the worldwide community of documentary professionals
You are not signed in.
Log in or Register

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.

Resultset_first Resultset_previous 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 Resultset_next Resultset_last
Maureen Futtner
Wed 24 Mar 2004Link
Hi filmmakers,

Just introduced myself & now I have QUESTIONS!

In the early stages of production of my first documentary on a
transgender pianist/singer who will be returning to her home country
(after having not been there for 25 years!) to perform in a series
of concerts. That's all I want to say about the project right now.
My question is regarding how much footage to shoot.
The return trip/concert is not for nearly another year and a half
yet, and I already have 16 hours of footage! Now, partially, I
realize my collaborator & I will have a ton of footage 'cause we're
novices, and need to work out a lot of kinks. But I'm also
concerned 'cause I keep wanting to shoot so much of her life. I do
plan to have the return trip be the final shoot, and we'll begin
post shortly after we get back. But, as I said, that trip is still
a year and a half away. Should I have a plan NOW for a maximum
amount of shooting to do? Any wisdom and advice would be greatly
appreciated!!
Maureen

Doug Block
Thu 25 Mar 2004Link
Hard to answer that question, Maureen. It's largely going on
instinct. Wouldn't hurt to do a lot of interviews with your subject,
particularly when she's in the midst of doing something. Also seems
you have a possible built-in structure of beginning as she's taking
off for her trip, then continually flashing back as the concert tour
moves forward. Sort of like the past colliding with the present. In
the end, I recommend erring on the side of shooting, but also trying
not to overdo it. Tape is cheap but editors can be expensive.

Carolyn Projansky
Thu 25 Mar 2004Link
Greetings to all: I haven't been here in months, and never
really "got to know" the folks in D-Word, but I need some advice.
I've recently moved back to the US from South Africa and I'm
struggling to catch up with changes in the production world in the US
since 2000. I'm pricing a job now, trying to figure out what kind of
camera equipment to budget for. In SA everybody was using DVCam or
miniDV (PD150) for almost everything. Here that doesn't seem to be
the case. I'm trying to choose between shooting in BETACAM-SP or
DVCAM for a project in which the video segments will ultimately end
up on the web (for use in a web-based training program). The
surprising thing is that DVCAM seems to be more expensive than BETA
here. In South Africa it was the reverse. Anyone understand my
confusion and can help enlighten me? Thanks. Carolyn

Doug Block
Thu 25 Mar 2004Link
That's a surprise to me, too, Carolyn. Can you give us some examples
of the pricing you've run across? Because a PD150 shoots dv-cam and
goes for, what, $3500? Where can you get a beta-sp camera for near
that price?

Carolyn Projansky
Thu 25 Mar 2004Link
Doug: I think the price comparison was not for a PD150 versus BETACAM-
SP, but for a bigger DV-CAM camera, compared to a BETA-SP. I'll have
to get the specifics from my production manager. But do you, or does
someone else know whether it matters what I shoot with if it's going
to end up in a tiny box on the web? Will a better camera give a
crisper image so its better to spend the money? Or will it all end up
looking tiny and grainy so who cares?

Ben Kempas
Thu 25 Mar 2004Link
A bigger camera is always nicer for its easy handling, decent
exposure, proper lens, less depth of field, and better reliability. As
long as your footage ends up on the net, the format really doesn't
matter. Could be a 300 or 500-series DVCAM, any Beta-SP, or anything
down to S-VHS. :-)

Carolyn Projansky
Thu 25 Mar 2004Link
Thanks Ben. If anyone else out there has a opinion about format for
shooting direct-to-web I'd be interested.

Meanwhile, as long as I'm on the subject of cameras ... I have two
doccies I'm developing that raise camera questions, too. One is
definitely for int'l TV broadcast and I'm targeting the BBC
particularly. Is it best to shoot 16X9 these days and then compress,
or whatever you do for 4x3screenings? I'm still budgeting and so I
can select the shooting format as I choose. Although this one isn't
an "intimate" story, I generally prefer a smaller, more unobtrusive
camera for a documentary. Will all the broadcasters accept DVCAM
(the big kind) or is it better to go for HD nowadays? I'm not sure I
like the look of HD for a documentary. Are people having good
experiences with the "look" and "feel" of the format? What type of
film does it seem to work best for?

My other project is a very intimate doc which is destined either for
US tv or might be a feature doc for some cinema release. It depends
on how the characters work when we start shooting. We're going to do
a demo. But I don't want to shoot the demo material and then throw it
away. I'd like to start shooting with the format we're going to stay
with. What do you recommend? An intimate "family" story, needs to
be unobtrusive camera but great looking.

thanks very much! Carolyn

Erica Ginsberg
Thu 25 Mar 2004Link
Hey Carolyn. Erica from WIFV here. Glad to hear you are back from
South Africa and welcome back to D-Word.

I'm surprised by the price differential too. Even if you are looking
at getting a crew with one of the higher end DVCAM cameras, it should
still be less expensive than Beta-SP. HD could be more expensive
though. How did you get your crew quotes? Did you try posting on
the WIFV listserv?

I'll let the cinematography experts answer your other questions, but
my understanding is that BBC absolutely requires 16X9.

Ben Kempas
Thu 25 Mar 2004Link
What's wrong with the "look of HD for documentary"?

As a cinematographer, I've worked with HD - but not for "doccies".

Carolyn Projansky
Fri 26 Mar 2004Link
I still don't have the specific price quotes but I spoke again to a
production manager who gets quotes all the time. She says that a
bunch of the major houses that rent camera equipment in the DC area
have all just recently upgraded to top DV Cam equipment and they're
now renting their "old" BETAs for less. Interesting. Plausible. I
haven't check the price quotes myself but this person is very
reputable. I'll check into it myself by the end of next week and
report back.

To Ben: I'm a complete novice with HD, but from what I've seen, it
has such sharp, detailed look that it is almost the antithesis of
film with its warm, soft, shadowy edges. It's hard to describe. I
think living in an HD world will take gradual adustment.

Carolyn Projansky
Fri 26 Mar 2004Link
Sorry, Erica, I forgot to say, "Hello" back to you. No, I didn't
post this on the listserve, but I've been working with a production
manager we had recommended by the listserve. Thanks for your
comments. Carolyn

Erica Ginsberg
Fri 26 Mar 2004Link
Carolyn, you would probably get better quotes if your production
manager went to individual cameramen or a boutique house rather than
a major house (or, if you already have a cinematographer sans the
right camera, it may be cheaper to buy him the camera as part of his
payment than to rent one for him). If the major houses think they
can charge top dollar for the same camera quality as a cameraman with
his own equipment, they will likely go the way of top post production
houses which can no longer compete for the offline market while
everyone has Avids and FCP in their home offices. While you were
gone, Henninger went bankrupt and then had to retool their operation
and, as you know, Roland House recently went out of business
altogether.

Robert Goodman
Fri 26 Mar 2004Link
there is no single flavor of HD nor an agreed upon
definition of what is or isn't considered HD.

Blanket statements about what something looks like
is like suggesting that 35mm has a single look.
To dissuade yourself about that - rent Northfork,
Malcom X, and Schindler's List.

Christian DiMaso
Tue 30 Mar 2004Link
Since this thread is years old and very long I will go out on a limb
by asking a tired question. I am a complete newbie and I need help! I
have only made 4 minute videos all put to music. I am looking to step
into the world of documentaries for the first time. My purpose is not
to publish,but to fill a longing in myself to create. I would relish
any expertise you could pass on. I know this is a tall order,but I
want to make the best film I can.
Equipment:
Mini-DV Cam (no audio in)
Tripod
Sony's Screenblast Movie Studio 3 (knockoff of Vegas)
Acid Pro 4
Nero 6

Doug Block
Tue 30 Mar 2004Link
Still waiting for your tired question, Christian... If you're
looking for expertise, though, hate to say it but you should go back
and read the long threads here. Sorry 'bout that.

Christian DiMaso
Wed 31 Mar 2004Link
How about this then...what are the books I should own for documentary
production? I know that "Directing the Documentary" is a must, but
what else?

Doug Block
Wed 31 Mar 2004Link
can't say. i've never read a "doc" book, per se. but when i first
started shooting (nigh, those many years ago), a book called "the 5
c's of cinematography" was very useful. a basic primer for how to
shoot - and the best production book i've ever read:

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/187950541X

Robert Goodman
Thu 1 Apr 2004Link
Aristotle's Poetics. Laslo Egri book about writing plays. The 5 Cs of
Cinematography is a good choice. Anything that helps you figure out
storytelling - Joseph Campbell, perhaps. I'll also suggest my book
Editing Digital Video for when you get there. But the truth of the
matter is there are only a few things you must know - a documentary
is a living breathing entity - give it the space it needs to
survive. Always be true to your story and the people in it.

Steve Allen
Mon 5 Apr 2004Link
Hi all. I am to start filming soon on a cross continent (on very
different vehicles)type doco. I think it will be prime doco time for
most of the globe. My problem is that my investor wants the
impossible "facts about budget" I cannot tell him much as I have
no idea how much a 1 hour wide-demographic doco could sell
for. Could someone help me out? PPPPlease. Steve

Doug Block
Mon 5 Apr 2004Link
could sell for zippidy doo dah and could generate a couple of hundred
thousand bucks (U.S.) in total sales. who the heck knows? much
depends on how good it is and how much of a market there is for the
subject.

how's that for a (non) answer?

Steve Allen
Tue 6 Apr 2004Link
Thanks Doug. I realise it is asking a fair bit to get a simple
answer to a hard question. I think a land sailor racing against a
paraglider across the Australian outback(complete with
kangaroos) with a free and easy chat style format, will sell well. I
am hoping that someone else will say the same. I guess I am
asking for aprox how much per play will a good 1 hour doco get?
The demagraphic is probably male 16 to 70 and women 16 to 45
I guess thats about 40% of the population. Europe is mad keen
on paragliding and anything filmed in the bush. what do you
think?

Doug Block
Tue 6 Apr 2004Link
i think i'm not an international sales agent. i haven't a clue. you
might want to read the jan rofekamp conference that's archived here on
selling in the international marketplace. might give you a better
idea.

Steve Allen
Wed 7 Apr 2004Link
Read it now thanks doug. Bloody depressing for those who dont
have an idea as great as mine:-) ( We are the eternal optimists.)
I would love to read more from the industry guys. Any chance of
getting more on? I didnt see anything on what a first market is
worth. Did I miss it? Are there particular people who would be
more used to handling my type of doco?(any names?
Steve)

Aaron Huslage
Tue 20 Apr 2004Link
I'm in the Rough Cut stage of my first documentary and have a chance
to show it to some people this evening. I want to take advantage of
this opportunity and ask the right questions. The problem is, I don't
know what to ask people!

Does anyone have any samples of questionnaires for test screenings
that I might customize?

Sorry for the late notice, but this just became available to me today.
Any help would be appreciated.

Doug Block
Tue 20 Apr 2004Link
aaron, you don't need a questionaire. ask if they feel it dragged
anywhere. if they were confused anywhere. if they feel anything is
missing. but mostly listen. you'll learn most from their visceral
responses during the screening.

Join this discussion now. You need to log in or register if you want to post.