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Old August 8th, 2007, 02:44 PM   #1
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How much tape to buy for a documentary?

I will be filming a documentary over eleven months for Congress in Japan over the next year.

I am aiming to keep the final cut of the project at a run length of two hours max (which I doubt will be a constraint very difficult to stay within).

There will only be one camera for production--a Panasonic AG-DVX-100B. The camera, however, will be used both for collecting footage and for sampling ambient audio sans video for post.

The documentary covers studying abroad in a non-western country: the application process, health checks, visa acquisition, housing, language and cultural issues, interesting places to visit, etc. The most difficult session for production will be a trek up the side of Mt. Fuji--into the cold, dusty atmosphere of the mountain above the clouds. Most of the footage will be recorded on location in Tokyo; there will be no in-studio work (bar some aforementioned audio touch-ups in post).

I've never filmed a major project like this before in my life, nor have I ever taken part in one. I have made a handful of no-budget shorts, worked extensively in live theater, music and in audio recording studios--but that's it.

Given those parameters and my level of (in)experience, how many hours (SP) of tape would you expect I'll need to film the entire project? Looking for best guesses, stabs in the dark--all input much appreciated!
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Old August 8th, 2007, 04:23 PM   #2
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I don't now if this will help..but..I just filmed a race that took place over 8 days and used 175 mini dv tapes and 10 Hi8. Sony premium all the way.
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Old August 8th, 2007, 04:50 PM   #3
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175 mini DV tapes and 10 hi8 over eight days? What sort of race were you filming? How many cameras? That's a lot of film! :o

--Luke
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Old August 8th, 2007, 05:59 PM   #4
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2007 Jetboat Racing World Championship.
preview clip.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iMPf4OofHrc

Air cam, 6-10 onboard and 4 guys on the ground..we almost ran out of tapes + I gave out 20-30 tapes.
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Old August 8th, 2007, 06:02 PM   #5
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Well, you COULD figure out how many days you'll spend on the shoot, mutilpy that times the total hours on the day you could POSSIBLY spend shooting, and add a 20% contingency. So for ten days 'on the shoot' and perhaps ten hours of shooting a day... you've got 100 tapes, plus 20 'extra'.

Or you could just take a dozen to get you started and buy more as you go along. Just a thought.

(You will have to figure out how many days you'll be shooting each week - 'over the course of a year')
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Old August 9th, 2007, 12:43 AM   #6
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Hmm ... that could be tough: I'll be in school most of the day, then shooting on evenings and weekends. There will be a two to three month stint in the winter over break with nothing to do but travel a shoot, travel and shoot--then another quarter of school again.

At first I thought I would just pack a few cassettes and then pick up the rest in Japan. However, tape is notoriously expensive over there: while I can get one, 60 min. cassette of prosumer quality tape from Sony in the US for $2.50, a similar cassette in Japan would cost at least $6.45!

So, depending on how much I need to buy, how much my bags weigh and the price per cassette of buying in the US and then shipping to Japan--it may end up being much cheaper to actually fly with a few pounds of tape back to the land whence it came ... go figure.
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Old August 9th, 2007, 04:38 AM   #7
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Start thinking about what your most likely "shooting ratio" will be. That's the ratio of footage shot to footage on the screen that you can expect to achieve. Remember you're going to be shooting a lot of duplicate footage for coverage to give you a variety of shots of a given scene to choose from in editing. Documentaries usually run much higher than scripted features, with ratios of 15:1 to 20:1 or even higher not uncommon.
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Old August 9th, 2007, 09:13 AM   #8
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Strictly speaking, with documentary footage and one camera, you DON'T shoot any 'duplicate footage'. Everything you shoot is pretty much happening in real time. Sure, you can ask the question again and again. You might ask for someone to 'do that again' while demonstrating a technique. You might shoot lots of EXTRA b-roll of a location so you've got plenty of cut-aways. But it's not duplicate footage the way a feature will have several takes of the same scene. Or where a multi camera shoot will have duplicate footage from different cameras.

Yes, docs wrack up HUGE ammounts of footage to wade through. A big change from having to shoot film. It's easy with tape to just roll and roll. But really, how can you shoot more than, say ten tapes in a day? Can you capture ten hours of footage in a day?

So yes, it's possible to have a 'thousand to one' shooting ratio... in the sense that you shot a thousand hours to cut a one hour doc... a great deal of that footage will be 'one off' shots of things you think you MIGHT need, but won't know untill you're cutting it. Hence, the reason why docs have a higher 'shooting ratio' than features.

When I work on a doc, I rarely shoot more than six hours in a day... and that's a LONG 12 to 16 hour day. There's just a lot of stuff to do besides roll tape.

I'd say check up on how much it will cost you to order a box of fifty tapes, and have them sent directly to your location in Japan. Figure from that what the individual tape cost is. IF it's worth it, than I reccomend buying and shipping two boxes - that's one hundred tapes to your location. IF you get down to your last twenty tapes and think you'll need more... order more.

Just my approach.
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Old August 9th, 2007, 09:29 AM   #9
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Luke,

If I were you, I would just buy a case or two of 50 tapes to take with you, then you should be fine. Take them in your carry-on. If you have them mailed to you, you may pay import duties.

One thing to remember is that you may not fill up the tapes. You may get down to 5-15 minutes left and may need to change out so you don't miss a longer action sequence. And, don't forget the many extra batteries and maybe an extra charger!!!!

But, have fun! By the way either way you go, take them with you or ship to you, those tapes will have some miles on them won't they!!!!

Mike
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Old August 9th, 2007, 11:05 AM   #10
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Sounds good.

It looks like I'm going to get 100 cassettes of Sony DVM60PR and ship it to Japan via USPS in a flat rate, insured box: six to ten business days, $270 and change.

It's funny, I've just spent the past two days plucking out split-ends budgeting this and now that it's finally come down to just shy of $300--a number that looked quite high until I had a chance to plug it into my balance sheet--I look at it and remember the film I tried to propose almost ten years ago on 16mm! Someday, the Panasonic AG-DVX100B will bare my children; it's love--I'm sure of it.

--Luke




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Old August 9th, 2007, 11:57 AM   #11
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Sweet. Less than three bucks a tape delivered to your location, and you don't have to schlepp it. Yeah, you did good. Like I said... watch your shooting ratio. After a couple of weeks, you'll know what your shooting in each day, then you can project ahead to if/when you'll need more. Having a hundred tapes to start will certainly be enough.

Have fun.
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Old August 10th, 2007, 03:45 PM   #12
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By the way, it's possible to declare personal effects to Japanese customs even though the personal effects are arriving after you, ie they're being shipped to you in Japan. I forget the name of the form you need.

Not exactly sure of the duty requirement, but I think the $ amount you're talking about falls below their dutiable level. In any case, if you fill out the unaccompanied goods declaration on arrival, the shipment will be treated as if you had brought it with you. Just in case, I think it would be a good idea to have receipts with you.

Anyhow, best to ask the customs guys on arrival
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Old August 12th, 2007, 07:33 PM   #13
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Hey all,

A friend of mine just called the Japanese Customs Office for me. Here's what we found out:

It's not clear whether or not they use graduated price brackets to calculate import duties and customs on items for personal use, but it is clear that they impose duties differently based upon the intended use of the item(s) (i.e. personal versus resale).

In my case--about $300 of miniDV tapes not imported for resale--they charged five percent on sixty percent of the total value of the import. So:

(Total_Value)(.60)(.05) = Tax_Due
($300)(.60)(.05) = $9.00

So cheap!

Here's their English website: http://www.customs.go.jp/english/index.htm
Their phone number: 072-455-1852

If you call them, I assume it's possible they can answer your questions in English. We only dealt with them in Japanese, however, so be prepared to be greeted in Japanese if you call the number above. (Of note: English service is almost always available everywhere in Japan, but whether or not it is completely functional can be rather spotty.)

Thanks to everyone who has helped me out!

Regards,

--Luke
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Old August 12th, 2007, 11:06 PM   #14
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I guess I won't tell you where I got 50 tapes for $105 shipped... :(

Glad it worked out for you though
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Old August 13th, 2007, 07:21 AM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Joe Busch View Post
I guess I won't tell you where I got 50 tapes for $105 shipped... :(
Was that $105 for tape and shipping--or just shipping? =\

--Luke
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