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Old January 19th, 2004, 07:26 PM   #1
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Project viability question (or "Am I nuts?")

Okay guys, here's the thing. In the event that none of my potential sources of funding come through for my documentary, I'm mulling over whether or not I should go it alone, with just me, myself, and I as crew. And I would really appreciate some honest feedback...

My doc proposal as written (sent out into that great void at present) includes a director, boom operator, sound person, DP, and grip, aka grunt worker. Now, I figure I can handle the city interviews resonably well, but I'm concerned about whether or not what I can get on my own, up in the mountains this next summer (approx. six weeks), will be anything I can really use for what I've always intended this doc to be. Sound haunts me the most. As an editor I've worked on projects (horror stories I've alluded to around here) that had twice the funding of my dream budget, with full crews, and a good 60 to 75% of the audio was practically unuseable. They had pre amps, mixers, high end mics, boom operators, etc., too. This could be just me, and in some challenging situations, not just static set up shots.

This is a project I care deeply about. And if I can tell this story, about some kids and families dealing with a serious disease, and I could get their story out there, it could (potentially) really impact a lot of lives for the better. So I'm really not wanting to let it die on the vine. And I'm thinking that whether or not funding comes through, I may just go for it, live in a tent for six weeks, haul stuff around at 7,000 feet till I drop, and pray. Actually, pray a lot.

On the up side, I know docs and other films have been done, shown relatively raw, then picked up and finished/polished to a (relatively) respectible degree. Some have even been transfered for release. On the down side, I may end up with something that has such staggering low production value (despite my best efforts with my trusty little DVX) from doing it all myself, that it'll never see the light of day in any manner.

When I started this, I swore I wouldn't risk doing it all on my own if it came to that... but it's gotten under my skin. It's hard to let this story go. (sigh)

As I said, honest feedback would be greatly appreciated. I still have a couple months before I have to decide, but as the grant/financing rejections roll in I'm feverishly checking out equipment I'd buy/rent. With a crew onboard it was all decided, but on my own, and on my dollar, it makes it a whole new (waaaay low budget) ball game.

Marcia
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Old January 19th, 2004, 08:19 PM   #2
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Well, why not go it alone? If you believe it's worthwhile, then go for it.
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Old January 19th, 2004, 09:30 PM   #3
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Old January 19th, 2004, 09:39 PM   #4
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if you get funding then use small crew ... if no/not enough $ then go it on your own. from editing you know if there is a airplane, chain saw in back ground it's going to be a problem so wait for it to pass. i helped a friend out on a doc and he insisted on using boom mic in SF downtown area ... i would have went LAV. i just did the sound sweetening and i can tell you that where a lav was used we had very little b/g noise, NO traffic rumble, no foot steps from other room , no heater fan noise and no refergerator motor .. true the boom short shot gun mic does have a fuller sound BUT by the time i used FX to get rid of the noise it sounds no better then the lav.. if i was working alone i would LAV the person on one channel and use some type of 2nd mic on other then in post go 70-90 % lav and 10-30% other channel ...
if you do it alone do NOT over burden yourself with equipment.
..i find subjects get tired and impatient if you have to keep adjusting things ... carry/take only what you can handle. find the spot where the natural light is good or wait for the light to come to you.
.
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Old January 20th, 2004, 12:01 AM   #5
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:-) Thanks guys. Was kinda blue with the rejection letters (hence the overly long post). You bucked me up.

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Old January 20th, 2004, 05:03 AM   #6
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Whichever way you decide to go, I would suggest doing some
testruns. With your crew if you get one, but definitely if you are
going to do it alone. Test the equipment (LAVs and booms if
you go with that) and do some serious real-world reproduction.
Then do a small edit on that to see how the sound and everything
is coming along.

No need to do all of this if you are coming back with 10 tapes
with almost no sound.

Oh, and you do know that headphones are a must, right? This
way you can listen to what you are actually recording!

And as others have said, go for it!
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Old January 20th, 2004, 10:25 AM   #7
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I would say you really need another person, mainly for sound. If you can't find somebody to do it, then the way to do it yourself would be to get a couple of wireless mics and put lavs on the people you're shooting. If you just run around with a mic on the camera, you're not going to get useable sound. In most cases you'll be interviewing one person at a time, so you can wire that person and run the wireless into one channel and shoot ambient sound onto your other channel with the camera mic. It's not going to be as good or as easy or as fast as it would with a soundman, but you do what ya gotta do. Even the cheapest wireless lav properly positioned is going to be better than the best on camera mic. That doesn't mean you can't get good sound with a camera mounted mic--if you have the person talking right into the camera and stick the camera about 3 feet from his face, then you will get some decent audio. That's pretty limiting, however.
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Old January 20th, 2004, 10:58 AM   #8
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I would try to solicit the aid of some volunteers, with the understanding that, if successful, there will be something in it for them. If not, it would be some practical experience for their resume. There are many people on this board that might be happy to help out.

Trying to do it all on your own, may cause more problems, and make the doc a failure. Either way, best of luck with it.
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Old January 20th, 2004, 08:59 PM   #9
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sign me up

Im in Sacramento... how close is Camarillo? If thats within 50-60 miles, i can help a day or 2 a week. Im not too experianced with sound equipment, but i can learn. Ive also got a GL2.
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Old January 21st, 2004, 10:24 AM   #10
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Rob, Bill, Keith... all good points. And yes Rob, I have headphones... am looking at the Samson Airline wireless setup and the Samson Mixpad 4 at present. Need to practice, practice, practice as I have no experience with either. Part of the problem is I have a hearing loss from when I was sick as a kid, and while I do fine on average with dorky digital hearing aids, I can't wear them with headphones, so it gets tricky. But I'll work it, and manage somehow.

Patrick, the primary shoot would be in the Sierras for five to six weeks, with some interviews in the Bay area (with various doctors and others). I appreciate the offer, and don't want to do anything to discourage you :-) but I suspect it's too far. Will sure keep in touch, though!
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Old January 21st, 2004, 06:01 PM   #11
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Audio is the big bugaboo for the DIY approach. And yes, you don't want to be overburdened with equipment. But you might want to bring a cheap handheld mic and stand.

I was dong a shoot at a detention center with an after market boom on my VX. Too much echo. I switched over to a 40 buck Radio Shack Oni on a stand, positioned it just out of the shot, problem solved.

Buy the lavs will really be the way to go.
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Old January 21st, 2004, 06:48 PM   #12
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Too bad it's not closer to me on the east coast. That's two of my big passions.... videography and distance backpacking ... especially in the mountains (AT).
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Old January 21st, 2004, 10:22 PM   #13
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Some of the best documentarians of my generation (the Maysles, Pennebaker etc) worked in twos. Camera and Sound. I highly recommend that you see if you can get someone to handle the sound for you---its one less thing to worry about and allows you to attend to the poetry occuring in front of your lens.
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Old January 22nd, 2004, 07:50 PM   #14
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Ah, Jim... would that you were closer.

David, so true. If I can afford it, I will definitely follow your advice. Thanks for posting.

Man you guys, you've really been here for me just when I needed it most. Thank you all, from the bottom of my heart.

Marcia
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Old January 22nd, 2004, 08:24 PM   #15
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Keep us posted as to your progress! Go for it!
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