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Old April 14th, 2006, 04:40 PM   #1
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Shooting docs out of the country

I'm going to be making a couple of documentaries in the next three months, and am looking for some advice. I'm a senior in high school, and have been working with DV (shooting, editing, etc...) for about three years. I have a VX-2000 and GL-2, and an XL-1 available to me, and use Premiere Pro to edit.

I'm doing one documentary between now and mid-May which is following my school's Mock Trial (moot court) team to the National competition. Without going into too much detail, we're making a documentary/mockumentary (everyone on the team is quirky enough to make it funny, we're just throwing in a few things to make it more like a mockumentary), showing practices, interviews, etc. We'll be travelling to Oklahoma in mid-May to document the team during the actual competition.

The other documentary I'm going to be making will follow a group of about 30 students (my classmates) on a 2 1/2 week trip across Europe during the beginning of summer. We'll visit Prague Vienna, Florence, Pompeii, Rome.... I will be taking the VX-2000. Equipment-wise, I'll be getting a Portabrace case, a polarizer, possible a wide-angle lens, and I have a shotgun mic.

My post-production is not completely set at the moment, but for the first doc I'll be using FCP at a local school, and for the second, I'll probably edit it on my home computer (I have a server with close to a terabyte that I can free up). No SFX, but hopefully I'll have time to do some audio work with Adobe Audition.

I've never done a documentary before, and would like to hear any advice you folks might have. I know the basics, getting footage of as much as possible, landscape/architecture shots, etc, but if there are any tips about docs in general that I should know, I'd love to hear them. Additionally, I'm looking for advice about travelling with a camera. Besides the usual extra batteries, adapters, and not letting stuff get stolen, what should I know about going to Europe with a camera?

I'd appreciate any advice you might be able to give me.

Thank you,
Reed Shea
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Old April 14th, 2006, 06:36 PM   #2
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Plan out your story beforehand. You can pre-interview your subjects to get a sense of what the story/central idea will/may be.

Storyboard some of the documentary so you know what shots you want to grab, and what style you want the shots to be in. If you want the style of the show to be very dynamic, then you'd want dynamic camerwork (dutch angles, swish pans, etc.). If you want to shoot a mockmentary in a very serious manner, then you'll want to stage scenes. You probably wouldn't shoot that much of people goofing off. This is if you want to shoot something like this mockumentary on Japanese sushi.

This way you'll get the footage you need, and editing will be much, much easier. Knowing the story you want will help you make sense of however much footage you're shooting. It will be terrible if you have many hours of footage and have to find some sense of story from all that footage.

It may work out the best if you write out a script or an outline. You don't necessarily have to stick with the script/outline. Think of it like a battle plan. You'll definitely want one, but the plan will likely change.
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Old April 16th, 2006, 02:49 AM   #3
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Hi Glenn,

Thank you for the advice. I've been working this weekend to try and plan out what I want for the docs; it's going pretty well, I think. Obviously, I don't know exactly what's going to happen, but I'm getting a pretty good idea of what it'll turn out like.

Do you, or anyone else, have any advice in terms of travelling with a camera? Any horror stories would be helpful, so that I can make sure to prepare and avoid unfortunate circumstances.

Thanks again,
Reed
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Old April 19th, 2006, 02:10 AM   #4
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shooting overseas

Reed , that's good advice from Glenn. I traveled for 8 weeks back in 99' filming in Ukraine 6 countries in Europe and Africa. Each place had it's own set of challenges and rewards. Tenichally you want to think about a getting some kind of voltage regulator to protect your camera and batteries. I carried a Chamelion which I picked up from BH. Also a set of the various plug adaptors for different countries. Though I have a few war stories, the best was that customs in the Ukraine took my voltage regulator and I had to scour the country until someone from the russian mafia produced one for 90 grivna about $20 dollars that lasted exactly 8 weeks. Always when ever possible hand carry your camera. If you are jumping on and off trains consider getting a light foldable Hand-dolly with two wheels. Load everything in to a weatherproof duffle strap it on the dolly camera on the shoulder bag and run when you have too. There are safe lock ups at every train staion and airport in Europe. As Glenn suggested you can script/ storyboard or depending on your research create a shot list from each place you visit. There will be way more than you can think of to shoot so keep your list or line in mind, add the other stuff in and have fun. Carry a good Scrim; lighting is different there than what you're used to, additionally you may want to take a look at your shutter speed for indoor shooting in each country just to memorize the setting while moving inside to out side; Also, a stop of 1/100 over normal stops the NTSC camera from capturing the blinking on most dv cams.
Have Fun,
Rand
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Old April 20th, 2006, 08:01 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rand Blair
...additionally you may want to take a look at your shutter speed for indoor shooting in each country just to memorize the setting while moving inside to out side; Also, a stop of 1/100 over normal stops the NTSC camera from capturing the blinking on most dv cams.
Thank you for your advice, Rand. Could you please explain what you meant in the above quote? I'm not sure I understand it. Are you saying that I should up my shutter speed so that I won't get any interference from European lighting (50Hz + 1/60 shutter speed = bad?)? Or am I completely wrong in understanding what you're saying?

Thanks,
Reed
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Old April 20th, 2006, 08:17 PM   #6
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Be sure to make back-ups of your tapes (have more than one copy) -mail the copies back to your home office (fedex or UPS so you can track them online). Travel light and keep an eye on your gear les it get stolen (Keep everything in one bag and watch that bag). I was in the Navy for eight-years and spent much it overseas. Try not to stand-out or look like a tourist : )
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Old April 20th, 2006, 08:59 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Reed Shea
Thank you for your advice, Rand. Could you please explain what you meant in the above quote? I'm not sure I understand it. Are you saying that I should up my shutter speed so that I won't get any interference from European lighting (50Hz + 1/60 shutter speed = bad?)? Or am I completely wrong in understanding what you're saying?

Thanks,
Reed
Yes, I think 1/100th of a second will cure the blinkies, I've had this happen the other way around and it can be a real problem though it depends on the type of light, discharge lamps like sodium vapour seem to be the worst. Incandescents no problem and worst of all I never noticed it in the viewfinder.

Another word of advice, have your camera ready for the security guys. If they're doing their job right thye'll want to see the camera power up from the batteries.

Be careful who you point a camera at although I think in Europe most people are pretty cool about this, still if what you're about to do doesn't feel quite right, don't do it, if in the slightest doubt ask permission
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Old April 21st, 2006, 12:31 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bob Grant
Yes, I think 1/100th of a second will cure the blinkies, I've had this happen the other way around and it can be a real problem though it depends on the type of light, discharge lamps like sodium vapour seem to be the worst. Incandescents no problem and worst of all I never noticed it in the viewfinder.

Another word of advice, have your camera ready for the security guys. If they're doing their job right thye'll want to see the camera power up from the batteries.

Be careful who you point a camera at although I think in Europe most people are pretty cool about this, still if what you're about to do doesn't feel quite right, don't do it, if in the slightest doubt ask permission

Thanks for clearing that up for me. I'll definately have to remember to do that; fortunately, I think that most of what I"ll be shooting will be outdoors/naturally lit.

I don't understand what you mean about security guards checking the camera, could you please elaborate?

As for permission for filming people, I'm still trying to see what the laws are on that. Obviously, I'll have releases for everyone in the group, but I can't necessarily have every person I film sign a release form. Could anyone point me in the right direction on that subject, perhaps a website with that kind of information?

Thanks,
Reed
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