What’s the difference between Cinematic and
Documentary shooting styles?
Two opinions from two different sources
- Documentary -
Traditionally many wedding videos have fallen under the “documentary” category.
By definition, documentary means… “intended to document aspect of reality, with the intention
of maintaining a historical record”… Documentary videographers capture the wedding day on
the fly, as it happens.
The video can have, to a degree, a cinematic feel but it’s still a journalistic documentary.
Price is generally lower…
The standard way of filming weddings” “generally longer in length” the day’s events are filmed
and the rest of the day unfolds as naturally and spontaneously, as it happens.
And important to many couples, the videographer is not "in your face" directing you all day.
Ability to look back at your wedding in years to come, exactly how it happened
Often a quicker turnaround time, compared to cinematic films
Longer video. Longer does not suit all couples, however, there are
chapter points all through the video to quickly skip through the production.
- Cinematic -
a “cinematic” wedding style film is generally crafted around an expression of creative art
A major part of cinematic shooting is to incorporate multiple shots of the same scenes, but
from different angles and different focal lengths.
Typically utilizes tools such as sliders, steadycams, monopods and cranes. Also a major
contributor to creating a good cinematic film is to have great audio. In order to tell a good story
you need to have a theme that serves as the backbone. In most cases that theme is the story that
gets told by the Maid of Honor, the Best Man, a close family member or even the Bride and
The combination of the creative shooting and the emotional testimony are what makes for a
unique and compelling story.
Disadvantages: The shorter, arty, production is not always considered an advantage as the
years go bye and a record of the the wedding day and the people in attendance at your wedding
become more important.
“generally more expensive” as there is much more editing involved… “and may add more stress
to an already stressful day”as it will require additional time from the Bride and Groom…
“some scenes may need to be shot over and over again to insure best imagery”… “may involve
constant movement by the two or three person crew, which could be disruptive”
“usually requires more than one cameraperson, so if you include the stills photographer, you
have quite a team of operatives running around you on the day, telling you what to do”
Advantages: Has a definite WOW factor, the first time that you view it.
“stylish and creative”… typically shorter in length (can be an advantage to some)
“Captures the feelings and interaction between the bride and groom”
The Cinematic Wedding
A number of core qualities both define a cinematic wedding video and separate it from
the documentary style. You can expect qualities like:
· Staged slow motion, sliding, gliding scenes and lots of panning shots and other techniques
· A bulky equipment set-up. For the best results, a cinematic wedding video will require things
like a camera rig, a slider, a Steadycam, tripods, multiple crew members and more, creating a
significant footprint during your event
In that regard, a cinematic wedding video is very similar to a photo-shoot. The wedding
filmmaker will guide you, create certain staged situations and interactions and will ultimately
require more “face time” with you in order to create the most cinematic look and feel possible.
The Documentary Wedding
A documentary wedding video, on the other hand, is by its very nature less intrusive. While the
camera is present during the entire day and evening, the filmmaker will not be guiding you or
staging/creating situations or events - he or she is merely there to capture the events of the day
exactly as they unfold, and not directing staged scenes, fly on the wall style!
Because of this, a documentary wedding video will have an overall natural look and feel to it.
In addition to a minimalistic camera setup, the documentary wedding filmmaker will go
completely unnoticed. They are an impartial, third-party observer that has no effect on the day,
but is merely there to capture even the smallest details exactly as they occurred.
Anybody watching your wedding video in future years, will know exactly what happened and
who was there..
The documentary videographer will be as artistic, professional and experienced as the cinematic
shooter, they just both film to produce a different look.