B&H Wedding Guide: Video Gear
Wedding videography, like event videography in general, is an art form in full bloom. Relatively recent advances in video technology have arguably raised the wedding video's potential to equal that of still photography. To be fair, perhaps the burgeoning popularity of Internet videos is equally responsible for the medium's newfound stature. Nevertheless, videographers who know how to take best advantage of all the new tools that are available to them today are creating some truly world-class works of art.
This article will provide an in-depth guide to a wide range of gear for professional wedding videography. We will not only look at a variety of cameras, but also audio equipment, lighting, camera support systems, bags, cases and general accessories. Whether you are looking for something entry level or some more advanced gear, I am sure you will find equipment to suit your needs.
Not long ago, the term "camcorder" might have been an adequate subtitle for this section, but these days wedding videographers are using several different kinds of cameras. In addition to traditional camcorders there are also DSLRs, mirrorless cameras, PTZ cameras and an assortment of hybrids. Your choice of camera is largely dependent on two factors: workflow logistics and the desired aesthetic character of the image.
Some videographers have spent years polishing their wedding workflow, and DSLRs just don't fit in. Others have redeveloped their wedding workflow from the ground up, because they just have to have the most film-like image possible. Camcorders and DSLRs each have their share of fierce partisans, but the truth is, no matter what your priorities are you have no shortage of great options.
The Panasonic AG-HPX250 is a traditional, handheld camcorder that utilizes Panasonic's P2 memory cards. The HXP250 is a formidable successor to previous generations of P2-based camcorders and ought to fit in perfectly with that established workflow. The new camera features three 1/3” MOS sensors with 2.2MP each. This is the first P2 based handheld camcorder to use the high-quality AVC-Intra 100 recording format, for Full HD 10-bit 4:2:2 video. The 3.9-86mm f/1.6-3.2 fixed lens has a 22x optical zoom ratio and a 35mm equivalent of 28-616mm. Of particular interest to wedding videographers, a Flash Band Compensation function works to attenuate banding artifacts, a rolling shutter issue that is especially troublesome in environments with lots of flash photography... such as weddings.
Now, a beast of a different stripe, the Canon EOS 5D Mark III is a video-capable DSLR with a full-frame, 22.3MP sensor. This recent upgrade from the 5D Mark II—the camera that almost single-handedly launched the HDSLR phenomenon—adds some welcome video-centric features like an ALL-I recording mode, audio recording adjustments and the option to embed timecode. That full-frame sensor and its ability to render a film-like depth of field is still the main attraction here, but wedding videographers especially will appreciate the Mark III's low-light performance. A maximum ISO of 25600 in video mode and the DIGIC 5+ image processor make this camera the de facto low-light king.
The Panasonic DMC-GH3 mirrorless Micro Four Thirds camera is a worthy contender when it comes to professional image quality. The GH3 is capable of recording up to Full HD 1920 x 1080p at 60 frames per second. It also features broadcast quality video compression, with ALL-Intra and IPB recording modes for 72 or 50 Mbps recording. The GH3 is an interesting option for a second camera, as the footage ought to cut together nicely with both larger- and smaller-sensor cameras. Moreover, the built-in Wi-Fi capabilities make the GH3 well suited for remote control and monitoring. Imagine what a convenience it would be to adjust settings, trigger recording and monitor the image via your smartphone, all while you operate the “A” camera on the opposite side of the venue.
If you are interested in the large sensor aesthetic but insist on the conventions of a traditional camcorder, you may want to consider the Sony NEX-EA50UH. This is the first camera in Sony's new EA series, which they specifically developed for cinematic event videography. Note, that is “E” for “event” and “A” for the APS-C-sized CMOS sensor. The NEX-EA50UH features a mid-sized, camcorder form factor and the Sony E-mount for interchangeable lenses. The 18-200mm kit lens features a servo zoom, and although the servo is neither as fast nor as smooth as the powered zoom on many fixed-lens camcorders, it is still a unique option for an interchangeable-lens camera. In addition to a camcorder inspired control layout, the EA50UH has also adopted XLR audio connectors, a removable flip-up viewfinder and compatibility with Sony L-Series batteries.
When most video professionals hear the term “PTZ camera” they might picture a security camera, which does not necessarily translate into stunning image quality. Of course, Panasonic's AW-HE120K is bound to change that. In addition to robotic pan, tilt and zoom—hence the term PTZ—this camera features the same broadcast quality, 1/3” 3MOS sensors as the shoulder mount AG-HPX370. Plus, the AW-RP50N sub-compact remote camera controller supports up to five PTZ cameras and features a pan/tilt joystick, a zoom rocker switch, buttons for ten present positions, a focus dial and more. Of course, this technology is better suited to a permanent installation. Not only is it totally impractical to string cables around the venue, most places probably won’t allow it. However, expect future systems to incorporate ever more accessible technology. In fact, take a look at JVC's GV-LS2 as a model of streamlined PTZ functionality.
Needless to say, these cameras are merely strong representatives of several broader categories, and each one of them has quite a few worthy competitors. I recommend using this guide as a starting point in your research. Remember, despite all of the hype and misplaced criticism out there, the best camera is an ideal match to your unique priorities regarding workflow logistics and aesthetic character.
In the course of a wedding there are several key moments where a clean audio recording is arguably more important that a beautiful picture. The vows and—to a lesser extent—the many speeches are precious, verbal public displays of affection, and as such, they should be among the wedding videographer's highest priorities.
You will probably want to consider investing in a wireless microphone system, like the Sennheiser ew 112-p G3 or the Sony UWP-V1. The Sennheiser supports 1680 tunable UHF frequencies and the Sony provides 188 user-selectable frequencies. Either option provides plenty of latitude for avoiding signal interference, and both systems are available with a lavalier microphone. A wireless system is practically essential for any situation where you can't get yourself and the camera close to the action, which is a common problem given the nature of wedding coverage. Remember that you are there to document the event, not to be a part of it.
Another essential bit of audio gear—especially if you are using a DSLR or any camera with a limited maximum clip length—is a portable digital recorder. The key practical benefit here is the ability to start recording and just let it roll for hours on end, which should easily cover you for the entire ceremony. A perennial favorite at this point, the Zoom H4n has seen many a videographer through more than a few wedding seasons. The H4n features built-in X/Y stereo mics and connectivity to external sources, including dual XLR/TRS combo jacks and a 3.5mm mini jack. The Tascam DR-05 is an entry-level option, which also features a 3.5mm jack. Note that the mini jack is a popular interface for wireless microphone systems and a growing assortment of DSLR optimized microphones like the Røde VideoMic.
Generally speaking, the carefully designed atmosphere of a wedding is someone else's job, and your job is to capture it as naturalistically as possible. That is one of the reasons why low-light performance is such a high priority for video cameras. Lighting a wedding is almost always a less than ideal situation for a videographer, but it is, in certain situations, a necessity.
At the very least, you will want to have some kind of on-camera light in your kit. Although the Switronix TorchLED is probably way brighter than you will ever need—at least as far as your adventures as a wedding videographer are concerned—you never know when it will save the day. Conveniently, the TorchLED has a built-in 5-100% dimmer, but the key feature here is variable color temperature, from 3000 to 6000K, which allows you to dial in a match for the ambient light. If you are interested in something entry level, Bescor also manufactures a line of on-camera lights, or if you are looking for something more advanced, you might want to see what Litepanels and Bebob Engineering have to offer.
If you are going to do any kind of stand-alone lighting setup, not only should you clear it with your clients first, but I would recommend having an assistant on hand to turn the light on and off at reasonable intervals. Keep it simple and remember that your average group of amateur wedding dancers are apt to grow weary of the spotlight, literally.
Camera Support Systems
Camera support is about more than just the ubiquitous tripod, though certainly you should have at least one tripod per camera. These days the proliferation of camera form factors has initiated an even greater proliferation of support systems. Many camcorders are designed for handheld work, but the ergonomics of a DSLR are better suited to still photography than handheld video. Thankfully, third-party manufacturers have developed a veritable plethora of camera support options.
“Rigs” are a bundle of components with a suggested configuration, and the best rigs can be customized to suit different cameras and different applications. Most support rigs are based on established industry standards, which almost always include a pair of rods with a diameter of 15mm each and brackets for mounting two rods with 60mm center-to-center spacing. This means that many of the systems that we will discuss here are compatible with each other.
The Zacuto Striker is a compact support rig designed for DSLRs with a single hand grip and a gunstock-style shoulder brace. This is a nice configuration for weddings, as it provides added stability, yet will not encumber you as you navigate the crowd. The Gorilla baseplate attaches to the rig via a single 15mm rod, so the camera can be quickly mounted and/or detached. A similar design, the Opteka CXS-1 is an entry-level option. The CXS-1 won't support as much weight and it doesn't use industry-standard components, but depending on which camera you use, it gets the job done. If you do go with the Opteka rig you might also invest in a cold shoe extension bracket for mounting additional accessories.
Another relatively new manufacturer, ikan offers the Flyweight DSLR rig and the Flyweight Camcorder rig. Of course, the key difference between the two is the baseplate, but both rigs feature dual hand grips and a shoulder pad. This configuration gives you three points of contact for excellent stability. If you favor this design, you might also consider Shape's Composite rigs, a similar yet more advanced option. One of the really nice things about Shape rigs are the push-button hang grips, which provide rock solid support but are delightfully easy to adjust. The Shape Composite Stabilizer is an interesting variation that includes a telescopic support arm, and when used with the Shape Belt this rig can save you considerable fatigue over the course of a long day.
These few options are just the tip of the iceberg. Camera support systems are a massive category because they cater to a virtually limitless variety of tastes, so do your research and—most importantly, if you can—visit the B&H SuperStore for a hands-on evaluation. The great thing about the high-end systems is that they're built to last and they'll never be obsolete, so it’s worth investing in a system that fits your unique style.
Tripods and monopods are an arguably simpler science. Of course, they can be complex in their own way, but at least there is a somewhat universal set of criteria for evaluating their suitability for your needs. In the very least, a video tripod needs a head that enables smooth panning and tilting. Unlike broadcasters and commercial filmmakers, wedding videographers don't generally have to worry about massive weight capacities, but you will want to make sure your tripod is rated for at least 5 lb. Benro and Manfrotto are among the most popular tripod and monopod manufacturers with event videographers. Sachtler has several advanced models, but their new Ace tripods are solid, mid-range options.
The Manfrotto 504HD head and 546B tripod is an interesting pairing. The 546B 2-stage tripod has a maximum height of 66.7” and features a mid-level spreader and flip lever leg locks. The 504HD head includes the 504PLong sliding quick-release plate and enables fluid panning and tilting camera movements. The counterbalance system is adjustable in four steps and supports a maximum load of approximately 16.5 lbs.
The Magnus VT-4000 is an entry level tripod with a fluid head. With a maximum weight capacity of 8.8 lb, the VT-4000 is not as heavy duty as the Manfrotto, but then again, 8.8 lb is more than enough for a DSLR and even some mid-sized camcorders. However, the fixed counterbalance is rated for 3.7 lb. Still, depending on your camera setup, the VT-4000 may be worth considering.
Bags and Cases
Of all the categories we have discussed so far, bags and cases are certainly the most diverse. An adequate overview is an exercise in futility. No one can tell you which bag is right for you without knowing the specifications of everything you need to carry with you. If you are a professional videographer, then I am sure you already know that you will inevitably end up carrying several different bags and/or cases.
Although there are certainly exceptions to the rule, one of the key differences between a bag and a case is that a hard case is generally more secure, while a bag is generally easier to organize. The best bags are designed with individual pockets and compartments that are custom fitted to specific pieces of gear. While the best bags are also water-resistant and feature ample padding, only a hard case can be truly waterproof.
Porta Brace is an industry leader in bags, and Pelican is an industry leader in hard cases. A thorough survey of these two brands ought to give you a solid grasp of the current standards. However, if you work with DSLRs or mirrorless cameras, there is a whole other category of bags and cases that are optimized for still photography gear. The leaders in this category include Tamrac, Tenba, Lowepro, Petrol and Domke. It’s worthwhile to invest in the best bag or case that you can afford, as they will be responsible for protecting considerably more important investments.
The Pelican 1510 is a nice sized hard case. Designed to meet current FAA requirements for carry-on luggage, the Pelican 1510 has interior dimensions of 19.75 x 11 x 7.6.” Also, much like a typical piece of carry-on luggage, the Pelican 1510 features an extension handle and built-in wheels. Like most other Pelican cases, the 1510 includes a lifetime warranty and is certified as watertight, crushproof and dustproof (IP67).
The Tamrac 614 is a shoulder bag designed for still photographers. Of course, if you shoot video with a DSLR, then this bag is also well suited to your needs as a wedding videographer. The bag has space for two DSLRs with telephoto lenses attached, four or five additional lenses, memory cards, batteries, filters, audio gear, etc. The really nice thing about this bag is the dozens of zippered pockets and pouches, which allow you to organize everything quite efficiently.
The Pearstone Digital Video Camcorder Bag is this category's entry-level contender. It features a Cordura nylon exterior and a soft, padded interior. The blue interior dividers can be repositioned with touch fasteners, and in addition to the large main compartment, there is also a zippered front pocket.
It should go without saying, you will need plenty of batteries and recording media, but as you shoot more and more weddings you will inevitably accumulate a collection of miscellaneous gadgets that make your job easier. Something as simple as a flashlight can be a lifesaver when you're searching for something in your bag, on the shadowy periphery of a dance floor. A Gorillapod is generally used for supporting small cameras, but it might also enable optimal positioning for a portable digital audio recorder. Lens cleaning supplies are a more or less obvious choice, but there are all kinds of creative pieces of gear available.
If you happen to be in New York City, a visit to the B&H SuperStore is one of the best ways to find creative ideas for potential wedding video gear. I hope you have found this relatively brief guide helpful. It is by no means an exhaustive overview. Rather, it is merely a starting point for navigating our massive website. If you have any questions about any of these products, please feel free to contact our experts via Live Chat or call us at 1-800-606-6969. Thank you for reading.