The Knowledge: Mr Dave Cowling, Wedding Cinematorgrapher

Ah, videographers. If the pundits had their way they'd have you believe that the chances of photographers and videographers getting on with each other at a wedding is about as likely as vampires and werewolves slow-dancing at a Twilight convention.

It's true that on a wedding day there is competition for space, and the clients' time and attention, but professionals from both disciplines know how to communicate, coordinate and waltz around each other to multiply the overall value to their clients.

One such professional representing Team Video is Dave Cowling from D'nM Wedding Films. Apart from being a super nice guy, Dave is one of Sydney's leading wedding cinematographers and he and his team have won more awards for their films than James Cameron. Possibly.

When once upon a time a wedding video literally meant hours and hours of footage from a handycam in a static position, Dave produces professionally edited showreels that condense the visuals, sounds and emotions of the day into brief but highly-charged, tear-inducing movies.

A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to assist Dave at a wedding, and so in the interests of always learning something new (especially how to switch my camera into video mode!), I eagerly accepted.

Before the wedding I caught up with Dave to learn the ropes and find out what the difference is between a videographer and a cinematographer.

Dave Cowling from D'nM Wedding Films

Dave, can we start by hearing a little about how you got into videography?

I've always had an interest in both photography and making videos. I started out making short videos for friends through the 90s and filmed my first wedding for a friend in 2004.

I found that I had a knack for emotional content and was able to make my friends cry (in a goodd way!). I have a background in professional audio engineering, which is an extremely important part of filmmaking. Wedding videography was a great way to combine my love of documentary-style video and my love of audio.

And what made you choose wedding videography in particular?

This is the second part of the first question really. I was also a wedding DJ in a past life and loved the atmosphere of weddings, but found as a DJ that I wasn't really involved. I did consider photography but I didn't think I had the outgoing, loud, confident personality required to be a wedding photographer. I thought that my quieter personality was more suited to video. 

I've since discovered that you don't need to be loud or brash to do either job, but I love being a video "ninja" just working away in the background and quietly gathering wonderful stories throughout the wedding day.

Do you still love photography?

Yes, I still love photography as a hobby and have photographed a handful of weddings alongside some friends who (like yourself) are amazingly talented photographers!

Thanks Dave! And how is the wedding videography market going? Are you seeing an uplift?

Absolutely. The standard in wedding films has changed dramatically over the past few years. New technology, education and easy access to other filmmakers all over the world has helped to lift the standard of the films being created.

We are certainly seeing more brides now considering video as a necessity than as an option as they discover how amazing their wedding day can look on video.

I think it's also reflective of society in general. Video is increasingly becoming a part of our everyday lives (on our computers and mobile phones for example) and I think video will become more embedded in our world and that future generations will expect the current generation to have such an important family milestone captured on video. 

You've been giving me some training this morning ahead of the wedding where I'll be assisting you and I'm finding it fascinating, especially with regards to the importance of audio and the amount of audio equipment that's required. Do you think that audio is overlooked by people looking to get into videography?

Yes. I think that people often fall in love with the imagery before they think about the audio side.  It’s sometimes said that audio is 50% of the film; if it’s done well, you don’t really notice it, but if it’s done badly you will definitely notice it!

There’s a constant influx of new wedding photographers due to the accessibility and declining costs of gear and websites. Do you see the same with wedding videography or does, say, the whole audio aspect create a barrier to new entrants?

Yes, it's a similar situation as the costs of equipment and websites is also declining for videographers and we are certainly seeing an influx of new startup businesses.  

But rather than fighting against this we try to help to educate the "newbies" and keep raising the demand for videography so that there is more work for everyone. I am also involved as a director of which is currently the only educational workshop for wedding videographers in Australia.

Have you noticed any big trends emerging in the world of wedding videography?

The biggest trend has been the "DSLR revolution". This is a change to newer cameras that has enabled a much more cinematic / filmic look to the videos being created. As a result lots of videographers have now dubbed themselves "cinematographers". To me "wedding cinema" is much more than just the camera you use - it’s about knowing when to use the tools with a specific purpose in mind, it’s about knowing light and using it well, and it’s about a specific approach to the editing to best tell a unique story.

Before DSLRs it was the transition from standard definition to high definition while the next thing on the horizon is "Ultra high definition"! 

We have also filmed a handful of weddings in 3D.

Wow, that sounds exciting! So with all these techniques going on do you have a signature style?

Yes, I would say that we do.  I would describe our approach as very natural and candid.  As mentioned earlier we are sometimes described as "video ninjas" as we like to be discrete and often go unnoticed when we set about capturing the day. We aim for the perfect balance between documenting the events of the day and achieving beautiful / artistic footage to complement the story.

And we are always looking for the unique elements of the wedding which reflect the couple and their story.

Ever recreated a music video like "Gangnam Style" for a bridal party?

Ummm, we try to avoid cheese in our videos :P

Seriously though, we could certainly do something like that if it were done well. We created a video for a bridal party which was played before they entered the reception. It was based on the Miami Heat player intro video:

It was a great way to introduce them to the room and hyped the crowd right up!

I’ve seen some videographers offering “same day edits”. Can you explain what these are, how they differ from what you do, and how they can be created so quickly?

Same day edits (SDEs) are films that are created on your wedding day, usually to be shown at the reception. They're an impressive way to entertain your guests!

The way that we approach SDEs is to bring an editor with us who is collecting and editing the footage throughout the day. It can be quite stressful to put together something that is entertaining, emotional and creative in such a short space of time, but when we see the couple and their guests blown away by it, it’s all worth it!

What’s the best way for couples to approach a videographer? - that’s pretty much all you need to know :)

Seriously though, it’s as simple as getting some referrals (from friends or other vendors), checking out some work online to see whose films you connect with, and then make an appointment to meet with the filmmakers.

As with anything in life you get what you pay for. A high-quality wedding film starts from around $5,000.

And what’s the usual turnaround time for a wedding video?

Our turnaround time is approximately 3 months on average and I think most videographers are around that. It also depends on what time of year the wedding is; if you have a wedding at the end of wedding season (e.g. in May / June) then you might have to wait a little longer.

Some clients have expressed concerns about booking videographers because they’ve been to weddings where there have been five or six videographers as well as two photographers. Realistically, how many videographers are required?

Five or six videographers would be overkill for pretty much any sized wedding!  Actually, I once worked in a crew of five; that was a million dollar wedding in Los Angeles and for that one we probably could have used a sixth person!

It really does depend on the individual wedding where factors such as locations, number of guests and the schedule can all influence how many crew are needed. We have options with one cinematographer but we most commonly work with two cinematographers and an assistant.  

Finally Dave, do you have a quick and easy tip for our couples with regards to getting the best from their video?

Be yourselves! Don’t worry about the cameras and don’t try to act, simply focus on each other and we can do the rest :)

Thanks Dave!

If you have any questions about video or wedding cinematography that you'd like Dave to tackle, please leave a comment below and we'll provide the answers asap!

Say hello or stay in touch with Dave: | 0419 997 397 | website | facebook | twitter