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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.

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Noam Osband
Tue 27 Apr 2010Link

I'm skeptical of the DSLR's because you can only shoot 12 minutes at a time. Similarly, the HD camera is way below what I want equipment-wise, both in terms of image quality, but far more importantly, sound. I'm hoping to find a camera that has XLR inputs. With that in mind, are there any cameras you can think of that do HD, have XLR inputs, and get good HD images in the 2-2.5k range?

thanks for the help!


Jeffrey Radice
Tue 27 Apr 2010Link

In reply to Noam Osband's post on Tue 27 Apr 2010 :

I was skeptical of the 12 minute limit too, but it's proven to be less of a practical concern than I anticipated. There is a long history (and workflows) for dealing with those types of issues ... super-8 and 16 both had carts with similar constraints. You are doing yourself a disservice ruling out the platform for that reason alone. Also, the Panasonic GH1 does not suffer from the exact same issue.

I don't know of anything that meets your criteria. Any camera in that price range, even if it has XLR in, is going to make audio sacrifices. You're better off with an external recorder and sync sound, using the camera for dual-system to make the sync easier in post.

Don't rule out a flip video camera either. If you spend the next two years indoctrinating yourself to bring the camera everywhere and to use it always and focusing on your technique, you'll get a lot more for a lot less – and you'll know exactly what you want/need when the time comes to buy the full setup. It's less about the gear and more about the mindset and "eye" than you might think.


Noam Osband
Wed 28 Apr 2010Link

Thanks for help with thinking about a camera. Some audio advice would be helpful too. Vis-a-vis audio, my thinking is that I'd like a shotgun mic, two wireless lavs, and a sound mixer. I'm thinking of a shotgun attached to the camera and not a boom pole because much, if not most, of the shooting I'll be doing in the near future will be a solo job.

A few questions then:
1 – In looking at a camera, should I only want something with XLR inputs or is something like a Beachtek sufficient if the camera has no XLR inputs

2 – Even if it does have XLR inputs, is an audio mixer a good idea? It seems from speaking with the people I've spoken to that it is.

3 – In many ways, what I buy depends on my budget which isn't yet set. I'm willing to spend a couple thousand on audio if it is that much of a step up from cheaper things, although I'm not planning on buying top of the line. I have no sense for how much better a $1,000 shotgun is from a $500. With that in mind, any recommendation for any of the audio equipment?

In terms of what I'm shooting, I'd like versatility. The longer project/dissertation is a documentary about migration to Arkansas which will include both individual interviews and crowd scenes at events. I'd love to have versatility with my equipment so I feel like I can have a decent chance at getting good sound no matter what I'm shooting.

Any advice would be greatly appreciated!!!!


Jeffrey Radice
Thu 29 Apr 2010Link

In reply to Noam Osband's post on Wed 28 Apr 2010 :

Noam, my best advice is find an audio geek local to you, pick their brain, and see if they can demonstrate the differences in quality of different pieces of gear to you.


Noam Osband
Mon 3 May 2010Link

So, I’ve been doing research all week on buying my first shooting setup, relying in part on the friendly advice from this site, and I think I’m close to making decisions and I figured I’d ask to see what people thought.

Camera:
Panasonic AG-HMC40 and its XLR adapter (I considered the Panasonic AGHMC70U, but reviews I read seemed to steer me in the other direction. Let me know if you disagree!)

I’m going to get a bunch of SDHC-6 cards. I have not heard any recommendations about brand.

Tripod:
Either the Manfrotto TRIREMOTEKIT Aluminum Video Tripod Kit or Manfrotto BO055XB503H 055XDB Pro Tripod with 503HDV Fluid Video Head. The first one has the ability to do remote panning and tilting, although I wonder if that’s a feature I’d ever use.

Audio equipment:
For a shotgun mic, I’m deciding between the Rode 2 or 3. I have the money for the 3, and I’m inclined to do so for that reason.

For wireless lavaliers, I’m thinking either Senn Evolution G3 100 wireless or the Sony UWP-V1. Both have been recommended to me.

I’m also tempted to bring around a handheld mic for interviews on the go, when I can’t wire someone with a lav. I’d use the shotgun on the camera and have them hold a handheld. In that case, I’m considering either buying a EV-RE50 or just using the Shure SM58 I have at home for music recording.

Regarding cables, are there any brands one recommends for XLR cables?

As for my work, I’m doing documentary work in rural Arkansas and will often be shooting solo, so I’m not going to get an audio mixer.

Regarding all of the above, I have more money to spend if someone thought I really should upgrade something. However, I’d just as soon not spend it so that I have money for more gear in the future. I’m planning on buying a much higher quality camera in about two and a half years, and any money I don’t spend now can go to that. I also think I'm going to buy new and look for used for peace of mind, although if someone thinks that's dumb, please don't hesitate in telling me so.

Thanks!


Andy Schocken
Mon 3 May 2010Link

Sennheiser G3 is solid- used on plenty of pro productions, which the Sony isn't. Get yourself some manicuring scissors and moleskin, and do a little research to learn how to best mount the lav- that will make a bigger impact on your sound than the choice of brand. Wouldn't recommend having subjects hold a mic. If you don't have time to place a lav, just get your Rode on-cam mic as close as possible (keeping in mind the pickup pattern of the mic) and try to find the quietest place nearby. You'll probably need a sound-isolating shock mount for your Rode or you'll hear camera handling noise and possibly lens noise. And you'll need wind protection for it if you'll be shooting outside- get something like this that fits your mic. Turn off auto gain control on your cam and set levels manually.

D-word can help with tech stuff, but is better suited for creative issues. You'll find more detailed tech advice at a place like dvinfo or dvxuser. Good luck, and come back and post some of your work when you're ready!


Eli Brown
Mon 3 May 2010Link

Also, take a listen to your mics before you invest in them. They'll last you awhile and you don't want to get stuck with one that doesn't sound as good as it might seem from reading a review. I just did that with a MKH-416, NTG-3, and NTG-2. And while I liked the sound of the MKH-416, I couldn't justify its price in relation to the other two, and of the two Rode mics, I was surprised to find that I liked the NTG-2's sound quality better for what I was planning to do (and ended up saving even more money that I used for a boom, shock mount, softie, etc.). If you make a trip to NY in the future, Pro-Sound in NYC will let you audition a bunch of different mics. There might be a place in Philly that will even do that (a rental house, perhaps), though I can't speak to that from experience. Good luck!


Jill Morley
Tue 4 May 2010Link

B and H in New York will also let you test all the mics that you consider. THey have an audio room.


Robert Goodman
Tue 4 May 2010Link

You could go to Videosmith in Philadelphia. They are a dealer for Sennheiser, Lectrosonics, and other manufacturers. In the past, they've come very close to matching B&H prices with the added advantage of being local and offering local support. Tell Chris I sent you.


Yixi Villar
Wed 5 May 2010Link

Hi everyone I am in need of some guidance. I am working on a documentary "Life In The Balance" and so far we have received over $30,000 in grants and have a funding trailer set up and 501(c)(3) status through our fiscal sponsor, Fractured Atlas. yeay...BUT we need more money and soon, we wanted to shoot this summer so we can get into post by the fall ... Does anyone one have any advice on where to go for money, who to ask.. our project focuses on a testing procedure that can determine what cancer treatment will actually be effective to the the individual, basically tailored chemotherapy. Any and all advice will be welcome..Follow the link below to view our funding trailer which we created from research footage shot on a basic consumer camera If you or anyone you know are interested i will certainly send more info and a proposal your way..
http://tomgriffineditor.com/LITB_Trailer2-2.mov
i have also provided a link to our information/donation page through Fractured Atlas
http://www.fracturedatlas.org/site/fiscal/profile?id=2524


Christopher Wong
Wed 5 May 2010Link

perhaps you know this already, but since you are working in NYC, you should probably start applying for funds from both the NY Foundation for the Arts and the Jerome Foundation . there's no way that you would get money from them in time to shoot this summer, but it's good to get those applications in the queue now. since your doc also deals with science, you might want to try for funding from the Sloan Foundation


Yixi Villar
Wed 5 May 2010Link

thanks so much I'm going to look into those 3 straight away, i have heard of them but i know that they won't provide funding in time... i think im gonna have to hold some fundraisers if you or anyone out there know of people who would like to invest in such a project let me know..
:)


Doug Block
Fri 7 May 2010Link

Yixi, you have enough experience to register for full membership here. It will give you access to our discussions on fundraising and many many more.


Stephanie Caruso
Fri 14 May 2010Link

hi everyone! i'm currently a grad student in new york (working on my mfa for doc studies), but i'm coming home to the boston area for summer. anybody have any suggestions for summer work?


Doug Block
Fri 14 May 2010Link

Babysitting?

But seriously, Stephanie, if you mean an internship or, heaven forbid, paid work with a Boston area doc filmmaker, I recommend you post something in the Classifieds topic. And give people here a good reason to want to hire you.


Chris Bell
Tue 18 May 2010Link

In reply to michael gatti's post on Sun 18 Apr 2010 :

Michael Gatti...My suggestion to you if you need stock footage to make your film complete, gather the footage from any source you can find and cut the movie that you want to make. Later on down the road, you can show the finished film to investors or you may find that you can fair use that footage if it meets the right criteria. Don't let stock footage hold you back. Watch Bigger Stronger Faster and look at all of the big movie clips we were able to use and not get into trouble. A great lawyer can go a long way...I really think your doc is a great idea. It's something that frustrates me everyday...maybe people at the call center in India can also help you with your dilemma...haha...Good Luck!


Shanti Shakti
Thu 20 May 2010Link

In reply to Elayne McCabe's post on Wed 21 Apr 2010 :Why don't you ask me??I've sent you so many friendly mails offering my help to you and knowing your situation it's hard to believe that you did not reply then only to the one I asked my things back.Did you really got all my mails or has somebody tampered with your account?Please reply to my emailadress.Thanks


Phil Dorman
Sat 22 May 2010Link

Sorry if this is off topic for here but I can't find an answer anywhere.
It's about editing audio in Vegas Pro 9.
I added a sound track and recorded voice over to it quite OK.
But something has changed and now when I select Arm Record it arms record for ALL tracks not just the one selected.
So the question is : How to select which track gets armed for recording ?
Again sorry if this is off topic but I have tried all the Sony help services.


Reva Goldberg
Mon 24 May 2010Link

Friends!

I wanted to make sure early-career filmmakers participating in this discussion are aware of our Reach Film Fellowship program at Cinereach. It's for emerging filmmakers making short films with socially relevant themes and provides not only funding, but also mentorship and advising from industry veterans. All the info can be found here: http://www.cinereach.org/the-reach-film-fellowship. Deadline to apply is July 12.

Prospective applicants, please feel free to contact me if you have questions. I'm reva@cinereach.org.

Best!
Reva


Rob Henry
Tue 25 May 2010Link

Heya,
I'm a first time independent documentary maker and am currently working on a feature length project. I'm almost at a point where my filming/editing/writing skills have taken me as far as possible and was wondering whether there was any other type of lab support programs, similar to the one Sundance run where I could work with experienced professionals in developing/finishing the film.
Being a first time film-maker and based in Australia, it's tricky to get placement in the few that i've found – generally for basic requirement reasons.
Teaming with a production house could obviously provide the equipment and know-how to complete the film, but I'd like to remain independent and in control for as long as possible. Which essentially is because I want to experience and learn the entire process, from start to festivals, or sale.
I have quite a unique project, in that I lived in one of the few remaining prehistoric, hunter-gatherer societies still surviving for an extended period. From what I can see there is very little known about these people, and their culture. So there's attraction in that aspect. I've been so intrenched in the whole experience for such a long time, that some external perspective from credible industry professionals would be invaluable at this point.
If anybody knows of any programs as such, that will support first time film-makers to help produce the best film possible with professional advice, guidance & potentially the equipment , I'd love to hear from you.
I'm in Australia, but happy to travel if it's what i'm searching for.
Its support that I can be involved in and learn, not grants that i'm after.
Thanks,
RbH


Reva Goldberg
Tue 25 May 2010Link

Hi Rob,

Sounds like you need to bring on an experienced producer or executive producer, who is keyed into the film industry and can guide you through completion. You're saying you're not interested in grants, but regardless, all the things you're seeking (professional assistance, equipment, etc) would be much easier to acquire if you had a budget with which to acquire them. Additionally, though granting is highly competitive and is in no way a sure thing, it does force you to collect your thoughts and sample work in order to pitch your project to those with not only funds, but connections and other means of helping you to the next stage. Even grantmakers without an official lab program, will have an incentive to help you advance your project. Receiving a grant also demonstrates the potential of your project and helps rally other support. This is one of the best ways to take your project to the next step.

If funds are really not an issue for you, I suggest you hire an experienced Producer who has worked on similar project and has a connection to international broadcast networks, etc. If your project is not funded, why not apply for grants? It can only help.

In the meantime, Cinereach has a grant deadline for feature fiction and nonfiction films. It is open to international filmmakers at any stage of the production process. Sounds like you are new to the field, but if you have compelling sample work to show, and it is in line with the Cinereach mission, it is worth filling out our short, two-page letter of inquiry form and submitting a work sample. Here's the how to apply page:
http://www.cinereach.org/grants/how-to-apply1

You might also want to explore Britdoc, The Fledgling Fund and others like them. We also have two resource lists on our web site that you can explore:

http://www.cinereach.org/grants/resources/funding-support

http://www.cinereach.org/the-reach-film-fellowship/resources-for-fellows-and-applicants/scholarships-fellowships

Best of luck,
Reva
Cinereach


Christopher Wong
Tue 25 May 2010Link

rob, i have no idea what kinds of filmmaker mentoring programs are available in australia, but you should definitely apply for a Sundance production grant. even if you don't need the funds – is that possible? – getting a grant from Sundance means that you then qualify for their filmmaking labs. (they only invite filmmakers who have received money from them.) with your incredible access, and hopefully your filmmaking ability, Sundance would certainly be interested in your documentary. so, get an application into them ASAP!


Rob Henry
Wed 26 May 2010Link

In reply to Christopher Wong's post on Tue 25 May 2010 :

In reply to Reva Goldberg's post on Tue 25 May 2010 :

Hey Chris & Reva,
Thanks for your time.
Let me clear something up, I probably should have written 'first and foremost, it's support i'm after, even before grants'. Of course a grant would be fantastic! It's all borrowed money thus far.
Anyhoo, I wasn't aware of that with the labs at Sundance Chris, I will look at sending in an application for the July period.
Some great points Reva, I guess I have just been avoiding the time and energy commitment into chasing grants as I have been able to get by up until now. So with a new-found inspiration I have structured a written proposal to apply, just need to work on the budget; which is a little daunting as I have never seen quotes or estimates for post production services before. Will be great to have once completed though, as you pointed out.
I look forward to thoroughly researching cinereach in the coming week also.
I am almost finished the film's website which will help support my proposal too, and with building awareness going forward.
I gather you're working with Cinereach at the moment Rena?
What about yourself Chris? Are you a film-maker?
All the best,
RbH


John Burgan
Wed 26 May 2010Link

Rob – click on a D-Worder's icon to get their background and films

Also no need to sign your posts with your initials as your own icon gives your name.

Edited Wed 26 May 2010 by John Burgan

Christopher Wong
Thu 27 May 2010Link

Hi Rob,
Yes, I guess I can say that I'm a filmmaker now that I just finished my first film last year. My doc (WHATEVER IT TAKES) just aired nationally on public television here in the U.S. For my film, I received a production grant from Sundance in 2007, and I attended Sundance's Story/Composer's Lab in 2008.

Good luck in getting your application in. It's obviously a VERY competitive process, but you definitely have a unique subject and rare access which should help your application stand out from the crowd. Don't worry too much about the budget numbers – they don't over them in great detail at this point. But if you need approximate budget numbers, feel free to ask this community for figures.


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