Digital Video Cameras
Many videographers have gone away from SVHS and Hi8 and into digital acquisition.  Some have also abandoned SVHS editing for Non-Linear editing, which is totally digital and done on the computer.  Hopefully DVD’s will be just around the corner so your wedding video will last forever, with no more tapes to wrinkle.  The only type of digital camcorder that your videographer should be using is a “3 CCD” camera.  This means there is a separate Charge Coupled Device for red, green, and blue.  This results in much better picture color renditions, saturation, and low video noise, all requirements of professional video.  Pictures shot with 3CCD camcorders are stunning.  If the videographer does not have this camera, it means they tried to skimp on a few hundred bucks and are delivering inferior quality to you.  I’ve listed some models below, that if your videographer is using, you can expect some great results. Here are the best digital camcorders that most professionals like to use:

Canon XL1 Digital Video Camcorder.  This is probably the finest digital camcorder at the time of this writing.  It’s a $3500 3CCD camera with interchangeable lenses, and is a favorite among producers and documentary filmmakers, because it is smaller and lighter than older Betacam shoulder mount cameras.  Also, the Canon Flourite lenses are excellent.

Canon GL1 Digital Video Camcorder.  This is the next model down in Canon’s digital video family, also with a Flourite lens.  Some videographers prefer this camera because it is smaller, lighter, less expensive ($2500), and is ideal if you don’t need to interchange lenses for a Discovery Channel safari documentary.

Sony DCR-VX2000 3000.00  This is Sony’s top end product that competes very nicely with the Canon XL1.  Also a 3CCD favorite of producers and filmmakers.  I know a wedding videographer who swears by this camera, and his backup, the Sony DCR-TRV900.

Sony DCR-TRV900 2000  The next model down in Sony’s lineup. I personally own this excellent $2000 3CCD camera and my friends are most impressed with the vivid color produced by the large 3.5″ color LCD.  I don’t think I have yet used the eyepiece viewfinder, because the LCD is so huge. We had a new baby and I was not about to skimp on quality, I had to have 3CCD.  Every parent is really a documentary filmmaker.  This is a very light and easy to carry digital camcorder.  Don’t let it’s small size fool you.  It’s packed with technology that rivals the big TV station Betacams.
The big ones that the TV news reporters use.
Expect to pay $1000 and up for a bare bones package. If the videographer uses a JVC KY27 series, you have it made in the shade. This camera is stunning in low light, still providing bright vibrant colors. It uses 3 CCDs, unlike the consumer camcorders, that typically use 1 CCD. Many cameras fail to deliver decent color in low light. The built-in cartioid mic is linked to the zoom lens, so you can stand 20 feet away and zoom in to hear 2 people talking. The audio is CD quality too. The video tape it uses is usually a professional studio 3/4″ tape. The type of videographer that uses this camera knows what they are doing and you can be assured of getting top notch results. But this is early 90’s technology, and I dare say the advances in 3CCD digital video cameras have caught up to this $30,000 camera.

S-VHS (Super VHS) Video Cameras (“Prosumer”)
S-VHS is used by many videographers. This Prosumer format has nearly double the resolution of standard VHS. SVHS gives over 400 lines of resolution compared to 240 lines in VHS, nearly double the resolution of the VHS format. Most videographers use this type of camcorder, shooting onto S-VHS tape and editing in the studio is S-VHS format. This is a great format because you can make 3 or 4 copies down from the original before you begin to lose quality. With VHS, you lose quality on the first copy. I’m sure many of you already know that first hand. If you have a S-VHS deck at home, you should ask for your wedding video in S-VHS format. Make any other copies in VHS format, as S-VHS tapes cannot be played in a VHS machine. Most audio superstores sell S-VHS decks starting at $600. SVHS VCRs can play both SVHS and VHS tapes.

Regular VHS Camcorder
This format should NEVER be used to video tape a wedding! VHS is terrible, the color stinks, and you lose quality on the first edit, so forget trying to work with it in the studio. Any decent videographer knows never to use this format, but there are still some idiots out there using it. There’s always Joe Blo’s brother in law who switches jobs regularly and decides that this week he’s an expert videographer and has no technical expertise in this field at all. The video should be mastered on S-VHS, then duped onto VHS for your final product.

Other Technical Aspects:
Make sure you specify that your final copy of the video video is on a hi-fi tape. Hi-Fi tapes should be used if the videographer used CDs to lay music on the tape. Regular Video tape has an audio response of 50 – 8000 Hz, whereas Hi-Fi tape is 20 – 20 Khz, the audio bandwidth. Hi-Fi tapes are better than regular tapes and they only cost $2 more. Don’t let them talk you out of a Hi-Fi tape.   A few videographers have argued with me that HIFI tape is also a myth and sales gimmick or that there is nothing inherently different about it.  I still recommend the Hi-Fi tapes because they have more coatings and will be more durable than regular tapes.  This point will be moot anyway, if your wedding is on DVD.  I have not even used my VCR since September, 1998.

Choosing Special Effects.
Some videographers have great effects on their final edit of your wedding video. Advancements in computer and video technology, have put high quality graphic effects within reach of more people. There are two popular digital effects mixers, both of which have a suite of canned wedding effects:

Alladin Pinnacle: Some pros regard the Alladin Pinnacle to be the best 3D digital effects mixer in its price range (<$12000). For dissolves, it can do trails, page turns with new video on the back of the turn, highlighting, and drop shadows for a more realistic 3D look. It does a clean video compression effect with no ugly tiling artifacts. The Pinnacle can make 90% of all effects seen on network TV. It is the top of the line for wedding videos, and the Pinnacle does not degrade the video picture. Using the Alladin Pinnacle and the JVC KY 27b produces a high end video with impact.

Video Toaster: Video Toaster is another fine editor as well. It is used on Star Trek and Babylon 5 to create many of their effects. This unit can do numerous effects, and new suites of effects are coming out all the time. Some of the effects are a page peel to dissolve one scene to the next. Other transitions are water ripples, mosaics, etc. They even have some moving firework displays to overlay on top of the video during dance scenes. This effect is one of my favorites.

There’s lots of other useful editing suites that produce a great job, I just listed a couple of the better known products.
Ask your videographer which mixer they use, and get them to show you some effects. They all love to show off their computer setups, because seeing the setup leaves a lasting impression on the client, it totally wows you to see all the technology in action. Ask to see many examples to give you ideas. Some effects can really make the video come alive with a party atmosphere. Consumer Alert
You Must Have A Clear, Concise, Written Contract!

If you take your videographer to court, the judge will say “Where is your contract?” Make sure they have a written contract stating everything you expect of them in writing. If they refuse or give verbal claims, get up and leave. Do you think they will remember 10 months from now what they promised you? A written contract will help them remember. Just surf the newsgroup and see how many people got burned when they were not given what they expected and had no contract to enforce it. On the contract, you want it clearly stated who your videographer will be. You don’t want to be surprised at the ceremony to find your videographer is NOT the person that you interviewed. Try choosing the business owner, even if they cost more, they have more experience. The contract should state which plan you get and HOW MANY HOURS you have the videographer. This is a big source of grief for newlyweds, when the wedding does not start on time and half way through they find out the videographer wants overtime pay. Know your ceremony, travel time to the reception, figure 2-4 hours at the reception and use that as your guide. Our wedding was at 3:00 in Fort Lauderdale, and the reception at 5:00 at the Boca Raton Resort so we chose a 6 hour plan. Make sure it is in writing!!!! Your contract should also state how many cameras are to be used, how many tapes you will receive, and what format they will be. The contract should list what is included on the tape, like invitation, picture story, love stroll, video collage, location sequence, etc. Other items in the contract should be your correct wedding date, where the videographer is supposed to report to, size of the wedding party, number of guests, ring bearers, etc., ALL event times and locations, your deposits, and remaining balance. Also mention in the contract that you are to receive a video recap. Some people refer to this as a collage, but it’s usually 2 songs worth of video, giving a recap of the ceremony and reception. This footage is placed at the beginning of the tape so you can show the tape to people without having to watch the entire video.

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