The Mentoring Room - Ask the Working Pros
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.
Actually, since I have now read and re-read your post several times, it occurs to me you may be trying to describe the kind of camera support systems made by Steadicam and other companies.
When they are designed for professional use, these types of camera support systems can be quite expensive and cumbersome. If you are just starting out as a cinematographer, you may find it more expedient to use a small, light-weight camera, and practice holding it steady to achieve the shots you want.
A small monopod can also be extremely helpful in stabilizing a light-weight camera, and is an inexpensive solution for steady filming. A good monopod for a small camera will be one that weighs enough to provide a counter-weight to the camera, so that the balance point lies just below where the camera attaches to monopod. This counter-weight will allow you to "fly" the camera through the air with your arm, avoiding much of the vibration, pitching and rolling movements normally found with hand-held videography. Another good trick is to use an elastic camera strap in conjunction with a monopod to further stabilize the camera.
Tiffen makes a product called the Steady Stick that some people have found quite handy.
I've placed my video information on Without A Box and have the opportunity to upload it to IMdB. It's half hour, made with Final Cut Express. IMdB asks for Quick Time format, up to 2 GB (which they say will handle feature-length).
My .mov file is 6.59 GB and won't upload (I let it run all night). What to do? [IMdB's Help section does not speak to this. I looked at Apple's Final Cut Express discussion and see mention of using a 'Sorenson Squeeze'. I did use File/Compress on the .mov 6.59 GB file but the disk is full so it did not compress.
Is there a simple answer to my issue? (Feel free to just direct me to the right place to look.)
Thanks, John, that's quite a detailed article. I'll study it and probably succeed. / I did, by the way, manage to use the File/Compress ... but it only reduced the 6.59 GB to a mov.zip of 5.83 GB.
Thank you so much for replying so quickly-even though I have a lot of time. The 'Steady Stick' seems to be the one they use, but even if it isn't, it looks better. And you're right, I'm far from being a professional, I'm just growing interest in filming documentaries and things, and my High School seems to have some good classes I could take that could help me. Thanks again!
Sacha, great that they have doc classes on Pluto these days. Certainly didn't back in my day.
In reply to David W Grant's post on Sat 13 Feb 2010 :
Sorenson Squeeze is a good multi-format compression software that will get your video down to 2GB or smaller. It's not cheap, about $700 I think but it's very powerful, clean and easy to use. Also look at ways to reduce space, a smaller window, mono rather than stereo audio, 15 fps rather than 30, etc. You have to experiment with it for best results.
In reply to David W Grant's post on Sat 13 Feb 2010 :
you could try to use MPEG Streamclip which is free. Try exporting to H264 (using Export to MPEG-4). Play with the settings to keep it as close to your original footage size/frame rate as possible. You should be able to get great results with a 2GB limit for a 30 minute piece.
QTPro also give you some options--I'm not sure if FCE comes with it or not, but it's worth the $20 or so for the license just to have it.
... But be led not down the path of cultural perversion and moral vacuity that is Reality TV, with its "cams" and travel shows. If you want to know what documentary filmmaking is all about, check out the films of great documentary filmmakers – you can find some good documentaries here:
In reply to Boyd McCollum's post on Sun 14 Feb 2010 :
You can also access for free, a lot of films from the National Film Board of Canada. Their website is terrific now. They have often been at the cutting edge of documentary and animation, for over 60 years. Have fun!
And for those people who like links to click on, the National Film Board of Canada's website is here:
Thanks for the tips and the links to click on, its fun and very interesting! And yes, Pluto has grown a lot in the past few years and we even have movie theaters now!
Im making a documentary together with my fellow student and friend, Dane Smith. We're hoping to sell our documentary after its release. We're both based in the Midlands, England, UK. As this is our first big indie production, we're looking for some advice to get it out to the professional industry who may want to buy, broadcast etc.
How do we approach?
(Return to Gaza)
Greetings, Hashin. One time-honored route is to enter it into film festivals, beginning with the most prestigious fests (Sundance, Toronto, etc.) and the top documentary fests (IDFA, Hot Docs, Full Frame, Siverdocs, etc.). Another is to get it to leading internationals sales agents like Films Transit, Autlook, Cat & Docs, Roco and the like. If they take it on, they'll take it to some of the biggest and best film markets to sell to (mostly) tv buyers.
Hi Hashin, another way to get the film out is to send it to various university student organizations that are interested in supporting Palestinian rights and building awareness around the Gaza issue. When I made my GAZA STRIP documentary in 2001 I spent about a year touring various universities and film festivals, participating in lengthy Q&A sessions and debates, etc. – You can generally sell DVDs at these types of events, and many student organizations and festivals will cover your travel expenses.
These days with the Internet, it will also be possible for you to make your film instantly available in the event that broadcasters turn you down.
I am finishing up logging footage have started to edit and have come to the conclusion that I might need different eyes looking at this. I filmed from the inside looking out... I am finding it hard to be objective in my editing being so close to it. I guess I am looking for a mentor to look from the outside, in. I don't want to screw this project up
Its about an older couple (51 & 41) with two little kids (1.5 & 6), three dogs that find themselves homeless and living in a converted greyhound bus in the Senora desert, they travel the life of the depression era gold prospectors doing the same, looking for gold to put food on the table and fuel in the bus. Lots of beans and gruel for dinner not to mention the wild life for breakfast. From the Senora to the backwoods of the Serra Nevada's. Its whats going on all over the united states right now. But these people are not waiting around to be removed from their home, freeze and starve, or move in with the in-laws. There is about 10 hours of Hi-end video another 10 of cheap Sharp DV. Then there is about a thousand to 1400 Nikon D-70 raw images. I think it needs a first class narration. Its pretty heavy stuff to say the least. Like I said...I don't want to butcher it. Here is a 2 min clip I put together for the BBC MyWorld deal.
This is my first posting here, so hello.
Just wondering if anyone has had any experience with Oprah's new OWN (The Oprah Winfrey Network) and knows the appropriate commissioning editor (Jamila Hunter?) to contact there with a promo?
jeff – your doc sounds really interesting. But I couldn't open the file. Perhaps you can post on vimeo – that way you don't have to worry about file formats, etc.
Fran, FYI Ro-Co Films has partnered with OWN to review doc features, you might start there:
Thank you Tom – that's been a big help. For anyone else interested, it seems like they're looking for completed features for the 2011 schedule.
Hi back, Fran. Welcome. You definitely want to contact Annie Roney at RoCo.
Wow, just checked out the catalog of Ro-Co Films, Thanks for the post, Tom. We'll definitely add them to our list for our Film Market in November.
For the past month or so, I've been mulling over an idea for a documentary feature-I've already made a short and learned a few lessons from the school of hard knocks.
I can't stop thinking about the idea and it's something I want to commit several years of my life to. But what's next? Is a proposal next? A documentary trailer? Does anyone have any samples they're willing to share?
Marantha, you're a member so no need to post this here (Developing Stories or Works In Progress would both be fine). But since you've already posted here, might as well answer so that other non-members can see.
There are any number of ways to get going on a feature doc but most people these days simply plunge in and start shooting. At some point, when they've gathered enough material, they'll then put together a fundraising sample or trailer. You can then take those to a broadcaster like HBO, apply to places like ITVS, or even put it up on your website and try to raise money from private contributions. Along the way, it makes sense to write grant proposals if your subject is the kind that's eligible for grants (ie. a social issue doc).
But no matter what, it's gonna take a huge amount of time and effort and money. You'll need a lot of patience, persistence, stubbornness and stamina, not to mention a very thick skin.
Can I run the idea by you and see if it grabs you and is good enough to start poking around or shooting? I'd really, really, really appreciate your thoughts on the idea.
Sure thing, Maranatha (sorry for dropping an "a" last time). But lets do it in the Works In Progress topic where everyone will see it and get to weigh in.
I wanted to see if anyone had any suggestions for me. I absolutely love documentary film and am trying to put myself in a position to learn more about this passion. However, I work full time to pay the bills and the jobs / internships I have found conflict with my Monday through Friday work schedule. How can I find something with a flexible schedule that will allow to pursue my dream without going broke?
daniel, if you are in the beginning stages of exploring documentary film, there are two very low-cost and time-flexible ways to do this. first, you can read a book about it – Michael Rabiger's Directing the Documentary is probably the best one out there. second, you can watch a lot of documentary films. you've probably already seen many docs, but try watching them not just for the story, but try imagining what the director or camera person is doing when you're watching a certain scene. try to think of what questions were asked to elicit a subject's response. try to imagine what footage the editor had to choose from when constructing the scene. all these things will help you to start thinking like a documentary filmmaker.
Daniel, I agree with Chris that it should not be difficult to learn about documentary from reading Rabiger's book and immersing yourself in documentaries. However, it is also important to get some practical experience. If you are not ready to give up a dayjob to get some hands-on experience as an intern or production assistant, I would suggest signing up for a class which works with your schedule. It doesn't have to be at a university. It could be at a community media center such as DCTV or a public access television station.
Networking is also a key part. Since you work in another field, there may be a skill you bring from that field that could be beneficial to a documentary filmmaker and might be a means for barter or at least doing some internship-like work which could fit around your schedule. For example, perhaps you do a lot of writing or editing – you could potentially offer to review a filmmaker's proposal. Or you are a numbers guy and could help a filmmaker develop a budget (and learn about documentary budgeting in the process). Or you are willing to work as a PA for lunch on a documentary shoot which might happen on a weekend.
There are many routes to becoming a documentary filmmaker or at least exploring if you want to become one without leaping off the cliff with no parachute.
Hi , I am in production on my documentary about the story of jazz in India. In addition to revealing the historical curve of jazz in India, it highlights the diaspora of African American jazz musicians (many from James Reese Europe's band) who came to India via Paris and Montmatre in the 1930's. My advisors include ethnomusicologists and jazz educators who feel that this film will be of interest to college libraries and jazz studies programs.
I need help understanding the size of this potential market (Colleges, libraries etc) from someone who is in the distribution business and understands this channel. Specifically I am trying to understand – how many potential targets might exist, cost of of sales and pricing etc in order to develop a reasonable assumption that I can use to support a proposal . Much appreciate any insights
Susheel, please don't double-post, as we've already seen this in Marketing and Distribution . I know it got a bit lost there in the middle of a longer conversation. But it's also such a niche question that I'm not sure we were in a position to answer it.
You might just want to search for other films on jazz and then contact their respective distributors individually.
This is my first post so I'm not sure if I'm doing this right but I shall give it a go! I'm currently planning a documentary that I wish to pitch as my graduation film from university. I have – I think – a good idea that needs a little work but hopefully will stand a chance at getting picked. The only problem is my subject is based in California and I'm in London. Although I plan to go several times before I shoot I think it is vital that I have a researcher over there to keep on top of things. Just wondering if anyone can offer me some advice on where to start looking for one? I mean I can't really afford to pay anyone other than expenses and obviously credit within the film. Would it be a good idea to approach film schools in the area for example?
Like I said, I'm not sure if you will be able to help me on this at all, but any advice will be greatly appreciated...before I start to panic!
Good point. Sorry.
Well one part of my doc will be shot near San Quentin
I have developed a free AI research tool. www.alexlib.info. It is currently being used by people on Wall Street and investigate reporters. After speaking with a producer at National Geo it occurred to me that it would be a great tool for documentary filmmakers. It is fairly similar to Google Squared in the way that it functions. I was wondering what might be a good method of introducing it to film makers?
I went to the site but couldn't figure out how to use it. Could you elaborate...?
Ok, thanks for that Ben. It is related to the prison yes. The website looks promising, will go and check it out properly now. Fingers crossed!
OK well here goes, HI !
Yes a newbie to all this.
My plan goes like this:-
I was describing a trip I am about to make to someone who immediately said "You should film that".
And I thought "Yeah I would watch that for sure"
But then the doubts creep in as they should and I start thinking of all the problems ....
So I call a friend with years of experience in the film industry, describe it and ask for his thoughts. "Awesome can I come..."
So I phone another friend in the film business in the field of interest and his response is "Mad if you don't ..."
So maybe It's not such a bad idea.
Basically part a road trip through the Australian Outback in my 1929 International truck. Open cab, No doors etc. See attached pic.
And the other part visiting some major truck and tractor/machinery shows on the way and interviewing the owners/restorers of various interesting vehicles.
Not everyone's cup of tea but there have been some big time successes in the field. Check out "The Back of Beyond" from 1954 and of course recently "Long way Round" etc
So, Question is what do you all think about it ?
Oh, I have no experience with filming or presentation or marketing film. But am good at learning stuff. Taught myself to be a software developer so can learn this eh ?
Back of Beyond is a classic, Phil – what route will your journey take you?
From home in Hunter Valley NSW drive to Dubbo for truck and tractor show (lots of footage and interviews there) then leave truck there for transport to Alice Springs via Road Train. Then fly to Alice at the end of August for the Road Transport Museum by annual event (again lots of footage and interviews there) then drive north alone to Tennant Creek then East to Charleville etc and back to the Hunter.
The drive back at least two weeks camping in the bush along the way.
Are you also familiar with a show called "Bush Mechanics" as I'm sure there will be breakdowns and fixits to include.
I say why not, Phil? Sure to be an adventure, no matter what. Teach yourself to shoot, practice a lot, have fun.
I'm shootin a small documentary film and I would like some indications:
in Lima Peru, I need an indication to a driver with a van, and the procedures to film Lima and Arequipa.
in US – I'm shooting in Lapeer, MI and Olympia, WA. I'd like to know if is necessary a Film Permit to shoot in this cities and a Temporary Importation to enter the USA with the equipments
Thanks for all
In reply to Marina Pessoa's post on Mon 5 Apr 2010 :
There are some cities in the U.S. where legally you need a permit to shoot, but depending on what you're shooting you can generally get away without having one. And unless you're bringing tons of equipment, don't think you'd need any special permission.
basically every US city has different rules. I would say NYC and LA have the hardest rules, because there is so much shot there. Small American cities are generally very easy to shoot in with out permission. There may be exceptions, but generally this is the case.