companies and DeBeers, try to manufacture wedding needs that they can then satisfy at high prices. I don’t say that pejoratively –go capitalism! — but I have taken pains to personally separate the wedding things that will improve the day from the ridiculous wedding things that I’m just “supposed” to want even if it doesn’t actually improve anything. Hence, I thought getting a videographer was dumb. In fact, when the wedding planning really got underway in January, I recall reading about videographers in a wedding planning book and then pointing it out to Blake, saying, “Jeez! People spend so much money on stuff that’s such a waste of time!”

So at first I didn’t want a video at all. Then I was talking to my dad and he mentioned how there have been so many times that he’s wished he could have a video of his wedding. Not just for the wedding itself, but also to have footage of the people who were there who are now dead. His parents, etc. This logic was good enough for me, and I decided to find someone to take a video of the ceremony.

…Which was harder than I thought it would be. Whom do you pick? Not a relative, surely — they want to pay attention to the ceremony. Not a close friend either for the same reason. And you can’t pick just anybody — you want someone who can hold a camera the right way and has some aesthetic sense and can judge lighting and act accordingly. Someone who knows what events are coming up and knows where to stand to get good shots. So you have to find a bright, technically-savvy, artistically savvy guest who is coming to the wedding but also doesn’t really care about watching the ceremony himself. Unsurprisingly, we didn’t have one of those.

So I started looking for wedding videographers and of course the prices were sixteen kinds of exorbitant. Most of the sites I saw were around $1000 for a few hours of filming. And then I’d watch their demo videos… slow motion footage of people walking, curly fonts saying, “Ashlynn and Chet,” Bittersweet Symphony playing in the background (yes, seriously — who wants that in their wedding video?!), and all in all they just seemed over-dramatized and kind of… dumb-looking. Like when you’re watching local television and then after a bunch of professional commercials you see some weird homemade commercial for a flea market or a play or a car dealership and although it has music and fonts and narration, you can tell the narrator is just some guy and the music was written by someone’s uncle and the text was all set up by someone’s neighbor’s nephew for $50. Maybe I’m jaded and if it were my wedding I was watching I would find all the kitsch endearing. But on site after site after site it was the same story.

(Except for Nil Buan, whose videos were beautiful and elegant and tasteful. We aren’t going with him, but I’ll come back to him in a minute.)

So after watching all the demo videos I knew that that wasn’t what I wanted. I wanted someone to take a bunch of footage, not edit it, and give it to me in some digital form. I don’t need music and montages. (I don’t want them, either.) And I knew that some videographer somewhere with a rough season must want to do exactly what I wanted at a reduced price. They can post $1500 packages on their site all they want, but I bet the economy has cut back on the number of people willing to pay for something like that. So I emailed like seven different ones the following email:

Hello –

I’m getting married on [censored] in Buescher State Park (near the Bastrop/Smithville area). I’d like to get some sort of video of our wedding, but I want something very minimalist. I don’t need montages, multiple cameras, cross fades, background music, fancy DVD menus, or anything like that. I just want to pay somebody who’s smart enough to hold a camera the right way and can get some nice raw footage to me in a standard format playable on the average PC.

Obviously I am not your target market, but since my wedding is on a Monday (and therefore not in competition with other weddings in which people will pay more), I thought I’d check and see if this is something you guys would be willing to do at a correspondingly lower price (since there will be very little in the way of post-processing). I see that your single-camera 4-hr price is $[whatever]. I’d be interested in only 2 or 3 hours.

Is this something feasible?


And you know what happened? I got a whole bunch of replies from companies willing to do it at great rates! Well, not all of them were great. Some of them were reduced by like 5%. But I got multiple offers in the $275 – 400 range, which seemed pretty reasonable for someone’s professional grade time, expensive equipment, and drive time out to the park. The best offers I got were from Capital Wedding Video and American Video Productions. It was a pretty tough choice between them, but ultimately my decision came down to the quality of video at dim indoor receptions. Our reception will be in a building with dark walls, and although we’ll have lights, it was important to me that the video be able to capture that without looking awful. It seemed like Capital’s indoor footage was better, and so I went with them. (I haven’t signed a contract or anything, though — I just emailed him tonight and told him that he was our choice.) It was a difficult decision, though: the guy at American Video Productions made it clear that he wanted our business and was quite willing to negotiate to get it. I like those sorts of business people and it would have been nice to go with them, but the prices were very similar and so that indoor-video quality was the deciding factor. If things don’t work out with Capital, I will be very happy to use American Video Productions as a backup.

But the whole point of this post is that with wedding stuff — and probably in the world in general — you can often get what you want at a better rate if you just ask. Our caterer usually does more expensive meals, but when I told her our price range she was able to come up with menus that would work at our price. Ask and ye shall receive.

The End

Still here? Oh, you’re waiting to hear the end of the story about Nil Buan? Well, Nil responded to my email with an offer that, though not unreasonable and cheaper than many packages I’ve seen, was still a little out of our price range. However, his rationale was artistic integrity, which I can totally understand. His work was gorgeous and if I were he I wouldn’t want to send raw footage out into the world with my name on it either. But his email was very gracious. Here’s an excerpt:

I will treat your wedding like any normal wedding that I shoot, with the utmost sensitivity in creativity.  That said I cannot justify giving you nothing but raw footage.  It is not how I work.  And it is not how I want my work to be viewed.   I will edit the footage for you with the same transitions you’ve seen on some of my work, with music and titles, and present a final product to you that you can be proud of and enjoy for many many years.

So I sent him a reply explaining that his offer was indeed out of our price range but that I understand his position entirely, and he sent back a friendly reply. It’s rare that I feel such a sense of kinship and admiration with a business and yet still go with one of its competitors, but I suppose that’s also capitalism. I hope Nil makes a bunch of money from people who have a lot of money to spend. To that end, here, once again, is a link to his site: Nil Buan Videography

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