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Old May 22nd, 2003, 09:04 PM   #1
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Any Assistance Appreciated - Documentaries

In a classic case of "it's not what you know, but WHO you know", I have been given permission to shoot a documentary of an artist creating a 40-foot, stainless steel sculpture of the Wright Brothers and their plane, for the Flight Centennial in December.

I have never shot a documentary before and I am as nervous as I am excited! I meet with the artist next week to map out his vision of what he would like to get out of this.

I have a GL1, decent lights, an Azden Shotgun mic with boom, various bounce boards for lights, etc.

I have some ideas as to what I want to do (and will know better after meeting with the artist), but is there any specific info that anyone could pass on as to what to look for or watch out for in shooting docs?

Thanks for any assistance anyone can offer.
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Old May 22nd, 2003, 11:02 PM   #2
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I guess you need to decide what form the doc will take---will it be a process video? In other words will you show the process of creation and installation---Will it hone in on the artist and his techniques---or will it hone in or the Wright BRothers---How about this---you juxtopose the Wright Brothers building of their plane with the construction of this sculpture---cross cutting---etc---I am just brain storming here but thats what you you have to do---Meet the artist, learn about him, study up on the Wright Bros then plan a strategy---I assume you will be shooting outside in DV? This presents a whole set of issues----sound, lighting, the inability of prosumer DV cameras to pick up detail in long shots----Anyhow, check out this film---its famous---its called Skyscraper---I think it was made in the 50's. Its about the construction of a major skyscraper in NYC and you might get some interesting ideas.

Sorry to ramble and skip around but thats the way I work at the beginning---Sounds like you are going to have fun--Keep us abreast of your progress---
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Old May 23rd, 2003, 08:34 AM   #3
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Thanks, David. Interesting points and concepts. I am studying up on the Wright Brothers as we type! I had not thought of that angle and I may incorporate that. My initial thought is to interview quite a few people both related to the project (artist, polictical figures associated with this, etc.) and people related to flight itself (chairman of the Flight Centennial, FAA officials, pilots, celebrities that fly, other dignitaries, etc.). I thought I would also try to show the history and/or development of flight (militarily and commercial) in coordination with the building of the sculpture.

I'm also rambling here, as my thoughts are coming fast and furious. I should know more after I meet the artist next week at his studio. My impression is that everything is being built in pieces inside, then going to some sort of foundry for finalization (it's a stainless steel piece).

Thanks again for thoughts and tips.
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Old May 23rd, 2003, 09:03 AM   #4
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For a good Wright Brothers overview, I recommend the 1978 made-for-TV movie The Winds of Kitty Hawk.

The only problem is, I have no idea how one might procure a copy. I taped it off of television in the late '80s or early '90s.
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Old May 23rd, 2003, 11:12 AM   #5
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Hey Mark, I have an idea. Why dont you keep us informed with a kind of online diary of how the project evolves---It would be highly educational and we would all benefit by hearing about the process---Just a thought.

Dave
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Old May 23rd, 2003, 04:16 PM   #6
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I don't mind posting updates now and then, but I'm afraid it would bore some people to tears. I don't really have the film school education and/or experience that most have and some could roll over in their not-yet-to-be-determined graves when they see how I'll go about this!

We'll see how it goes. Thanks for all the tips. RKS, I may try to find that TV-movie. Thanks for letting me know.

The last 48 hours I've spent online getting some historical data about the WBs and researching grant info. Unfortunately, most grants for this year were submitted for last year - and most grants give to organizations, not individuals. I'll keep looking though. Thought a grant of some sort may help the expenses out, but the lack of one won't shut me down!
------------

One question: Does anyone have a recommendation for shooting this in FRAME or 60i? I know the argument for 60i and transfer to film, but I'm not sure this would be transferred. I love frame mode, but I just don't know. Any suggestions?

Thanks in advance.
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Old May 25th, 2003, 08:51 AM   #7
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I meet with the artist on Friday for this documentary and expect I'll get some footage of his studio and what he's currently working on. Can anyone suggest whether I should shoot in frame mode or interlaced?

There is a chance that musuems could pick this up when it's completed. I also know that if I want to transfer it to film, I need to go interlaced. Other than that, any recommendations from the more experienced?

Thanks.
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Old May 25th, 2003, 09:47 AM   #8
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Mark,

Sounds like a great opportunity. The first thing I would do is get a hold of Barry Hampe's excellent book on making docs. It's a quick and thrilling read. Here's an amazon link if you want to check it out.

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg...glance&s=books

Read this book and you'll make a better documentary than you can find on cable tv or even PBS.

For what it's worth, my three bits of advice would be...

1) make sure you "show" your subject as opposed to just "telling" about your subject. Interviews are terribly overused this way. Rember that video is a visual medium and just having a talking head describing something is a poor way to engage the audience.

2) Give some thought to your narrative arc. A standard fictional work is usually organized around something like a) character introduction, b) rising action, d) climax, e) falling action. You need to do something similar in your documentary.

3) Don't shoot until you write a treatment. Hampe gives some great examples of 3-5 page treatments for documentaries.

And I think you should take David up on his excellent suggestion of posting throughout the process. This forum is wonderfully supportive that way. You'd get a lot of great brainstorming from some pretty experienced people.

Good luck!
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Old May 25th, 2003, 12:00 PM   #9
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Thanks Steve. I'm definitely going to check out the link. Also, thanks for the other suggestions. Very good advice. I can use all the suggestion I can get!
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Old May 27th, 2003, 08:30 AM   #10
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I'm sorry to ask this question again, but I respect the experience on this board and I would like to feel comfortable!

I meet the artist on FRI and I would like opinions and/or arguments on whether I should shoot 60i or frame mode? My preference is frame, but I don't want to shoot myself in the foot just because I like that better!

Thanks.
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Old May 27th, 2003, 08:16 PM   #11
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Mark, there's been a lot of discussion on this that you can read by searching for "frame mode".

I think the general consensus is that if you're not transferring to film then shoot frame. If you are transferring to film then do some research because there's a lot of opinions out there.
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Old May 27th, 2003, 10:21 PM   #12
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Thanks.
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Old May 28th, 2003, 03:14 PM   #13
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Hey Mark,
I was also going to suggest the book that Steve Klusman recommended but he beat me to it. Read it and you'll have a good template to shoot by.

My two cents - stay with 60i and you'll be safe, esp with your first doco. Stick with the effects you can easily duplicate in post.

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Old May 28th, 2003, 09:07 PM   #14
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I did buy the book and it was shipped today, so I should have it this weekend.

Thanks for the recommendation on 60i. If this is to be shown on some sort of TV and/or small theatres in Museums, will 60i still be the best way to shoot?

I just don't have the experience to know! Thanks.
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Old May 28th, 2003, 10:21 PM   #15
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I think 60i would be the safest. Keep the technical aspects to a minimum and focus on the content, at least until you have more time to play with frame mode and get to know its quirks. I would guess you'll be doing a lot of hand held shots which could turn out to be a frame mode disaster without practice, especially when using a GL1 or GL2 which CAN be very unstable to hold.

Concentrate on telling the story with your images. With the end result, you should be able to turn down the sound and still know what the story is about. Of course, never underestimate the importance of audio quality and your musical score.

As for the book, I've bought a lot of them and the one by Barry Hampe was simply my favorite and is written in a style that benefits all levels of experience. It also gets right to the point and shouldn't take you too long to read. Most of the other books were more of a bragging and name dropping session for the writer, this one isn't.

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