Videographers work to capture key moments

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— Sophisticated video editing equipment, broadcast-quality portable cameras and easy-to-burn DVDs are among the developments that have elevated the craft of shooting wedding videos. And Northwest Colorado is home to some seasoned professionals who have the skills and experience to bring a story telling quality to your nuptials.

L.D. Shoffner of Steamboat Video.com has shot and edited countless commercial productions and manned cameras at professional sporting events in Madison Square Garden.

Jay Kinghorn of Kinghorn Productions got his start producing videos of the Billy Kidd Performance Center at the Steamboat Ski Area. In the last three years, he has impressed clients with multi-camera productions that give his wedding videos a cinematic feel.

F.M. "Smokey" Vandergrift of 20/20 Video is an adept documentary videographer who has produced numerous videos about the history of the region. He brings an appreciation of the family history woven into weddings.

Kinghorn said it's hard to avoid making beautiful wedding videos amidst the greenery and mountains of the Yampa Valley. He particularly enjoys the reactions of wedding guests form other states.

"The scenery is just spectacular," Kinghorn said. "June is the height of the green season, and it's neat to have other people say what a cool place Steamboat is."

Shoffner said he'll go to great lengths to please his customers.

"You have to be willing to do anything and say, 'No problem, I'll do that,'" Shoffner said. "Last year, I shot a wedding on top of Buffalo Pass. The bride and groom arrived by snowmobile and some of the wedding party came in a snowcat. After the ceremony, the bride and groom skied down."

The ceremony was over, but Shoffner had just begun to hustle. Most of the wedding guests had never set out for Buffalo Pass. As an alternative, Shoffner had made special arrangements with the wedding couple to present video highlights at the evening reception.

"I jumped in my truck at 1 p.m.," Shoffner recalled. By 6 p.m. that evening, he had a big-screen television set up at the restaurant and was ready to show 250 reception guests a 7.5-minute highlight tape of the day's ceremony.

"I floored them," Shoffner said.

Just as technology is driving the home video industry, it is empowering the wedding video industry. Almost everybody invited to the wedding owns a high-quality camera these days. The difference between the amateurs and the pros is skill and a computer-based editing system that allows them to bring professional production quality to a finished video.

Kinghorn said his clients ask increasingly sophisticated questions.

"I get a lot of customers, particularly the father of the bride, who ask more questions about the technology than anything else," Kinghorn said. "They have 50-inch plasma high definition TV's at home and they want to know if they can have a panoramic cut. It feels really great to show up at a wedding with the cameras you need to shoot broadcast quality and they really appreciate it."

Shoffner said couples shopping for a videographer should ask to see a demo tape. And they should ask to make certain he or she has the latest camera, which will produce a tape or DVD that still will look good on their 10th anniversary.

"Ask people what kind of equipment they use," Shoffner said. "They should have at least Hi8 or DV format. The camera should be able to reproduce 800 lines."

Vandergrift said nothing takes the place of experience when evaluating wedding videographers.

"Ask them how long they have been doing weddings," he said, "but also ask what other types of videos they've done to determine if they have a broader range of experience."

Videographers who have shot under a variety of commercial circumstances are more apt to have formal training and less likely to be somebody who went out and bought their first camera with the intent of shooting weddings as a sideline.

In addition to weddings, Kinghorn shoots numerous corporate events in the resort area.

It's important to get a complete description of the services covered by the basic fee, Vandergrift said. He makes every effort to avoid surprises.

The most important thing, he said, is to ascertain whether the base price includes a fully edited video with music of the bride and groom's choice, titles and a few tastefully chosen special effects.

"I'll spend upward of four days editing," Vandergrift said. He also takes the time to attend the wedding rehearsal so he knows what to expect and can scout out the best shooting locations.

The videographers agree that professional sound is a key ingredient in any wedding. The amateur in the 10th row may capture more sniffling from the audience than the actual voices of the bride and groom.

Semi-pros may rely on the microphone attached to the camera, but sophisticated shooters bring more than one external mike into play.

Vandergrift admits he is "old school" in this regard. He prefers to hide hard-wired microphones close to the spot where the bride and groom will say their vows. Shoffner is a big fan of the newer wireless mics.

"You've got to have perfect sound," Shoffner said. "You've got to be able to hear those vows."

Shoffner will ask to place discrete mics on the bride and groom. Failing that, he will seek the cooperation of the pastor. And as a third option, he'll place a microphone on the lectern or a nearby floral arrangement.

Kinghorn said he often places a mic on the groom, but finds brides are less willing to have a mic placed on their wedding gown.

Vandergrift observed that preserving the live music performed as guests file into the church or an outdoor setting is usually a treat for the bride and groom, who otherwise would have missed it.

He brings three different types of mics to a wedding, one of which is intended to capture music. As a documentarian, Vandergrift also loves to find a little time to conduct sit-down interviews with guests, particularly the oldest generation.

The wedding of two families often brings together two distinct cultures, he pointed out.

Kinghorn likes to interview members of the wedding party about their experiences growing up together, or humorous anecdotes about the bride and groom. He edits those interviews into the actual wedding event footage.

By using multiple cameras at a wedding, Kinghorn is able to run continuous audio while cutting back and forth between different camera angles. For example, during the exchange of vows, one camera is on the bride and groom, another is on the guests and a third focuses on immediate family members.

Shoffner said that after seeing photographers, both still and video, take over a wedding, he strives to be unobtrusive. He also ensures all of his clients that the video is one thing they don't have to fret over -- he assures them he will deliver the goods.

Vandergrift's prices vary with circumstances, but generally he comes in under $1,000. He requires one-third down to hold the date, one-third on the day of the wedding and final payment when he delivers the tape. He'll shoot all day if you want him to. He always provides a draft edit so the family can tweak the content before he delivers the finished product.

Kinghorn prefers to discuss his fee directly with prospective clients.

Shoffner's complete package starts at $925, for a six- to seven-hour shoot.

Preview Shoffner's work at steamboatvideo.com or call him at (970) 276-2536.

Vandergrift can be reached at (970) 736-0239.

Kinghorn's Web page is at www.kinghornproductions.com, or call him at (970) 846-0725.

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