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Editing Wedding Videos

A wedding video is a popular theme, as it should be. I've been requested often to do a newsletter about them. Now that I'm in the middle of a wedding project myself, the latest email from a reader pushed me over the top.... it's time to do one, with a '....disclaimer.....'s into the artistic end of editing, not the technical computer stuff that most of my material is about. 

Art is highly subjective, subject to individual tastes. You may disagree with my approach...better yet, you should have your own style which works for you.

But it may help to share info about editing styles, and I'm always in favor of sharing what I know or what I do.

The latest request was from someone who was editing videos taken by other people.... I've never done that. All the weddings I've edited were also shot by me. 

My current wedding project is the first one with Movie Maker 2, and the first one using a website as another way to distribute it. Here's the link to it.

You may have noticed that this site is also tucked into the newest branch of my main website menu, the one called 'Living Projects'.

I'm up to 9 videos on the site so far for a total of 36+ minutes... the website is very modular, a great way to let people pick and choose what they want to see. They all know the story so there's no need to bore them with more than they want to see. If someone just wants to see that one dance scene with themselves in it, they can do so. If the brides mother wants to see the ceremony a hundred times, she can do it. Websites and links are great.

Editing is so easy today that I can actually enjoy the wedding in while shooting the video. It used to be such that editing was so hard to do that I'd do 99% of the editing in my head as I did the shooting..... instead of enjoying the moment, I'd be constantly thinking about the next shot. Only lately have I finished changing my mentality to one of so easily disposing of bad clips that it's OK to have mostly garbage on the tape... instead of turning the camcorder off and on to avoid fast pans and zooms, I leave it running and edit them out. The bad stuff is so easily discarded.... I can put my full energies into getting better clips.

On one hand, weddings are great subjects.... if a movie is a story, we all know the story ahead of time. But, on the other hand, if everyone knows the story, they may get bored much quicker and the editor had better make the video worth watching.

Before getting into it more, a few notes about things going on...


• My Toshiba laptop is back after 3 weeks in the repair shop in Texas, with a new hard drive and new combo CD/DVD drive.... I'll pick it up tomorrow. It'll have the operating system and software that it had when I got it new 1-1/2 years ago.... guess I'll have some updating to do with it. 

• Got an email from Microsoft today...  a notice that I was given an MVP award for my 3rd year... The people at Microsoft are great to work with and I look forward to the upcoming year.

....on to the topic of the week

Thoughts About Wedding Videos


I had an hour sit-down with the bride, going over the schedule and her preferences for the video.... finding out things like ".... should I get little speeches from the guests.... or just shoot what was happening?", and did she want the video to include older pictures as so many do... if so I'd need her to get me some pictures to scan. A few dozen points like that.

Today's planning includes additional points to consider. Should I shoot it in standard 4:3 aspect ratio or widescreen? We opted for standard as the couple and their parents don't yet have widescreen TVs or monitors. Did they want a website with videos on it, or just DVDs? Did they need any VCR tapes in addition to DVDs?

In the equipment department, I had my new digital camcorder (Sony TRV80) but no extra battery for it.... I got one a couple weeks ahead of time.... and some extra tapes. You can never have too many.

Shooting the Video

When I shoot a wedding, I do the rehearsal and rehearsal dinner the day before, the wedding preps, ceremony and reception, and the morning breakfast or brunch the day after.... it's a 3-day weekend affair.

Besides my digital camcorder, I brought my Hi8 camcorder (Sony TRV615) with its two batteries. 

The still photographer is still the director of the production.... he does all the work to stage the wedding party. With a camcorder's zoom lens, it's easy to work around him, and get the benefit of his work.

The wedding ceremony was outdoors, great for a digital camcorder. If it rained and we had to move indoors, I might have changed to my Hi8 analog camcorder, which does considerably better in low light conditions. With the good weather, I laid the Hi8 one on my backpack fairly close to the front, turned it on, and let it capture the full audio from when guests started arriving until the end of the recessional.... 2 hours on the Hi8 tape was enough to get the entire audio. I moved around with the digital camcorder, using my tripod as much as I could, and hand-holding it at other times.

I had the Creative Zen Portable Media Center for that weekend..... so I put some video of the resort the wedding was going to be at on it to let those at the rehearsal dinner see it. Then the video of the rehearsal dinner went on it to show at the reception.... from camcorder to Zen with minimal editing. Just for the novelty of it. I let the Zen be passed around to anyone who wanted to see it.

The dancing at the reception party is often a great part of the final video. But how low would the lighting be and how best to shoot it? There was a live band on a stage that was pretty well lit. And the dance floor was pretty dim. So I put the digital camcorder on a tripod to shoot the band as I walked around with the Hi8 to take footage of the dancing. The Hi8 does so well in such conditions that I'd buy another to replace it if I needed to, instead of buying a second digital one. Until low light is better handled by the digital ones, I'll continue using one of each as appropriate.

Thoughts about the Editing Phase

In the editing phase, you combine the computer technical aspects with the artistic...

....about the computer setup and file logistics

With the large size of DV-AVI files, computer setup and capabilities often guide or dictate the methods of managing source files and saved movies. My primary editing computer is my Toshiba laptop, which is still in the shop for repairs. It has a 60 GB hard drive and I usually run with about 15 GB free.... not enough space to capture most of the 3+ hours of video for the wedding project. That's fine, as I work on the project in a very modular way, one small video at a time. So far the longest video is 7:02 and it'll probably end up as the longest one.

The laptop is always connected to my other computers via our home network.... where I have hundreds of GB free on other hard drives. More than enough total space to manage it all, with the 'master' files on one drive and backup copies on another. The laptop only needs the files to work on one video at a time. 

I've dubbed the analog footage to digital tapes, so all is on digital tapes for the editing phase. And my database has all the info about which tapes have which scenes, their starting points, etc. This was all done before starting to capture any footage to the computer. 

After finishing each video, I'm rendering it 3 times: (1) high quality DV-AVI files to make DVDs at the end of the project, (2) medium quality WMV files - 800kbps 640x480 - for CD versions of the website videos, and (3) lower quality WMV files - 400kbps 320x240 - for the website.

....about style

With the ongoing project tucked into my Movie Maker website, you can check my style by viewing any of the videos whenever you want to. 

Check online for other examples from professional studios. Shutters Video is one that does weddings: the link at the bottom of the page to the wedding video - special ending. It's a WMV file of 5:22 duration. It looks and sounds pretty good.... assess it a bit and you'll see that it's a pretty simple editing job with:

37 clips that average 8.7 seconds
dissolve transitions are used almost exclusively
a few slow motion effects were added

....about editing wedding videos

My overall video shooting and editing style leans toward the documentary, even more so for a wedding. I don't need to develop the story.... we all know it. I don't need to direct it... the wedding coordinator and photographer take care of that. I just need to get enough good clips to put them together into videos. An hour total is perfect for a DVD, and long enough to adequately cover all segments of a wedding.

Here's a link to a school you can attend to learn about making documentaries:

Michael Rabiger's book 'Directing the Documentary' is a good one. It includes this caution: "Most people learn film technique by copying other filmmakers.... but one should search for the roots of their craft in life itself, not in others. A copy of a copy is always degraded. Your ideas and feelings about life should be preeminent, and you should use screen techniques as the vehicle for their realization." 

About 1/5 of the book is devoted to the editing process, with many good points. 

Here's my personal take on a set of guidelines for editing a wedding video

review the clips - you have only them to work with.... sort them into logical segments, and copy some to two or more segments. A close-up of flowers in the reception room might look great someplace in the scenes of the ceremony. It's easier to get the close-ups in the reception.... at weddings the flowers are often moved around. You can move the clips around too.

a guide for documentaries is to establish the major timeflow first before breaking off into others.... rather than having flashback slideshows or video of the bride and groom at the beginning, before the wedding timeline is well established, how about doing the visual flashbacks during the talks by the bridesmaid, best man, and father of the bride. I'd do some flashbacks during the readings and sermon of the ceremony, but that might be too irreverent.

edit a rough cut - let your material tell you where and how to cut it. The more you let your material decide, the more obvious the right points will be become, and you'll be in the zen of editing. Let it flow.

Don't worry about length or balance in the rough cut. Leave everything long and don't worry about repetition. It's important to see the whole long film as soon as possible before doing any detailed editing work.

Keep changing hats from editor to first time viewer.

Decide on the ideal length after the first viewing. Most beginners films are agonizingly long and slow. 

Avoid trying to fix everything in one session. Wait a few days and think things over. Then tackle only the major needs of the film. Don't jump into fine-tuning too soon.

Editing: the Process of Refinement
Once a reasonable order for the material has been found, you'll want to combine sound and action in a form that takes advantage of counterpoint techniques. Bring the sound from one shot together with the image from another. Bring the materials into juxtaposition. The dance scenes of the wedding are great opportunities for alternating counterpoints.... if you can use two camcorders... if not, fake it with the material from one, integrating the visual clips with the sound track.

The J and L audio cuts are contrapuntal editing features that draw you into the scene, as if you were there. 

Narration - it's not fashionable to use third party authoritative narration.

Narration is so intrusive that if it's not first rate, it'll degrade rather than enhance. If you narrate, use it to complement the images, not duplicating them.

Music - can be misused as a dramatic crutch. Like narration, it should complement the visual, not substitute for anything.

Be aware of copyright issues and do what is appropriate. I have the permissions of the bride and groom, their parents, and the band to use all the video in all my published works.

Procrastination is always good. Stop working on it for a while and do something else.

Mini-Tutorial: Editing the Wedding Video

I started with over 3 hours of footage, a couple hours of digital and another 1-1/4 hours of analog.

With 9 videos finished and another 5 or so to go, my approach to the editing has evolved a bit as I've gone through them..... I'm in the middle of doing #10 right now, the video of the processional. I'll use it to show my approach in a bit more detail.

The finished videos are on the website, on CDs as interim releases, in DV-AVI formats for the DVD at the end, and there are backup copies of all files on another computer's hard drive. 

Wedding Processional - the Source Files

I've been creating a new folder for each of the videos, putting all the source files, the Movie Maker project file, and the saved movies in it.... the figure below shows the current set of files for the recessional. 

There's (1) the project file, which I'll show you later, (2) the 'EnhancedNarration' wma file which I'll explain below, (3) the '54D-Audio DV-AVI' file that I captured from the camcorder for the audio track, (4) two captured video DV-AVI files for the video... I finished the first capture a bit too soon so I had to pick up the rest as another capture file, (5) 11 still pictures in JPG format from our digital still camera, and (6) 2 frame captures from another DV-AVI source file, pictures that fit more in this video.  

Recessional - Source Files

Source Files


A file starting with 54D means it's the 4th segment of video on tape number 54. If I go to the record in my database for tape 54, it'll tell me it starts 31 minutes into the tape. The first thing I do when I open a new tape is mark it with the next tape number and start the database record for it.

Prep the Source Files

Once you have the source files rounded up, it's tempting to jump into the video editing project.... fine to play with them a bit, but it's best to go over each and do some prepping. 

I have two audio tracks for this video, one from each of the camcorders. I was mostly hand-holding the digital one, so it got whatever was around it at the time. The analog one was lying still on my backpack.... running from the beginning of the guests being seated phase to the end of the processional. So the digital had good but spotty audio and the analog had the full but lesser FM quality audio.

I dubbed the Hi8 tape to the digital camcorder, and then captured the digital tape to get the file named '54D-Audio.avi'. You can tell from the 2 GB file size that it's about 9 minutes in duration (the picture of the working project below shows the overall project duration as 9-1/2 minutes, the length of the audio file).

After capturing the 2 GB segment just for the audio, I rendered it to the 'Audio-Recessional.wma' file, played the file in WMP10, adjusting the equalizer controls to 'enhance' the audio. As I played it in WMP, I captured it into MM2.1 using the Narration capture wizard and the stereo mix option. That got me the 'EnhancedNarration.wma' file. It might sound like a bit of work, but you can see from the file timestamps that the enhanced file was created 15  minutes after the wma file was extracted from the DV-AVI file.

The 11 still pictures from the digital camera will need cropping for better content and to get them into 4:3 aspect ratios. I'll do that with IrfanView, but only when I've decided to use one in the project. if I did the work first, I'd feel more compelled to use them all, even if they didn't quite fit.

The 2 video snapshots (JPG) are appropriately sized already. Snapshots from either my digital camcorder or MM2 are so easy to take and use. Note that all the still pictures on the website's main pages are simply snapshots of video frames taken by my camcorder.... when I preview the video in the camcorder, anytime I see a frame I want, I press a button and it makes a snapshot of the frame on a memory card.

Start the Movie Maker Project 

With all the source files ready for the early editing phase, I imported the audio first and put it on the timeline..... that gives me the first reading of a logical maximum length for the video..... 09:34.

Then I imported the two video files, getting two collections with clips. From there I looked at each clip in sequence, subdividing them further.... using any bad video spot as the dividing point. A bad spot could be a blurry frame, a quick pan or zoom, the photographer jumping in front of me (which he did a lot), etc. Once or twice I split the clip with no bad spot, just to divide different scenes into different clips. I discarded all the pure junk clips. I have one scene in each clip, all with good frames, but without the start or stop trim points being selected. I'll do the clip trimming in the timeline as the project takes shape so I can easily change the location of the trim point.

Once the clips in the collections were split , I renamed them with sequential numbers, sorted them by name and batched them into the timeline.

In the timeline view, I fine tuned the start and stop trim points of each clip. The Next and Previous frame buttons under the monitor are great for scanning each clip as you look for the sweet spots to start and stop.

After trimming, the overall duration of the video clips is 3 minutes and 40 seconds, as you can see from this view of the project. That's about 1/3 the duration of the audio track. I haven't clipped and trimmed the audio yet, which will reduce it... and I haven't added any of the still pictures to the timeline, which will expand it.

Recessional Video - Early Editing Phase

Early in Editing


That's as far as I've gotten on this video so far. From this point I'll:

• view the entire project a few times to see where things drag on, and where spots need something more

• for the clips that drag on, trim them some more

• for the places that need more, look at the 13 still pictures and import appropriate ones into the project, after cropping in IrfanView to the 4:3 aspect ratio.... or take snapshots from the video clips and add them to the timeline, essentially re-using the good material by stopping on a particularly appropriate spot to linger a bit, or to add good filler material for some padding as needed. Panning and zooming on a still image in the video, as the background audio continues, is almost like having another video clip.

• as I work to add more to the video and at the same time prune extra from clips with too much, I'll be listening to both audio tracks, that with the video clips and the enhanced full one.... I won't be editing the audio yet, just making mental notes about which clips have the better audio. As both camcorders were in different locations, they each have different audio (unlike the dance scenes later, where the band's speaker system provides more than enough sound to fill both camcorders at the same time. 

• when the clips are just about right, I'll add any transitions and effects. I agree with the video on that professional website.... dissolves or fades from one clip to another is the right kind of soft touch for a wedding theme, the kind of transition you can do even with MM1. The focus of a wedding video is on the bride, then the groom, then the parents and others.. it's not about cute or whiz bang effects and transitions.

• the transitions will effect the overall duration of the timeline, and the sync between the video and audio, so only after they are done will I start fine-tuning the audio. 

For the audio editing, I'll choose which audio track to use. It might be from one camcorder or the other, or both together at some relative volume.... the string trio was playing during much of the recessional so I'll keep their complete pieces as background music, or foreground music if the other audio is just background noise. 

The resting time between the classical string pieces was appropriate for the group when playing them, but too long for the videos... when editing, I've been reducing the pause between the musical pieces considerably.

• I haven't been using text clips for titles or credits.... not yet. With the website being the current method of distribution, the web pages have more than enough text.... so the videos just fade open, do their thing and fade to a close. The exceptions so far are the few dance videos of the reception, and the two children at the flagpole, where I've used a little text and some iTunes visualizations as opening/closing clips.

• The DVDs won't have the web pages with the text, so I may add some text when preparing for or authoring the DVD.

That's as far as this tutorial goes. Some closing remarks:


My wedding project is ongoing and on schedule...

 I thought that putting shorter videos on the website would help the bride and groom view them via their dial-up connections. But it's still too much for them....  yesterday I went to the office of the bride's father and loaded the full website from a CD, so he wouldn't have to wait for the downloading.... the audio played but not the video. as his work computer runs Windows Me with WMP7.0.... I left it to upgrade to WMP9, the forecast download time was 2 hours, and it was time for him to close the office for the day. I'll find out next week if he ever got to see them on that computer.

.... his home computer situation is better... Windows XP with a version of WMP that plays the videos. But his dial-up connection is worse... what takes about 5 seconds to start playing on any computer in my house takes more than an hour at theirs.... I've had lots of food and drinks over there as we wait for the next video to finish downloading.... waiting can be a good thing.

And the bride and groom tell me their dial-up connections are worse yet. To prove it, they tell me that, in a month they've seen the website lots but none of the videos. 

You can see why people need it on a DVD.

Your editing style is different than mine and anyone else.... keep it that way and make your videos the best you can with the material you have. 

I find that each wedding project is different... better and easier. This one is with MM2 and distributing via a website, CDs and DVDs. My previous one was using MM1 and VCR tapes. Before that was my Hi8 camcorder dubbing directly to a VCR tape. Before that 8mm camcorder tape to a VCR..... I didn't do my own wedding over 40 years ago, but those I did at the time were on 8mm film with a projector/screen to view them. Yesterday's challenge was to just make a video and get it out for viewing.... today's tools are so much better, and they put the more significant challenge where it should be.... on the creative aspects of editing the videos.

I read lots of posts about needing higher end hardware and software to shoot and edit professional wedding videos.... but I've also seen a number of professionally produced videos. The brides and grooms are the first to say that my Movie Maker productions are better than what they paid for.

I look forward to comments and discussion about this and other newsletters on the forums at:

Have a great week...


Movie Maker 2 -
Photo Story 2 -

Products and Services

I'm involved in many things that support users of Movie Maker and PhotoStory, and adding more daily. Here's a list of what is available to the public. Some are free and others are reasonably priced.


Movie Maker 2 - Do Amazing Things (with its online companion on

Movie Maker 2 - Zero to Hero (with support on the Friends of Ed forum at

When ordering these books or anything else from Amazon, I'd appreciate you using the links on the main page of - I get some income from Amazon that way, and it doesn't cost you any more. It'll help keep most of my services free.


Movie Maker 2 - - two goals: to help you solve problems, and to be the online companion to the Do Amazing Things book... and currently thinking of another goal of movie making and editing styles.

PhotoStory 2 - - a full tutorial about using it. It's not a problem-solving site. 

Online Support - Forums, Channels and Newsgroups  

I'm a regular on many online forums and newsgroups, the main ones being:

Movie Maker 2 and PhotoStory 2 forums at



Movie Maker 2 forum at

Windows XP Movie Maker newsgroup at microsoft.public.windowsxp.moviemaker

PhotoStory items are covered at


 Weekly Movie Maker 2/PhotoStory 2 newsletter. Subscribing is free via the link on the main page of

Tentative topics for upcoming newsletters (subject to change):

#22 - Another in the series of primers about utilities used in conjunction with Movie Maker and PhotoStory. I don't know which utility will be covered yet.

#23 - (Open - do you have any requests?)

Older newsletters are archived by Rob Morris at:


Transition Maker 2 (TM2) - a utility to make the ultimate in personal and custom transitions for Movie Maker 2:

TM2 is a joint effort by Patrick Leabo, the programmer, and myself.

I routinely beta test the Pixelan packages and think very highly of their people and products: Their SpiceFX packages of additional transitions and effects for Movie Maker 2 are available at:

Fee-based services:

If you can't save a movie because your project has become too complex, e-mail it to me and I'll divide it into manageable sub-projects for you, and provide detailed instructions to render the parts and assemble them into your final movie. $49.95 - for details, see the sidebar on the Problem Solving > Can't Save a Movie page of

Movie Maker 2/Photo Story 2 training and support services start at $50 per hour - email me at and I'll help you determine your needs, and work with you to plan and implement them.

 This newsletter is a good one to start including wedding website/video packages, starting at $2,500 + travel expenses. See for a sample.

About John 'PapaJohn' Buechler from
John 'PapaJohn' Buechler John "PapaJohn" Buechler, of Kalamazoo, Mich., goes by PapaJohn online. An avid user of Movie Maker since its first release, and a regular supporter of the community of Movie Maker users, John received a 2003 MVP award from Microsoft for that support. In March 2003, he started a comprehensive website about Movie Maker 2 at He maintains the website, writes books and articles, teaches, and provides support services - all for the community of Movie Maker 2 users. An engineer by formal education, John is a computer database and multimedia expert by business and personal experience. He co-authored the first book about Movie Maker 2 and is actively working on a second one. You can find his advice in the Windows XP Movie Maker newsgroup and in the Windows Movie Makers Forums.

This newsletter is republished with permission of John "PapaJohn" Buechler. Please note that this is an archive of newsletters and some information may become outdated. PapaJohn, and the webmaster of this site, provides this information "AS IS" with no warranties.


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