Post-Gazette Bridal Wedding Planner for 2011-2012

Author: Joey Nolfi, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Arranging a seating chart that successfully separates feuding family members, fine-tuning tabletop floral arrangements and selecting the perfect white gown are just a few things that can add unneeded stress to a couple’s long list of “to-do’s” before the day of “I do.” But, selecting a way to capture your wedding day doesn’t have to be as difficult as choosing dresses that please your picky fashionista bridesmaids often is.

Having a photographer snapping away at the ceremony and reception is a must for any couple looking to document their day of nuptial bliss, but a finished video recording is a complementary addition to any wedding day photo album.

Changing technology in the field of videography, however, is affording couples with alternative ways to preserve their special day versus standard documentary-style footage.

FlashBox, a quirky re-envisioning of a living, breathing videographer, provides couples with a stationary booth to place within a venue of their choice. A camera is placed within the booth, and guests can make their way to it when they are ready to record their congratulations to the newly wedded couple.

“As anybody will tell you, you spend all that money [on a traditional video], you watch it a few times and it sits in your closet for 20 or 30 years,” a representative for FlashBox says. “If you make the videos more compelling using the FlashBox elements, you can create a better mousetrap. For not a lot of additional money we could add the videography element to capture the ceremony but extract all of the stuff that’s cumbersome and boring.”

“I will always push [for a couple to document their wedding] to the Nth degree because you cannot, at your own event, see, fee or know everything that’s going on,” says Natalie Berger, a Shadyside-based event and wedding planner. “You can’t be at every place at your own party. It not only captures a picture. It’s a voice. It’s something you can’t get back. It’s live things, people dancing, people talking. It’s seeing things you can’t see at the other end of the dance floor.”

Ms Berger advocate the use of all types of videography services but thinks FlashBox is ideal.

“It’s a great product,” she says. “It’s like having a live guestbook. Instead of somebody signing their name, they’ll come [FlashBox] and see the sleek screen and start talking with themselves or bring up six people, do a skit, start roasting, toasting, then it becomes something live. The finished product is really like a guestbook that comes to life.”

The Pittsburgh Professional Videography Association, an organization that provides listings of videographers from all reaches of Western Pennylsvania, indicates that of a standard wedding day budget (a $20,000 average for the region), about 3.3 percent of that is invested in videography services. That averages out to about $600 per couple, although choosing a videographer based on price alone is a good way to ensure a substandard finished product.

“The average wedding video should cost around $1,500 to $2,500,” says Eric Pensenstadler, president of the PPVA and owner of Video Horizons in Greensburg. “Generally in that range you get the right equipment, the [videographer’s] experience in weddings and [the videographer] anticipating being in the right place at the right time. It sounds cliché, but in the wedding industry you really do get what you pay for.”

Mr. Pensentadler says that videographers who charge under $500 for a full day’s services usually produce substandard work compared to what a videographer charging $1,500 to $3,000 will produce. A higher price often indicates more experience with weddings, ensures that the proper equipment will  be used at the wedding and guarantees a finessed finished product will be put together in post-production.

Mr. Pensenstadler also says that the transition from standard-definition videography to high-definition equipment has caused an increase in price for some videographers, but many now only offer high-definition services.

“My advice would be to do high-definition,” he says. “It’s an extra cost, but that’s where everything is going. If a bride books her wedding right now and does not do high-definition I would guarantee in four or five yours she will regret it.”

What couples should also b e looking for in a wedding videographer, according to John Tonti of Express TeleVideo in Bridgeville, is simple enthusiasm in discussing the event with the client.

“Great track record, dependability and the ability to ‘wing it’ or adapt to a situation,” Mr. Tonti says are qualities to look for in a videographer. “Couples should also ask to see samples of work that was done in venues similar to what the bride and groom will experience.

“There’s no point in showing a beautifully lit, gorgeous venue when their wedding is in a smaller, dark church. When you don’t have any of that, it’s a bad sign that a person hasn’t been in a similar situation.”

Mr. Tonti, who has been in business since 1985 and has experienced chaging technologies ranging from shrinking camera sizes to the shift from video to digital, says that FlashBox simply can’t beat what a traditional videographer has to offer.

“A videographer can move, can relocate and can cover fluidly a moving event because after all this is [almost like] TV news,” he says. “I don’t know how you can deal with a hectic day like that with FlashBox. It’s a Hollywood makeup mirror. I kind of see it as a novelty.”

Traditional wedding videography doesn’t have to stop at the conventional level, either. Some companies offer alterations on the standard videographer-with-a-microphone format. Local production company Cana Films offers cinema-quality packages that document your wedding day as if it were a big-budget Hollywood pictures, with high-end production values and narrative format to boot.

Both FlashBox and traditional videography have their fans.

“It’s always nice just so you can look back at what goes by so fast and see what really happened,” says Brooke McClure, 25, of Squirrel Hill, who had a videographer at her wedding in 2010. “It’s definitely something we sit down, watch and enjoy.”

Aisha Gunter, 35 of the North Side says, “My husband isn’t from Pittsburgh, so there were many people who couldn’t attend the ceremony.”

“FlashBox highlighted all the key parts of the ceremony, eliminated all the boring parts and showed the highlights. Everything is usually a blur, and the couple doesn’t have a chance to enjoy their own wedding. Now we can see things we missed as we enjoyed the wedding live.”

As for how often she watches the video, Mrs. Gunter, who was married in 2009, says it always finds its way onto her TV somehow.

“We show it every chance we get a new victim,” she jokes.