What is the condition of the wedding videography industry today? To find out, we talked with working wedding videographers, found industry statistics and fleshed out what is undoubtedly a flourishing business in a growing market. Although some might wonder if amateurs are moving on the pros because of lower-cost gear and easier-to-use applications, our consensus of wedding shooters and editors state that is not so. We took a peek at the tools wedding videographers are employing, and found out how the best wedding videographers are using the Web to open up new avenues of business to their bustling ventures.
To get an idea of how big the wedding videography market, first let us look at figures that reveal the tremendous quantity of money spent on weddings in the United States. As stated by the American Wedding Study by Conde Nast's Bridal Infobank, in the past ten years spending an average wedding has exploded at 50%, to an average of $22,360 per wedding annually up from $15,208 in 1994. And, according to Richard Markel, President of the Association for Wedding Professionals International, of the $65 billion spent weddings every year,"6% of the budget would be for video." Markel included,"But using the 6% of the estimated $65 billion spent will equate out to $390 million." This signals a wide-open market for wedding videography professionals. Markel continued, "We just had a show here in Sacramento and several of our videographers booked business with an average ticket price of $2,500."
Looking at those stats, wedding videography is apparently a growth market. Let us do the math for a moment. Take a seasoned videographer, charging $2500 for an ordinary wedding, shooting a wedding each week. In a year, that person has earned $130,000. But that could be a rather hard-working videographer -- most of the videographers we talked to said they spent around 40 hours editing each wedding video, meaning that a weekly shoot would constitute nearly-constant travail with hardly any time off.
One great success story is that of high-end videographer Kris Malandruccolo, whose company Elegant Videos by Kris was operating from the Chicago area for the past 16 decades. Her business can command as much as $5000 to get a wedding video package, also frequently signs contracts for $3000 weddings. However, the mom of three doesn't wish to work all the time, so that she limits herself. "Someone else could shoot four or five per month. But I average two or three weddings a month," she told Digital Media Net.
In accordance with Luisa Winters, a award-winning videographer and editor who has her own wedding videography company, Unforgettable Events, most wedding videographers fee under $2000 for their services -- with higher-end wedding video companies charging up to $15,000-$20,000. "I do not consider anyone a true professional unless they are able to make enough money to support themselves with this business," Winters told Digital Media Net. "Anything else is a side business. Supporting a family means different things depending on what part of the country you are located. If you are in a less expensive location, then less income will suffice -- and you are still professional," Winters additional.
At costs of $2000-$5000 and up, it looks like amateurs would be interested in shooting their own wedding movies, or obtaining a friend or relative to take the controls of the household camera. But Internet message boards for wedding videographers are rife with tales of first time videographers shooting an whole wedding ceremony together with the camera on end, only to discover they started rolling after all was done and said, ending up with plenty of artistic shots of the ground and nothing else. According to videographer /editor Luisa Winters,"The amateurs are taking a bite out of the wedding videographer business, but that is true only for the lower-end videographers." She thinks the lower-end shooters make matters better for the greater end, increasing the quality gap between them both. "More-educated brides will expect to pay a lot more for a video that looks professional than they were willing to pay before the advent of such inexpensive equipment. The difference between an amateur wedding video and a professional one is huge, and people are willing to pay Top Dollar for the latter." Sometimes quality considerations can be very simple, including, will you hear exactly what the bride and groom are stating? "You really have to worry about the audio part of it, you know. There's a lot involved," said Kris Malandruccolo, that along with being a thriving wedding videographer is president of the Illinois Videographers Association.
Is the playing field being leveled by the profusion of low-cost, higher excellent gear? According to Winters, "The quality of image and editing capabilities has become less important to the fact that now you have to be a better storyteller, you have to be a better artist... after all, we all have access to pen and paper, but we cannot all write the great American novel, right? Shakespeare and Mozart only had pen and paper to work with, and yet they gave us masterpieces that transcend time. Not all is determined by equipment."
Then there is the editing, and it is a process many newlyweds are not equipped to manage. "As you know, anyone in the business who edits knows it's a time-consuming process," said Malandruccolo. "I take tons of family videos but none of my personal stuff is edited, because there's no time. So if I wasn't getting paid, then I would not be editing, because it's so time-consuming, especially if you don't do it all the time. I think a lot of people, especially if they have the money, just want to say'do it for me personally .'" Malandruccolo added that it is not simply the time element that's a barrier to entry, however it is the professionalism necessary to make a polished generation. "The end result is that you have a better quality video. Like I emphasize to my clients, this is a family heirloom. You only get one shot to do it right, and you can't do it over, so being that this is a family heirloom, if you look at it that way, then they're willing to invest the money into it. And I've never had a client say that they're sorry that they spent the money on video. Clients just don't say that," additional Malandruccolo.
Wedding videography has shifted significantly over the previous twenty years, in which digital video editing and shooting has brought highly sophisticated techniques to a type of video production that was once quite fundamental. In these days it was normal to spend approximately $1000 on a movie which was a easy, point-and-shoot creation, with the editing taking place from the camera. Now, however, with the ability of digital technologies, videographers are taking advantage of 3-chip DV camcorders and complex editing installations, resulting in extraordinary productions, many of which are true works of art.
For your shooting jobs, most wedding videographers use DV camcorders from the league of the Sony PD150 or VX 2000, Canon XL1 and GL2, or even Panasonic 3-chip camcorders such as the AG-DVX100. Said Winters, "Most wedding videographers will use DV for acquisition (3-CCD), which is logical, because the cost is low, the quality is high, and above all, the weight of the camcorder is so low now, that videographers are able to be more creative with the smaller units than they were able to be, say, five or six years ago, when the cameras where huge. No longer do you have to have a big professional-looking camcorder to get good money videotaping weddings. In fact, many clients prefer the smaller units over the bigger ones, because they are less obtrusive."
Another staple of wedding coverage are wireless radios, typically attached to the groom and strategically placed elsewhere, promising that the main words many individuals will ever speak is clearly heard about the last product.
The biggest technological leap was in editing, in which even unsophisticated computers may create demonstrations which could have been possible only in a multi-million dollar edit suite 20 years back. Apple Final Cut Pro is the hottest Mac application for editing, together with Adobe Premiere Pro 1.5 leading the package on the Windows side. Other wedding videographers use Sony Vegas, Pinnacle Liquid Edition, Avid Xpress, NewTek Video Toaster, Canopus Edius and others. Some videographers elect for real time DV charge cards such as the RT.X100 out of Matrox or the DVStorm2 in Canopus. One constant is evident throughout the equipment decision stadium -- folks are staunchly dedicated to the choices they have made. Winters said,"They're loyal, from fierce arguments about the superiority of an operating system or capture card to the inferiority of the competing product. My personal opinion is less partisan. To me an editing system is a tool and nothing more -- whatever works and makes me money is what I will use -- and in this case I have chosen Premiere Pro 1.5 and a Matrox RT.X100 capture card. I have both the real time card from Matrox and plain generic FireWire cards."
Another popular method for today's wedding videography is multicamera creation. At its most basic level, a videographer will function one camera while a second unmanned camcorder is installed on a tripod, hammering the event from another angle. For the reception, most of the time a single camera does all of the shooting, with another used as a backup. At its most complex, a multicamera setup functions in much the exact same manner a network remote production would be configured, with numerous cameras attached to some switcher situated in another room away from the venue. A director is in continuous contact with every one of those three, four or more camera operators via cans, organizing their shots while shifting live between cameras while still rolling tape in every camera for isolated footage that may be added in place.
Advanced technology also makes the last product delivered to customers better, by which a premium quality DVD is now commonly given to the customer when all the shooting and recording is completed. Previously an extra-cost alternative for wedding video clients, DVDs have been working their way to the mainstream particularly over the previous couple of years. Said Malandruccolo, "When I first started offering DVDs about three years ago, they were expensive. I had it as an add-on. Not everyone took it because not everyone had a DVD player. It's amazing how quickly that has changed, because now a lot of couples aren't even interested in a VHS copy except for Grandma." It is not surprising that DVDs have taken over up to deliverables are concerned. With house DVD player prices currently dropping below $50, and many computers including DVD burners and players as standard gear, DVDs have become a taboo delivery medium to videographers of all kinds. Perhaps the best benefit of this is that the simple fact that finally customers can observe the authentic quality of the video, almost exactly the same because the grade of the camera where it had been taken. That represents quite an excellent gap in the VHS tapes that were the standard just a few short decades ago. "So many times, I was shooting with a 3-chip camcorder , and I would have this beautiful miniDV master, but then the couple's walking out the door with VHS and I'm putting the master tape in a box in my studio. All that quality would go to waste," said Malandruccolo.
Each wedding videographer is intensely concerned with marketing, and higher technology continues to be a boon to those involved. The most important plus is the Web, with its capacity to bring a huge volume of information to anyone with a computer. Undoubtedly the most important innovation for wedding videography marketing is streaming movie. Some reported to people that customers won't think about a videographer unless they can see a streaming video presentation of the shooter's work on the Web. Where in years ago a customer would have to personally see numerous videographers to find examples of the work, now a bride-to-be may visit twenty Web sites in a day, choosing a videographer whose pricing and style matches her preference and price range. Streaming video is also important following the wedding has been taken as well. As stated by Richard Markel, President of the Association for Wedding Professionals International, streaming video lets clients show their wedding to the planet. "The ability to email or add streaming video to a Web site is awesome -- now viewers that could not attend the wedding from around the world -- friends and family -- can view the wedding wherever they are," Markel said.
The Web has become so important on wedding advertising, that many videographers report a whole 50% of the company is drawn via the Web. Clients may see the demo videos, receive a price quote, and also negotiate the entire shoot without seeing the videographer. "A lot of brides complement my Web site," said Malandruccolo, because they get the immediate gratification of watching samples instantly. "The majority have broadband connections so they can see the sample videos of past projects. I've booked brides without even meeting with them, just from them finding my Web site, clicking on the streaming video, calling me, talking price, and they'll say, 'All right. Send me a contract.' I feel if you're a videographer , if you want to get more business, you need to offer streaming video."
However, the Web isn't the only way to drum up business. As it has always been, another major tool is referrals, that age-old type of word marketing where happy customers report their positive (or negative) wedding movie effects to others looking for exactly the same service. Videographers like Luisa Winters of all Unforgettable Events see the Web as much more of a reinforcement tool for referrals in relation to an end-all. "The Web is great, but it is just a means of reinforcing what they have heard already through the referral, or if they are just surfing the net," she explained. According to Winters, "By far, most clientele comes to us resulting from referrals from brides and other vendors -- in fact, we do not advertise at all." Astonishingly, she sees with other wedding vendors as her allies, even if they're competing wedding videographers. "Many times my referrals come from other videographers that just cannot do the job for whatever reason -- mostly because they are already busy. Referrals, referrals, referrals -- that's the way to go!"
Attending a bridal show is just another method for videographers to get the word out about their services. Brides-to-be attend the shows to see newest trends and pick up thoughts, and the amount of videographers displaying their wares at such events has increased over the years. Based on Markel,"I have had videographers in my consumer bridal show over the last 15 years, however it was only one or two at most per show. But that's changing fast -- last week at our show we had 11." Additionally, there are exhibitions that are held especially for wedding videographers, the largest being the yearly event held by WEVA, the Wedding and Event Videographers Association.
Another highly effective method to draw attention to some videography business is by promotion in bridal books. That's why Illinois Videographers Association president Kris Malandruccolo says it has a significant benefit to be part of an organization where videographers can band together. "We took out a co-op ad in Chicago Wedding Pages magazine and Wedding Guide Chicago, and in order to be on that co-op ad, you have to be a member of IVA. So we're able to advertise in magazines for less cost, because we're all going in on the ads." But although Luisa Winters thinks ads are important, she adds that there's more to it than that. "He or she who markets best, wins," claimed Winters. "And notice that marketing is not only placing ads, it is building those relationships in the wedding business which will lead to referrals -- that is the marketing that counts the most."
Each of the marriage videographers interviewed were convinced that amateurs aren't overrunning their businesses in any substantial way, although there have been numerous examples of"newbies" who left wing efforts but found out -- frequently too late -- that pro-level videography isn't as simple as it looks. Even though equipment prices and easy editing software has brought video-making to the mainstream, ability and expertise, as well as hard work and wise marketing continue to be scarce qualities which produce professional wedding videographers a beneficial resource for this multi-billion dollar wedding market.