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Adam Forgione's 2-Day Boston Workshop "Mastering Short Form Weddings"

January 25, 2011
by Ron Risman

View my video interview with Adam Forgione

Let's all say goodbye to the old-style boring wedding videos once for and all.  After all, brides don't like them and videographers are just devaluing themselves by offering them.   Even when a bride does hire a videographer they notoriously leave it to the last minute and then allocate as little money as possibleb to hiring one.   Why? Well, because let's face it - they were boring.   How much are you willing to pay for a snoozer of a video?

Luckily this is all changing, thanks to a new breed of filmmakers that are creating beautiful, cinematic wedding films.  One such company is the award winning Penny Lane Productions; a New York based wedding cinematography company owned by Adam Forgione.   Adam has been shooting weddings since 2005 and like many filmmakers has made the switch to 35mm technology in the past year or two.

Adam has not only embraced 35mm technology, his wedding films and shooting style have completely changed because of it - and all for the better.   Adam is also an accomplished musician and sound engineer so he not only brings with him a great eye, but also extensive knowledge of sound production, a key element to successful films of any kind.

Originally I was hoping to see Adam speak at IN[FOCUS], a 3-day intensive for event filmmakers, that took place this week in New Orleans.  I was set to cover this 3-day event for Cameratown but had to cancel my plans at the last minute due to another engagement.  A couple of days after cancelling my trip I saw a post on Facebook that Adam Forgione, one of the educators at IN[FOCUS], was coming to Boston with his own 2-day Workshop titled "Mastering Short Form Weddings." I quickly contacted Adam and made arrangements to cover the event.

While most of my articles involve writing about the latest gear, I have spent the past 16 months covering workshops as well.  Why write about workshops?  Because I believe they are so important.  We often get so caught up in feeling like we need the latest piece of gear (speaking for myself here), that we overlook one very important part of our business - training.   While nothing replaces hands-on training, it helps to learn how to do things the right way.  My tennis coach used to tell me "practice doesn't make perfect, perfect practice makes perfect."  Workshops allow us to gain knowledge much faster than it would be to learn it on our own.  This in turn should allow us to grow our skills and subsequently our businesses much more quickly.   Time is money, and learning from other's mistakes can save you tons of time.

Events like IN[FOCUS] offer invaluable insights from many of the top filmmakers in the industry, while attending one of Adam's two-day workshops offers 16 hours of training from one filmmaker's workflow.   While there are benefits to each, getting an A-Z education from one person's experience will offer a more consistent education from start to finish.    Let's also remember that Adam had to learn somewhere as well, so you are essentially learning everything he has learned and put into use.

Creating wedding films is an art form and the amount of photographers and videographers that want to learn this art form is growing rapidly.   Many have replaced their larger professional video cameras with smaller, video-capable DSLR's, yet many are struggling tying all the pieces together.  After all, there's a lot you need to learn in order to shoot and edit top-notch films with DSLR's:

  • sound,
  • lighting,
  • lens selection,
  • focus control,
  • depth-of-field control,
  • movement,
  • audio capture,
  • microphone placement,
  • audio sync,
  • audio enhancements,
  • editing,
  • time-shifting,
  • pacing,
  • And, of course, putting it all together

Adam's two-day "Mastering Short-Form Weddings" workshop covers all of the topics mentioned above - and more.

Adam Forgione Workshop

Both days of the Boston workshop started at 10:30 a.m. with the first hour set aside for networking.  At the end of day one Adam hadn't yet touch upon all the information he wanted to cover so he suggested that we use most of the networking time in day two to finish.  I'm glad we did, because we barely fit it all in, even with the extra time on day two.   He definitely has a ton of information to share in these two days

Adam's style is very laid back.  He's very personable, a good communicator, and more importantly, he knows his stuff.   This is an instructor that doesn't just talk the talk.   Everything he teaches he practices in the field.   Like us, he's always learning new and more creative ways to tell a story and he uses his workshops to share what works.

The two-day workshop is spent taking one of his short-form wedding films, which run about 20 minutes in length, and breaking it down section by section (Bride/Groom prep, Pre-Ceremony, Ceremony, Post Ceremony, Entrances, Dances, Toasts, Cake cutting, bouquet and garter toss).   The first day of the workshop is focused on learning how to shoot a short-form wedding film; while day two is spent learning how to edit and turn the captured footage into a finished film.

Learning to film a wedding involves knowing the best camera positions; focal lengths to use; placement of microphones; lighting; the use of tripods and monopods; and how to get smooth camera motion using sliders and Glidecams.   While Adam did not bring a ton of gear to the workshop, he did bring along what he uses to capture audio as well as a Cinevate slider to show us.

Day one - filming

Since his short-form film started with bride prep, that's where the workshop started. Adam shared his techniques for filming this important part of the day; sharing the lenses he uses, the amount of footage he captures, and some tips on how to best film the dress.   He also stressed the importance of capturing only the footage you need in order to help keep edit times reasonable.

Penny Lane Workshop - Boston

As with Bride prep, every part of the wedding day is broken down and analyzed, giving every attendee a full overview of what it takes to cover a wedding from start to finish.  For those with wedding filmmaking experience this information serves to provide another perspective on how an award-winning cinematographer approaches the art, while for wedding ‘newbie's' the information is pure gold and should help speed up the time it takes them to become premiere event filmmakers in their area. 

It's important to remember that no matter how well versed we are with our craft, there are always new and more innovative ways to approach some part of what we do.  In his workshop Adam event talks about how he is constantly tweaking parts of his company's workflow - improving their weakest skills in order to strengthen his overall product.

Throughout day one we learned everything we could possibly learn about filming a wedding without actually doing it.   Adam shared where he positions his cameras and microphones; how and when he uses off-camera lighting; how he captures sound from the podium at the church; the focal lengths he typically uses each step along the way; and how he compensates his editors and second shooters.

Day two - Editing / Time-shifting

We started day two a bit earlier in order to finish up the last bits of information from day one - then we started right in learning Adam's methods and thoughts on laying down the footage and tracks on the timeline within Final Cut Pro.

Short-Form Wedding Film Workshop with Adam Forgione

Storytelling is what filmmaking is all about.  If your goal is to just document the wedding day then the footage you capture will ultimately be the most important part of what you do.   However, if your goal is to edit the footage to create a short-form wedding film, one that holds the interest of those watching it, then you'll need to learn how to create magic in the edit, since this is ultimately where the magic happens.  Learning which clips to use and when to use them is so important - as is learning how to combine the chosen clips with narrative, soundtracks, and other audio.

Day two of Adam's workshop is spent breaking down his short-form wedding film, but this time from the editing perspective.   Using Final Cut Pro, Adam broke down the edit section by section to illustrate how he layers in music, narrative, and visuals to enhance the storytelling.  We learned about finding "the anchor" to center your edit around, how to enhance ‘boring' material to make it come alive, and how to keep the story moving.   While Adam uses FCP for his edits, the same information would apply regardless of the editing software.

Time-shifting is a technique that Adam uses in most, if not all, of his wedding films - and he taught us how to best use time-shifting to enhance the story and keep the viewer interested.

Adam went into detail on how to choose the right music, where he finds the music, and the importance of choosing the right music.  He gave us before and after comparisons that really highlighted the importance of quality sound, both captured and added during the edit.   Audio sweetening is another important topic and one that Adam knows a lot about.   Adam showed us how he enhances or ‘sweetens' the audio to help compensate for room acoustics or microphone quality - or both.  By the time you leave the workshop you'll have a much better understanding of how to use your editing software's built-in audio tools like compression and threshold to clean up audio. He also demo'd another software program he uses to clean up audio - again sharing the tools he uses.

We continued to learn about the use of transitions to help set the tone and help make the edit your own.  We learned how he color corrects and grades his films, and the process he uses to tweak and finalize his films for distribution to the bride, both online and on Disc.

He also talked about the importance of marketing and networking within the industry and shared some of the ways he keeps his name in front of the important vendors.

Boston Wedding Cinematography Workshop with Adam Forgione


I have attended quite a few photography and cinematography workshops and seminars over the past few years and must admit that I sometimes learn as much from videos and articles on the internet as I do from attending a workshop.  However, workshops are not just about learning, they're also about networking - making new acquaintances and contacts in your field.   It's a great way to meet others in the industry, to share your work, and potentially work together in the future.  After all, the people sitting with you in a workshop are also there for similar reasons as you - to improve their skills and to ultimately be the one that clients want to hire.

With that said, I do realize that when we sign up for a workshop it's because we have the desire to fix some of the things that we might be doing wrong and to learn from someone who has figured it out. When attending Adam's two-day workshop you'll also learn a consistent workflow, actually his entire workflow, from shooting to editing to delivering the final product.  You'll learn how he reimburses his second shooters / editors, what he tells the bride & groom when he discusses the advantages of the short-form film, and the extra's he gives the couple on their final DVD or Blu-ray disc.   You'll learn the techniques he uses to capture quality audio even in challenging conditions and how to sweeten the sound in post; how he color corrects and grades the visuals; and even when to break the 180-shutter rule to get the most out of your lenses in tough lighting conditions.

I am a big believer in the 80/20 rule.  It's the rule that might prove that 20% of your past customers likely make up 80% of your referrals; or maybe that 20% of the gear you own make up 80% of your expenses.  Keep this 80/20 rule in mind while attending a workshop.  For me 80% of what was taught I already knew, either from prior workshops or from hands-on experience, but it's the 20% (audio sweetening, time-shifting techniques, and how he reimburses his staff) I learned that will improve my bottom line - probably by 80%.   Everybody at a workshop will take away something different since their skill levels vary.   Whether you're a beginner or an experienced filmmaker you can always learn new skills or more efficient techniques that can contribute to an improved product and ultimately to your bottom line.   This two-day "Mastering Short-Form Weddings" workshop was priced at $499 ($449 for early registration) and includes a buffet lunch each afternoon.

If you live near a city where Adam will be giving one of his workshops, and are interested in learning more about event filmmaking I highly recommend attending.    There are no handouts, so make sure to bring along a pen and paper; an iPad; or a notebook to write down your thoughts.  I even found that using my phone's camera was helpful when I needed to take a screen shot of a slide or two.

It's important to remember that no matter how much you take away from a workshop, it mostly benefits those who get out and apply what they have learned.  Use it or lose it - so to speak!

Here are the dates and cities that Adam will be in:

  • Chicago • Feb 4, 5, 6
  • Anaheim • March 14, 15, 16
  • Atlanta • March 28, 29, 30
  • Orlando • April 19, 20, 21

I sat down with Adam before class on day two to talk to him about his workshops. You can watch the interview below:

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