How do I keep your memories safe?


As Jack Nicholson once said, “We’re in the business of saving memories”. Okay, so that’s not exactly what he said, but let’s not get bogged down in details. The point is, as a wedding videographer, I deal in moments. My product is your memories. And “with great memories, come great responsibilities” (okay, I’ll stop butchering film quotes now).

You only get one shot at your wedding. There are no redos. It’s therefore important that a wedding videographer keeps your memories safe. In this article, I’m going to tell you about the steps and precautions I take to make sure I do exactly that.

On the day

I shoot most weddings alone, meaning it’s usually just me and one camera for most of the day. However, this is different for the super important bits: the ceremony, the speeches, and the first dance. For these bits, I’ll usually be using three cameras at the same time (two for the first dance). This has two benefits: not only does it give me different angles to cut to (providing different perspectives and capturing more of what’s going on), but it also gives me backups.

wedding videographerUnfortunately, things do go wrong; technology sometimes fails us. Whether that means a corrupt memory card or a camera freezing, I need to make sure that it doesn’t ruin the final product. Having multiple angles helps with this. Last summer, during a ceremony, a memory card in one of my cameras corrupted. Luckily, I was filming the ceremony from three angles, so the ceremony was still captured from two different angles. In the end, an expert was able to recover the files for a fee, so I could use the footage from that camera anyway! But even if they hadn’t been able to recover it, the precautions I’d taken meant that the ceremony was still captured in full.

The same is also true of my approach to capturing audio during a wedding. When thinking about a wedding film, a lot of people don’t consider the audio side of things; good, quality audioAs is one of the things that really separates a professional wedding film from Auntie Jone’s iPad recording. Audio is important, and needs to be treated as such.

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During an ordinary ceremony, I’ll place a microphone on the groom and the person giving the service (if they’ll allow it). Sticking a mic on a bride is sometimes difficult (wedding dresses aren’t really conducive to hiding mics), but the groom and celebrant’s mics are usually enough to also pick up the bride’s vows. I’ll also stick microphones on anybody that’s giving a reading during the service. Next, I’ll also place a backup recorder in the flowers or somewhere else nearby, just in case the other two mics fail. And on the off chance that all of those fail, my three cameras are also each recording audio. That means there are usually at least 5 back-up recordings of the vows, in case the groom’s mic fails for whatever reason.

The same applies to the speeches; I will ordinarily place a microphone on each person giving a speech. If the venue has a handheld microphone that is being used during the speeches, I’ll also attach a recorder to that to provide a backup. Finally, I’ll place more recorders underneath the people speaking, just in case. And again, if all else fails, there’s always the audio from my three cameras.

So I’ve spoken about the insurance provided by having three separate cameras for the important bits, but what about the rest of the day? What if something happens to that main camera I use? Well that main camera records onto two memory cards simultaneously. This means that, should a card become corrupt, there’s another one in there with everything on it too. In the extremely unlikely event that both cards fail, there’s also a good chance that an expert could recover the files as well!

After the wedding

Okay, we made it. We got through the day without any issues. We have footage from throughout. Twice. With three versions of the ceremony and speeches, and enough audio sources to shake a stick at. It’s been a long day, but it’s not over yet. There’s just one more job to do: back up.

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I can’t sleep after a wedding unless I’ve backed it up. I tried it once, but a myriad of fears and worries plagued my all-too-awake mind. What if there’s a fire in the night and there’s no time to grab my camera bag? What if there’s a flood? What if somebody breaks in and steals my camera bag? What if the memory cards just spontaneously combust during the night? No, better just to back them up. So before I go to bed after a wedding, I make sure that all of your memories are stored in two places: on their original devices (cameras, recorders etc.), and on one hard drive. 

The next day, I’ll copy everything from that hard drive to a second hard drive. Your memories are now stored in two places.
However, these two copies are not enough. Again, my anxious brain worries me with thoughts of fires, floods, gas explosions, or any other number of disasters, both man-made and natural. And so, at the next opportunity, I’ll copy this to a third hard drive that I keep off-site. Only after this third copy is made will I delete footage and files from my cameras and recorders.

All of this ultimately means that, during the day, I take every precaution to ensure that, as far as possible, I won’t miss out on capturing your memories. Afterwards, there are ultimately three copies of your files: two hard drive copies in my office, and one kept off-site. Oh, and until I can access my off-site hard drive, I’ll make sure to keep a copy of your wedding on my person every time I leave the house. Yeah that’s right, I’m a paranoid wreck! Like I said earlier, as a wedding videographer, we’re in the business of saving memories, and I’ll be damned if I’m not saving them to the best of my abilities!

Why do we make short films?


Chances are, when you think of a wedding video, you think of your parents’ video that you watched when you were a child. It was probably a dusty old VHS featuring a marathon video that spanned multiple hours and required several tea breaks to get through. Well that’s not really how wedding films are done any more…

These days, shorter wedding films are much more popular. These can range in length (anywhere from 5-30 minutes) and are often called different things (a ‘highlight film’, a ‘feature film’, or something else entirely) depending on the videographer. There really are no rules, which makes matters a bit confusing.

This is something you should take into consideration when choosing a videographer: what kind of video do you want? Do you want a 30 minute video? Do you only want a 5 minute video? Or do you want a 2 hour video showing everything from the day?

I can’t help you make that decision, but I can tell you about my approach and why I’ve chosen to focus on making short films.

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The AK Films approach

The starting point for all my weddings is a Wedding Highlight Film lasting anywhere from 5-7 minutes. This is a short, creative edit. It tells the story of your entire day, from getting ready until dancing, featuring footage from throughout. The shots may not be in chronological order, but that’s because they’re designed to evoke as much emotion as possible. In a nutshell, the Highlight Film is intended to make you feel as though you’re right back in that aisle all over again; like you can almost taste the champagne, almost feel the confetti falling on your skin. This isn’t just about shot order though; I also use a combination of instrumental music and vocal audio from your day (speeches, vows etc.) to really recreate those feels from your wedding day. 

In addition to the Wedding Highlight Film, I also offer the option of adding a video of your full ceremony, or a video of all of your speeches. If you want to see even more, then I do also offer a Long Film that’s reminiscent of that video your parents had. The Long Film I offer includes all the usable footage I capture on the day, from prep to dancing, condensed into a chronological film. This can be anywhere from 1-2 hours, depending on your wedding.

5-7 minutes: The perfect length?

So why did I choose to make my Highlight Films 5-7 minutes long? Well, actually, I didn’t. It just sort of happened that way. I’m trying to tell the story of your day, and that’s what dictates the length. I would never want to cut a great story short due to time constraints, and, equally, I would never want to dilute a story just to reach a minimum length. In my experience, a film will usually need to be longer than 5 minutes, but rarely longer than 7 minutes, and somewhere between that is the sweet spot that will allow me to tell your story in the most beautiful way.

Less is more

You may still be thinking that 2 hours is better than 6 minutes. I would argue that this depends on your priorities and what you want from your wedding film. Do you just want everything captured, or do you want to relive the day? Do you want an account of your wedding, or do you want an experience?

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Another downside to a long film is that it’s impossible to share online. It’s so long that the file size ends up being huge, making both uploading and streaming really difficult. Moreover, why would you want to share it? Nobody (with the exception of your gran, who most likely can’t figure out how to watch it online anyway) wants to sit down and watch a full rendition of your wedding day. And to be completely honest, you probably don’t either…
Let me ask you something: Do you remember the first time that your parents dusted off that video tape and made you sit and watch their wedding? I’m sure it was magical. Maybe the second time was pretty cool too. But the third? Chances are, you were bored out of your mind. And your parents may have been too! Whilst it’s nice to have all of that footage just in case you ever want to see it in its entirety, the reality is that it’s a bit of a pain to watch. Even though it’s your wedding day, I know couples whose weddings I filmed last year that have still not watched their Long Films.

On the other hand, you’ll likely watch your Wedding Highlight Film again and again; I’m often told by couples that they ‘can’t stop watching’ their Highlight Film. I think a component of that is just how easy it is to watch. You get to see, hear and feel the best parts of your day whenever you want.

All that being said, I fully appreciate that it can be nice to sit down and watch the whole day again, which is why I offer the option of adding the Long Film. One couple I filmed last year turned the viewing into a date night and watched their long film over a bottle of wine (there’s an idea for you).

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You may be worried that the Wedding Highlight Film will miss things from your day, and this is true. But that’s okay! Before the wedding, I always ask you what and who is most important to you. That way, I can ensure you don’t miss anything or anyone that you wanted to see. Another bonus is that you don’t have to wade through 50 shots of people you felt obliged to invite but don’t actually like very much! And if you’re still worried about missing bits, you’ve also got the option of the Long Film…

Ultimately, shorter films are quickly becoming the norm because they simply deliver a better viewing experience. Watching your Highlight Film will make you feel the kind of feelings that simply can’t be stretched out over a two-hour video. That being said, it is undeniably nice to have that Long Film too. Maybe you won’t want to watch it for years to come, but one day you’ll get the urge. And what better way of torturing the grandkids than forcing them to watch a full account of your wedding day?

Why I became a Wedding Filmmaker


This time last year, I’d just graduated from university with a degree in Law with French. Everyone expected that I would move to London, apply to a big law firm and become a solicitor. Well, they were half right…
I did move to London, but I chose to disregard a legal career in favour of something I was more passionate about: I became a Wedding Filmmaker.

As part of my degree, I’d had to study abroad in France for a year, and I was unfortunate enough to end up in a small city in the North called Brest. If I had to sum Brest up in 3 words, it would be: boring, grey, and wet. But I was in France, after all, so it wasn’t all bad: I got to visit my favourite city (Paris), I got to drink lots of wine and eat lots of cheese, and I got to meet a lot of cool people. When I was growing up with my brother, my dad would constantly have a camera stuck in our faces – he was (and is) into photography, and he loved capturing memories. I think this definitely rubbed off on me, because I found myself, in France, wanting to capture everything. Unlike my dad, my chosen format was video.

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And that’s how my journey to becoming a filmmaker started. I spent a week in Paris, pointing my camera (my iPhone) at everything, and then spent weeks editing the footage into a video. Then I went on a day trip somewhere, and the same thing happened again. It kept happening; I’d find myself sitting for 8 hours straight editing, without realising how much time had passed. Eating, sleeping and studying were all distractions. All I wanted to do was make videos.

When I returned to Nottingham for my final year of university, I kept this up, starting a YouTube channel and making cinematic vlogs inspired by The Michalaks, and I started to wonder if it would be possible to make money from this. At the same time, I did some legal work experience at a small solicitors’ firm and decided that this may not be the route I wanted to go down, after all. I found the work dry, soulless and boring, which was in stark contrast to how much I was enjoying making videos. Suddenly, I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life. Here I was in my fourth year of studying law for a career I’d been sure I wanted to do, with no ambitions to continue down that path past graduation. 

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Getting the shot in Florence, Italy.

One day, my girlfriend sent me a link to a wedding video on YouTube. She said it had made her cry, and I was intrigued. I think it was by The Film Poets, who are an American husband-wife-duo that make beautiful films. I remember it blowing my mind. Previously, I’d thought wedding videos were these long, boring, badly made things by a man with a camcorder on his shoulder. But not this one. It was definitely about a wedding, and it covered the whole day, but it was only six minutes long, it was all in the wrong order, there was slow-motion, and it looked like a movie! I watched another. Then another. An idea began to form, and my mind began to race. “Could I do this?”, thought a part of me. “Why not?”, thought another.

A couple of months later, I filmed a wedding ceremony for free. I was already invited as a guest, so I asked if I could try filming it to see what I could come up with. They agreed, and I filmed it on an old DSLR and a point-and-shoot (basically, not cameras you should be using for weddings). I spent weeks editing it, and I played it for the couple when I next saw them. It was nowhere near the calibre of The Film Poets’ films I’d watched, and yet it made them cry. They seemed genuinely thankful to have this memento from their day, and I felt all warm inside; in that moment I decided that this was what I wanted to do with my life.

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A still from my first ever Wedding Film.

I emailed every wedding videographer nearby, and when they didn’t respond, I called them instead. Eventually, one of them agreed to hire me as an assistant, which I started doing alongside studying for my finals. After a busy summer working with him, I started getting my own bookings and filming my own weddings. I haven’t looked back since.

In the filmmaking industry, weddings are often looked down on. Filming weddings is often a stepping stone to ‘bigger and better’ things – a ‘necessary evil’ in order to gain experience behind a camera so that you can go on to make adverts and short films and things like that. Personally, I love weddings, and I have no desire to do anything else. I do a bit of commercial stuff on the side at the moment (just to try new things), but I’m quickly realising that weddings is all I want to do, because I feel it’s what I do best, and I haven’t really found anything else that I enjoy as much. On a wedding day, at no point does it feel like work. I’m filming people having a great time. They’re smiling, laughing, catching up, dancing, drinking, and for two people there it’s the happiest day of their life – how lucky am I that I get to be there capturing it?!

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In addition, I don’t need to worry about directing like you do with commercial work. Everything is already happening, with or without me, which means I can focus entirely on capturing things in the most beautiful way possible. Admittedly, it’s long hours (usually 12 hour days), and sometimes stressful. The editing can be boring (sorting through 6 hours of wedding footage to get rid of the unusable bits can take days, and that’s before the real editing and storytelling even begins), but every single day I wake up excited to make a meaningful film that will tell the story of the happiest day of someone’s life.

And when it does get tough? When I’m editing a 90 minute catholic ceremony from three different camera angles and it’s taking me a lifetime? I just remember that I could have been sat in an office drafting contracts, and I feel thankful all over again.

Why Wedding Filmmakers have to kill their darlings


Filming weddings is a strange art. Art because we’re making films. Strange because we’re not making a film for the sake of art – we’re making a film for you, the client, to tell the story of the most special day of your life.

The result is this strange conflict between art and purpose. Let me explain: sometimes, as filmmakers wanting to produce beautiful work, we may want to include shots in your film that are artfully framed, exposed perfectly, and are visually interesting. However, a well-composed shot of evening guest #44 may be less important to you, the client, than a shot of your great aunt that we deem to be ‘worse’, purely because it’s not as ‘artistic’, for want of a better word. Nevertheless, we can’t include every shot that we get in your final film, and so we must sometimes make a decision.

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‘Killing your darlings’ is a term used mainly by writers to refer to deleting parts of a story that the writer loves but which, objectively, don’t really advance the story. This can be anything from a particular scene, to a certain character trait. The same applies to  filmmaking and, in particular (I would argue), to wedding filmmaking. 

Sometimes, as creators, we may think a film we have made is perfect. However, we’re looking at it from a cinematography point of view. Maybe the story progresses well, the pace is nice, the visuals interesting and pleasing. But what does that matter to you when you get your film back and it’s missing a shot of your first dance? Maybe the filmmaker left out shots of your first dance because the lighting of the dance floor was purple and so you looked like an alien on the video. Maybe he instead opted to include a staged shot of you twirling around each other outside at sunset. The problem is, that moment where you danced together in front of your friends and family for the first time as husband and wife may well have been the highlight of the day for you, and so you may quite rightly want it included in your film. Maybe looking like an alien doesn’t matter to you. Equally, you may hate the staged shot for its inauthenticity. 

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This is what I mean by killing your darlings. Ideally, we would have been able to manage the dance floor lighting and neutralise your skin tones. But that’s not always possible, so sometimes it’s necessary to kill our darlings and, in this example, remove the shot from outside in order to include the shot that will be more important to you, regardless of how we feel it impacts the film from a creative perspective. As filmmakers hired by you to capture your day, sometimes we have to bite the bullet and make our art ‘worse’, in our opinion, in order to make you, the client, happier. 

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Ultimately, this is all about balance. If we killed all of our darlings, then the film might be rubbish. There is, of course, a spectrum here. While both aesthetics and purpose are not and should not be exclusive, sometimes, inevitably, there is conflict. Different filmmakers deal with this in different ways. Some filmmakers may lean more towards favouring the aesthetic shots, and some may lean more towards favouring the shot that satisfy the film’s purpose. This is what determines their style. Your preference, as a client, of one videographer over another may be a result of where their work lies on this spectrum. You may want a more artistic film with more considered, visually pleasing shots, or you may want a more run-and-gun, true-to-the-wedding kind of film. The only way of determining your preference is by watching the work of different videographers and getting a feel for the different styles and what feels right for you. Once you know what you like, you’ll be much better placed to pick your ideal wedding videographer who’ll produce a film you love. Either way, make sure you liaise with the videographer. Communicate what is important to you prior to the wedding. And If something happened on the day that you particularly want (or don’t want) including in your film, let them know! When all is said and done, and you watch back your film, ask yourself how many darlings the videographer killed for those shots of Uncle Bob’s breakdancing that you said were essential.

To see for yourself what kind of approach we take to wedding films, please have a look at our Films.

The Myths of Being Self-Employed


“Oh you work for yourself? That must be so great! I’d love to work for myself…”

You would, huh? And why is that? Love figuring out your own taxes? Like going entire days without human contact?

Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE my job, and I haven’t looked back once since graduating from law school and deciding to forego the solicitor route to become a filmmaker, but it absolutely is not what it’s made out to be. The following statements are all things that have actually been said to me by real people….

But you get to do whatever you want! Your hobby is your career!

Yes, okay. I’ll give you that one. I am very fortunate in being able to pay my rent by doing exactly what I used to do in my spare time. That being said, I don’t actually spend my days doing what I want. It’s less doing what I want, and more doing all the things that nobody else is doing for me. For example, not only do I shoot and edit, but I also do the marketing, the accounting, the web design, the sales. I have to meet people, email people, send contracts, send invoices, post to social media, write blog posts, keep educating myself and improving my craft, and only then do I get to sit down and edit. When I started this company, I imagined my day going something like this: I’d get up, edit all day, make people cry happy tears, sleep, and repeat! What I didn’t factor in was all the hours of admin that running a business requires, all the stuff that just gets in the way of doing the thing I love. So yes, I do do what I want to do, but I also have to do a heck of a lot of stuff that I don’t.

Top view of notebook, camera, glasses and coffee. Business still life on old wooden table

 

Okay, sure, but you’re at least doing it on your terms!

Touché. I can market when I want, I can do the accounting when I want, I can edit when I want. And in-between it all, I can go to a café, or I can go for a walk, and I have nobody to answer to. I am the master of my own schedule… to a certain extent. And that extent may be greater for people in certain professions, but in this line of work, I’m much more restricted in terms of my schedule. For example, I have to work most weekends, because that’s when the majority of people get married. Additionally, I like to meet with couples beforehand, and they usually work Monday-Friday so can only meet on weekends, meaning that I have to work on those weekends too (although I use the term ‘work’ loosely: sitting down for a coffee and hearing people’s proposal stories almost never feels like work). 

Moreover, everyone else in my life is on a Monday-Friday 9-5 schedule, so it makes sense for me to be, too. For example, I get up with my girlfriend to go to the gym at 6am, and I’m usually at my desk working (re: answering emails) by 9am. Then I’ll finish at around 6pm so that I can enjoy my evenings with everyone else who finishes around then. Why would I want to work outside of those hours when that’s the only time everyone else is available?

But still, they’re right – it is all up to me – nobody is holding a gun (or the threat of redundancy) to my head, and I absolutely do value that freedom. There’s nothing like being able to go and meet a friend for a coffee in the middle of the day on a whim, and knowing that you can make up that time whenever you want.

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Look at all that money you’re getting, instead of making rich people richer!

Sorry? Money? What’s that?

I joke, I joke. But honestly, there are a lot of costs I didn’t factor in with becoming self-employed. There’s liability insurance, indemnity insurance, there’s the taxes (oh, you would not believe the taxes…). There are equipment costs, equipment insurance costs, editing software costs, client management software costs, music licensing costs, PayPal fees, card fees, drone license fees.

If I’m ill, or get injured, I’m not making any money. I recently saw a Facebook post by a photographer who had broken her wrist, and was therefore unable to use a camera. She had to hire people to cover her weddings for the entirety of June and July – the two most important months for any wedding vendor!

All that being said, it is fantastic knowing that every penny I earn (minus taxes), is going to me, instead of to some fat cat in a suit. 

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Dress down day is every day!

My flatmate recently responded to my making fun of his clothes by saying ‘you don’t even wear trousers!’.

It’s true, I spend most of my time sat editing in tracksuit bottoms or shorts, making sure I’m as comfy as I can possibly be – and that’s definitely a massive perk of working from home. Nevertheless, working from home also means a very lonely life, sitting in front of a computer day in, day out, with very little contact with other people. It’s unsociable – there are no after-work drinks, no Christmas parties, no sweepstakes or fundraisers. It’s just me and my computer, occasionally asking Google Home how the weather’s looking (P.S. you should DEFINITELY get a Google Home – it will change your life). I’m fortunate enough to have a flatmate that also works from home a couple of days a week, which keeps things fun, and having friends that are also available during the day is great for those spontaneous coffee breaks and lunches out. But ultimately, it can be alienating to go solo and work for yourself.

So to wrap up, those are my thoughts on the myths of being self-employed. If you’re thinking of quitting your job and jumping head-first into the self-employed life, I would say absolutely do it. I love it, I really do. But don’t kid yourself into thinking that it won’t feel like work. Forcing yourself to do something, even something you love, will always feel like work at some stage. Add into the equation the fact that all the stuff that goes along with being self-employed is time-consuming and stressful from the get-go, and you end up with a combination of factors that you should definitely consider before making the jump!