Pittsburgh Tribune Review: A New Approach to Wedding Videography with Flashbox

By William Loeffler, Pittsburgh Tribune Review

Many wedding videos have the shelf life of a piece of the cake.

Sure, they document the special moments – the ceremony, cake cutting and the best man’s toast. But the remaining 30 or so minutes can play like a dull reality show.

A paparazzi videographer might capture some magic moments at the reception, but more often they’re a guaranteed spontaneity-killer. Do you want to watch your cousin or college roommate looking like they’re on “Jeopardy” as they struggle to come up with something clever or profound to say to the bride and groom?

“They tend to sit on the shelf gathering dust,” says Gary Cozen, president of FlashBox Films, a Pittsburgh videography service. “It kind of made us curious, because we couldn’t understand why something would sit on the shelf that was such an important milestone in people’s lives.”

Six years ago, Cozen and his two partners decided that they might reboot the tired old video format with a bit of strategic crowd sourcing.

That led to the creation of the FlashBox Kiosk. The device, a sleek, black module that’s about the size of a full-length mirror, functions as portable video booth at weddings, graduations, proms or bar mitzvahs. It stands like a digital butler, ready to be of service. Guests can record a vignette, greeting or favorite memory on their time and terms.

The results are cut together with traditional footage of the wedding highlights. Still photos also can be included.

“We kind of created an environment with this machine, an environment that people would be comfortable with and become uninhibited with,” Cozen says. “They can check it out, look it over and walk away, and think about what they want to say. They’ll share more heartfelt and meaningful messages.”

The FlashBox Kiosk might bring out the “American Idol” in bridesmaids, inspire a rap from the best man or a skit from the bride’s sorority sisters.

“We’ve had people show up with props,” Cozen says.

Wedding planner Natalie Berger of Shadyside says she was sold on the concept from the beginning. She says about 75 percent of her clientele use FlashBox Films, whether for weddings, birthdays and bar mitzvahs. The kiosk’s understated design doesn’t clash with the fabrics and floral arrangements.

“It is like a guestbook that comes to life. Instead of reading little greetings from their guests, they’re visually shown. It’s a storybook from beginning to end of their day.”

These “video-confessional booths” are one of several innovations deployed by videographers who know they have to stay ahead of the curve, says Anja Winikka, site director of wedding website TheKnot.com. Many incorporate artful twists such as Instagram or Super 8 cameras in their video packages.

“They’re not cheesy,” Winikka says. “You have these young, hip filmmaker types that are creating really cool creative video for couples. It’s not like special effects and slo-mo and cheesy music anymore.”

Meryl Ainsman of Squirrel Hill used FlashBox Films for the weddings of her daughters Laura and Molly.

“I don’t like it when somebody walks up to you and sticks a camera in your face and makes you say something significant off the cuff,” she says.

Because they knew the FlashBox Kiosk would be there, her daughters’ high school and college friends could brainstorm via email before the big day.

“It was much more meaningful,” Ainsman says. “It gave them an opportunity to do things as a group, to be clever, to be creative. At least, it gave them time to prepare and think about it.”

The finished product can be emailed or shared on YouTube, Facebook and Twitter. Packages range from $1,500 to $2,600.

William Loeffler is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at wloeffler@tribweb.com or 412-320-7986.