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 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 New York's Madison Square Garden.
Jay Kinghorn of Kinghorn Productions got his start producing videos of the Billy Kidd Performance Center at Steamboat Ski Area. In the past 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 says it's hard to avoid making beautiful wedding videos amid the greenery and mountains of the Yampa Valley. He particularly enjoys the reactions of wedding guests from 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 says 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 TV 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. 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 TVs 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 will still 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.
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 mic into play.
"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.
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 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 after seeing photographers take over a wedding, he strives to be unobtrusive. He also ensures all his clients that the video is one thing they don't have to fret about - he assures them he will deliver the goods.
Vandergrift's prices vary depending on the wedding and range from $400 to $1,500.
Kinghorn prefers to discuss his fee directly with prospective clients.
Shoffner's complete package starts at $925 for a six- to seven-hour shoot. He requires one-third of the fee up front, but if the wedding is called off and he hasn't turned down another job on that date, he'll refund the deposit. Shoffner will provide multiple copies of the final DVD. 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 www.kinghornproductions.com, or call him at (970) 846-0725.