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.

Wolfgang Achtner


will be out of pocket from Jan 10 thru 16, in US to complete shooting of a doc on young Italian composer/songwrite/singer who lives in NYC and has just published 2nd album.

Don't know when you'll be over here, but if you get into a bind or need to ask for advice or help while you're here, just gimme a buzz on my cell phone and I'll do what I can to assist you.

Good luck on yr shoot.

Riley Morton

hope you are still checking here.
if so, yes, from version 1, Final Cut Pro has been able to do replicated 'camera moves' on any still image (or video image for that matter) – you can crop, scale up/down, move up/down and left right over time. it just takes 10 minutes learning about keyframing.
that said, its all digital, so it doesn't look like a imperfect human is shooting it organically, but rather that a computer is controlling the above factors digitally, which of course it is.
scan the files as big as you can, but at least 1000 pixels wide if you want to zoom on a 720p timeline, and it will look great.
IF you are going for that organic, imperfect look for your stills, shoot them yourself with a camera, or look into motion control.

Darla Bruno

All right – now I'm going to just switch out of sound obsession for a while.

When I have interview subjects sign release forms, I should use the one I have that meets US standards, right? Not the one my DP has for Italy. I'll just have the US one translated?

Kurt Engfehr

Darla- release forms are relevant to where you are based. if you plan on finishing your film in NJ, then a US form is fine, you don't need any Italian changes because the legal stuff will all be in the US. HOWEVER, jumping back to your sound issues(!), when traveling to foreign countries, you cannot take a wireless mic from the US. hopefully, your DP has sound gear that is adjusted to Italian broadcast specs.

as far as gear and especailly in regards to shotgun mics, i'd say, depending on how much you want to spend, get a Sennheiser ME-66 for $250 or a Sennheiser MK-416 for $1,200. the 66 is really good for the money, the 416 is really, really great, but costs.

as to how to use them, sometime i am the interviewer as well as the soundperson. for these situations, i use a hand unit which is basically a pistol grip with foam for the hand and a shock mount on the top for the mic. i can then, very easily deal with interviewing AND doing good sound. obviously, this doesn't work if one is running around a lot, but even then, if you stay close by the subject, it works fine.

i would try to avoid, at least in the beginning stages of your doc making, doing both boom and interviewing. that's hard. i've done it and it's tough. but if you have to, don't do mixing while you're at it, just do the boom and the questioning.

most DP's are adept at riding levels so unless you have more than 2 people or a big crowd scene to film, you, as the sound person, shouldn't need to deal with mixing the sound before it gets to the camera.

Darla Bruno

Thanks, Kurt! I'm actually even going to be going without a boom now! I'm all minimalist. My DP has a Sennheiser Wireless Trio 100 G2 Series (full audio kit with a lavalier and a directional microphone). If anything, I may just get a stand for it, but, well, that's that.

Now I'm onto my NTSC/PAL issue. If you know anything about that, feel free to e-mail me! I'm looking into it now. He's got a PD-170p, so it only shoots in PAL.

Kurt Engfehr

what's the question about the NTSC/PAL issue? you can edit PAL here in the US, but it's costly and complicated. since your DP is using a 170, i'd seriously think about converting the tapes to NTSC and editing with those.

Darla Bruno

All right, sorry to make this the "Darla show" – but here it is:

We'll probably get about 1/3-1/4 of the film shot on PAL--my footage, b-roll, interviews, and trailer. My DP's in Milan, and I'm in the States, so after shooting, we'll return to our respective countries. I'd like to do the editing with his help. So, he mentioned giving me DVDs with time codes.

I'm pretty sure I can edit on Final Cut Pro with PAL, right? If so, is it better just not to convert to NTSC? We can eventually move PAL to DVD (is that MP4)? So just two conversions (PAL – DVD) rather than three (PAL – NTSC – DVD).

Does that work? It's my understanding that converting to NTSC can be pricey (they charge per hour of footage, not per tape) and there can be glitches (with sound, so forth).

At any rate, some people have recommending skipping the whole issue and just renting/borrowing an NTSC camera, but at this point, I'm REALLY not into doing that. I hired my dp, and his equipment. I like his camera, and I'd like to just move forward with what we agreed on.

I'd love to hear any thoughts on the easiest way to do this. Ultimately, we'll put the trailer on . . . probably Quicktime and DVD (not really sure how all this works) and edit the footage to hold on to for when I have money to go back and shoot the rest of the film. And at that point, I can work in NTSC if this becomes nightmarish.

Eli Brown

Hey Kurt, this is a little off topic, but why can't you take a wireless mic from the U.S. to Europe?

Kurt Engfehr

it's because different frequencies are used by different countries for different purposes, not that it won't work, but that it's illegal and sometimes just not practical. an example: say you want to use a US wireless in the UK, well, that would be a bad thing because in the UK, they use the same frequencies that we use for wireless microphones for their military and defense communications. you will be found out and they will not like it. i know a big-time pro-field audio guy that's got some of those wacky wirelesses that can get every frequency and he's got a book that lists every country and what frequencies are used for what activity. i'm not on his level. i usually just rent a wireless from a local place. saves me time and headache. also, when it breaks i have someone who can get me a new one.

Marianne Shaneen

Happy New Year everyone!
My question is about exclusivity agreements. I've looked around and cannot find a sample contract/agreement- it's important for one of the interviewees in my documentary to sign an exclusivity agreement, specifically that he won't appear in anyone else's documentary until mine is finished. Does anyone have any sample contract along these lines or any suggestions as to how to word such an agreement?
Many thanks in advance :)