Top 12 Tools for Wedding Filmmakers in 2016 with Joe Switzer
For our weddings, this is our most-used tool. It’s easy to carry around and get quick video shots with on the fly. You miss fewer moments using a monopod. Over the years, we have filmed with about 10 different ones. The one we are most comfortable with and endorse is the Manfrotto MVM500A. It moves fluidly and is stable. We have used it as a tripod with lenses as long as 200mm with our hands off of the camera, and the monopod won’t fall over. We use two monopods on our wedding-day shoots, one monopod for girls’ prep and the other for guys’ prep. Once the ceremony starts, we go down to one monopod for the rest of the day.
When I was getting into this business, a photographer friend told me to buy a good tripod and it will last forever, and he was right. Our carbon-fiber Manfrotto has lasted about eight years now. Sand, ice, saltwater, and wear and tear from thousands of shoots has had no impact on this tripod. If you have the budget, get one.
On wedding-day shoots, we typically use the tripod for the ceremony and reception with longer lenses like the 200mm and the 135mm. In creative filmmaking, it comes in handy for macro video shots and any motion moments with the track.
Our tripod isn’t small, so we carry it in the Manfrotto tripod case. The durability and convenience of the case has made carrying it so easy that we now use three of the cases to carry the other monopods. You can fit both your monopod and tripod in the same case. The tripod remains one of the most underused video tools. For your weddings this year, use a high-quality tripod. You’ll have better close-ups, macro shots, time-lapses and more angles with your track/tripod combo.
We have been through at least a dozen tracks over the last few years. Last year alone, we went through three tracks, and thought we had found the perfect one until a new track disrupter became available last fall. The company Rhino came out with the EVO carbon motorized slider. The slider moves electronically and takes out any chance of human error. It can be used for motion time-lapses, and by solo filmmakers who want to interview someone and also use motion without hiring another shooter. One of its movements goes back and forth in a loop.
In the past, technology like this had to be powered by an electrical outlet. This Rhino slider is battery powered and lasts all day—finally a game changer and some innovation in the slider space. If you purchase this, get the 24-inch for weddings. That makes it easy to carry with you and keeps the weight down. If you want the perfect movement with no human error, this is what you’ve been waiting for.
#9 Sony a7S/RII
We will continue to use two Sony a7S’s and one Sony A7RII for our weddings. We like the low-light capabilities of the Sony a7S. The Sony A7RII films in 4K, which we sometimes use for our motion shots so we can crop afterward. We film 95 percent of wedding video on the 1080p setting. I suggest a 128GB card and the duel battery pack attachment for all your cameras. With that setup, you will have to change batteries only one time throughout the day. The last thing you want to worry about is changing batteries during the ceremony or a speech.
Pick up your camera by the tool and not the camera. If you have your camera powered on and you move locations by picking up the camera instead of picking it up by the tripod, you risk failure of the SD card. You will still have the video content on the card, but you will not be able to use the card the rest of the day. Always have extra cards handy in case you find yourself in a situation like that. With two of us filming all day, we have the third camera set up on the unmanned tripod for the ceremony and reception. This way, we always have a safe angle to cut to. For post-ceremony creatives, we use the extra camera for time-lapses.
This year, small companies will likely be able to pay to start advertising photos and video with Instagram. With monthly average users now over 400 million, this social media company has become too big to ignore. Videos are limited to 15 seconds, making it more likely people will engage and finish watching your video posts. We use Instagram to post the wedding teasers and show behind-the-scenes. It’s easy and free to make a movie trailer of your weddings to build interest and anticipation.
We upload all our weddings to Vimeo. This is the best way to back up your content in the cloud. When your clients lose their DVD or jump drive, you can always download the file. Vimeo also looks great when you embed your wedding videos on your website.
#6 Final Cut Pro
This is how our films come to life. We have edited with Adobe and we like it, but just not as much as Final Cut. If you are not part of the Apple ecosystem of iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch and Mac, it might be best for you to use Sony, Avid, Microsoft or Adobe editing tools. We prefer Final Cut because you can use all types of footage without having to convert anything. If you had to, you could use footage from your GoPro, iPhone, Sony and Canon cameras. You can put it all in Final Cut and start editing right away. We use MacBook Pros with Final Cut to edit all of our films, giving us the flexibility to work on projects anywhere.
#5 Sony Time-Lapse Apps
Rarely do I ever hear anyone talk about these Sony apps, so I’m guessing most don’t take advantage of them. If you want to save time and enjoy technological convenience, this app is for you. To download it, go to the Sony app store when you have a Wi-Fi connection with your camera. The apps are only a few dollars. Purchase both the star and regular time-lapse apps. Now you don’t have to worry about intervalometers or editing photos together in post—the apps do all of this for you.
Two examples of time-lapses for weddings would be a church with clouds in motion and a reception venue at night with cars and stars making a streaking motion over the venue. Capture and edit time-lapses with one push of the shutter button.
If you work with multiple people and have multiple projects going on, Slack is something to consider. Rather than sending hundreds of texts and emails, and wasting time on conference calls, you can connect with Slack instead. This is one of the fastest-growing technology companies on the planet. You can sign up for free and start your group.
Slack makes it easy to organize threads for each of your weddings. Just click on each person’s wedding and get all the info. Instead of trying to find the email with the time and locations for a particular wedding, you can organize all inspiration and information in Slack and have all of your clients’ information organized. Save time and collaborate together in the most simple way.
Say goodbye to all the other motion stabilizers. This product is a category killer as well as the most fun and rewarding video tool I’ve used. On a wedding day, we use the Ronin for prep, ceremony, post and reception. The lenses we use on this device are the Sony 10–18mm and the Sony 55mm. This gives you the variety you need with wide- and medium-composition video shots.
If you purchase this, be sure to get the updates and balance it right. After you initially set it up, you won’t need to take the stand or remote with you on wedding-day shoots. We are rough with the Ronin, and have gotten it wet, frozen, dropped it and shipped it in suitcases. It looks fragile, but it’s rough and tough. The battery will last you all day. The only must-have accessory is the thumb remote.
Facebook is the clear king of social media. If you combined Canon, Sony, Panasonic, GoPro, Nikon and Disney, you would find that Facebook is bigger then all of them combined. With our advertising and marketing dollars this year, we will invest 100 percent of it with Facebook.
When we meet our brides, the first thing all of them tell us is that they stalk our Switzerfilm fan page. Videos we produced for weddings and corporate last year received over 500,000 views on Facebook. Posting your wedding videos on YouTube is fine, but you can connect faster and easier with your bride and groom using social media.
Some say Facebook can be a distraction, and they’re right. Limit how many groups you join and focus on your business page. Most filmmakers tend to spend their social time talking shop or gossiping in groups while spending little or no time on their company page. Be genuine, show interest, connect and communicate with people/companies that inspire you and your clients. Invest money and time in Facebook.
Music is the template for all our films. The feel of the video and the engagement all depends on the connection between music and film. All the music we license is from SongFreedom. Without it, we would sacrifice our quality and just have random songs that mean nothing to us or our clients, who have deep connections with all types of music.
When we need help finding that perfect song, we can rely on SongFreedom to provide the perfect customized playlist for us to share with our clients. In a world without SongFreedom, I wouldn’t be able to use mainstream music. We measure the success of our weddings by how well our product engages with the couple and the public. Our most recent wedding video has over 110,000 views, and it wouldn’t have that traction without the music.