Wednesday, August 27, 2008


Everyone says the wedding day flies by so quickly.  That is so true for the bride and groom and their guests.  It's true for us, too.  The day is filled to the brim with activities and people which we are capturing from early in the morning 'til late at night so that we can accurately portray the feeling of the day, and show the people who were important to the couple 

If we had the luxury of time, we could seamlessly film and edit in scenes that would add a very movie-like quality to our wedding movies.  So, in many cases, we do just that.  Either we plan to film on a non-wedding day before we even start filming the wedding day, or we come up with ways to enhance the theme(s) of the wedding while in the editing suite after the wedding.  

Here's an example.  On the third day of a fabulous 3-day wedding weekend, guests were invited to gather at the Ferry Building to catch a chartered ferry to Tiburon where they could relax, sun themselves, have brunch, and listen to a Latin band.  One of the themes on Sunday was orange balloons.  Why orange?  It is the color of the Netherlands, from whence the groom hailed.  The orange balloons served to mark the spot where everyone should gather.  Then throughout the day, we saw children playing with them here and there.

Since this was a destination wedding, we had wanted to show a few San Francisco landmarks somewhere in the wedding movie, so we used orange balloons to connect the scenes (shot on a non-wedding day), then connect back to the live action.  Enjoy this 48-second piece!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Is It Real or Is It Fake?

I saw a story on a blog the other day.

The author, Mark Christiansen who is well-respected in the visual effects industry, noted that parts of the Olympic Games opening ceremonies were faked for the TV audience. If you saw the opening ceremonies, the parts he’s referring to are the ‘footprints in the sky’ created with fireworks. The live audience did see footprints in the sky, but the TV audience saw a different set of footprints that had been computer-generated. It’s similar to having someone lip-synch the national anthem at the start of a baseball game.  Oh, but that happened at the opening ceremonies too!  The very cute 9-year old girl who performed the song was lip-synching to another girl's vocal track.  

As soon as the lip-synching was leaked, the world press had a field day calling the incident "Olympic Karaoke", "Hoax! Made in China", "The Great Beijing Lip-synch Switcheroo", and "China's Wrong Child Policy".

But back to the 'footprints in the sky."  There may have been very good reasons to ‘fake it’. Maybe the Chinese were afraid that the fireworks would be rained out. Or maybe the faked fireworks were more vibrant or easier for the TV audience to see. But it gives us a slightly uneasy feeling because the performance was portrayed as real when it wasn’t.

With the technology that’s available and the skill of today’s technicians and artists, you can’t always trust that what you see is the unvarnished truth. And, this sleight-of-hand can be done almost undetectably. So what’s the big deal? Well, an enjoyable pyrotechnic show at the Olympics whether real or faked is no big deal, although this was a fake on a pretty big scale. We all need be a little bit skeptical, like the folks in Missouri, the “Show-Me” state.

How does this apply to brides who are searching for the best professionals in each category? Scrutinize online reviews with a grain of salt.  Sure, there are less-than-professional vendors out there who deserve the 3, 5 10, even 20 bad reviews they get.  These are to be taken seriously because these companies routinely disappoint brides.  Chat rooms serve brides well in these cases.

On the other hand, there isn't one professional I know who hasn't been unfairly slammed with a bad review online.  In the first year we were in business, an unscrupulous competitor whom we had never met, posing as a bride, said some pretty nasty things about us that hurt us deeply since we care very much about giving our best to every bride. We provided evidence of the fraud to the hosting site, but they would not remove the post.  Thankfully, that was our only brush with 'the dark side'.

So, if you see virtually all excellent posts about a professional, and then you see a negative post, be skeptical.  Check it out for yourself.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Color Part II: Color Grading

In my last post, Color, Part I we discussed the need for color correction in a wedding movie because there are many different lighting conditions which are not ideal, and over which we have little control. Accurate color, particularly in skin tones, makes a big difference to the overall quality of the movie.  We are one of the few wedding cinematographers who color correct all of our movies.

In Color, Part II, we will discuss color grading, which is giving a specific look that enhances the mood of a scene or of the whole movie.

Here are two paintings by Andrew Wyeth.  In one he uses warm golden tones; in the other, cooler more subdued tones.  Which is preferable?  To us, the answer depends on which matches the mood you are trying to convey.

In No Country For Old Men, a dark drama, the colorist created a torrid, washed-out dust-bowl, lonely and melancholy look.   Mama Mia, an upbeat musical, used bright, primary, super-saturated colors.  Memoirs of a Geisha used dramatic lighting, shadow and light, which was slightly underexposed to enhance the drama and gravity in each scene.  

We will sometimes select a color palette and texture to emphasize the mood of a part of the wedding day.  For one of our very soft-spoken sweet brides, we selected a pastel palette, with an almost watercolor feel which perfectly matched her personality.  

On another occasion, as our bride descended a grand staircase, she shared some very emotional moments with her father who shed tears of joy as he saw her in her wedding gown and veil for the first time.   As they waited in a dark ballroom to walk down the aisle, they looked just like the Vermeer painting on the left, Girl with a Pearl Earring. Their faces seemed to emerge from the darkness with one side deeply in shadow, the other bathed in golden late afternoon sun.  Although we did not design the lighting and did not direct them to stand in a certain spot, we were able to recognize this great opportunity and put the camera in a position to capture it perfectly.  So sometimes, color grading can be accomplished while filming, rather than in post-production.

Until a few years ago, color grading was relatively rare in Hollywood.  But now, 95% of films are color graded.  Just as with feature films, we color grade in order to create a specific mood. We feel that color grading is just part of doing the best we can for each of our clients.

Here are some interesting websites that explore color:
Color Theory -
Fashion & Color Trends -
Meaning of Colors -

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Color Part I: Color Correction

Color is all around us.  We notice it from a young age when we are 'coloring' with our box of Crayolas.  We play with colorful toys like a bright yellow pail and shovel, a little red wagon and a bright green 'First Computer'. 

As we get older, we make color choices for the places we live and work, the cars we drive and the clothes we wear.  There are companies which make a good business of color - Pantone, Benjamin Moore, and every Paris fashion designer.

Why do we care?  Because colors have meaning.  

In our business, we believe since color is important to our brides, it is important to portray color correctly throughout a scene.  Accurate color is one of the 6 basic criteria of evaluating videography.  [See s
idebar Videography Criteria to the lower right of this post.]  We are one of the few wedding cinematographers in the country who do extensive color work in post-production includi
ng adjusting the colors, luminance/brightness, and contrast to match the shots from our multiple cameras.

First, before we shoot a single frame, we calibrate each of our cameras to produce true and accurate color, and to match each other perfectly.  Then, we fine-tune the color balance on our cameras at the event to further ensure a perfect match among cameras.  

Lighting and color can vary wildly from a bride's preparation filmed under yellow incandescent lights, to a ceremony shot in (blue) shade outdoors, and a rece
ption filmed in a (red) wine cave. In post-production, we make adjustments to ensure it is not too jarring to go from one scene to the next. It's relatively easy to make these adjustments on a single photograph 
with Photoshop. But when you're operating on each clip (clip=a series of frames that encapsulate a single scene or action) of a 30 to 40 minute movie, it's not a trivial task.  

There are about 1200 clips in one of our wedding movies.  Sometimes one clip requires several color and exposure adjustments as a bride and groom walk down the aisle from the candle lit interior of a cathedral out the doors into bril
liant sunlight.   It is more art than science, so a lot of practice and a lot of patience is required.  

We color correct because we have very little control over lighting at a wedding.  And yet, we want skin tones to look flattering and the scene to be pleasing to the eye.  So, we film as well as circumstances allow, then color correct in post-production. Here is a scene which is too blue.

Now, here is the same scene with color enhancement to make the scene warmer.   It's more pleasing to our eyes because this is what we are accustomed to seeing.  Even when the scene really is too blue, our brains correct what our eyes see.

These days, there are so many different televisions each with multiple color adjustments. When we deliver our movies, how can we be certain the true colors will be seen?   We use a calibrated color monitor. That means we can be 100% certain that the colors in the movie are accurate. And these days, we like to deliver the movie and see for ourselves how it looks on the screen. Frequently our clients thank us for making recommendations for tuning up the TV's color not just so they can see their wedding movie in real color, but so they can view broadcast TV shows and Blockbuster videos in accurate color too.

Once you've mastered accurate color, what's the next frontier?  In Hollywood, digital colorists are giving movies a certain look through the process of 'color grading'.  In Color, Part II, we'll explore color grading.