Videographers Shoot Scaled-Down Simchas


Lafayette Hill Studios prepares to film a bar mitzvah. | Courtesy of Lafayette Hill Studios
Tim Sudall got his first call about filming a microwedding in June.
The couple decided to tie the knot in their own backyard, with a scaled-down guest list of 10.

The owner of Allure Films was happy to help. Many of his clients postponed their celebrations due to the pandemic, which struck a blow to the events industry, including his film and photography business.

He had coordinated reception Zooms a few times before, although not extensively, so he dove into researching the latest technology. By the time the wedding rolled around, he was ready.

“The first one we did was a home run,” he said. “We had people from Israel that were supposed to come over, and they couldn’t, so they were able to watch it on Zoom. We had the guests that were there, we had Grandpa do the HaMotzi.”

In addition to streaming the service live, his team filmed the whole event so the couple could have a keepsake of their day.

“I was just blown away with how amazing it was that not only did the small, intimate group get to have a wonderful wedding ceremony and start their lives, but all these other friends and family were able to join it,” he said.

The requests started rolling in. By September, Allure Films had filmed 17 Zoom celebrations.

Ben Yoblick, owner of Lafayette Hill Studios, and Michael Adelson, owner of Luria Visuals Custom Productions, have received similar requests for photography and videography at scaled down celebrations.

Couples want to start their lives together by getting married, and kids already know their Torah portions for b’nei mitzvah celebrations. Professional-grade videos and livestreams of these events are now deemed absolutely essential to make sure loved ones can still be included from afar.

Adelson said the desire for a high-quality remote experience for guests has placed a renewed emphasis on triple-checking Wi-Fi connections and sound before the big day.

“My big belief is to make it easy and stress-free for all my clients. They’re very nervous and I don’t blame them — you don’t want to invite your entire family to a Zoom meeting or a YouTube link that’s not going to work,” he said.

Yoblick’s company had previously provided livestreaming service for corporate events, and was able to put the same technology to use for small celebrations.

“We started off a little more simple. People just wanted a single camera to be livestreamed to the platform of their choice, you know, whether it’s Facebook or Zoom or Vimeo or YouTube,” he said.

Later, they expanded to using multiple cameras for reaction shots for special moments, like when couples exchange vows.

By using wireless microphones affixed to bimahs and a sound mixer, Yoblick and his team can create sound quality befitting a professional broadcast. Adelson and Sudall also use this technology for their productions.

During Allure Film livestreams, Sudall and his team put up a graphic that welcomes everyone to the Zoom as soon as they log in. Once the ceremony starts, the team shoots with two different cameras. When the bride and groom walk down the aisle at a wedding, they can interact with their remote guests on an iPad.

Adelson has also worked with synagogues to film High Holiday services and started a side business called Love Note Video to keep his editors working. The service creates professionally edited videos of well-wishes sent by faraway friends and family to congratulate people during their milestones.

“My editor goes through them and color corrects, audio corrects, puts backgrounds together. Then we send it back to the couple and they have this keepsake forever.

“That’s kind of a bonus that we wouldn’t have had before,” he said.
Yoblick said that while he has fulfilled requests for special effects in past videos, particularly for teens who wanted to appear in a video game or Nike commercial for their b’nei mitzvah celebrations, people are requesting more straightforward documentary-style film techniques during the pandemic. No one wants to accidentally give their relatives the fear of missing out.

“There’s this tone of ‘Not everyone can be there.’ So they’re not trying to be over-the-top with stuff,” he said.

Although Sudall has been inspired by the micro events, the scaled-down celebrations are not enough to bring business back to pre-pandemic levels.

“To be honest, we’re not making any money at them — we’re not charging a lot. We’re just covering costs, but you know the value of seeing these families come together,” he said. “And a lot of them are still going to have the party next year. And we’re going to have something great that we’re making now that they’re going to be able to show during the cocktail hour.”

Adelson’s 2021 calendar is booked solid with people who have postponed their celebrations.

“I hope it does stay booked up, and we get back to being able to do everything that we love to do,” he said. ❆

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