To see what the best video guys are doing with todays weddings will literally blow you away – they are that good! To get the run down on what’s changed and what’s so good about, not wedding videography, but wedding CINEMATOGRAPHY, I spoke to Joel from Afterglow Wedding Films.
Afterglow Wedding Films are a Newcastle based company but Joel and his team are frequently capturing wedding stories in Sydney, Central Coast and the Hunter Valley, plus further afield. Below is the transcript from our chat but if you’d rather listen to the interview, you can do that here.
From Wedding Video to Wedding Cinematography
Andrew: It’s Andrew Hellmich here again from Impact Images. I’m here with Joel from Afterglow Videos. Joel, I guess the idea of today’s chat is just to get an idea of.. if I was a bride booking you for my wedding, what do you actually get with a videographer. Maybe you want to start with just telling us a little about what you guys do, where you’re based and what areas you cover?
Joel: Sure, I’m from Newcastle so we’ve got a studio set up at Hunter Street there and our general approach is to try and offer a kind of different slant on the wedding films so basically we go into a lot of different approaches on films. So we do everything from 8mm actual film using old 70’s cameras, we’re also on the 3D stuff so we’ve shot a 3D film as well. We’re starting to do something called stop-motion now which is really cool, it’ll be overseas soon, when they slide. And other than that, similar quality sort of stuff. We try and get a bit of emotion into the films and make it a bit of an artistic and basically relevant straight forward shoot.
Andrew: Okay. Sure. So I know you’re based in Newcastle. You certainly cover a wider area than just Newcastle, don’t you?
Joel: Yeah, we shoot a lot in Sydney and everywhere in between. We’ve spent a lot of time in the Hunter Valley as well, so we’re out that way a lot and Sydney more and more lately. So yeah.
Andrew: For Central Coast brides?
Joel: Yes Central Coast brides, definitely. We really sort of even on the site don’t explain so much that it’s important where we’re from. We’re setting things up at the moment so that we can make destination weddings, very easy for people as well in Capital Cities or basically anywhere we can get easy flights, we’re shooting in Perth soon. We’ve shot Melbourne and South Australia, as far up as Brisbane, as well and stuff like that. We’ve been shooting Bali soon as well so we’re trying to bounce around a little bit now and make it accessible to anybody, yeah.
Andrew: Excellent, okay. So I guess if I was a bride or a couple looking at a videographer for my wedding, I know too that a lot of you guys now, or some of you guys, the better ones, are changing from videographer to cinematographer. Is that because of the style that you’re shooting? Or the way you’re shooting?
Joel: It is, there is a legitimate reason for name change that makes us sound a little bit more fancy, obviously. But yeah, there is some substance to it as well. So basically we, because there was a time when there really wasn’t the technology, or I guess the people around, willing to seek their teeth into wedding films. With the, I guess, the experience in that, in that kind of style, videography sort of had a bit of a different ring to it. Basically, I think myself that’s the reason I went that way. Why I started using the term cinematography because it is very focused on the visual, and on the cinema aspect of the film, not so much just that the fact that we’re videoing something for the sake of the keepsake or to document it. It’s meant to be piece of cinema and that’s the angle we come from here, that’s really the reason for the name, I guess.
Andrew: So look, when I started shooting photo/wedding photography, say, 10 years ago. My impression, I guess many people’s impression of a videographer was an old guy walking around with a dirty big handy cam and just following the bride and groom around so, it’s certainly a lot different to that now, isn’t it?
Joel: Yeah. I think my camera now is probably as big as it would’ve been in one of those [unclear audio] so the way that’s changed is amazing and these days we can get something incredible out of the camera that we can use to be very, very inconspicuous in background. So basically, we can hang back a lot now and basically just use lenses to get where we need to get as opposed to having something hung over our shoulder which is a little hard to keep from being seen so, technology has been a big part in sort of bringing things from videography into what we call cinematography now.
Andrew: Fantastic. So if I was a couple looking at booking you guys for my wedding, what’s the first step in the process? Is it sort of like a 12 month out from the wedding, have a look at your website and then come in for a meeting? Or is everything done by the phone? How does it work with you guys?
Joel: We do a lot of stuff via email now because it’s very easy to get details and there’s obviously things you want to remember. But for me, I love meeting with couples as well because we’re trying to get across the feeling, the emotion and everything else that’s behind what’s happening on the day, which is really their relationship sort of come together on their one big occasion. For me, it’s pretty important to meet up so that’s a point that we always like to come to as well, where it’s possible. But at the same time, technology again allows us to work with Sydney couples that can’t possibly get to us or, like I said, Perth or anywhere else, overseas even. You can do a lot by email and even Skype and things like that. So yeah, usually would start off with an email, for me a typical way to go would be am email, usually chat for a bit and they get an idea of what our packages are like and what they want to slot into. And then yeah, from then on I guess we try and arrange a meeting where we can actually sit down and get down to it and work something out, that’s the general sort of process, for us anyway.
Andrew: Okay so at that first meeting or via the email or Skype, is it a matter of sort of working out timing, or is it coverage, or is it the style they want. Or do they just say ‘Joel, we love what you do. Just turn up here and just do what you want.’
Joel: Sometimes that does happen. I think to a certain extent when people see stuff that they like, they trust you a lot. And that’s really cool because that gives us a lot of creative freedom and obviously we meet with them so we can pick up on all their little vibes and we can get a general feel for what their tastes are. And their music tells us a lot of about that as well, what they choose. So a lot of that, we’re discussing music, not so much style, like they can usually see the way that we put our product forward and what’s it going to look like for them. But yeah, a lot of it is about the day, technical stuff like when things start, who’s running the sound system at the reception venue and all those sort of in-between things. But a lot of it is us, the most important part of that meeting is getting to know the couple and their story. We can get all the rest by email but when you get together, that’s where we really get that connection.
Andrew: Okay. Is it the couple that actually chooses the music for the video? Or do you advice them with that? Or does that interpret the theme you’re going to sort of run with or the way you shoot?
Joel: Yeah, it’s a little bit about both, basically I ask them for more songs than we actually need. So that gives me a pool to choose from. It’s very hard to know exactly what is going to fit the vision until we get back in the studio and we’ve got the footage in the edit suite. Then when we look at it, depending on certain elements in the day, even things as far as the light and the colours that where used on the day to decorate, stuff like that – it can all affect what song is really going to slot in with it, so that’s when I do the choosing and I sort of think, ‘Okay, this one’s going to work with the film.‘ On the other hand, we’re also going to get, you know requested by people ‘we’re not very good with music, you guys just want to put some ideas together.’ and we will often cut it to that and show it to the couple. The times we’ve done that, we’ve never been knocked back, it always seems to work pretty well so..
Andrew: Okay. Awesome. So I know that with the cinematography style and the stuff that I’ve seen from you and I’ve had you to weddings that I’ve shot as well. We’ve even worked on a project together, but it’s not always you that comes out. So you have other guys that are shooting with you or for you?
Joel: Yeah. That’s the one big distinction with videography, sorry, cinematography. With a photographer, I guess people know that each photographer has their own style. And often with studios we see, you know, you can go with Andrew or you can go with Nat, that sort of stuff and people will see your different work. With us, because it’s very post-production heavy. We have 6 videographers, [unclear] that are operators, including myself. And basically we have a style we shoot in, that we’re very specific about training everyone up into so they approach it the same way. But I find no matter who shoots for us, we can get very consistent result at the end of the day, regardless, because so much of, I guess the afterglow look or feel into a film happens in the edit and the calibrating and hat’s always handled by myself. Because we have guys shooting and it all comes back into the one place and I’ll put it together, it seems to work pretty well.
Andrew: Okay, excellent. So in that first meeting with you or via email and stuff, do they find out then who’s going to be there shooting on their day? Or it actually just depend on timetables and what’s happening in the business?
Joel: It generally depends, I usually discuss with them that I’ll advise them at some point who the shooter will be on the day. And just I guess help them understand, it’s not so much like you’re booking a photographer – you’re booking Afterglow and all that stuff’s going to happen regardless of which one of our guys we send out to actually shoot the theme.
Andrew: Yeah sure.
Joel: Closer to the day, I confirm with them. And that’s more for the sake of them knowing what to call the person when they see them, and just say, ‘Hi Brad or hi Calab’ or whoever it is on the day. So yeah.
Andrew: Okay. Great. And then what about, I’ve been to some weddings where there’s 3 and 4 videographers there. I mean, they’re in people’s way and stuff. I know some guys turn up with just the 1 shooter. How do you work? Or does it depend on the packages?
Joel: It does depend because of the approach we take, I would never shoot with more than 2. Basically, I mean, people shoot even in this more cinema-style people do it in different ways. And I wouldn’t knock anyone who does use 3 or 4, but at the same time I do feel like sometimes, it’s overkill. I think if you know what you’re doing, you don’t need 4 videographers there. [unclear audio] some Hollywood productions for some reason. Basically, with us, we try to keep it very minimal because our style very heavily depends on us being able to be unseen on the day. If I had 3 guys there roaming around pointing cameras in people’s faces, we would not get the shots that we want. So basically, it’s a good thing for us to be minimal in that sense. Our top package only has 2 videographers and even then, they’re mainly used so we’ve got 2nd angles in certain sections like the ceremony and certain parts of the reception. So that is very minimal, it’s very much that we’re getting out of the way so that we’re not like, it doesn’t look like you’ve walked onto Universal Studios set when people turn up at the ceremony.
Andrew: I know exactly what you mean, some of the weddings I’ve been to where there’s been 4 videographers and 2 photographers, it’s almost out of hand. It doesn’t feel like a real wedding anymore. It feels like a movie production.
Joel: Yeah, that’s a big point I’ve discussed with a lot of professionals, wedding professionals, is that for me, even though we’re there to do a job, the biggest thing that’s happening on that day is that 2 people are getting married, so what’s happening there is always going to be the biggest focus and I think it should be. If I ever feel like I’m detracting from that or things start to look like a production instead of a wedding, I personally don’t think that’s a cool thing. So yes, I guess that’s why we take that approach and it’s sort of worked out in our favour anyway because of the style it lends itself to.
Andrew: Yeah, sure. And look, I know that if anyone isn’t aware, we’re doing this call on Skype and I can see you at the moment and you’re obviously in an editing suite there and there’s multiple computers and there’s people working away. So I know with video, or cinematography, there’s a lot that happens after the day, isn’t there?
Joel: Yeah, there is heaps and heaps. Basically, we, from what we’ve shot on the day, we probably times that by 10 after the wedding. So there’s a lot of time afterwards that goes, I mean, I’m a perfectionist, I know it doesn’t have to be like that but we sort of sink our teeth into the edit and the colour a lot. And we run everything through a professional colour suite here as well, so we get really good results when it comes to calibrating and finishing and that sort of stuff off the actual films so. So yeah, there’s a lot of stuff that goes into it and you know, you’ve got to have a lot of machines and all that sort of stuff happening in the background, but that’s another reason it’s cool for me to bring people out here, they can have a walk through the studio and have a bit of look at what’s going on and that sort of stuff, too. So I used to be jealous of still photographers because I thought that they almost had their job done at the end of the day but you do a lot of work as well.
Andrew: No, we definitely do. We definitely do. But we probably do more of it on the day, that’s when we try harder to get the shot. We don’t have that post-production sort of ability afterwards. Or not as much, anyway. So what about, with the editing side of things that you’ve just mentioned, do the couples, sorry that’s my dog in the background if you can hear, sorry about that. Do the couples get involved in the edit process? Or do you take away all the footage and then gel it together to tell a story?
Joel: Yeah, basically. We take it all away, pull it together ourselves and come up with what we think is working. And a lot of couples are happy for us to send them video and I very rarely hear anybody say ‘oh can you change this or change that.’ Usually in the meeting, I gauge that a bit too and that’s why we don’t often get anyone wanting to change anything. If they seem to me like a very hands-on couple that are going to want to have a lot of input or have a lot of their own ideas, as well. Sometimes, I say, ‘Why don’t you guys come in for a final proofing before we actually offer the Blu-rays for you. So that way they can have a good look and if they want to tweak anything or say, you know, we want this person in a bit more, or not that person so much, or something like that, there’s flexibility there at that stage to make those sort of changes.
Andrew: Okay, sure. And then what about, I know when I’ve seen your movie, they’re incredible mate, they’re mind-blowing. I mean I cried looking at people I’ve never even met before and I’ve been to a lot of weddings, what about for the couples themselves, they do love all that side of things. Do they still get like a recording of the ceremony or the speeches? Because they’re not always in your video highlights.
Joel: Yes, the stuff we put on online are often people’s online highlight flip which is basically an extra in our packages where you can have a cut down of your whole day and it’s all set the music, most of our stuff is set to music throughout the day to cover what’s going on and all that sort of stuff. But yeah, they also do get a straightforward cut of their ceremony. So we record all the audio professionally and you get that as well and we might …….. the celebrants and things like that. So that you can view very clearly all that sort of stuff as well. Same as speeches, that’s another section where they get straightforward stuff on their Blu-ray and bridal waltz as well, depending on how full on it is, sometimes you see these big choreographed things and that’s something obviously a lot of them want to keep in their entirety. So there’s some sections like that in their as well.
Andrew: So on their final Blu-ray or DVD, their final cut, is there 2 separate videos or 2 separate movies, or is it all-in-one?
Joel: Basically the menu consists of about 5 or 6 different buttons and they can click on a section of the day that they want to see. Like the photo shoot, they would click on the reception, they could watch that and that would be set to music. And also there will be buttons for speeches and ceremony. But if they just press ‘play’ on our Blu-rays, the way we’ve set them out anyway, it will just play straight through all of the highlight stuff and send them back to the menu to click on ceremonies or speeches, it’s straightforward..
Andrew: So, if they have friends over and they want to show their DVD, the friends don’t have to sit through 2 hours of speeches and the full ceremony. They could just watch that highlight section.
Joel: Yeah, that’s right. So they can sit down and just see the [unclear] and yeah, they can spare their friends from the speeches or the other stuff that could be long. Some peoples ceremonies go for up to an hour and stuff like that. So it’s good to have that flexibility with Blu-rays, you can do that sort of stuff which is another cool advancement. You know, from when we’ve had tapes and people got VHS’ and things like that, you didn’t have that flexibility.
Andrew: Yeah, sure. Okay. And what about prices Joel? So if a couple see your stuff, they love it, what are they looking at, at least, starting at getting some great coverage?
Joel: Our packages start at $1950. So you can get something on a reasonably low budget and if you just want something covered, we have a tape 1 package that starts there. Packages can kind of go from there upwards depending on what you want to involve it in, so basically it can be anywhere from there up to, we can go 5-6 grand on certain things if we apply all the elements. But yeah, it’s sort of totally up to them. So we can draw something up whatever’s going to suit them, that’s another cool thing we can discuss in the meetings as well.
Andrew: So, you seriously get one of those movies that you guys put out for $1950.
Joel: You can, yeah. It’s basically the thing I try and stress with people too because that’s not going to compromise the quality or the feel of the act that we put into the part of the film. It’s purely quantity. So basically you can have a highlight that you could show your family of your wedding day that’s going to look as good as anything you’ve seen on our website for as low as $1950. And basically if you’re spending in the 5-6 grand mark, you’re basically just going to get everything from the very early hours of the morning right through to when, you know, you leave your reception. It’s just going to be more of that stuff.
Andrew: Great. Okay I know that some couples I’ve seen and they think that the videographers are going to cost them an absolute arm and a leg and they end up getting, say, 2 or 3 family videos and they think that they’re going to take them to a videographer later and get them cut together. That sometimes will work out more expensive than actually getting you guys straight up, wouldn’t it?
Joel: Yeah, I would say it definitely would if somebody afterwards to get an edit. I think it would be a surprise cost to do it that way. So yeah, I mean that’s the thing like I say, most of our costs are in the post-production so most people are going to edit something up themselves. If they did have to pay for someone, they’d probably end up paying more than if they had just gone through an actual cinematography, yes.
Andrew: Okay, sure. Say someone is watching this, say, from overseas or somewhere that you might not be available, or they want to use someone local, to where they live, for instance, what should they be checking for before they book a videographer or cinematographer to make sure they’re going to get a good job.
Joel: What I’d check straight up is what you see on their website. It’s always worth meeting with them. And I guess, seeing that that’s a consistent product for them. It’s always good to make sure that that what you’re seeing isn’t just a.. everyone’s going to put their best stuff up on their website. But at the same time, you need to know they can do that consistently and that’s what you’re going to get. And I think the other thing too is whatever they’re capable of, I guess make sure that the package you choose, especially if you go on the lower budget end of stuff, it’s not going to be miles from what you have seen and got on your mind, of what they deliver. So I think that’s one good thing to look for. The other thing, that I think is massive is to forget about the technical side and to meet up with them, and just make sure that you get along with them like so you can see if they appreciate your day and what you’re doing. To me it’s important that people understand the wedding is more important than their job as a videographer or photographer or whatever that their focus is on your day and what you’re doing. And it’s going to get a better video at the end of the day anyway, if that’s where their heart is, I guess.
Andrew: So it doesn’t matter so much about brands of cameras and how big your hard drive is back at the studio, does it?
Joel: The thing too now is, the further and further I get into cinema style, I realised that you most likely going to have the best of the best cameras at a certain level, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that your product isn’t going to be unreal just because they’ve got very expensive cameras. By the same token, someone who really knows what they’re doing could use a far less-quality camera and still deliver your film that works so much better than someone who doesn’t know what they’re doing on really expensive stuff. So I guess what you’re really paying for with cinema guys with weddings, same as photographers as well, it’s not as much their technical know-how or their equipment as you think. It’s their understanding and their experience in the industry and that is really what’s of value. You can’t find that anywhere else, whereas you can go out and buy yourself an expensive camera if you wanted to, but that won’t get you the result as much as you know, using someone who’s been in the field here for a while and knows how it all works I guess.
Andrew: Yeah, sure. I totally agree there. That’s for sure. Look, just to clear one thing up for couples that might be watching this and listening back to us, when we talk about cinematography, it doesn’t mean you’re there with a director and sort of controlling the whole day, does it?
Joel: No, so basically on the day it’s, if I’m shooting it’s me with a camera, I have a microphone that is directly mounted onto the camera, no guys walking around with moon mikes or anything weird like that. And we don’t try to do anything to affect the lighting or anything like that. That’s probably worth pointing out because cinematography, if you know a little about it, you could definitely fall into thinking that it’s about light and scenes, or something like that. But we’re never going to be setting up any sort of lip syncs anywhere or messing with the lighting at the reception or anything like that. But yes. It’s one of those things now where we can really work with what is there and what light is there. Again, it’s an art from with our operators and any cinematographer, it’s having that ability to find the places and find the light and find the cool stuff to shoot without having to control it or manipulate it yourself. So I think that’s one thing that’s a real challenge for wedding films is that you can’t control it. And although there’s people that try to control it, I think if you can work out how not to control it, you’re going to get natural emotion and expression from people and from the couples. And then at the same time you can still get great shots with great lighting and you’ve just got to know where to find it and where to shoot from, so yeah, that’s a big skill when it comes to that stuff.
Andrew: I think that’s where we are very similar, the photographers and videographers today. We just sort of go with the flow and just learn how to find the right light and the good light and work with what you are presented with. So just to finish off Joel, how long do the couples wait to get their finished product from you guys after the actual ceremony. Is that sort of 3 months down the track?
Joel: It doesn’t have to be that long. It depends but we usually say 6-8 weeks.
Joel: So it’s really not long, yeah.
Andrew: So in that stage, they get a Blu-ray DVD, is that right?
Joel: Yeah, that’s right
Andrew: And not being that technical myself with the videos, does the Blu-ray DVD, does that play in a normal DVD player? Or do I need a Blu-ray player?
Joel: Yeah, you need a Blu-ray player. We offer DVD as well but with Blu-ray, I generally encourage people big time to go with Blu-ray. Not just because that’s where technology is going and they’re probably going to end up with a Blu-ray player sooner or later, but the quality from DVD to Blu-ray is more than double. It’s basically, because we shoot in high-definition now with our cameras, Blu-ray allows us to actually format the high-definition finished films on to a disc for you and you can watch it in high-definition quality. So you basically get the full spectrum, I guess, out of our footage, whereas with DVD, we have to basically reduce the quality so that we can fit it on a disc. Even when couple say, ‘We don’t have a Blu-ray player.’ I’m like, ‘go buy one!’ You’re probably going to have to get one sooner or later anyway. And if they get it now, they get that film in a format that is as high quality as it was shot and if they go DVD, I can’t go backwards for them. So it’s definitely the way to go.
Andrew: So you can make the quality less but you can’t make it more if you start with a lower quality?
Joel: DVD, we still shoot it in high definition obviously, but once I sent them basically a DVD disc, which is standard definition, they will have standard definition. I do keep the masters for a little while here, we always keep final sequences forever. So we archive all that stuff. But if we create it in DVD, we’re gonna be keeping the DVD format in archives. So if they want it reproduced later we’re only going to have DVD and I can’t bring it up to Blu-ray.
Andrew: Okay. And what about if couples want to show their friends on their iPads or their phones or their laptops, is that possible?
Joel: Yeah, definitely. The cool thing about that is with that online highlight that I mentioned before is that, you know, cinematographers now can get actual good-quality footage on to the web and it’s something they can literally show people via an iPad that’s hooked up wirelessly or an iPhone. And we can even give people the actual file, which they can put on theirs phones, through iTunes, for example if it’s an iPhone or something like that. So those things you can actually see in really good quality these days where they never used to be so good on the web. It used to be the case of ‘I wouldn’t want to put my work up there.’ But now it’s great that it’s really starting to happen a lot.
Andrew: Okay. Look. I would encourage anyone that listens to this interview, you need to go and check out your website because some of the stuff on there is just incredible. So look, thanks heaps Joel, it’s been amazing. I think couples will get heaps out of hearing you talk about cinematography and what to expect, it’s so much different from how it was 10 years ago, especially, with some of those tacky effects and stuff that we used to see that are not there anymore. So look, how do couples find you?
Joel: They can find me through our website which is www.afterglowwedding.com and basically there’s contact forms on there where you can call us or send us through an email and all that sort of stuff as well. And I just like to say to people, if they do want any heart-shaped transitions, I can still do it.
Andrew: You still get asked for that, really?
Joel: I don’t get asked, no.
Andrew: Fantastic, so just tell me that once more. So it’s afterglowwedding. There’s no ‘s’ in there, is there? Afterglowwedding.com.au
Joel: Yep. Afterglowwedding. There’s a ‘w’ for both in the middle there and no ‘s’
Andrew: And .com.au
Joel: .com.au. Or .com. that will get you there.
Andrew: Fantastic. Alright Joel. I really appreciate your time and thanks very much
Joel: No worries Andrew. Thanks.