The Mentoring Room - Ask the Working Pros

Mentoring Room

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This is a Public Topic geared towards first-time filmmakers. Professional members of The D-Word will come by and answer your questions about documentary filmmaking.

Andre Dahlman
Pro

Hello Everybody,

Looking for some recommendations of high quality documentary websites.
I am putting together a website for a documentary and I'm looking for ideas. Anyone got a favorite site they want to plug?

Many thanks.

Rachel Leah Jones
Pro

i'm not sure this is the right place to post, so please redirect me if the post is errant:

i'm using FCP 5.0 on a MacBook Pro. i just recently upgraded to OS 10.5 and FCP (which is the same version as before) is acting a little weird. when i digitize, it gives me this new window called "Analyzing DV Audio" and inside it reads "Validating Audio Data." it takes anywhere from 1-10 minutes depending on the clip. it appears once capture is complete. if i press cancel, the clip evaporates as if i never captured it. if i let it do its thing, when i play a clip captured with in and out points ("batch capture") i lose sync (sound trails about a second behind image). but when i capture on the fly ("capture now") the clips are in sync.

HELP!

Wil Rumps
Fan

Any advive on how to promote my first doc.? I do not have a big budget (read "any") and am trying to get the most buzz for my time spent. Thanks

Wil Rumps
Fan

Well, thanks, I guess? I have been there. I am looking for more inside info that other people have found to work for them.

Christopher Wong
Pro

two things that might help you:

1) whether or not you are finished with your first doc, a good trailer helps to get people's interest going. best advice on this forum has been to keep your trailer to no more than 2 minutes long. if you don't quite have the skills to form a tight trailer, then it also helps to put together a DVD of 2-3 of your best scenes. these scenes should fall into the 1-2 minute range.

2) once you have your trailer/clips ready, start marketing them to your target audience. if you are profiling gamers, then start posting about your project at the various online gaming communities. once those communities get excited about what you are doing, they'll spread the word amongst themselves. think about secondary audiences as well. maybe it's not just gamers who want to see your doc; it's possible that a lot of parents would really connect to the characters in your film – parents who are concerned about their own children getting "addicted" to the world of gaming.

just a few suggestions to get you going.

Wil Rumps
Fan

Thanks for those tips. I have been doing that for a while. I never thought of the parent angel, though. I will have to work on that one next. If any one else has an insight please let me know. Here is one of our current trailers http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=avunegDHcD8 Just to show you what we are working with.

Timothy S. McCarty
Pro

In reply to Diane Johnson's post on Sun 25 Jan 2009 :

I Agree with Christopher! Don't pay for something you can get for free. We find that telling most experts who participate in our doc efforts that a full credit (Name, Title, Business/School etc...) will appear as both a lower third graphic and in our doc's end credits burned onto the DVD goes a long way with most who have the right intentions, too!

Good luck!

Matthew Dougherty
Fan

Working on my first budget – are grants and foundations more likely to give money to rent camera and sound equipment – or is it acceptable to list the retail price of a camera (around $5k)... and would i get to keep it?

basically, are grants generally against or ok with helping filmmakers buy reasonably priced equipment?

Lynn Smith
Fan

I just applied for my first grant as a first time filmmaker just to meet the deadline. I hadn't found any production people to work with me at the time and still need to know how to find a good camera, or a good video person who knows sound. I'm signed up for a digital video class and a Final Pro Class at UC Irvine, but it's not until June.
All advice very much appreciated!!

Erica Ginsberg
Host

Matthew, many grant-makers do not support the purchase of equipment since they are supporting a single project rather than a production entity which would be likely to make use of the equipment beyond that single project. However, many funders understand that independent filmmakers with their own equipment may include the rental cost of equipment in their budget (essentially renting from themselves) and that this generally ends up being more cost-effective than renting the equipment from a third party rental house.

Lynn, had you thought of asking the instructor of the digital video class you'll be taking at UC Irvine? He/She may be interested or have some leads on professionals in your area. You may also want to do a search on the People page here in D-Word and see who is in the area (or maybe extend the search to include LA) and contact a few folks who look like they have the skills you want. They may not be able to do it for free, but might be convinced to work for a fair price if they are taken by the topic of your film.

Ramona Diaz
Pro

Matthew – You should just buy the equipment, rent it to the project and amortize it that way. Some funders – ITVS for example – will allow you to buy equipment or expendables (and nowadays that includes hard drives) up to $1,000. You have to get approval for equipment expense over $1k. And that usually comes with the caveat – if they approve it – that the equipment belongs to them. If i were you, I'd just buy it and rent back.

Lynn Smith
Fan

Erica--thank you! I'll check out the People page right now....

Matthew Dougherty
Fan

Thank you Erica and Ramona for the advice, I'll put it to use! Appreciate it!

Sudeshna Chowdhury
Fan

Hello everybody. I am into journalism.
Well I have just started out in the field of film making.Can you please tell me how do i go about it.In India there are few media houses which make documentaries. Are there specific opportunities anywhere or independent film making is the only way out.
Regards

Doug Block
Host

Welcome, Sudeshna. There aren't many media companies that make documentaries anywhere, even the U.S. So, especially given how inexpensive hi-def camcorders are, not to mention editing software like Final Cut Pro, a lot of people start out just by leaping in and making a film. A short documentary may be the way to go, you'll learn a lot and hopefully not lose too much money. Then you can take it from there. Best of luck, whichever path you ultimately choose.

Susanne Larsen
Pro

Hi all,
Does anyone know of classes on doc research in the US? There is a Researcher's Masterclass in London at DFG docs, but I'd love to find something closer to home.
Thanks.
Susanne

Stefan Immler
Pro

In reply to Diane Johnson's post on Sun 25 Jan 2009 :

I agree with Christopher to an expert usually doesn't get a honorarium, unless they insist. If they do and you are on a tight budget, you could specify a certain amount in the interview release form that will be given to him/her after the film has found a commercial release.

Mark Barroso
Pro

In reply to Sudeshna Chowdhury's post on Fri 20 Feb 2009 :

My advice is to think small. Write stories or produce 3-5 minute videos on topics that interest you for a website (could be an on-line newspaper). The experience will teach you 1) if it's something you really like doing 2) how to work efficiently and 3) get the attention of people who might want to hire you.

These days there are no shortage of people who will post your material.

Wang Fu
Pro

Hi to all of you this is my first time to join D world.

I need some of your guidance about editing with Adobe Preme.
I am very new to make documentary and this is my first time.

i have already shoot video with different, different video camera using mini video tape. almost i have got 40 hours of video.
now i want to edit with using adobe preme. Can some one say, which format i should start editing and save file also. I am new to preme also.
Thanks

Robert Goodman
Pro

It's hard to tell from your description if you shot on different video formats or if you used different cameras that all recorded on miniDV tape. If you shot everything on miniDV tape, you can use that format to edit everything in Premiere. Simply select the PAL or NTSC option in Premiere.

Ben – before you speak for all, please ask. I have used Premiere, Edius, Avid, FCP, Speed Razor, Edit and too many other programs to edit docs.

Wang Fu
Pro

Thanks Robert Goodman for your answer.

Really i do not know that in which format they shoot video because that time and even now i am very new to camera and shoot by so many different people and now i want to edit it. But i know all are in Mini Dv tape. But we shoot with good camera and now i have only tapes, i do not have those camera anymore with me. I have one question that when i edit and capture video then need to get first another camera to play tape and then can capture. I have my simple camera SONY DCR-HC26 so if i put that tape in SONY DCR-HC26 and then play and capture video then do you think that i will loose the quality of video because before camera was good and now this camera SONY DCR-HC26 is very simple. Please do not mind i am very new for this so asking this type of question.
Thanks

John Burgan
Host

There is absolutely no difference in quality when you are just using the camera as a player.

Do check out the dedicated Adobe Premiere forum recommended above.

Christopher Wong
Pro

wang fu,
if all of your tapes on on MiniDV, then you can use any MiniDV camera to capture the video. you will not lose any quality in the capture. the only thing you might need to pay attention to is whether those tapes were shot in NTSC or PAL, and also what framerates the footage was acquired at (29.97, 24p, etc.). good luck.

Wang Fu
Pro

Thanks for your answer John Burgan and now i am not worry ,
really i was little worry before that if i use simple camera SONY DCR-HC26 to transfer then i may loose the video quality.
I will check out the Adobe Premiere forum nicely.
Thanks

Wang Fu
Pro

Thanks Christopher Wong.
I am not sure video was shoot in NTSC or PAL but i am sure it was in 24p.
But i want to edit with NTSC format.

Wang Fu
Pro

I am sorry Christopher Wong i type wrong . Actually video was not shoot in 24p

Riley Morton
Pro

to Wang Fu,
when you are successful getting your footage in the system, you should be able determine (in info about the clips) whether it was PAL (25 fps) or NTSC (30 fps).
If you want to edit (and deliver the final piece) in NTSC, then you will need to transfer any PAL footage into NTSC, something that any dubbing house can do there in your city.
Altnernatively, you can make that transfer using software like Nattress Standards Conversion:
http://www.nattress.com/Products/standardsconversion/standardsconversion.htm
to make all your PAL footage into NTSC.

if your Sony Camera can playback the footage, you should be able to use that camera to capture the footage into your system with NO loss in quality.

Dustan Lewis McBain
Fan

hey guys, so im getting starting on a documentary and I'ts on social workers and therapy. Any ideas on this? or any films i can get ideas from?

Mark Barroso
Pro

Dustan:
The more details you offer the better the feedback we can give. This one is pretty broad. I will tell you, however, to not rely on the camera mic built into your camera and instead buy or rent wireless lavs and a good boom or shotgun mic.

Dustan Lewis McBain
Fan

yeah true say, kk so heres the pitch. Imagine elementary schools with children that behave badly. Now when these principles at these schools feel that there is nothing left to do, there is this company called bartimaeus to help. This company is a group of social workers that take up a class time and work with kids and teach them moral values and how to communicate with people. (basically this program teaches them how to be leaders, motivation, being independent... you get the idea) Now this company has hired me to shoot a 4-5 min doc describing what they do so that they can hand it out to schools.

I am trying to figure out what exact style this doc deserves to be. Any ideas?

James Longley
Pro

I think it should be a combination of live action and animation with a Pink Floyd soundtrack.

Evan Thomas
Fan

Yo.

I wish to import some video into my final cut project. Should i download the material as HiRes MPEG4 or MPEG2? Does FCP import both of these file types? I'd assume the hi res MPEG4 but the MPEG2 is much bigger in size. Confused. I could keep googling it but eventually decided to google d-word so here i am.

Mark Barroso
Pro

In reply to dustan lewis mcbain's post on Fri 27 Feb 2009 :

Without knowing more about your level of experience, the easiest thing would be to do something something to a news report, similar to what you would see on your local tv. Watch some of those segments and you will see the elements you need to get, and the order in which to edit them together.

Yours would be about twice the length, but it would be a great place to start.

Wang Fu
Pro

please suggest me ..
i want to record voice separately as narration which i will use for my documentary. which is the good instruments to use to record voice without using camera, means i want just record voice not the video.
Thanks

Jo-Anne Velin
Pro

What kind of audio recording equipment do you have now? Is it digital? Do you use minidisc? Or anything else like that? What kind of microphone do you have?

Mark Barroso
Pro

You can record directly to your computer with the right equipment.

Wang Fu
Pro

In reply to Jo-Anne Velin's post on Fri 27 Feb 2009 :
I do not have any audio recording equipement. but i want to buy whole things which can record voice in good quaility. i do not have any microphone i will buy so i need to know which is good, which equipement is good, i want only for audi recording which i will use in docoumentary.
Thanks

Mario Berlinguer
Fan

In reply to Wang Fu's post on Sat 28 Feb 2009 :
Wang, I don't want to sound antiquate, but you may want to consider a DAT, and a good microphone. There are some excellent portable DAT recorders on the used market, they are lightweight so that you can bring it along in future projects (excellent for interviews or field work etc.), the quality is very high and then you can feed it to your computer both via analog or digital inputs, and edit with any audio software if there's some background noise to clean etc. I have a small Tascam that works great.
As for the microphone I can't help you much, since I'd guess it's different to record a spoken voice than singing voice or instruments. For singing solo voice I use a rather bulky microphone, for vocal ensembles two more compact Shure, they have a good range from which you can choose. Whatever you choose, I'd suggest you to buy two of the same, so you can also use them for live/field recordings in stereo.
Hope this helps.

Andy Schocken
Pro

Wang Fu, rather than asking a series of basic questions about production, it may be more helpful for you to take advantage of some online training resources to learn some fundamentals of film/tv production. I'm sure there are a number of sites offering this type of thing, but you'll find the following link to online training from the BBC helpful to start. Once you've done some research, you'll be able to come back here to have more specific questions addressed.

http://www.bbctraining.com/television.asp

Dustan Lewis McBain
Fan

In reply to Mark Barroso's post on Fri 27 Feb 2009 :
so in terms of recording audio, if i were to put a wireless mic on the person i am documenting, wouldn't the audio come out all muffled because of movement? that being said, what is the best way to get audio? Im thinking regular boom

Mark Barroso
Pro

Would seeing the mic bother you? In news, it's accepted. In doc filmmaking, it's not. You can pick. Tiny mics like the Countryman B6 can poke through a button hole and never be seen. There are too many techniques on hiding mics to list here, but it can be done. Plus, if you buy a mic like the B6 you can get a capsule that boosts the high frequencies to compensate for the muffling.
If you have an assistant that can hold a good boom mic, it would probably be fine. Just don't try to shoot and hold the boom, too.

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