Case Studies

Weddings – Cinemacake

6 minute read

The wedding industry is big business. Each year, approximately 2.5 million weddings take place in the U.S., at a cost of approximately $72 billion.

Image © mkPhotography

CinemaCake, an award-winning video production company in Philadelphia, creates videos for commercial, web, and corporate clients. But a large part of their business comes from creating meaningful films documenting once-in-a-lifetime events. The extra pressure of having to get it right the first time makes them ultimate pros in their sector of the industry. Ben Blevins, post-production manager of CinemaCake, takes us through their typical wedding video workflow.

The Shoot

The documentary “what you get is what you get” approach to capturing an event like a wedding demands excellent preparation and smooth execution.

The cameras have to be able to deliver high-quality images while being relatively small and unobtrusive. For that reason, CinemaCake owner Dave Williams chose the Canon 5D mark iii kit. It fits into small spaces and the color quality is exceptional.

They also use the Sony A7S with Canon lenses for its superior performance in low-light conditions and ability to zoom in live during a shot. To capture the more action-oriented parts of the wedding, they have four GoPros, as well as a DJI drone for aerial or hard-to-reach angles.

They shoot at 24 fps at 1080p, which means that they can use the raw camera data without transcoding, and because the images aren’t as crisp as 4K they have less of a need to use beauty or diffusion filters.

Each shoot uses at least four cameras, with three shooters who are mobile and one locked-off camera to take the wide-angle or tight angle, depending on the circumstances.

Audio is captured separately. They’ll set up a mixer to monitor levels throughout the shoot. The Zoom H5 and Roland R-26 portable recorders are used for the main sound recording, along with a Tascam DR10 to record the Lavalier mic feeds from the groom and officiant.

Editorial Prep

CinemaCake uses flash cards, SD, and micro SD cards, and after the shoot either Ben, or a contractor who is very familiar with their process, makes sure that each card is specifically labeled and numbered so that when the download occurs they know which card to go back to in the case of an incomplete transfer.

The camera cards are also labeled with the shooter’s name, which makes it easier for Dave to review people’s work and offer specific suggestions for future projects.

The audio is labeled with each source so that the editors don’t have to listen to entire audio clips in order to determine which source it’s coming from. For example, the audio from one card might be labeled as “direct feed,” which indicates to the editor that it’s the best source, while the other files are labeled to indicate “ambient” or “Lavalier” audio sources.

Ben noted that because the Sony A7S has a less detailed internal file-naming convention, if they happen to use multiple A7S cameras on a shoot they use a tool called ReNamer to add extra detail so they can identify which footage came from which camera.

The raw camera files are offloaded to Drobo model 5D and 5N shells, which are basically five hard drives that fit together and work as a RAID. When the files are copied over to the Drobo, it automatically creates a redundant backup of all the data. And then, within a few days’ time, the data is also transferred to a Drobo that’s kept offsite for further protection.

No transcoding is necessary. CinemaCake’s editors use either Premiere or Final Cut Pro X, and the codecs they use are dependent on the system. The only exception is possibly for time lapse or footage shot at higher or lower frame rates. Which NLE the editors use is strictly based on personal preference; for example, FCP X allows editors to change names or add labels in Finder within OSX and has a few other features that integrate especially well with the Mac OS.

There are six workstations, with one full-time staff editor (the rest are vetted independent contractors) and all work on 27-inch iMacs. They’re equipped with HighPoint Technology’s RocketStor docks into which the editors can plug their assigned production hard drives so that each can work locally on their particular project. It’s an inexpensive, flexible, and practical solution.

Audio is synced using PluralEyes, although CinemaCake has observed that if more than two or three cameras have been used, PluralEyes can sometimes result in slippage or drift. Ben isn’t a full-time hands-on editor, but he’s found that Premiere’s syncing capabilities can be more accurate. Audio is generally handled in Premiere (or FCP X) but sometimes the editors also use Audition if there’s an inordinate amount of noise or clipping.

Editing and approvals

The most common wedding deliverable is a 15-minute piece, which generally takes between ten and fourteen days to edit. Note that CinemaCake’s editors have film school backgrounds and are both accomplished storytellers as well as technically adept operators.

Once a first cut is complete, editors upload the piece to for Dave’s input and approval. He’ll make the first round of comments and let the editor take a second pass. After revisions are completed, Dave will give a second round of feedback (if necessary). Ben is responsible for QCing prior to delivery to the client. According to Ben, it’s unusual for them to do more than a couple of passes, but if they need to do multiple versions, they use the multiple version viewer so they can easily find the changes without having to view the entire piece. As each version is updated, they’ll also change the status within so the editor always knows when Dave or Ben have finished leaving feedback.

Soundstripe, Songfreedom, Musicbed and PremiumBeat (in that order) are the sites from which editors choose their music. After Effects and Photoshop are used for any visual effects or titling, and color grading is handled within Premiere (or FCP X).

Delivery and archiving

After the video has been completely approved by the CinemaCake team, it’s posted in a gallery on their website for the client to review on MediaZilla as a finished product. There may be minor adjustments, the first round of which CinemaCake will address at no extra charge, but typically they just have very happy clients.

When the client signs off on the MediaZilla version, CinemaCake can deliver the final, 1080p video on Blu-ray or a thumb drive, which many clients still like, while other clients will download their videos as a zip file from MediaZilla that contains a navigation menu like that of a DVD using Hightail as the delivery service. In rare cases, the client will elect to buy the raw footage as well, which is typically provided on a portable USB drive.

After the client receives their deliverables, CinemaCake pulls out the production drive and offloads the final ProRes version along with the project file and the music to two Seagate Barracuda drives. One drive stays in their offices and the second is kept offsite. The project is then deleted from the production drive.

Should the need to make changes after that occur, they would identify the Drobo that had the raw files, copy the files back onto the production drive, and then relink through Premiere or FCP X.

The Bottom Line

When you’re shooting someone’s once-in-a-lifetime event, you have to make sure that you’ll get the best possible coverage without disruptions or problems. Using small, unobtrusive cameras to capture different views and action along with multiple sound recorders and mics ensures that you’ll have plenty of usable footage and creative options as you craft each client’s unique story. Because while you can’t control how an event will unfold, you’ll need to have a workflow that’s foolproof enough for you to capture the moments of unexpected beauty—or recover from the unexpected obstacles.

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