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Documentary Techniques
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Old May 16th, 2002, 09:02 AM   #1
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Documentary video

I am going to be shooting my first documentary video comming this August. I will be covering a church on a two week missionary trip to Kenya. I have not done a documentary at this level before. Any good sugestions or books that could help. I would really like this piece to be one that would win awards.

I will be using a canon XL-1 for most of the video.
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Old May 16th, 2002, 10:20 AM   #2
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I'm in the middle of a documentary myself. What's really helped me is to study other documentaries about similar subjects. Find a few that you like and watch them several times each. Also watch them with the sound turned all the way down, it will help you concentrate on how the video works. Then watch again with the brightness turned all the way down so you can't see the video, and just listen to the audio track only. I think that studying documentaries will help you just as much if not more than book learning. Hope this helps,
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Old May 16th, 2002, 10:55 AM   #3
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Sounds like a good idea. That is simular to how I have done other projects. Thanks for your comments.
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Old May 17th, 2005, 05:11 PM   #4
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Tips for Documentary Shooting, please

Im getting ready to start in with the shooting of a documentary subject. A XL2 was recently purchased for the project and I am just embarking on familiarizing myself with the machine. Most footage will be on-the-go hand-heald follow-the-target stuff.

From reading through articles on 'watchdog' and elsewhere, it seems we will to need procure the following extras :

the simple onboard light and the 3x wide angle lense (for in-car and close-quarters interactions).

For those that have experience with this kind of shooting :

- do you find the mic that comes with the standard xl2 package to be sufficient? what else would you recommend?

- do the zoom and autofocus motors really create that much perceivable noise?

- any advice on lense filters or where I can learn about using those?

- any tips on doing quick lense changes?

Thank you for any helps,

in the force, Stefan
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Old May 18th, 2005, 06:01 AM   #5
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The right answers to your questions depend on the kind of action you will be shooting. How many people will you be shooting? What will they be doing? In what kind of locations? Are the people young, old? Are the locations likely to be noisy? What kind of light will you encounter in the anticipated locations? What is your relationship to the persons you'll be shooting? Will you be using more than one crew member? etc. Without having answers to these kinds of questions, it is difficult to suggest how you might plan.

If you are new to the documentary, I would strongly recommend getting ahold of a copy of Michael Rabiger's "Directing the Documentary" which is one of the better, if not the best, one-volume work on the subject. It will help you get a grip on planning issues. Mouse-over the title to find a link to the publisher's description. If I were teaching a course this is the book I would use.
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Old May 18th, 2005, 09:10 AM   #6
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Stehan,
Petes advice is good. Also check out this thread

http://www.dvinfo.net/conf/showthrea...ht=documentary

For more advice and comments.

To directly answer some of your questions, the onboard mike is pretty good for grab and go stuff. But if you KNOW you're going to be interviewing people, take the time to mike them correctly. At least pick up a lav and xlr cable. The camera is pretty quiet, I'm just finishing up editing a doc I shot last year, and there's no camera noise in any of it. OF course, I was shooting with the manual 16x as well.

Since I'm just down the road from you in San Francisco, feel free to email me directly with questions.
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Old May 18th, 2005, 10:08 AM   #7
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Here is some advice others might overlook-

Before doing "Run and Gun" type stuff, do a once over with the cam, and do a quick take. Then review the footage for any anomolies you might not catch whilst running. This is a good way to find out if your audio is working, you have spit or other foreign debris on the lens, etc.

Also, wear baggy pants with big pockets. I stash lens caps and batteries in my pants pockets. While you're at it, big pockets on your shirt are great for extra tapes and pens to mark them with. That is for folks like Marco who have hangups about unlabled tapes ;) Comfortable shoes are also overlooked.
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Old May 18th, 2005, 01:09 PM   #8
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Ditto Keiths remarks.

Long ago, in my young career as a photojournalist, my mentor had one of those fancy "Photographers vests" with straps, pockets, pouches and such all over it. "Pockets..." he said, "Can't have enough of them." Basically, the guy WORE his camera bag. Still a good way to work.

Me, I've got two black military style belt pouches with double swivel locks on them. Hold batts, tapes, lens caps, cables on each hip. The same pouches lots of grips use for handy tools.
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Old May 18th, 2005, 04:35 PM   #9
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If you are one guy shooting and it involves any capturing of conversation in frame, get a mounted shotgun. If it is around people, this helps concentrate on the subject and cuts out any sidebar noise that you have no control over. It has worked wonders for me doing all of the extra footage I do for band and drum corps videos.
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Old May 18th, 2005, 07:28 PM   #10
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Peter, thank you very much for the book suggestion. I'll be doing a first search through local bookstores to see if I can grab it used, or off of half.com. I've been reading a lot of stuff on doc threory; that book looks like it will pit me right into a practicle production mindset as well.

On the type of shooting, Peter, Im afraid all I can answer is EVERYTHING. From indoor classroom settings, to concert stages, to outdoor natural envirnments, city stuff, inside cars. Im jumping in, head first, to learn all this stuff, and I understand its going to be very hard to get A++ footage in all these different conditions, especially given that the budget doesnt go too much further for me. It is a one man crew, following a subject of one through his life for the next few months.

Richard, yeah, Im in San Francisco now, but this doc will be mostly up out of upstate New York. And then falling into Japan possibly. Im very excited to have your contact though, and will definately be taking you up on your offer for suggestions on stuff.

Pockets, I need pockets. Does anyone use one of those backpacks with a spot down the middle for a lense, and then compartments for batteries and such?

George,

Im looking to spend more of my budget dollars towards the 3x lense, and may not have the top-dollar cash for an excellent shotgun mic. Do you have any suggestions for a good-quality, easily priced mic?
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Old May 18th, 2005, 10:00 PM   #11
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If you are chasing around a "subject of one" with a one man crew I would suggest recording CH1&2 with an on-camera mike and CH3 with a wireless mike on the subject. This arrangement would give you complete audio coverage of the subject when he/she on-camera and off -- esp. nice if you are shooting over the shoulder of the subject when he/she is talking to someone else.

In post you would be able to mix the three channels together in some nice ways, allowing some dramatic/narrative focus of the audio. This will be important because variations in lighting will probably limit consistency of the video portion of the program.
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Old May 19th, 2005, 02:24 AM   #12
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wooohooooo! nice. slick. clean.

wireless brand suggestions?
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Old May 19th, 2005, 05:35 AM   #13
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Look at the mics on this page:
http://dvestore.com/products/sound.html

then buy from a dvinfo sponsor (B&H has all the Sennheiser stuff at about the same prices). DV creators do offer some good training materials too.
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Old May 19th, 2005, 06:00 AM   #14
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Over in Now Hear This, I see the A-T 897 mentioned alot. I would ask those guys as I choose mine based on their recommendations (I have a A-T 835-ST). Rode is also mentioned along with the Sennheiser 66 series IIRC.
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Old August 12th, 2007, 01:15 PM   #15
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documentary tips needed?

hello, im working on a documentary using panasonic dvx100a, a lot of the interviews are outdoors in las vegas where there is a lot of sun glare, i just bought a matte box, but im still learning how to use filters. does anyone know where i can purchase various filters, also any links to tips on settings for this camera. thanks
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