Pat + Angie

This was a unique wedding for me.  I had the opportunity to shoot my friend Pat's wedding and reconnect with a lot of old friends.  Way back when, when I was just starting out, there was a music "scene" in Chicago that was pretty amazing.  A lot of people all embracing the DIY mentality and getting inspired by their friends.  I certainly grew a lot in my photography/video skills by working with people who's art I respected.

This was a great wedding on a kind of rainy Saturday afternoon.  Everyone got ready at the Crowne Plaza and the rooms had a great view of the city.  Then they made their way over to Galleria Marchetti for the ceremony, photos, and brunch.  The reception was really pretty special and unique.  Pat has been in a number of bands for a lot of years and a couple people got up and played songs.  Kevin Prchal and his wife, The Vorel Brothers, Angie's cousin, Tom from the Plain White T's, and Adam and Kaustubh from Lucky Boys Confusion.  It added a great personal touch to the day.

Hotel: Crowne Plaza

Venue: Galleria Marchetti

Second Shooter: Nevin Nelson

What goes into a video shoot

So, I sit here killing time as my footage from the last shoot imports.  And I'm realizing that people don't really know what goes into a video shoot.  Beyond the actual shooting (which I'll cover too) there are lots of tons of other things going on and being planned.  Wonder what?  I'll use a recent shoot for a client (see the finished product below).


Every project starts with an email, phone call, or text.  It usually goes like this "Hey, I've got a project we're thinking about doing a video for.  We're talking to a couple people, but can you put together an estimate together and do you have time for this project?"  There's usually a call to go over what ever assets they have (script, storyboard, etc) so far.

The estimate is pretty easy at this point.  I know, pretty accurately, how much it costs me to have my office open for an hour.  That includes the office space, electricity, internet, computers, cameras, audio gear, lights, software, even the desk (it's called the Cost of Doing Business).  So it's a pretty simple calculation... how much time will it take X CODB + hard costs (VO, music, stock) = The total cost of the project.  There's some profit factored into my CODB, so if a client comes back and says "can you work with us on this?" there can be some flexibility.  But it makes zero sense for me to take a project way below my costs, so I pass on stuff from time to time.


Everything starts with an idea and it's a good thing to know what you're getting into ahead of time.  Hopefully there's been a script or storyboard developed, but a lot of times we'll help with that side of things too.  It's important to get that idea down on paper so the right people can approve it.  For the shoot the other day, they were really buttoned up.  Beautiful storyboards and script.


This is the planning stage.  Most of the time, it's the most important part of the whole project.  It's when you go through EVERYTHING in the project and plan it all out.  For the shoot I was doing, it included two big things.  A call to go through the storyboard and put together a shot list with the client.  And the biggest part... finding a laundry room we can shoot in.  Sounds easy enough, right?  But think of your laundry room.  It needs to look perfect first and foremost.  But then you need room for a tripod and big camera, 2 or 3 lights, props, me and an assistant, a person to be "talent" (from the agency), and 2 or 3 agency people to approve what we're shooting.  It took a while to find.  I hit up every person I know, the agency went through people they know, I searched dozens of Airbnb listings.  Finally we found a great laundry room.  It was a little far from the agency's office but timing was tight.  We had like a week and a half for all of the pre-pro.


Before I get into the actual production, the other part of pre-production is identifying what it will take to get the shoot done.  I also firmly believe in having a back up for everything.  Here's a list of what we brought...

  • Sony FS7 Camera - we were shooting 4k and needed slow motion
  • Canon 5d Mark III - brought as a backup and for stills if needed
  • Canon 24-70mm f/2.8L USM II
  • Canon 24-105mm f/4L IS
  • Canon 70-200m f/2.8L IS USM II
  • Metabones Speedbooster EF > Sony
  • Metabones EF > Sony - backup adapter
  • Kinoflo Diva - key light for the shoot
  • Astra Lite Panel BiColor LED - back / fill light
  • Lowell DP 4 Head Lighting Kit - backup lighting
  • Small HD 5" monitor w/ LUT support
  • Sachtler Tripod
  • 3x C-Stands
  • Leatherman
  • Gaff Tape
  • Lots of Batteries & accessories


The day of the shoot went pretty smooth.  My assistant showed up early and we got out to the location around 8am.  I like to show up at least an hour prior to the client arrival so that we can get stands, lights, cameras, everything up and checked before they walk in.  This is good for 2 reasons.  Primarily, I get to check everything before someone is looking over our shoulders.  We test before we head out, but it's a safety so we can solve any problems without the client being alarmed.  Secondly, it leaves less time for the client to sit around.  We want them to be in and out as smoothly as we can.

Client walked in, we tweaked lighting for the product they brought and got to the shooting.  During pre-pro we had set up a shot list and I'd ordered it into the most effective sequence for what we needed to get.  But we're always open to input and additional shots.  For this, we had a lot of those to make sure we were covered.

We shot for about 4 hours and sent the client on their way while we broke down.


So now the fun begins.  Most clients think you can jump right into the editing process.  In fact there's a half day or day of things to do prior to shooting.  Here are the steps...

  1. Take all the cards (which are well labeled for what order we shot in) and import them into the job folder.  Depending on how long we've shot, this can take a while.
  2. After that, I make disk images of every card.  If something gets corrupted during import or an emergency happens, I have an exact copy of the card we shot on and I can re-import.  I hold onto those until the project is completely wrapped.
  3. Once all that is done, the imported files are then renamed to match the project.
  4. Then everything gets backed up from my main working NAS to a backup NAS and an offsite NAS.  To lose something I'd have to have 2 drives in each of those fail all at the same time.  That's why I back it all up first.
  5. Then the footage gets imported and sorted into Adobe Premiere and we're ready to edit.

At that point I assemble a rough first cut that goes to the client via Wipster.  I can't say enough amazing things about Wipster.  Clients can comment directly into the video and it's matched to the time code.  It's amazing.  We go through a number of rounds of revisions and then we're wrapped.  When it's wrapped I send the clients MP4 and MOV.

So that's some of what goes into each shoot.  There are a million other little things, but if you're thinking about a video project you'll know most of what goes into it.  Here's the finished piece...

Kate + Nick's Wedding at Byron Colby Barn

One of the benefits of having a lot of irons in the fire is that I don't HAVE to do weddings.  What I mean by that is I'm able to choose couples who's style and attitude mesh well with mine.  I don't feel like I have to take every wedding that comes across.  Kate & Nick's style and wedding location were a perfect fit for my approach.  They got married, and had the reception, at the Byron Colby Barn in Grayslake, IL.  It reminded me a lot of my first wedding at Oak Hill in Galena.  Great space with a lot of energy.  It was a little cold that day, but every really stepped up and sucked it up and you wouldn't even know it was in the 30's when you look at the pictures.

Ceremony & Reception: Byron Colby Barn - Grayslake, IL

Second Shooter: Mike Durr

I'm way behind...

I'm way behind on updating my blog.  In 2016 my goal is to get it done at least once a week.  If only for getting me to stop and think more about what I'm doing and not be so focussed on the next project.

Here's a project I did for an agency in Chicago that was for Coca-Cola and Nabisco.  They shot in NYC on Red Dragons, but were looking for someone to do the post production as well as some pickup shots.  They turned to my company, AV Collective, and we executed 9 of these 3-4 minute videos as well as a half dozen or so :30 versions.  They came out great.

Emma + Roger

Emma and Roger had a beautiful morning wedding at Cantigny in Wheaton, IL.  I hadn't been to Cantigny since I was a little kid and it was way more beautiful than I remembered it being.  It always blows my mind that, at one point, that was someone's home.  Anyways, the wedding was outdoors and the reception was at the Cantigny Golf Course.  I love outdoor ceremonies, no dark churches to deal with and the weather held out.

Since it was a lunchtime reception, we were able to head out to Lilica Park in Lombard afterwards and take some photos in the same spot they had gotten engaged.  It was a special moment that you don't often get to capture.

Here are some of my favorite images from the day...

Home Movie - Door County

More and more I've been thinking about photo vs video when it comes to capturing my family.  I uploaded some recent photos from Door County and below is the film I made while we were there.  If the C100 Mark II wasn't such a perfect form factor there's no way I'd have been able to tolerate carrying that, my 5d Mark III, a small Panasonic hand held camcorder and shooting on the iPhone.

Door County is the Greatest Place on Earth

I've been to a lot of places.  Almost 100 cities, nearly 20 countries, I've seen a lot of locations around the US and the world.  What's my favorite place?  Door County Wisconsin.  It's an amazing place consisting of a half dozen cool little towns.  Sister Bay, specifically, is one of the best small towns in America.  It's 45 minutes to the nearest McDonald's, cell service is there for emergencies but spotty so you can disconnect, everyone is friendly, and the nearest stoplight is miles down the road.  No matter where you stop on Highway 42 you can't have a bad time.

My family and I head north to Door County at least once a year, typically twice.  This trip I decided to take a different approach.  I shot some photos, but I wanted to put together a family video that tells the story of the joy we have up there.  Stay tuned for that, and check out the photos below in the mean time.

The Weeknd @ Lollapalooza

Every year the craziness known as Lollapalooza rolls through Chicago.  I've shot it a bunch of times for a variety of clients.  This year I was able to come out and capture Friday's Headliner, The Weeknd.  Abel has the song of the summer and I was psyched to be able to capture his set.