By Glenn Hartong, co-owner ChiliDog Pictures
As Co-owner, along with Stacy Doose, of ChiliDog Pictures, a small two-person production company in Cincinnati, OH, we’ve recently had to quickly transition our services to include live streaming weddings, distance learning and more in light of the impact of COVID-19.
In mid-May, I was contacted by a friend and former co-worker to see if we would live stream his daughter’s wedding. The catch was that it was in just two weeks, and it couldn’t be postponed because of the failing health of a family member. It was to be a very small wedding with just immediate family and a smaller-than-planned wedding party to conform with social distancing requirements.
We had recently purchased ATEM Mini and ATEM Mini Pro live production switchers, and either would be ideal for the job, especially since the ceremony was to be live streamed to a remote audience. I’ve used Blackmagic Design switchers for years, so my past experience, along with the ATEM Mini line’s affordable price point, made it a no-brainer.
I contacted the bride and discussed platforms, such as Vimeo, YouTube, Facebook Live and Zoom, in order to connect with the remote guests. She preferred Zoom, and due to privacy concerns, she would act as the host and our ATEM Mini Pro switcher, labelled “Jen’s Wedding,” was a participant.
Another catch: the wedding was to be a surprise, so we couldn’t do any testing other than to ourselves.
We contacted the venue to schedule a site survey and learned that it didn't have any internet. After some research, I chose a Skyroam Solis X WiFi Smartspot and a one-month plan. We ended up with a good signal at the venue during the site survey.
The Wednesday before the wedding, we did more remote testing with the ATEM Mini Pro, a MacBook Pro, one of our cameras, our wireless mics and Zoom. We used Canon XF300 and XF305 cameras with 18x lenses, and our mic setup consisted of Sennheiser ew 100 G3 series lavaliere mic transmitters, a brick transmitter and matching receivers.
Using the ATEM Mini Pro’s USB output, Zoom showed the switcher as an audio and video selection in its settings. I took that as a good sign and knew we could record straight out of the switcher into one of our two recorders for a high definition version of the ceremony.
Going Live with the Ceremony
During the wedding ceremony, we had one unmanned camera positioned in the back of the room centered on the aisle for a wide shot of the wedding party, bride and groom and the officiant. I manned the second camera, which was located in the front right of the room for a closeup of the bride over the groom’s left shoulder, as well as for the procession.
For audio, we placed lavaliere mics on the officiant and the groom, and an Electro-Voice RE50B handheld interview microphone with a Sennheiser brick was used for the toasts and the music, which was played off the officiant’s smartphone.
On a small folding table in the back behind the last row of chairs, we had a MacBook Pro, the ATEM Mini Pro, two Atomos recorder/monitors and a Soundcraft Ui24R audio mixer manned by Stacy. The front camera fed one of the recorders, and we looped that feed through to the ATEM Mini Pro, with the second recorder recording the switcher’s HDMI program feed. We also locally recorded on both cameras for a belt-and-suspenders backup. We ran the mics through the audio mixer controlled by a Microsoft Surface touchpad, and the audio mix was fed via XLR into the front camera to embed the audio in sync with the switcher. The ATEM Mini Pro’s USB output, which works like a webcam, fed the final program to Zoom.
We took an HDMI out of the MacBook Pro and fed a 24-inch monitor on a light stand up by the front camera position, so the bride and groom could see all their virtual guests. We fed a Roland speaker by the monitor as well.
An Interactive Wedding
The maximum of 100 Zoom participants watched throughout the wedding, cake cutting and first dances.
One of the most special moments for me was when the bride and groom walked over to the front camera, next to the monitor, and directly interacted with their virtual guests. They thanked them for watching the ceremony, alerted them to what was coming up next and acted as hosts. That two-way interaction truly made a virtual Zoom ceremony the right choice.
About ChiliDog Pictures
ChiliDog Pictures started in 2010 with the friendship and synergy of Glenn Hartong and Stacy Doose already decades in the making. Both love producing amazing experiences; both have decades of award-winning professional video production experience; and both have Emmys.
Blending their talents dovetails into a unique quality product – taking the best visual aesthetics and expert editing and combining them into an absolutely stunning, award-winning package able to best tell a story.
About Glenn Hartong
Glenn Hartong is an Emmy Award-winning producer, director and editor. He was a photojournalist and video producer with The Enquirer and Cincinnati.com for 26 years. He is currently a partner and Director of Photography at ChiliDog Pictures, a video production company specializing in narrative video for non-profits and businesses.
He has been published in National Geographic, Life, Time, Newsweek, The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Today, The Times of London, Paris Match and Stern (Germany).
His video work has appeared on ABC, CBS, CNN, CNBC, NBC, ESPN, NBC, PBS, Deutsche Welle and France24. He is a contract producer for special projects for WCPO-TV. He has travelled internationally on assignment to Vietnam, Bosnia and Nigeria.
He has been a photojournalism instructor at Miami University in Oxford and has lectured at Vanderbilt University, Ohio University, Kent State University, University of Cincinnati, University of Dayton, Western Kentucky University and Wright State University.
Glenn lives with his wife Malinda and their dogs Laney and Josie in Springfield Township.