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Old July 28th, 2009, 09:49 PM   #1
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Trailer: Documentary About Jazz

Hi all --

First time film maker here!

I have been very busy over the past 9 months shooting a documentary about jazz in Washington, DC, and have just started editing the footage. The doc will challenge our perception of the history of jazz and will showcase the rich history and current status of jazz in Washington, DC. In the movie, I am making the case that Washington DC does not have to shy a comparison with NYC or New Orleans, even though many of the historic jazz venues are lost or are about to collapse.

Over the past few months I have been filming numerous jazz concerts all over town, and had access to amazing people for interviews (some of them true geniuses). Almost everyone that you'll see in the trailer is famous one way or the other. So far I have shot around 70 hours of footage, and there's more to come over the next few weeks.

Anyway, if you'd like to check it out, here's a 3-min trailer:

"District of Jazz" Trailer on Vimeo

I would be very grateful if you could give me some feedback! Keep in mind that I have never shot or edited a movie before.

Stefan Immler is offline   Reply With Quote
Old July 28th, 2009, 11:38 PM   #2
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Very good.

Only problem I saw (or heard) is that the music seemed to drown the narrative out in some parts.

Also, I would have gone with warmer colors.

And I felt that there was too many shots of DC throughout the video, especially considering this is a trailer.

I used to work on a show in DC where we went around to local clubs and shot local bands and even had some stop by the studio. Worked with a lot of jazz bands...but that was back in the early 90's. :)

Very good for a first video, though!

PS - If you live in Virginia or Maryland, the cable outlets there offer community television classes that you can take to learn some of the ropes of video making.
Canon XH-A1 for sale, mint condition, low hours. Comes with extras. Contact me for details.
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Old July 29th, 2009, 11:29 AM   #3
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Nice.............what tools did you use to shoot with?
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Old July 29th, 2009, 03:03 PM   #4
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Thanks for your feedback!

I can duck the audio more during the interviews, and replace some of the city shots with musicians or audience in a jazz venue. Also, I haven't done any color grading yet, so I can "warm up" the shots if you think that's what's needed.

Everything was shot with a JVC GY-HD100 (with matte box on rails and an IDX battery pack. For jazz performances I use two extra rented HD100 (but I tell you, even though the settings are identical, matching the color space in post is a major nightmare!).

Sticks are either a heavy Gitzo Series 4 Studex tripod with a Manfrotto 516 head, or (new) a Sachtler FSB6 system. If you read the last page in this month's issue of "HD Video Pro" magazine, you'll see where I got the Sachtler from. Kudos to Sachtler for their donation! :)

The audio for the interviews comes from a Sennheiser Evolution (interviews) series lav mic. I also had a Rode NTG2 shotgun record during each interview as a backup (on a small stand right in front and below the interviewee, with a cable running into a camcorder on a separate track.

The audio for the jazz bands comes from a Zoom H4 either fed by the house mixer (when the band is mic-ed up). Even just sitting on a stand right in front of the band, the Zoom H4 gives excellent audio quality.

Light: As you can imagine for a documentary about jazz music, I didn't use any extra light inside jazz venues. For interviews, I use an "el cheapo" Britek 3-light kit: A 650W tungsten with a large softbox right next to the interviewee on the left, a 300W tungsten with gel further away on the right to lighten up the shadows in the face, and a 300W spotlight high and behind the interviewee to give an accent on the hair/shirt.

If I had to replace one piece of gear, it would the light kit. While the Britek work fine, they go through a lot of light bulbs which can only be changed by disassembling the front ring+glass with a screwdriver. So if a light bulb burns out during an interview, I can't just swap the bulb. Since the bulbs burn out so quickly, it happens often. Also, they run so hot during a 30-min interview that I need to wait 15-min after an interview until I can touch them. So if I had money, I'd get a cool light or something more professional.

Also, if I had a larger budget, the next thing I'd get would be a cam stabilizer and rent a crane for a couple of shots. It really bothers me that I don't have a sabilizer with vest and no crane shots (e.g., outside of jazz venues).

Other than that, things have been working out pretty well.

I am aware that the HD100 camcorder is not the latest piece of technology (tapes!), but it handles SO well, the ergonomics is near-perfect and picture quality more than acceptable. What I love about it is the professional layout of the buttons/knobs. Every little knob has a different shape and texture, so I can make adjustments in a near-dark jazz venue without having to look at the camcorder, which is great. If I had to buy a new camcorder again, it would only be a shoulder-held camcorder, def not a hand-held camcorder. But, well, you know how much a shoulder-mount 1080p camcorder with a 2/3 sensor (minimum) would cost.

A word about financing: I am financing the entire 90-min doc from my own (private) funds. When I started I had no idea that it would cost so much money. I had initial discussions with a broadcast company, but they wanted me to sign all the rights to them for financing the movie. I decided to keep 100% of the artistic vision and did not enter such an agreement. Let's just hope that someday I will recoup most of the funds.

I also started incorporated my own business for the sole purpose to realize this project. There was no alternative. But I tell you, flashing a $1M insurance certificate and a business card with an "LLC" behind the name of my own company opens many doors and led to great footage. It also gave my wife better piece of mind after explained that we are insured and that we are operating as a "limited liability" entity and our private assets are protected in case something happens. And guess what: It already happened that someone tripped over a cable and a 600-W light fell to the ground. Melted glass on carpet is not a good combination! ;)

Please keep your comments coming!

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Old August 6th, 2009, 01:15 PM   #5
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Are you sure it's your first one?

Maybe in the previous life you edited before... but it's very very well done for the first timer.
I'm not a pro either but wanted to pitch in with constructive criticism :)
An airplane shot at 00:30 and 00:32 it's path starts on the left and leaving frame on the right, the next shot a plane starts in the middle and leaves on the right again, even if it's not the same aircraft, in my opinion, I would cut out the second instance of a plane at 00:32 to keep the the sequence smoother.

In general, both thumbs up!
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Old August 12th, 2009, 08:33 PM   #6
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Yeah, good work Stefan. You obviously have a natural feel for this filmmaking stuff. Thanks for all your background details. Its good to have that sort of info seeing the footage and what you've done. Sounds like you got help with the tripod, can't you do the same with lighting? Show them the trailer and offer them credits. I guess you're a big fan of jazz, that's where and why you got started with this project?
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Old August 13th, 2009, 02:42 PM   #7
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I really enjoyed watching it!
Let us know when it is complete and if you will be selling DVD's of it. I would love to try to help you recoupe some of your investment by purchasing a DVD if it's for sale.
I am a Jazz fan, and your trailer makes me want to watch more.
Great job!
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Old August 13th, 2009, 03:54 PM   #8
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Looks great.
The JVC GY-HD100 still looks good.
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