If you find yourself asking yourself this question, you are not alone. The truth is that there is no way to know because each videographer and videography company is different. This is a list of the various factors that determine the type of coverage that you receive:
This is the most important aspect of determining the quality and quantity of your wedding footage. As you watch one sample wedding video to another, pay attention to the aspects below to see that style they have and which style you are willing to pay for (note that the negative and critical connotations are for humor and a more human understanding):
One thing that I feel has disgraced the profession is the multitude of videographers that are glued to a tripod. Tripod use (or abuse) has its purposes, which includes steady shots and smooth horizontal panning. But this is best for scripted footage, such as having actors and preplanned shot sequences. Many professional videographers are well-versed in this, but also have the ability to remove the camera from its anchor and get quality footage the is only attainable on foot. Honestly, anyone with one day of training can use a camera on a tripod efficiently and skillfully and I do not believe this justifies a $50 to $100 per hour pay scale.
The Running Man
Be wary of the fact that even though a tripod makes the footage stationary, not being anchored to one can mean that the videographer is running back and forth to get other shots. This may be distracting to the ambiance of the ceremony or reception and should be of concern. If you prefer the better footage with a great videographer, you might want to compromise and ask him to be less noticeable or distracting. My personal style is candid, where I often find great places in the background.
This can be a good thing and a bad thing. This is also seen in the best of photographers and the worst of photographers. I have been unfortunate enough to have seen wedding videos where the videographer barks orders and the whole thing is caught on tape. "Smile! Turn that way! Good!" Please avoid this at all costs. If a videographer is good at scripted shots, you will see the results in the sample footage. Some people can see it in the faces of the bride and groom unfortunately, unless they are great actors. This is why I prefer to use a hands-off approach to get natural and candid shots that reflect the actual joy they experience on their special day. This, however, will not yield any scripted sequence and this is an issue described further in the editing section.
This means that one camera does not move. This is good as a backup to get footage at other parts of the wedding, but you really have to see footage to see if they use this effectively. If the editor cuts back and forth to the same frame, it may not be to your liking. Also, the backup camera ("B" camera) is usually one that costs less that $1000 (while your cameraman may be using a $4000 camera) and this is most noticeable when edited with the better footage from the "A" camera. I move around and get enough shots from multiple angles where having a "B" camera is not necessary.
These are fun and great, but just make sure that it is worth it. See footage that actually uses the new gadget and see if you want that in your video at all, since the small cameras provide surveillance-style footage and the whole "Blair Witch" shaky-cam effect. Also, be wary of the fact that the groom may have to wear the camera (which is not that big) and the transmitter (which is not big either, but can get annoying for more than an hour at a time). If you like the feature and understand the pros and cons, I say go for it.
One option or feature that you may see on a wedding videography package list or brochure is the use of "wireless microphones." This brings sound into the picture. Many people do not realize how important audio can be to the video, since what good is it having your best man speak words from the heart to the camera with "YMCA" peaking the audio. Again, see actual footage of actual weddings to see what you will get, especially in loud situations such as the reception and important situations such as your vows. Ask the videographer if he is prepared.
One example involves a wedding where the altar was in front of a water fountain, of which the venue forgot to turn off as the bride and groom said their vows. My audio was drowned out by the constant pattering of water. Luckily, I was able to pull most of the audio out with effective sound editing and proceeded to buy a wireless lavalier mic the next week. A lavalier microphone is the type of microphone used in interviews, usually attached to the lapel. Grooms tend to dislike carrying the transmitter, so I alternatively place it somewhere near the altar. This also provides two audio streams where I, as the editor, have the option of choosing the clearer of the two.
Many videography studios will charge extra for special effects, slide shows, and highlight reels. Again, take a look at final products to see what you are buying. Many editors are not professional editors, using purchased templates to make their final product. This often results in a "cheesy" feel (I have permission to use that word because my clientele prefer to avoid "cheesiness" and use that word commonly). Be wary of paying for special effects where it takes 20 minutes of work to plug in footage into a template.
Music video styles can vary between great and downright horrible. Often, footage is clipped and just played to music in the background. If they take it one step further they will sync the clips with the beat of the music, often with transitions that may or may not please you. Many editors get plug-in packages that include wedding video transitions, for example the video clip morphs into a wedding ring and zooms off. This can cause what I call "effect overkill" and is the result of the person trying to let the editing program's options make the video good by including every possible feature. Here and there you will see photographers do the same, though it is generally tolerated less. A real, professional editor can make the footage look good with simple cuts and then adds special effects to carefully add emphasis to certain moments. Look at any movie that is done well. Most of the cuts and transitions are straight cuts or fade transitions that are well-placed.
The style of a DVD case is often representative of the dedication and style that the studio has for its videos, though I would always say to not judge a book. However, the printing of the DVD is important. Adhesive labels will peel off in the years to come and may damage DVD players. The alternatives are inkjet-printable surfaces, which allows direct printing on the DVD. This isn't as good as silk-screening, but silk-screens (used on the DVD movies you buy) are expensive and meant for printing thousands of DVDs.
Make sure that you know how many videos you will receive and how much it will cost to get any extra copies beyond that. Also, see if you able to copy the DVD. I only charge for extra DVDs due to time and materials and I allow my clients to copy their video as much as they like. If you have the option of getting the video hosted on a website, find out if there are any extra costs and for how long the video will be hosted for (some places only offer this service for six months). Here is an explanation of my wedding video DVD covers and printing.
Extras, like a love story option or slide shows, are great. Just remember that some places offer extras to make easy extra money, while the true purpose should be to give the client flexibility and options to satisfy personal preferences. See if the price justifies the service. It's like getting air conditioning (when it is not included) with a new car; it gives the seller a chance to increase revenue on top of a closed sale. Explore the options and flexibility of a videographer, although. It shows skill and talent to be able to cater to each unique client.
The truth: Many studios take advantage of the insane markup on wedding services and price accordingly. The best advice I can give is to pay for talent and skill. Expensive video equipment and pre-paid editing templates do not always justify a budget-tightening price. Many places are run by businessmen that hire amateurs. For example, I know of one studio that pays the videographers $200 per day, yet charges $3,000 for the basic wedding videography package, with amateur editing using purchased wedding templates (a total of maybe 20-30 hours of post-production). This does not justify the cost by a long shot, but it allows the studio to have several offices and spend large amounts on advertising and marketing.
So when you are looking at wedding videography package options, try to see what they actually offer beyond flashy terms and "fluff." Many things should come by default with a wedding video montage. Be wary of when things are waved around like a banner (like "including 20 special effects") when they have little bearing on the caliber of the production. The best advice I could give is to look around and weigh the price for the end product. Always see actual weddings, instead of flashy promo clips that do not reflect what you will show your loved ones in the years to come. By the way if you are looking for wedding photography, you have to stop by and check out our husband-wife Orange County wedding photography blog, which has many examples of modern and exciting wedding photography in Orange County.