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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.

Kevin Wells
Wed 2 May 2012Link

In reply to Kevin Hallagan's post on Wed 2 May 2012 :
If price is a constraint and you want to use a dslr, I would suggest one of the cheaper dslr's. I love my 5D Mark II, but something like a 60D or t3i would work just fine (and have an adjustable lcd screen). Also, the Panasonic GH2 can produce a wonderful image – you have to take the crop factor into account, but it's a nice doc camera as well. For all of these you'll need an external audio recorder – Zoom H4n is great.

I would recommend a shift in thinking over whether a camera is professional or unprofessional. They are tools – if you can get something cheaper that helps you do what you need to, get it. People take cues from how you conduct yourself. And often times, using a dslr helps on a doc shoot because you are hassled less from police, guards, etc because it's unassuming...


Peter Brauer
Wed 2 May 2012Link

What Kevin says is right on. I shoot a 7D and love it most of the time. But the 60D and t3i is nearly as good as the 7d. Spend your money on audio. Get a good mic. Good sound is probably more important to seeming professional. Ultimately its not the camera that will make things look and sound good. Its you. Good luck.


Kevin Hallagan
Thu 3 May 2012Link

thank you, Kevin and Peter. time for me to redirect my camera research.


alyce ornella
Thu 3 May 2012Link

I shoot with the 60D and vintage Soviet lenses w/adapter (which are not the most versatile, and not image stabilized, but all I could afford). The camera is great. Like you, I have no funding at the time and largely shoot/edit/produce alone. You will have to put the most thought into stabilization and audio recording.

For sound, I wear a small 4-channel field mixer around my waist where I can run a shotgun mic (mounted to the camera hotshoe) and wireless lav, then output via stereo cable to the camera input. It'd be better if I had a separate sound person but I usually don't, and after a lot of trial and error this seems to be working best for me.

As soon as I have a spare $600 or so I will get an image stabilized lens, but I have no idea when that will actually happen. Get one of those if you can. I rely on a combination of tripod, monopod w/feet, gorillapod, and rail system shoulder mount (which causes so much pain after using for a couple of hours that I rarely use it).

Also I found with the 60D it's much better to work with one of those magnification mounts you clip on to the LCD screen, this helps you see much easier if you are in focus. I guess you could also use one of those small LCD field monitors if you have somewhere to mount it.

Get a 60D instead of 5D and invest the savings into the other things you'll need.

Edited Thu 3 May 2012 by alyce ornella

Jesse Zook Mann
Fri 4 May 2012Link

Get some credit cards. Buy the camera you want used. Make your movie. Sell camera. Pay off card. Thats what I've done for 10 years. Will be worth having a camera with XLR inputs – I synced 100 hours of 7d footage. It sucked. Bad.


Kevin Hallagan
Mon 7 May 2012Link

so what are everyone's thoughts on a Pentax K-5 with a BeachTek adapter for XLR inputs?


alyce ornella
Mon 7 May 2012Link

I had a Beachtek for a while. I never found the monitoring level to be very good, nor the level indicators to really work. The right channel blew out not too long after I got it. I get much better results using a 4 channel field mixer in a shoulder bag.

Edited Mon 7 May 2012 by alyce ornella

Joey Savoie
Sun 13 May 2012Link

Hey guys,

On the topic of price constraint equipment I was wondering if you guys would have a mic suggestion. I am currently using a 60D and need to buy a mic to accompany it. I do not want to have to sync audio :( and do not have a huge budget (but a semi flexible one). I will be doing almost entirely interviews both indoor and street interviews.

A friend suggested the MKE400 but I thought you guys might have some thoughts as well.


Raymund Gerard C. Cruz
Mon 21 May 2012Link

In reply to Matt Dubuque's post on Fri 2 Mar 2012 :

Hey Matt,

Your mindset is on the right track. There is nothing harder than patiently soaking criticism from your peers. Tears flow inside my helpless smiles when somebody bashes my works. However, what you're doing is the best way to deal with the harshness. All the confidence you need comes from you and your loved ones.

I'll watch the short film later on and give my comments soon. Keep that philosophy in check bro!


Raymund Gerard C. Cruz
Mon 21 May 2012Link

In reply to John Burgan's post on Sun 18 Sep 2011 :

Aside from the informative "THE CUTTING EDGE" documentary, there is also a film made my Gabriele Voss titled "Cuts in Space and Time". It's in German with English Subtitles.

The DVD is the link

It's great for both narrative and documentary editing! The director Gabriele Voss (along with her husband, Christoph Hubner) have been doing amazing cinema verite works. And they are also exceptional mentors!


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