Insights from a 35 Year Veteran Los Angeles Videographer
Video para quinceañeras y bodas hispanas y bautizos en Los Ángeles – videógrafo profesional bilingüe
The more your event videographer knows about culturally unique traditions and how they’re orchestrated, the better his or her chances of successfully recording them. This informative article defines some of the most popular Hispanic wedding and quinceañera traditions that videographers encounter with some observations on how to finesse those shots. (If you enjoy this article, please SUBSCRIBE to our future posts).
Familiarity: What does the video pro have that permits him to finesse complex shots like the lazo and the arras? (explained below in detail). In two words: Experience and technique. He or she has recorded them before and knows how they’re staged. He recognizes them by their Spanish names like familiar friends, intuitively fine-tuning his shot while the event is in progress, his hands adeptly managing the focus and iris, the pan, the tilt and the zoom nearly simultaneously while remaining in perfect sync with the action, never jeopardizing the shot by lagging behind.
The video pro mentality: The pro has developed habits that help him succeed. It’s unlikely he’ll ever be in the wrong place at the wrong time because he’s memorized (or carries a copy of) the itinerary. He’s learned to be vigilant, focused, and very aware of what’s going on around him. He’s built a rapport with the MC and wedding coordinator at the beginning of the event. He’s placed his audio pickups well ahead of time. His intimate familiarity with Hispanic wedding and quinceañera traditions help him avoid typical amateur video catastrophies and ever having to disappoint his clients. He’s prepared. He has a back-up camera, light, mics, memory and plenty of batteries, perhaps some special tools like a slider, monopod, steadicam or a jib, and a fluid head tripod instead of a clunky mechanical one is indispensable.
At the end of the article please enjoy some great highlights in a short quinceañera demo. OK, let’s get into it.
In Latin American cultures, quinceañeras (the celebration marking a 15 year old Hispanic girl’s transition from childhood to young adulthood), and weddings are two events that are filled with symbolism and time-honored traditions.
The lazo (cord): Placing the lazo, or cord, is a tradition that takes place during the Hispanic wedding ceremony. Two of the guests will come up to the bride and groom with a figure eight-shaped cord or a rosary in hand, a symbol of unity, to place over the couple’s heads. (Two other guests may precede them to drape a decorative cloth over the couple’s shoulders). The challenge for the solo videographer is in staying in perfect sync with the action from the moment the guests stand up to the time they return to their seat. The amateur may struggle with this sequence of events, handicapped by the slow, shot-crippling process of first having to take notice of what’s going on, then deciding what to do with the camera and eventually, reacting. By that time he’s fallen behind the shot. That’s when you begin to see out-of-control zooms, abrupt camera movements and sudden focusing adjustments throughout the segment, the result of a series of knee-jerk reactions while trying to keep up with an unfamiliar event. (It’s nice to have more than one camera taping from different positions to avoid having only one shot to use during ceremonies).
The arras: Another tradition in Latin wedding ceremonies is the “arras”, the thirteen gold coins representing the Christ and his 12 apostles, given to the bride by the groom as a symbol of trust, security and stability in the relationship. As with the lazo there’s a specific sequence of actions that the videographer should be aware of. A prayer is made by the priest over the coins and words may be spoken by the bride and groom as the coins are passed from the priest to the groom, from the groom to the bride, then back to the groom and the priest. Knowing this sequence, appropriate decisions for covering the shot can be made. If there are two cameras present, one close up on the hands exchanging coins and the other on the three-shot is effective.
The gifts: Objects of special interest to the videographer during the quinceañera ceremony include the traditional ceremony gifts: “The Tiara” symbolizing a princess’ passage from childhood into the challenges of life; the Bible and rosary which will become the quince’s family heirlooms, the scepter and the cross. Gifts are often sponsored (purchased) and given to the quinceañera by close family members or friends. The sponsors are known as padrinos and madrinas. The gifts are treasured objects that should be documented in the video. Any omissions can result in an unhappy client.
The processional: It’s worth noting that a quinceañera processional can have a lot more participants walking down the aisle than the videographer may be accustomed to. Traditionally the quinceañera may select as many as 14 girls and 14 young men (chambelanes) as part of her “corte de honor” (court of honor), as well as a close friend to be her personal escort, each couple representing another year in the quinceañera’s life. (Fewer than 14 couples is also very common). The corte de honor as well as the padrinos and madrinas may all be included in the processional at the start of the church ceremony, as well as their introduction into the reception hall. The challenge to the videographer is to be in a position where he cannot be blocked by reception guests standing up at their tables.
The waltz: The quinceañera will have spent weeks, if not months, rehearsing the waltz that she and her court will perform at the reception. The event is often professionally choreographed and is considered one of the most important focal points of the reception. Videotaping a waltz involving as many as 15 couples is a challenge as there are many decisions that the videographer will have to make ahead of time regarding positioning and following the action. (This is another place where more than one camera would be helpful). Variations on the waltz theme may include other types of dance ranging from swing to hip-hop, literally anything the quinceañera decides to do.
The father-daughter dance: Another highlight of the reception is the father-daughter dance which may occur as the first dance of the party, although that’s not a given. The dance is another symbol of the quinceañera’s transition to young adulthood by sharing the dance with the first man in her life. It’s a very emotional part of the celebration that can reveal a lot about the relationship the quinceañera shares with her father. Some well framed close-ups would work well here. It’s in the eyes.
The toasts: Toasting (“brindis“) is another centerpiece activity at receptions and is a time where the parents extol their daughter’s merits and accomplishments. The videographer should be alert to this event and well-positioned ahead of time, (by listening to the DJ’s announcements of upcoming events), having made advanced preparations for proper audio acquisition either by direct feed from the DJ or band’s sound system or by ‘dirty miking’ one of the speakers in the room (placing a wireless hand-held mic on a mic stand in front of one of the DJ’s speakers). Relying on ambient audio through the air is risky. People may not speak in a voice loud enough for the camera mic to pick up clearly, a very irritating problem for viewers of the finished video.
The shoes and candles: One tradition that I’ve not seen at any other type of event is the changing of the shoes in which one or both of the parents replaces the quince’s shoes with her first pair of high heels, again, symbolizing passage into adulthood. There may also be an elaborate candle lighting ceremony resembling those sometimes seen at bar and bat mitzvahs in the Jewish tradition in which friends and relatives may be called upon to light a candle in their honor. Appropriate strategies by the videographer for good, but unobtrusive positioning and clear audio should be in place as dedications to each honoree may be read aloud. An experienced videographer has forseen and planned for this before guests come into the room.
Mary’s Altar: The quince’s prayer at Mary’s altar is one of the most sensitive moments of the mass, and one of the most challenging to record depending on the location of the altar relative to the camera position. There’s danger that the congregation may stand up and suddenly block this shot, or the altar may be around a corner out of sight of the camera. The videographer should anticipate what complications could arise and be prepared to quickly dismount the camera and move to a better location (if the church permits). A second camera comes in handy in this situation also.
The first (or last) doll: This is another symbolic ceremony in which the parents present the quince with the first doll she was given as a young child, a symbol of her past. In some traditions it may be the last doll given to her. There’s a popular song often used for this ceremony called “La última muñeca” (the last doll) that talks about her ‘last toy’. In either case, it’s a special father-daughter moment symbolic of her transition into adulthood. The exact orchestration of this tradition can vary from the doll simply sitting on a table, to promenading around the dance floor with the doll in hand. In the video below the quinceañera proudly displays her doll to her guests by walking around the dance floor with it.
Know the program: While many event co-ordinators are worth their weight in gold, I’ve found in my own recording of special events, the videographer should rely on his own sense of what’s going on around him. He should have a printed copy of the itinerary in his pocket to refer to, and should be alert to the DJ’s announcements of pending events for his cues to what’s coming up next in the program.
Expect the unexpected: During the course of the reception there will often be a meal, the cutting of an elaborate cake, perhaps a dessert or candy bar and lots of dancing to the DJ or band’s music, not much different than many other types of receptions. For the duration of the event, good videographic technique, lighting, audio and positioning still apply. The videographer must ramain alert, ready in advance for every event on the program, and always prepared for the unexpected. (Few events ever go exactly as planned).
Con mucho gusto le atendemos en español – video para quinceañeras y bodas hispanas en Los Ángeles – videógrafo profesional.
Enjoy these brief quinceañera video highlights from one of my recent events.
Video production services for Hispanic weddings, anniversaries, quinceañeras, bautizos (baptisms) and memorials by veteran Los Angeles & Orange County bilingual videographer, Marc Gold, of 24KT Sound & Video, San Pedro, CA. More videos in our video gallery. Be our guest!
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