Interview: Andy Owen – Videographer

An article by David Brooks on June 19, 2012

 

I met Andy Owen back in 2000, freshman year in College. I was a Spanish/Religion/French/Computer Science/Underwater-Basket-Weaving major, and he was in Communications (Broadcasting, if you want the specifics). Eventually we found ourselves in the same class, one of the general education courses that make you better people. Over time I got to know Andy, who if you ever meet him, is classically witty and very personable. Skill-wise, I always admired his camerawork on videos he’d make for his courses.

Some things have changed since College, others haven’t. While I’m not so much doing anything relating to my Spanish degree, Andy is in Okemos Michigan, running his own wedding video business, “Owen Video”.

Now, I know what you might be thinking about the wedding video part. But before you click the close button there’s something you need to realize about Andy and his work. I say this not as a friend but as a creative professional, Andy’s work made me want to quit my job, sell plasma to buy a camera and start shooting weddings. He’s that good… no, really. A good videographer is a master of telling stories, that’s Andy. It just so happens that the stories Andy likes to tell are about people on one of the most important days of their lives. So, I asked Andy a few questions, and he was kind enough to respond with some great answers.

How long have you been shooting weddings, and what made you start?

I’ve been shooting weddings since 2006, but only doing them quasi-well since 2009. A friend made me start. I said no to shooting his wedding, and so he offered me more money. That was when I had a full-time job, so any money was ‘extra’ and I was happy to do it. Though what made me fall in love with it, was seeing what people were doing with weddings in 2009, and how creative they were getting. That opened my eyes up to the possibilities outside of standing in a corner like your favorite uncle.

How do you describe your visual style?

I don’t really. People can go to my site or see my videos and make their own mind up about that. I try not to be like that band that says, “we don’t fit into any genres” because it’s not that so much, I’m sure I could be easily boxed in by someone who wants to, but I think words like “journalistic,” “documentary,” or “cinematic” are the only ones people are really applying to our field right now, and while I think there are elements of each, frankly they’re just buzzwords.

What kinds of gear do you use in the field?

In the field I’m using only DSLR’s to film with. I use the Canon 60D and T2i, but my main second shooter Dave has a 5Dmk2 and a 7D, so we’re shooting on the Canon line pretty exclusively. We use a variety of lenses from the 70-200 (f/2.8) during ceremonies, to 16-35 (f/2.8) on the Glidecam, or an 85mm or 50mm (f/1.4 & f/1.2). The next lens I’d like to purchase is the Tokina 11-16 as a truly wide angle for my crop censor cameras. We also use a variety of tripods & sliders, but right now I spend most of my time field shooting on my BHDV 561 monopod by manfrotto. Love it.

What software do you use in post-production?

I’m a Mac user, but I edit exclusively with the Adobe Production Suite. Premiere Pro is where I spend most of my time, but I am also in Encore a lot authoring Blu-Ray or (still) DVD’s. I occasionally find a project that takes me into After Effects too which I love getting to play in.

How do you manage your backups? Do you have any special tricks to keep things organized?

I have two methods, one I’m a little lazier about. My main backup is done using a DroboS. It’s my storage and back-up system. I actually edit directly from it as well. Over Firewire800 I haven’t noticed a delay any more significant than on an internal drive. I also (and this is what I’ve gotten lazier about recently) try to make Blu-Ray data discs of all the raw files, but that’s just of the raw footage. I need to get back on that. Those I move to another location so that if, God forbid there was a fire, I would still have everything safely in another location.

I know you shoot a bit on film, in the digital age, why do you keep that up?

It’s fun! I grew up shooting stills with a film camera (as all children of the 80’s did) and there’s something nostalgic about not only shooting on it, but waiting to see what you got. The instant gratification is great, let’s be honest, but it’s like opening up a present when you get your film back from the lab and see what all you gathered. I don’t find a high demand for it in my area like I’d hoped, but I’ve done it twice, and they’ve loved it.

How do your clients respond to your work on film?

The ones who order it absolutely adore it. There’s something very nostalgic about film. My grandparents shot my parents childhood home videos in the 50’s & 60’s on Super 8 or 16mm, and my parents had them converted to VHS when we were kids, so it feels like you’re watching something very classic. Even watching movies like National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, when Clark Griswold is in the attic watching his old childhood home movies, there’s something pure, and sentimental about it. People didn’t have endless memory on their cameras like now, they had 3 minutes of FILM, and each roll cost money to have developed, so they usually only filmed special events, and you feel like you’re transported back to the happiest times of their lives when you watch it.

Is there a piece of equipment, even low-tech stuff, that you can’t live without?

Audio recorders. I don’t know why it took me a whole year to mic my grooms, but it did. The audio from those weddings was SUCH a pain to tweak and make louder, but now, the groom is always wearing a mic, with the little Olympus LS-10 in his pocket. I’d like to get a few more for the officiant and to leave on the podium so I can get clearer audio of the readers at long ceremonies too.
Also, on the software side, I use an office management online tool called ShootQ. Before migrating to ShootQ all of my booking was kept track of via e-mails and Google Spreadsheets. When I only had 7 weddings a year that was ok, but with closer to 20, it’s not. ShootQ keeps track of leads, questionnaires, follow-ups, money earned and tax information…it’s a lifesaver.

When you’re shooting, what inspires you most?

Probably two things when I’m shooting. First, the couple. I get to know them as much in advance as possible, so I feel like I know the couple I’m gearing this film toward, but also, my second shooters, in particular Dave. Bringing him along has helped to challenge my skills, because he’s constantly stepping up his own game, and it reminds me, that there is no resting on your laurels in this industry (or even in my own company now). We can shoot the exact same moment and he just has a very different way of looking at it than I might, so it gives me such a cool range of footage to choose from when editing, and when he shows me what he’s doing during a wedding day, it just gets me SO excited to get back to the computer and start splicing this together.

Do you have a take on stylizing video? In photography there’s a big push away from retro styled imagery, for example. What do you think that means for videography?

I don’t do it, but only because I haven’t found a style I like for my own work. I’m a purist I think. I like it how it comes out of the camera. I almost always change it slightly, just to color correct, but as for style, I don’t want them looking back in ten years and thinking, “Wow, how 2012.” I don’t want my style to date it.

Do you have any tips for not being the next videographer with a “wedding shoot gone wrong” story?

YES. During my first shoot with Dave, before he was a second shooter and right before we went to only DSLR’s, he had come along to do a webcast of a wedding for me (the couple’s grandparents were watching live from Florida because they couldn’t travel). It wasn’t anything fancy, just one camera from the balcony. I had two cameras, and was running them both, one in my hands, and one on a wide shot near Dave, up in the balcony (this was 2009). He had two cameras and was running only one. So, when I was waiting for the bridal party to begin walking down the aisle, I flipped my camera on…and nothing happened. I was dead in the water. I tried everything. Turns out later, my homemade steadycam at the time was threaded too long and had pierced the circuit board of my camera. I RAN upstairs thinking I’d just grab my second camera that was on the wide shot and be short some footage, but Dave had wisely already put the quick shoe on HIS second camera for me, and I got back down in time to catch the maid of honor and then the bride walk down the aisle. But there is no coming back from a freak out like that. The rest of the day I was a wreck. Ever since then, I don’t got ANYWHERE without a back-up camera.

Do you have any advice for people who want to get into wedding videography?

Price yourself right. Know how much it costs you to do business. Pay your taxes. Pay for liability insurance, as well as covering your gear just in case. Pay for your music. There are sites like www.themusicbed.com or www.triplescoopmusic.com where you can pay $50-$100 for a song. Count that into your costs for each wedding.
And lastly, get educated. Join an association if there’s one near you. Every year there are conferences and workshops you can attend. Check out InFocusVideoEvent.com, or a www.stillmotionedu.com workshop. Education is another cost, and are you going to just pay it out of pocket from your income, or should that be a business expense counted in your original numbers? Stop charging $800 for a wedding if you’re worth more. And if you ARE only worth $800, stop ruining peoples wedding videos and charging them for it. Uncle Bob could have filmed that for them.

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About David Brooks

David Brooks is the owner of the small creative studio, Northward Compass, based out of Orlando, Florida. He writes electronic and ambient music as Light The Deep, and fantasy stories about a place called Elerien.

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