What is the difference between a wedding film, wedding video and wedding cinema(tography)? It' a good question and one I hear often from wedding couples. Like many questions, this one has many answers. I will provide my answer from a technical and small artistic point of view. 

When wedding couples start to research vendors to shoot their wedding (I'm talking about the moving image kind of shooting, not still image such as photography), they start to run into phrases such as "wedding films", "wedding video", "wedding cinema". It's enough to give anyone a headache. For example, you may run across a vendor who states on their website or business card that they only shoot wedding films or cinema. Or, you may run across a vendor that says they shoot wedding videos. What's the difference??? To keep it simple, I'll keep the technical jargon to a minimum, but it's important for wedding couples to be educated on this topic before you start to shop around for a vendor and finally give someone your hard earned cash.

What is the common word in wedding film, wedding video and wedding cinematography? Give up yet....?? The word "WEDDING"!!  Meaning, a wedding event taking place somewhere at sometime. Not a sports event, birthday, anniversary, etc.

Now, what do "film", "video" and "cinematography" all have in common and what do they mean? I'll tackle each one separately.

Lets start with the first one, "wedding film". We've already established that we are talking about a wedding being shot by a vendor to produce moving images on a screen and not still images such as photography. Those are two VERY different art forms. So what is FILM? Films are made up of a series of individual images called frames. When these images (frames) are shown quickly in succession, the viewer has the illusion that motion is occurring on the screen. Film is a series of moving images produced by recording images with a film camera of some type. There are all types of film, a.k.a. celluloid, such as 35mm, 16mm and 8mm. Most movies are shot on 35mm. 8mm film types are coming back into fashion because it produces that grainy, sepia and vintage tone of old home movies. So, if I see a vendor stating that they shoot wedding film, I expect them to use a film camera of some type to shoot the wedding with such as an 8mm, 16mm or even a 35mm film camera. The only person that should be shooting a wedding film is Steven Spielberg or Martin Scorsese. I doubt that either one of these men are available to shoot your wedding so we better keep looking for other vendors.

Second, what is "wedding video"? Believe it or not, video is much more complicated than film or cinematography.  Video is the technology of electronically capturing, recording, processing, storing, transmitting and reconstructing a sequence of still images representing scenes in motion.  Refer to previous paragraph for a definition of a frame. Video is often shot using a video camera of some type. Video also has to factor in aspect ratio, frame rate, resolution display, interlaced or progressive settings, bit rate, video compression, audio compression and lastly video format. It sounds like a lot, doesn't it? Well, it is a lot. Video is a digital technology. If a vendor states that they shoot in a video format, then a wedding couple should realize that there is a LOT that the vendor has to be concerned and educated about to utilize this type of shooting format. I won't go into futher technical details, but just like shooting on film, shooting in video also has to take lighting, sound and frame composition into consideration. Again, this is a VERY basic definition of video. Video is a huge industry and if you want more information, I encourage you to take to the internet and do your own research. So, when people ask me what format I shoot in, I proudly declare in a loud voice, "VIDEO!". Not film. Many vendors utilize the video format for it's ease of formatting and transportation. I believe Steven Spielberg is interested in video. But I can assure you he didn't shoot "ET" or "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" in video. He shot them in film. So, if you are looking for a vendor that shoots your wedding utilizing the video format, hopefully you have found a professional that is highly educated and experienced in this type of format.

Lastly, what is "cinematography"? Cinematography is an art form unique to motion pictures and it is the making of lighting and camera choices when recording images on film or video. This type of art form is also closely related to the art of still photography. There are many factors that go into the art form known as cinematography such as image sensor, film stock, filters, camera lens(es), depth of field and focus, aspect ratio, framing, lighting and camera movement. Whew....!! That sounds like a lot of hard work, right? It is!! Cinematography is an art form.  You can use cinematography techniques while shooting in both video and film formats. A Cinematographer would most likely be hired by Steven Spielberg to go out and compose and set up all of his scenes for his next big movie. A wedding videographer has to be their own cinematographer. Again, this is just a very basic definition. But that is what we are here to do, just to learn the basics.

So, what does this all mean. Basically, film and video are two different formats that produce a moving image that will be shown on a screen of some type. There are many different types of film cameras and video cameras. What I want you to realize is that these are two very different types of formats that produce a moving image on your wedding day. As a film buff, I love the look and feel of film. It has a rich, dramatic and gorgeous look and feel. Video has a different look and feel all of it's own. You have seen the two types of formats and know for yourself what they look like. So, the question to ask is, do you want a wedding film or a wedding video? If you come across a vendor that states they shoot wedding films, ask them what type of film format they use (8, 16 or 35mm??). If they say they shoot their "film" in a video format using a video camera, then that "film" is really utilizing the video format. If you come across a vendor that shoots in video and uses a video camera and a video format, then they are correct when they state they create a wedding video.

The point is, some vendors throw around words like film, cinema and cinematography. Those words just sound rich and alluring and they are. They all have a rich and wonderful past. Video is the new guy on the block. Video is an amazing and striking and advanced format all of it's own and nothing to be sneezed at. Some vendors may disdain the word "video" as something to be ashamed about. There is NOTHING about the video format to be ashamed about. A wedding video will record, capture and document your special day and you will have a memory that you can watch and hear over and over again. Photography can't do that. So, should you spend the money on a wedding video? YES! I would rather have a wedding video over photographs any day. That is a decision you will have to make.

Just beware of vendors that eschew video and only claim to use film or cinema. Now you know what the real difference is and you can make your own informed choices.

Written by Brooke Petersen. Owner of Capture Productions & Video Design.


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