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Old February 10th, 2010, 10:02 PM   #1
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First Documentary... feedback wanted

Hi all...

I just intro'd myself up the street.. Now for the meat and potatoes.

As noted, this is not only my first film project but my first documentary as well.

We want to film documentary of our campaign to raise awareness for Adrenoleukodystrophy. A close friend and I are embarking on a 7 week overland expedition across the US and Canada with the sole purpose of raising awareness for ALD. (Adrenoleukodystrophy). Not much has been done since Lorenzo's Oil and even then it was a Hollywood production. We are filming a documentary of the process from start to finish in a raw style similar to Les Stroud. More like a mix of Les' work on Survivorman and McGregor and Boorman's Long Way 'Round.

The expedition is not until late spring 2011 but filming should begin end of this month. (If we can source our primary camera by then.) An obvious point of contention there is our lack of funds which is just an obstacle at this point.

Film Overview: Contradictory to what it sounds like, this project is not meant to be as serious as one might think. My goal is to create an experience that ALD boys and affected families can enjoy without the additional distress. Lorenzo's Oil educates (fairly well) but it is almost unbearable to watch as an ALD parent. I know this because my five month old son was just diagnosed with the ALD gene mutation. While trying to uplift the spirits of ALD families, we want to also entertain those that might be interested in outdoor adventure. We will/hope to creatively insert a few interviews here and there to educate the non health/human interest group. But the initial appeal to them should be to watch "an expedition unfold."

Purpose: 1. To educate the general public about Adrenoleukodystrophy by engaging them in outdoor/overland adventure. 2. To bring a little joy to the life of ALD boys and their families. 3. Spread our awareness message long after our Jeeps are parked.

Audience: 1. Outdoor/Adventure/Overland audience. 2. Health and Human Interest crowd.

I have so many questions buzzing around the gray matter, that I almost don't know where to start. And perhaps this should be in the "Water / Over Land" subforum. I am not sure.

But let me ask a few basics. I have searched the forums and read a few posts but my searches almost seem too generic to cull the exact information that I am looking for. I read hours worth of posts with much of it informative but not exactly to the point.

MIXING FOOTAGE: We plan to use a "Prosumer" or entry level professional camera similar the new HM100U as our primary camera. We also want to inboard smaller footprint HD cameras to film in cab footage as well as our daily diaries. In addition to that, we want 2 to 4 outboard cameras (GoPro????) that can stand up to the elements and capture footage of the vehicles over the varying terrain, especially the tricky terrain we will encounter.

What is recommended when mixing footage from different kinds of cameras? Is it acceptable to blend footage from perhaps a lower quality camera for certain shots? I should note that we will be presenting to PBS. The outboard footage is my greatest concern.

Recommendations? Advice? Reliability is key since we will be away from repair shops etc...

TAPE vs SOLID STATE MEDIA: I understand the advantages to workflow, but in particular, which would be more suitable (if either) for extended travel filming? Backups??

MUSIC: I have just about decided on Bluegrass music (certain styles) to lay over parts of our footage, intro, menu, and creds. Does anyone have sources for this type of music in a royalty free format? I don't want too much music, just some to maintain the mood and cover some of the driving footage.

INTERVIEWS: I have some ideas, but from your experience, what would be the least intrusive way to work in informative interviews without disrupting the flow of the documentary?

And the biggie: FUNDS. With regards to my documentary plan and goals, does anyone have advice for finding suitable funding? (I hope this does not come off wrong.)

I hope I have presented a respectable amount/type of questions and conveyed my points clearly. Again, consider me as green as they come. I welcome any and all advice.

I apologize in advance for perhaps asking some questions that may have been beat to death already.

Thanks much!
PG

edit for website if interested: http://www.expedition-awareness.org. I have not released the pages created for the documentary yet. I want to get a few more ducks in a row first.
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Old February 11th, 2010, 04:27 PM   #2
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I'll recommend for music:
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Old February 11th, 2010, 11:22 PM   #3
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Oh wow... thanks for the link Bill!

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Old February 13th, 2010, 09:08 PM   #4
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Does anyone at least have feedback for me concerning the mixing footage from different cameras question above?

In other news, we were able to contact Mr. Phil Collins and Antlantic Records. They both gave consent for the use of "Lorenzo" off of "Dance Into The Light" for full length use as well as cuts in our production. Very excited about this. Consents/Written proof on the way. (I learned about that reading here.) We are still waiting to hear from the publicist.
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Old February 17th, 2010, 02:27 PM   #5
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Phil re mixing footage: I suspect many would advise doing your best to match footage in post (or by using custom presets in-camera) though this can be very tricky, sometimes nigh on impossible and very time consuming. I have had some success doing it this way.

However from what you say there will be quite a variety of cameras and associated quality and my approach would be to actually embrace this by using the different types of image for different elements of the documentary i.e. making an aesthetic decision. Where things can really jar is when edits from different cameras are mixed up in fairly rapid succession whilst conveying a single theme / idea, so another (and related) suggestion is to group shots from the same camera together and chose carefully when you change. If you can get it to work it can actually enhance a film by offering varying moods / aesthetics simply by the look of the film, something that is often done in post anyway.

Just some thoughts though and in the truly commercial world (in which I don't work), probably ill-advised!
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Old February 18th, 2010, 08:44 AM   #6
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Funding is very competitive, especially right now.

Your post kinda reads like... I don't have any equipment or experience, please give me $.

That being said, where there is a will there is a way so by all means, don't let this discourage you in any way.

Most funding does not cover equipment, most ask for at least a rough cut 5-20 minutes. There are some development funds out there, Sundance is one. Most ask for previous works also.

A way to get started with the cash is through org's that are involved with the subject and individuals as a lot of funding looks at your ability to raise some of the cash and a lot are matching funds or give a certain amount & ask you to show how you are going to raise the additional $.

I have a Canon A1 & HV30 & find they work very well together, plus I can use the HV30 as a "deck" to capture so I don't put too much wear on the A1. I use Canon but a configuration like this in any of the top cameras would work best IMO, keep it as consistent as possible.

I personally like tape. It's inexpensive and when traveling or hiking you are always sure to have enough storage. Having to worry about backing up to a HD while traveling or being in remote locations, is not for me, I also like to have it archived, but again that is just my preference.

So my advice would be to get a camera and start shooting tomorrow.
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Old February 19th, 2010, 12:47 AM   #7
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Phil re mixing footage: I suspect many would advise doing your best to match footage in post (or by using custom presets in-camera) though this can be very tricky, sometimes nigh on impossible and very time consuming. I have had some success doing it this way.

However from what you say there will be quite a variety of cameras and associated quality and my approach would be to actually embrace this by using the different types of image for different elements of the documentary i.e. making an aesthetic decision. Where things can really jar is when edits from different cameras are mixed up in fairly rapid succession whilst conveying a single theme / idea, so another (and related) suggestion is to group shots from the same camera together and chose carefully when you change. If you can get it to work it can actually enhance a film by offering varying moods / aesthetics simply by the look of the film, something that is often done in post anyway.

Just some thoughts though and in the truly commercial world (in which I don't work), probably ill-advised!
Geoffrey,

Thank you for your excellent perspective. I believe you have an excellent point. I have been trying to find and watch similar productions where in car footage is taken. Bullrun comes to mind. I believe that your idea of embracing the difference could add a certain amount of realism to the adventure.

Thanks for your input.
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Old February 19th, 2010, 01:06 AM   #8
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Funding is very competitive, especially right now.

Your post kinda reads like... I don't have any equipment or experience, please give me $.

That being said, where there is a will there is a way so by all means, don't let this discourage you in any way.

Most funding does not cover equipment, most ask for at least a rough cut 5-20 minutes. There are some development funds out there, Sundance is one. Most ask for previous works also.

A way to get started with the cash is through org's that are involved with the subject and individuals as a lot of funding looks at your ability to raise some of the cash and a lot are matching funds or give a certain amount & ask you to show how you are going to raise the additional $.

I have a Canon A1 & HV30 & find they work very well together, plus I can use the HV30 as a "deck" to capture so I don't put too much wear on the A1. I use Canon but a configuration like this in any of the top cameras would work best IMO, keep it as consistent as possible.

I personally like tape. It's inexpensive and when traveling or hiking you are always sure to have enough storage. Having to worry about backing up to a HD while traveling or being in remote locations, is not for me, I also like to have it archived, but again that is just my preference.

So my advice would be to get a camera and start shooting tomorrow.
Chris,

I appreciate your candid comments. You captured the gist of my post. No equipment, no experience. I figured it might be taboo to even bring up funding with so many of you guys that have successful projects behind you. I decided to ask because I needed a baseline. Thank you for your information.

Simply, I am sincerely trying to do everything I can to make the most impact I can in awareness for ALD. I believe the most important aspect is this documentary, not the 2 months on the road away from the kids. For me it is personal.

I have just about decided to purchase a Sony cam - V1U (good reviews -headed over to the V1 forum next) which seems like a comparable camera to your A1 from a quick search. Do you think mixing manufacturers is a sore spot? I have read some great things about the HV30 in the recent past.

I have been studying like a mad man (books, internet, and have been fortunate in making some good contacts) and I am glad to hear you suggest tape as that is my new direction.

Again, I appreciate your response and hope I did not come across insensitive and without respect to what it is you guys do.

Best Wishes,
Phil
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Old February 19th, 2010, 10:15 AM   #9
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Not at all. To me it is much more powerful/important for a doc filmmaker to have a burning desire to express something than a burning desire to be a filmmaker.

Many of us have started out in much the same way as you & have benefitted from the wealth of knowledge here, not much of the "newby snubbing that goes on in some other places on the web. Great bunch of folks here.

I would tend to stick with the same manufactures as their cameras tend to complement each other better. For instance (not sure if this still holds true), if you were to shoot in 30p or 24p the Canon did not/does not shoot in true progressive but rather 30f & 24f so there could be some compatibility problems if you were to shoot with one and capture with the other. Also it is probably easier to get info on matching footage from 2 different cameras from the same manufacturer.

Another thing to think about is that if you are just learning, it might be best to just get one camera for shooting because especially when shooting a doc on the run, it's very advantageous to get to know your camera so that you don't miss or screw up shots from fiddling with settings. Though the HV30 is a great little camera I rarely use it for serious work. You'll also be learning how to deal with sound which is often overlooked by a beginner, and the stock sound for a A1 or comparable cam is pretty decent. While the HV30 would need a mic if you want some serious sound out of it.

Sounds like you'll have to learn an editing suite, possibly an audio ap, color correction and if it does go to broadcast, all the stuff associated with that.

So just decide on the camera your going to go with and download the manual and start reading while your waiting for it to arrive, start thinking of some b-roll footage you can shoot the day it gets there and capture and start working on it that night. Forget about all the things that you might need as far as equipment, just get the basics and start, what else you might (really) need will become much more evident as you work with what you've got.

Oh and a decent tripod is an essential.
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Old February 20th, 2010, 12:52 PM   #10
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I'd add that before you get started on your big project you really should do several similar but shorter projects first. I'm talking 2-5 minute pieces in the same style you are shooting for - and don't spend a lot of time on them, maybe 2-3 days on each video - the goal with these is not perfection but iterative improvement. Do one quickly, figure out what worked, what didn't, etc - then jump right into the next one with the goal of improving the things that didn't work. Rinse, repeat. You'll get to know your tools, start developing a workflow, and start from a much stronger position when you get into the actual project.
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Old February 21st, 2010, 08:43 AM   #11
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Evan makes a good point. Taking on a project that you intend to air on national or even local TV straight out of the chute is ambitious, though certainly not undoable.

I started out getting footage right away for the doc that I wanted to work on, but took on quite a few small projects for other people. Those small projects are certainly where I got my training and competency to do something for broadcast. It also paid for my equipment plus a little.

On top of that, if you do some short pieces, you'll have some samples to send along with grants, as I mentioned earlier that this is often a requirement.
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Old February 22nd, 2010, 11:47 AM   #12
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I'd add that before you get started on your big project you really should do several similar but shorter projects first. I'm talking 2-5 minute pieces in the same style you are shooting for - and don't spend a lot of time on them, maybe 2-3 days on each video - the goal with these is not perfection but iterative improvement. Do one quickly, figure out what worked, what didn't, etc - then jump right into the next one with the goal of improving the things that didn't work. Rinse, repeat. You'll get to know your tools, start developing a workflow, and start from a much stronger position when you get into the actual project.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Chris Korrow View Post
Evan makes a good point. Taking on a project that you intend to air on national or even local TV straight out of the chute is ambitious, though certainly not undoable.

I started out getting footage right away for the doc that I wanted to work on, but took on quite a few small projects for other people. Those small projects are certainly where I got my training and competency to do something for broadcast. It also paid for my equipment plus a little.

On top of that, if you do some short pieces, you'll have some samples to send along with grants, as I mentioned earlier that this is often a requirement.

Thanks guys. Good advice. My camera should be in Tuesday from B&H and a host of other equipment... sound, power, sticks, pelican, etc are arriving this week from Amazon. Workin' on some DIY light and then I plan to dive right in.

It would be great to pick up some local work to pay for all this stuff. I did not think about that.
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Old February 28th, 2010, 10:51 PM   #13
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