ditto what erica said. i certainly didn't mean to imply that sound doesn't matter. but in very low-budget (or "no-budget") situations, someone has to do sound, and it honestly doesn't take a genius to learn the basics of holding a boom pole. to actually get superior sound, and to always stay out of the way of the cam op, and to avoid unsightly boom shadows on the subject – yes, these take months/years of experience to achieve. but you can learn the basics of being a boom op much faster than you can the basics of being a cam op (i.e. using manual focus, manual exposure, proper white balancing). this is not an "uninformed opinion" – this is just reality. and when someone, like darla, tells us that she doesn't have the time/resources to go hire a professional soundperson for her shoot, it's really not helpful for us to say "hire an experienced soundperson". if she could, she would. since she can't, let's just enable her to do the best she can.
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.
I understand that everyone is trying to be helpful. That's what makes this place so special. Some people here have posted even on Christmas.
It may very well be that with more than 20 years experience as a news professional, some posts struck me as – involuntarily "la de da-ish" – or at least I fear that an unexperienced well-intentioned enthusiast might (mis)interpret them in such manner.
As a professional newsperson, the quality of my work was essential for me to make a living doing my "job." As a documentary filmmaker, I've learned that – for the moment at least – I'd be very lucky to make back the money I've invested in several "difficult" (by difficult I mean films that have been extremely diificult or impossible to distribute in Italy on account of the fact that they dealt with controversial events such as an anti-Berlusconi grassroots opposition movement).
In previous posts, I've also stressed the difficulty of working as a videojounalist referring to the need to perform many tasks (that used to be covered by a team of people) in often unpredictable and ongoing situations out in the field.
For this reason, I'm convinced that – as a general rule – it's extremely important for beginners to obtain proper training before going out in the field and to have "practised" everything in controlled situations at home. Likewise, I'm convinced one should (ideally) gains experience producing a series of 3-5 minute pieces before attempting to work on a long(er) format story.
In the case of sound, I've also been able to notice – as a result of practical exercises in professional training workshops that I've organized – that (with vary rare exceptions) most people need to be taught to "listen" while they record sound. Usually, although our ears capture all sorts of noises (unwanted sounds, like traffic noise)) along with a given sound, for example, a conversation we're trying to listen to out on the street, our brain acts as a filter, getting rid of mst or all of the unwanted noise and allowing us to follow the conversation. A microphone is a mechanical device that records sound in a given way (pattern) and the sound is recorded on tape, disc etc and then played back exactly as it was recorded (with only minuimum possibilities of filtering). I have had reasn to notice that even though they were wearing headphones, beginners failed to hear the background noise while they were recording on the street because they weren't listening to them; only after listening to the tapes in the classroom and being surprised by the amount of unwanted noise they'd recorded would they learn to listen while wearing headphones unstead of letting their brains do the usual filtering.
Likewise, I've learned that everyone needs to be taught to wear headphones at all times while recording because this allows one to verify that indeed we are recording usable sound while recording that crucial interview. I've seen several instances of people who weren't wearing headphones caught up in the thick of things and not notice that a mic cord had become unstuck or that a lav battery had died.
Since most of us, from what I've been reading here seem to be investing our own money in our projects, it seemed appropriate to inject a bit of caution in order to protect the investment in time and money of rookie enthusiasts like Darla and in order to allow them to avoid mistakes that could have been avoided or fixed in the field (thanks to proper planning or training) and that could have devastating results with regards to one's project: unusable recordings, for example.
I also believe that it's useful to teach beginners – along with the skills – a healthy dose of awe and respect for the work of the true professionals who, in extremely difficult conditions – often with so much more than just money at stake – go out and do a wonderful job in order to tell stories that might make a difference and help make the world a better place.
re your scanning query, I suggest that you check with PF Bentley. PF is an extraordinary editor, actually a still photographer turned videojournalist.
PF belongs to the inner core group of Dirck Halstead's platypi – a growing group of still-photographers who are trained to become top-notch videojournalists: the group's website is
PF's contact e-mail is: "PF BENTLEY" <email@example.com>
I remember that on his old website (Hulaboy productions) he used to have a couple of examples of wonderfully edited stories based on stills edited to music.
His website is http://www.pfpix.com/HOME.html.
Ask him if you can see his videoclips about Bill and Hillary Clinton and Clinton's last week in office 2001. They were masterpieces.
Thanks very much for the advice, Doug. Yes, that's what I keep hearing: 'there's no such thing as a standard contract'. Happy Holidays!
Thank you, Wolfgang, for all of your input and links. I will indeed, check them out. I was under the impression that FCP could replicate camera moves etc. and will soon see for myself, as I intend to purchase Studio 2 in the next few weeks. I was just trying to avoid having to purchase yet another stills software program. As for shooting the stills myself, my access to these pictures is very limited and they are closely guarded by the archiveists. Additionally, they have offered to do the scans which would save me great amounts of time. And as there are thousands of pictures for me to go through and select, and given the 7 hour trip to the archives, anything I can do to speed things up for me while I am there is helpful. And if FCP can do the "moves", I will not be forced to make decisions at the time of photo acquisition. Thanks again for your help.
As for Darla's dilema, I too agree with Wolfgang that one must concentrate on one's specific job. All the more reason NOT to be diddling around with sound. And although it is true that many one-man-band operations work just fine, there is no reasonable person who would disagree that having the right professionals in each department will make a noticable difference in your end product.
Chris, I presume that if Darla did not have the budget to hire a professional cameraman, you would not be suggesting that she do it herself, or would you? I'm sure everyone here would be warning her not to move forward. No offense, but the mere fact that similar advice is not being offered regarding quality sound smacks of ignorance. Just because Darla can't afford to hire a sound person is no reason to advise her to blindly stumble forward. In fact it borders on irresponsibility. As for your assertion that it is a statement of fact that it's easier to learn how to use sound gear than it is a digital camcorder, I beg to differ. Give me an hour on any camera and I too could shoot material. In my mind, this is a fair comparison.
Please note that in my post I only made referrence to "good" production sound. If you feel your project's marketability can survive crappy sound, then by all means, go forward. There are examples of such films. One which comes to mind is, "Rockets Redglare!" (2003), which was an excellent doc with absolutely horrible, but barely passible production sound.
It is impossible for me to begin to explain here, the numerous pitfalls you may encounter with regard to sound issues and why a pro is desireable. So I won't.
It is my opinion that given the expenses involved in Darla's upcoming trip, that it is not adviseable to risk your budget and time on the chance that you will get good sound. Wait until you can hire a sound professional just as you waited until you could afford to hire an experienced cameraman. Anything less than this is a recipe for disappointment.
Thomas, if I were to follow your logic I'd never have made my first film. Or my second or third, for that matter.
If Darla couldn't afford a professional cameraman, I'd certainly advise her to pick up a camera and start practicing.
None of this is rocket science.
Guess I'll chime in here.
The problem is this--and you can always return to my original post to see . . .
I came here with a dilemma that's very specific. I hired a dp who is mostly working with very little pay. I'm paying him a stipend and travel expenses. I like his work. As a favor, he was going to bring along a friend of his who is a professional sound person. That person is no longer available. I'm shooting in a REMOTE area of Italy and to hire someone right now would put me WAY over budget, and I couldn't shoot my trailer. The reason I'm going in January (and this is a set of complex decisions) is for a festival that only happens once every year and may not next year.
Without a sound person and with the following gear, what would you recommend, given that I'm tapped out on money (everything else is planned and fine):
Sennheiser Wireless Trio 100 G2 series (full audio kit with a lavalier and directional microphone).
I know fairly little about equipment, but I do know enough to know how important sound is. I never once doubted that. That's why I've come here with my dilemma.
At this point it is NOT realistic for me to hire a professional sound person. By holding a boom myself, I in no way have any less respect for the sound profession; it's just that given my circumstances, I have to look at all my options.
And while I will mostly be shooting b-roll and interviews, I may have a scenario with two people talking, with a woman moving around in a kitchen, with a bunch of people eating around a table, with someone slaughtering a pig. These will require boom sounds from what I understand.
If what you're saying, Thomas, is that I shouldn't shoot . . . Okay. That's one opinion. But others here are trying to be creative and resourceful given what I have to work with.
With all due respect -
thomas, call me irresponsible, but i'm with chris and joe (and darla) on this one. i'm not recommending darla monitor the audio – she has a camera person doing that. but pointing a shotgun mike at two people talking in a verite situation is something a beginner really can do (and, yes, actually think at the same time).
i gotta say, wolfgang and thomas, every time someone says you HAVE TO do something one way or the other, it gets my hackles up. there's usually a preferred way of doing it, for sure, but there's rarely a have to, especially in low or no-budget situations. okay, i guess if you're using a mini-dv camera you have to load a mini-dv tape or you're kinda up shit creek. but i think you know what i mean.
darla, you're going to be fine... don't be put off by those folks (well-meaning as they are) who tell you that you need perfect conditions or years of experience to start a project. mainly, you need a little humility, diligence to prepare and the willingness to learn – clearly, you've got that.
now stop wasting time in here (like the rest of us idiots), and keep chugging along...
Okay, sorry to take up more space here, but I'm still back to my original dilemma. What would be best to bring in addition to what my DP has for sound:
(Sennheiser Wireless Trio 100 G2 series (full audio kit with a lavalier and directional microphone).)
And what would be the cheapest way of going about that?
Just for the record, I hope it's clear I wasn't knocking you, nor saying "not" to do your shoot.
I think I've made clear where I'm coming from in my earlier posts. In fact, I'm convinced that – if need be – you can certainly give a hand while shooting B-Roll type situations.
Doug, of course, flexibility is the name of the game.
If you check my posts, you'll see that I've written that (in my opinion) it would be best for Darla to concentrate on her specific tasks – i.e. asking questions and listening to the answers – DURING INTERVIEWS!
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
Hey Kurt, this is a little off topic, but why can't you take a wireless mic from the U.S. to Europe?
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.
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 :)
re the PAL/NTSC issue, don't worry about it now. You've already committed to your DP's gear, etc.
As I explained in my previous posts, there are many – all of them simple – ways to deal with this issue, LATER. Not least of all, the fact that a converter is extremely cheap nowadays.
That said, making a DVD has nothing to do with whether ot not your video was shot in NTSC or PAL. Just to give you an idea, the DVD player on any computer can play DVDs in PAL and/or NTSC.
What you decide to do will depend on other factors bu there is really no need to worry about it now.
Oh thanks, Darla, that would be awesome.
I'm at ms612ms at hotmail
I tried e-mailing you at the address above, and sending you the form, but I just plain can't get through to hotmail anymore. Every hotmail address bounces back. So, if you have another address, I can e-mail you the release form. Otherwise, there's one here:
I looked at the link you sent and could not find an exclusivity agreement (I've been using release forms but what I'm looking for is something that outlines an interviewee's exclusive involvement and guarantee that s/he won't appear in other docs)- is that what you were sending?
You can try mshaneen at earthlink dot net
Thanks so much, very kind of you!
Hi again Marianne, sorry I misunderstood. I only have release forms.
I was recently asked by a friend for advice regarding film schools for their 16 year old son who wants find a school to study filmmaking.
The friend thought it was best to send their son to a summer program in New York City, either the New York Film Academy, or SOCAPA, as a good intensive introduction to filmmaking to see if this is really what they want to pursue.
I don't have any knowledge of these schools but thought some of those who contribute to this excellent forum may be able to offer advice or info.
Thanks in advance.
Maybe York University in Toronto has ideas? They have a good film program.
Thanks Rhonda – I'm somewhat familiar with the film schools in Canada, including York, Ryerson, Sheridan, Humber and post grad at the CDN Film Centre, as well as Concordia in Montreal, and Simon Fraser in Vancouver. But I'm not aware of any summer programs for high school aged students at these schools.
I'm looking for any first or second hand info/opinions on the NYC schools I mentioned.
I come from fiction film and I have never written or even seen a treatment for a documentary. Now I'm about to embark on my first documentary project and I have no idea what to do when I can't just make up characters and stories!
Can anyone share their treatments with me so that I get an idea what they're supposed to be like? Or any descriptions/links of how a documentary screenplay might look like would be great as well.
Thank you in advance...
We just make it up as we go along, Azad. And I'm (mostly) not kidding.
Most filmmakers approach docs with (usually, but not necessarily) a strong idea of a story or situation or issue that they want to explore, and varying levels of research, which might include hanging out with the subjects for a period of time. But if there's something called a documentary screenplay I've never heard of it.
Which is the whole point. You can't possibly script documentaries, and you wouldn't want to. You put this inquiring energy out there and the universe conspires to give you great footage (or not).
Azad, there are documentary screenplays for the kind of documentaries you might see on Discovery Channel or National Geographic – a science or history program, for example, where they basically know what they want to say and show and create the visuals around the script. But I think what Doug is referring to are more what we would call "creative documentaries." Certainly documentaries which rely heavily on observational or verite footage cannot be scripted in advance. But some filmmakers do find it helpful to put a film in script form once they have the footage as a means of organizing the information as they edit. Others work without a script and use other systems to organize the film.
While there is no rule in documentary of how to create this script that would correspond to Hollywood's rules of how to create a fiction screenplay, there are some rules of thumbs you might want to go by. I find it more helpful to use the 2 column approach with video on the left and audio on the right (possibly with a third column to denote tape info and timecode in/outs if you are actually editing to the script), though I have seen documentary scripts which look like fiction scripts too.
But to answer your original question which I think is really "How can I write down an idea of what my film will be when I don't know who my characters are yet or what will transpire?" that is really more what a treatment will achieve. Again, there is no right way of doing a treatment (though different funders may have specific elements they want in the treatment) and it will definitely change as you discover your characters and story. For now, it may suffice to write down what it is you want to say with your film, set the stage of where it is taking place, the kinds of characters and/or events you will be seeking out, and why you are the one to tell this story.
11th hour here . . . sorry to return to this subject, but I'm getting a bad feeling again about the NTSC/PAL issue. Maybe I should just put the money out now-
up front-to rent an NTSC. We're supposed to shoot on a PD170p. I could get one in NTSC. But I'll have to rent it in Italy, prob. b/c I'll be gone a month (only shooting 2 weeks). I can probably rent one – have my dp rent one – from Milan or Rome even. . . right?
A little bit freaking out about it.
People have been shooting PAL and cutting in NTSCland for the years before 24p became en vogue, largely because of PAL's 25fps which looks far more cinematic. PAL has some other things going for it technically, too. But take a read through this article:
and hopefully it might assuage some fears. Without knowing how you're intending on posting the footage (or viewing it), it's hard to know if this is going to be an enormous hassle for you or not. Also, if you're mixing and matching that could be time consuming (and may not look that great). Probably best that if you start in PAL, that you stay in PAL, that way you're only converting upon your final edit and not for all of the raw footage.
Thanks, Eli. Essentially I want a trailer online and DVD. My DP is in Milan, and I'll be finding an editor here. I don't have software, so I hope it won't be a problem to find someone to edit PAL. Just want to compare the cost overall. i.e. rent a NTSC camera now or just go with what we have and essentially it'll be the same in the end (cost wise).
Thanks for all the resources here -
As I wrote you previously, this is no longer a big deal. If you read my previous post and you will notice that Eli is telling you as much.
If in doubt – especially if all your shooting will be in Italy – shoot in PAL.
Try to find NTSC gear but I doubt that it will be easy for you to find NTSC gear to rent cheaply (especially something like a PD170) for the simple reason that nobody would have any reason to use it; your best chance would be with an ex-network crew in Rome but, more likely than not, they'd only have expensive top-of-the-line Beat equipment.
There is one very simple solution: rent an HD camera. Many models have a PAL/NTSC switch. You could certainly find an appropriate HD videocamera to rent here in Italy. I had already pointed this out to you in my previous post but you'd insisted that you wanted to use your DP's camera.
As regards editing, with Final Cut Pro, for example, all this would entail is clicking a PAL setting vs clicking an NTSC setting. All you'd need to do is convert the final product at the end.
Thank you Doug and Erica,
Sorry for the delay in checking back here. I appreciate your thoughts on this. You're right Erica, that is exactly what I wanted to know. I really don't know what funders expect. I guess this is something that comes with experience dealing with the pre-production aspects of the documentary film process.
Yes, Wolfgang, I got last-minute jitters. But I love my DP. He's perfect for this film, and so I don't want to throw him a new, unfamiliar camera. It's not been an easy decision for someone who doesn't know the tech stuff, but I'm learning with the help of all of you.
I'm anticipating what will happen when I get back. I can try to use a PAL camera as a deck. Clearly editing in FCP isn't an issue. I'm just trying to anticipate what's workable and the cost.
The Edit Center in New York (should I work there with someone or be referred to an editor through them) said I should have my tapes digitized and on a hard drive? I guess that's my understanding, so I'm trying to see, now, what my DP can leave me with that will make it easier for me to come back here and edit with someone in the States . . .
depending on how much footage you shoot in italy, you shouldn't need more than a 1-2 day rental of a deck. a dsr-11 should do the trick for you, and usually only costs around $50-75 a day to rent – if you rent over a weekend, you usually only have to pay for one day's worth. i imagine that renting a PAL camera would be significantly more expensive.
there are good editors everywhere, but probably only a few who are the best fit for your project. so don't just work with whomever the Edit Center has. put ads on craigslist, mandy.com, NYU film school, etc. and look at people's reels and experience to get a better feel for their work. definitely do an interview to judge if your personality will mesh with theirs. you don't want an overbearing personality who doesn't listen to your input...
Allow me to suggest you might want to pass by Barnes & Nobles and buy a text book or two, in order to familiarize yourself with all you'll need to do when you get back.
You should consider one or both of these: Barry Hampe, Making Documentary Films & Videos (my favorite) or Rabiger, Directing the Documentary. I'd also suggest one of these: Rice & McKernaan, Editing Digital Video or Button, Nonlinear Editing.
Second, if you do a quick Google Search you should be able to find a glossary of digital terms. Here I've done it for you.
I'm going to make a note that you should read now or before you start anything when you get back. This regards editing, but I'm writing it here because you have a tendency to do things first and then ask for advice: WRONG WAY!!!!
After shooting, to "capture" your video, i.e. to pass your video from tapes onto a hard disk drive, you can use any PAL miniDV camera or a SONY DSR deck (PAL/NTSC switchable).
Regardless of whether you'll be editing in PAL or NTSC, you'll need to purchase a hard disk drive (this is where you store all your video and it can be attached or removed to any computer laptop or table top, as well as to the computer that you'll be using to edit. This allows your editor to work on other projects and allows you to have "portability." Since external hard drives are so cheap, I'd suggest buying a 250 GB or 500 GB hard disk drive. Lacie is a good brand and these drives have always worked well for me. You could also look for a hard drive that has a ventilator. In any case, a top quality 500GB disk drive will cost you less than US$200,00. This is enough storage to store the edited version and all the media (the video and audio files that you have captured) of at least two documentaries.
One last suggestion: I always capture ALL the media in low resolution at first for the various edits (you will get slightly lower quality video and audio this way, but you'll save a lot of space on the hard disk) and re-capture the media (with Media Manager) at Standard or High Definition (whatever the maximum resolution level or your shooting material is, in your case, SD) only AFTER I've completed the final cut (and adjusted audio and video levels, added subtitles, graphics, etc.). This won't mean anything to you now, but your editor will understand.
Please note that the "logging phase" is associated witht the capture phase, in fact I (and many others) log and capture together, whereas others prefer to capture first and then log. "Logging" is the procedure whereby you list and describe every single shot on a tape. You want to make sure you use stars (for example) to mark your best video and you'll want to take care that you also note your best nat sound.
You will group similar shots in "bins." You can learn the basics of editing – i.e. the part YOU need to know, on a good text book and working with your editor.
Please note that this – LOGGING – is the most important phase – and the one that will determine the edit and the final outcome of your documentary. You must have the patience to log every shot correctly. This procedure allows you to see what (video, shots) you have available and to memorize your video (don't ask me how it happens because I don't know, but the logging process allows me to memorize, effortlessly, every single shot in 60 or more hours of video).
The logging process is something that you and your editor must do TOGETHER, so you both get to know all the video that is available. This allows you to map out your story and write an outline and will also allow you, during the edi,t to build sequences (because you know all the video that you have and where it is located).
It's easier than it sounds – and fun, at least for me – but make sure that you do some studying BEFORE you start any work when you return home otherwise you'll never be in control of what you're doing.
Also, Christopher has made a very good point. An editor is NOT to be considered like another piece of hardware. A good editor makes the difference, aside from the fact that he/she can save you non-withstanding mistakes you may have made. You should try to find someone who has edited one or more stories, similar to yours in a way that you like. Especially in your case where you know zip, a more-experienced editor will save your behind, teach you as you go along and make magic (if the material you've shot allows her/him to do so). I'm certain that you'll be able to get many suggestions regarding experienced editors from the members of D-word and/or asking for help from members of the IDA (International Documentary Association).
If anything, this is where you need to spend some extra money. A good editor is worth every cent and in your case they will also be acting as your producer, teacher, babysitter and fairy godmother. A top notch editor can make a great doc (if your material permits it) or at least save your butt and carve out something passable if you have the minimum required elements. Don't try to save the odd few bucks here because you'd be screwing yourself!
For the log and capture process, Erica Ginsburg has a DSR11 deck; maybe you can rent hers!
Wow, Wolfgang posted just before me. I do have a DSR-11, but it's in use right now at my editor's as I plod along on my edit, so not available for rental unfortunately. Plus, it would be much easier for you to find one to rent in New York which is closer to you.
I was going to add that the DSR-11 deck which Chris recommends renting (and which is preferable to using the valuable heads of your camera for logging/capturing) can be used for PAL DV footage, but you will need to make sure your editor has a PAL monitor. As others have said much better than I ever could, you are probably better off picking either PAL or NTSC for shooting (or, if you have to do some of each, get the tapes converted to your preferred editing format before logging so they are all consistent). I produced a project which had both NTSC and PAL footage. We ended up editing and outputting in NTSC, but got the tapes converted BEFORE we started editing.
So you converted how? With your own software or professionally? How did the conversion turn out?
Well we were in a very similar situation to you moneywise, so we could not afford to get them converted at a dub house, which would obviously be the preferred method. This was also in the days when we were just starting to transition from Beta-SP to DV, so the PAL tapes were all Beta PALs and had to be converted to DV NTSC. Our soundguy (who was also a co-producer) knew lots of kooky characters in the industry from his freelance sound work, so he called up a friend who had accumulated dozens and dozens of different decks in his basement and he did the conversion for us at a fairly reasonable rate and a fairly slow turnaround. But the quality was good enough for what we needed.
Contrary to Erica's suggestion (Erica, please forgive me!) I advise you NOT to convert your material BEFORE the edit.
You might have, for example, to convert 20 sixty minute shooting tapes whereas, AFTER the edit, only 52 minutes TOTAL ( if your doc is a one-hour-long format) or even less than that if part of it was shot in NTSC.
Also, if you're only shooting in Italy, it'll all be PAL. If you'll be doing some shooting in US, shoot in PAL (if you can) or shoot NTSC. It won't make any difference as you do a rough cut; convert at the end and splice it all together.
If you check B&H you'll notice that – in a worst case scenario – converters are cheap today.
If you do a search on the B&H website www.bhphotovideo.com using the words "PAL NTSC standards converter" you'll find several models listed including the AV Toolbox CDM-660 Standards Converter that costs only $179.95. There are several other models that cost between $359 and $539.
I don't see why the cheaper one couldn't do the job. In any case, I imagine – as a worst case scenario – that it would be cheaper to buy than convert all the tapes.
I'd advise you – for the moment – not to keep worrying about what comes next. Concentrate on your upcoming shoot in Italy and enjoy yourself.
If you MUST worry about something, worry about finding an excellent editor! :-)
By thye way, if you edit using a MAC laptop or desktop monitor, you can use PAL.
A regular TV monitor needs to be PAL or NTSC or both, but the advantage of using digital video on a computer screen is that PAL or NTSC makes o difference. This is why you can play DVDs originating form video sot in either NTSC or PAL on any computer monitor.
I have edited severa docs on a MAC laptop with a 17 inch screen, so – if you're trying to save money – I don't see why you couldn't do the same.
Excuse the garble in the previous post, I punched post too hastily, about to go to bed (it's 2 AM here).
Corrected version: By the way, if you edit using a MAC laptop or desktop monitor, you can use PAL without any problem.
A regular TV monitor needs to be PAL or NTSC or both, but the advantage of using digital video on a computer screen is that PAL or NTSC makes no difference. This is why you can play DVDs originating from video shot in either NTSC or PAL on any computer monitor.
I have edited several docs on a MAC laptop with a 17 inch screen, so – if you're trying to save money – I don't see why you couldn't do the same.
Thanks, Wolfgang. My DP actually has a convertor, a MAC, FCP. Though, I'm not choosing him for editing, but I know he can help convert if need be.
I'm no longer worried. I think it's people who give me advice like "find another DP" or get an NTSC camera, that get me all worked up. My DP is the one for this film and his equipment is what it is. The whole thing will be shot in Italy and mostly likely with him and his camera (unless something happens to him between trips – the next one won't happen for a while).
Beyond that, I'm going to enjoy for now. I'm about to meet the best cook in all of (the village that I'm shooting in). So I really can't go wrong as far as I'm concerned :)
Good. Since you're shooting everyting in Italy and in PAL, convert at the end, if need be.
Since your DP has a converter I'm certain that you'll be able to find a simple and cheap way to deal with this when you've completed your final cut (by the way, that's where FINAL CUT PRO got the name).
By the way, this talk of the best cook is making me hungry! I feel if your story isn't taking place too far away from Rome you ought to invite me over for lunch!
Wolfgang – thanks for including Editing Digital Video in your list. One correction – Brian McKernan and John Rice did not write the book. The book was part of a series of books about video that they were supposed to brand. I co-authored the book with my good friend Patrick McGrath.
Of course!!! I'm an idiot – in my haste, and half asleep (it was past 02.00 in the morning) – I copied the names of the series advisors of the book cover and not the authors!
By the way, in your book I discovered my favorite definition of a documentary film.
"A documentary is a film without women. If there is a women, it's a semi-documentary," according to Harry Cohn, the head of Columbia Pictures, as quoted by Fred Zinneman in his autobiography.
I love that one!
Darla, I guess you better run out and buy this one (or get it on Amazon), 'cause Robert is watching!!!
Hmmm, Wolfgang, I was going to accept your previous apology, but now I'm not so sure... ;-)
What I mean is that it is so off the wall. I can almost visualize this gruff sort of studio legend, barking out a sentence like this. I guess you have to imagine the setting and the context to enjoy it properly.
Also, what he probably means is: "Boring, no sex, no drama." Or something of the sort. I must confess that I thought that it was hilarious!
I dunno. I like what Eddie Izzard said at last night's Critics Choice Awards after riffing on the Writer's Strike in purposely broken English:
"Documentaries are nice but not got car chases, so pooh. People who make them have no pants so please give them cash in bags or golden prizes like in running race."
Cool. Great idea. Doubt I'll ever have to worry about prizes but cash is certainly better than medals or trophies.
Ha! I knew RG nicked that Zinneman/Cohn quote from my post back in May 2002!
perhaps you reminded me since the biography is in my collection?
Hello all, my name is Leon Coleman and I write under the name Lord Baltimore. I know absolutely nothing and need a ton of help.
Long story short, I want to follow a girl's 18 and under volleyball team for one entire 6 month season beginning now and culminating in their championships in July 08. The owner of the club team loves the idea, has given me full access to his team, practices and games. I have enlisted the aide of a very experienced sound/camera man.
And by the way, if this is not the place to ask this question, i apologize to all...
Anyway, the first thing I need to know is if anyway has a sample clearance form I can provide to the coach and players/parents so I can proceed. After that I have some general questions about crowd shots, competition against other girls (who are not cleared) etc. Thank you.
(I posted in "introduce" as well before i knew about this room. sorry.
Google "release form" + documentary and you should find something that fits. Maybe best to check wording with your lawyer to be on the safe side
Thank you both very much. I downloaded the form Joe suggested and will do a google seacrh. This is sort of a daunting process. Once I get the girls, coaches and parents, I still have to figure out how to handle it when I shoot a game where that relates to releases from members of the other teams. Any insight or suggestions? From what I have read, if I film a sporting event and don't highlight the opponents, I may not be required to obtain their releases. Your thoughts are welcome.
There is a segment in my film where I will need to use many paintings from the 18th and 19th century. I plan to travel to Europe seeking images to use in museums etc. I have a DP that I will be working with soon, so he'll probably have some ideas – but I would appreciate all the advice I could get before speaking with him. How does this process work – obtaining images that are past their copyright from museums. Can I take the photographs myself, and rely on my DP to make them look interesting in post, or will I need a professional photographer with me at all times? If I can acquire the images myself, what camera is best? Do the museums have a special way of making these images available? Will I need to speak with someone at each museum in advance and have special forms? Any other advice I'm not asking for will be much appreciated as well.
Thanks so much!
Hi...Can anyone recommend any good Film Workshops for Directing, Writing, etc. in London England?
So, thinking ahead . . . now that I have my PAL and sound stuff straightened out . . . I finish shooting in mid-February, and I'm entering a contest with a deadline of mid-April. My DP can edit with PAL (he's in Milan). So, I have the choice of coming back to the States with PAL footage and finding an editor and cutting a trailer (my DP and I may log , but not sure yet). And then trying to get it in in time for this contest. Or, I can try to stay in Italy longer, and work with my DP to edit our footage/cut a trailer. I'd have to pay him something like 375 a day, but it may only take 2 days. . . he'll know the footage. He'll have the software and what we need to edit. (I won't need to rent a PAL deck here or whatever).
Does this sound wise? Moreso then coming back to the US with the footage?
Just running this by you guys.
unless you absolutely have the EXACT vision for what your trailer is going to be – and you are 100% confident you can get the interview subjects to say what you've envisioned – i have to tell you that it's going to take a lot longer than 2 days to cut a trailer. (i once thought the same thing, but 2 days goes so fast...)
theoretically, it really doesn't seem like it should take that long, but it always does. sure, you could cut a quick 2-minute trailer in two days but i guarantee you won't be happy with it. 5 days sounds like a much better estimation. if you are entering this contest because you actually want to win it, it's probably better to bring all the footage home and find an editor in NY or NJ.
Start looking now for the editor so that you can begin editing as soon as you return from Italy. Honestly, you probably aren't going to attract a top-flight experienced editor with your budget and project. but you can actually attract a decent (though inexperienced) editor for $200/day. 4-5 days editing with him/her will be roughly equivalent to what you would have spend with your Italian DP. If your editor is technically proficient, and you are very clear about what you want, you'll have a good chance at success.
I attended the Panico Film Course a few years back. It depends what you are looking for. The Panico Course is introductory and it ran on Sundays for 6 weeks. It cost me 800 quid back then. Like i said it's more introductory in nature and each week you do a litle bit of this and that. Super 8, script writing, visualising shots etc...and it culminated in shooting a little short in groups of 2-3 on 16mm. It was set-up in the 1980s i believe by a British group who have worked with Terry Gilliam. We had a talk one week from a guy who worked on "Brazil" and another week from Toni Grisoni who wrote Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas.
I don't live in London but for those that do once you have completed the course you can join the "club" for about 40 pounds a year and they meet once a week socially and you get access to a jobs list.
They offer weekend courses too that are more specialised.
David – check out the training programme of the Documentary Filmmakers Group
Thanks, Christopher –
So any ideas what I should look for in an editor. Someone who has the software, can edit in PAL, has experience with cinema verite, and whose work I like, obviously . . . but should I look on Craigslist? Obviously, too, it's better to find someone local, right? So I can sit with them...
What you need from an editor is experience and aesthetic judgment. A track record of excellence in cutting docs. Whether or not they have the software program or not. Editing in PAL is no different than editing in NTSC. The best place to find doc editors is to talk to doc filmmakers and get recommendations.
So I might be helping someone produce a series of art/music videos and he wants to know what are some features on FinalCutPro 4, 5, 6, etc. that aren't in FCP 3 which is what I have. At the present moment, he is curious about what can be done with titles (these will be karaoke videos with lyrics) and after-effects. So are there any major differences between FCP 3 and beyond that he and I should be aware of? Thank you!!!
And while we're on this subject, someone remind me of the difference between PAL and NTSC. What do they mean and stand for?
Hi and thanks in advance for your help!
I'm in post production on a documentary and most interviewees have signed release forms but a few gave on-camera permission. Is on-camera permission sufficient, in terms of getting E&O insurance, broadcast, distribution, etc.? Are there cases where that is not enough? Many thanks!!
not sure why you didn't get more response. maybe because no one knows the best way to approach it. if it was me, and i was SURE that there weren't copyright problems using those photos, then i would shoot the stills myself. i'd use a DSLR with 8+ megapixels, but in truth you don't need that kind of resolution for even HD video unless you are doing a lot of zooming.
the museums would probably prefer that you went through them, and maybe their photos are a little better, but i'm sure that there is a hassle factor that is worth considering....
Hey all! I have been shooting a project for over a year and a half. Currently it is at it's first watch able cut, I had a test screening, and word has been very positive, and I am excited about taking this project as far as it can go.
please check out the trailer on my myspace page: www.myspace.com/chokeproductions
once concern that I have however, is that this whole time, I have not collected release forms, but merely on camera verbal releases which, I was told, would do just as well as a consent form. Recently I have come to find otherwise. My question is, will verbal releases work? and also, if I must collect written releases, do they need to be for each and every person in the film?
for example: I am shooting a fight, the entire time the focus is one the two men fighting in the ring, but there are various faces around the ring and in the audience that can be made out...
I am perfectly capable to get the release forms from any individuals who speak, or play any kind of role. But for these others, do I really need to hunt down EVERY SINGLE ONE of these people, and get them to sign a release form?
or is there a line that is drawn about who I have to get releases from, and who I do not?
even if they are in the film for a few seconds watching a fight, and say nothing, and play no kind of role in the narrative of the film?
also, in the first cut, I use alot of 3rd party footage i.e; PRIDE, UFC, IFL, fights, as well as clips from Enter the Dragon, and Bloodsport...
is there any easy way to maintain the presence of these clips in the film?
I assume not, and I will need to take them out.
This film was shot for next to nothing, and I certainly do not have the money to do a legal battle over the use of clips...
any advice is welcome.
MAtthew, how far do you want to take this project? Basically anywhere you show this, you will need to get clearances for most of what you mentioned. But especially if you want this to appear on television or at a film festival or even any legitimate distribution website, you should get written releases for your subjects. As for the folks who don't speak but whose faces appear, that is kinda tricky cuz I've seen documentaries (such as Super Size Me) where such individuals' faces were blurred out, so I'm guessing they did not ask for permission for those people and didn't want to bother. And the non-original footage, you HAVE to get permission to include those clips, and (assuming you even get permission) you will often get charged to use it, which can get really expensive depending on the source of the footage. If you've got clips from major studio flicks, then it won't be cheap. If you can't afford to keep these clips in there, then I would suggest using your creativity to tell your story in alternative ways. This is certainly a challenge I will have to deal with, since I am a sucker for using news and stock footage in my documentaries, but that is so costly.
Also, I found this site which has free sample release forms and other film-making freebies.
logging on for a few secs in the US.
In your next-to-last postyouwrote:
"So, I have the choice of coming back to the States with PAL footage and finding an editor and cutting a trailer (my DP and I may log , but not sure yet)."
regardless whether it's for the trailer or later (to do your documentary) it makes NO sense at all to log with someone unless you are going to edit the trailer – and more so – the documentary with that same person.
You CAN'T log your footage with person A and edit with person B.
You and your editor (whomever this may be) need to log the video TOGETHER.
Also, as I've tried to explain to you previously, the editing phase is NOT a phase where you can attempt to save money. You need the best and most competent editor you can find.
If you don't have enough money now, wait and save until you do and then edit it with a good editor.
Does anyone else feel that the editing stage is in some ways more crucial than the shooting stage? That's the way I feel about documentaries.
It depends on the film. Cinema verite style films – certainly. Others not so.
for me, it's hard to say which stage is more crucial. sure, you can always save something in the edit, but if you've shot it well, it makes the whole edit much easier. for instance, there are a few scenes in my documentary where the shooter got VERY little coverage and so we are left with absolutely zero choices in the edit room for those scenes.
good shooters AND good editors are worth their weight in gold. having said that, just because you pay someone their weight in gold, doesn't mean that they are the right fit for your project.
Monica – usually you can have some luck if you contact the press person in-house and tell them this is editorial, not commercial, if this is the case: Europe generally views access to old pictures differently than in the US (sweeping but I'll get shot down by other d-worders here if I am really off the mark), so you may find access has to be controlled but will not be costly. They have credible security concerns, but some of the best collections are in small institutions that are not hard to deal with (Brugges is cool). The Louvre gets bombarded and I was told by someone there that many professional news crews, for example, behave very badly – bulls in china shops. Our cameraman's behaviour was complimented, though to my eye he was conducting himself with normal courtesy and respect for the other people visiting. apparently not the norm...
Explore also the images that they can make available to you without you having to go and shoot yourself. Several collections are slowly being digitised, though this may be limited to stills...
H'm. It only took me two days to start complaining.
The reading restriction (i.e., not being able to read certain professional sections unless you're a member) strikes me as the same sort of glass ceiling I ran into when I wanted to start technical writing. That is, I couldn't become a tech writer unless I was already a "tech writer". Even though I had written about technology for periodicals for 20 years. Luckily, the head of the department looked at my resume and allowed me to try out eight years ago, and I've done it since (increasing my annual income by several times).
Now I want to learn how to become a documentarian (documentiste?), but it appears most of the information categories are only available to those who are already professionals. Same sort of glass ceiling.
Isn't it possible to allow enthusiasts to at least read through the posts, just to gain insight? Just don't allow them to make comments until they've won their spurs? Yes, I have been using tags, but those don't appear complete.
Sorry if I'm missing something, and the info is really available to all. I really do like the site, btw.
I think Dale makes an interesting point. While I completely understand the rationale behind the professional forum being "by professionals, for professionals", is what's being discussed so esoteric that the rest of us, who are either aspiring or just fascinated by the documentary film process, can't at least eavesdrop? The last thing I want is to seem ungrateful because I think this site is great and the advice I've read to others is thoughtful and constructive. I just think the secrecy of the members forums is unnecessary. Is there a way to do what Dale suggests, where somehow we could read posts, but not comment? I have no sense of the technical side of this, so maybe it's too complicated to institute. Any explanation would be appreciated.
I'm working on clearing all the photos for my first film, most of which are old family snapshots taken in Italy. Apart from getting a materials release from the owners of the photos,I understand that the conservative approach is to clear every individual pictured in those photos – a monumental task given that everyone is abroad and scattered about. But what if you can't locate everyone? From a practical standpoint, I was wondering how others have approached this for their films.
thanks, sheng liu. Ideally I'd like a theatrical run, with a DVD distribution plan. But I am not done shooting yet, I figured I would just go for broke initially with my first cut, and then poke around and see what any advice I can get in terms of what I can and cannot do.
getting the release forms will not be a problem (I have access to, and see the subjects on a semi-regular basis) the clips I use however, will most likely be removed. But it's worth it to try right?
what would be my first step in clearing these third party clips?
I sympathise (never with a Z!) with Dale Archibald and his thoughts about access to the forums for non-professionals. Although i would say that it seems like the pros regularly post advice and responses in the mentoring room and also access at least at some level is free. Somebody put in the hours to spruce up this site and they did a good job and didn't bill me for it so i am grateful for that. I have been a member on other forums that charge annually.
I haven't applied for professional status myself but i might. Can't believe there isn't a box to check for Production Manager or Coordinator when applying for pro status. We do a lot of work
even if it isn't necessarily editorial. Although i guess everyone doesn't have the luxury of larger factual production teams??? Do i have to be an "other"?
Evan, it is a fascinating site, and I do appreciate the work put into it. And, as I said, I suppose I could use the tags to work my way through everything.
I could probably fudge and say I'm a writer (which I have been since 1970), but I have had little documentary or video experience (if you don't count a stint doing puppets for a local cable TV show).
Last night I took the Introductory course to the Minneapolis Telecomm Network, so I'm on the path to enlightenment.
I simply think it would be helpful to look through the seminars in a more organized manner, and you can't do that if you're an enthusiast.
On another note, I noticed the lists on one of the bookseller sites for video and filmmaking. Interesting, what with the books on various aspects of the craft, lighting kits and all.
Evan and Dale, I am just a 5-year member of D-Word, not one of the three hosts/monitors, but recall that one of the concerns when putting the revamped D-Word together this past year was how to offer anyone at all who is interested in documentary some sort of platform so people with some experience in documentary can share their support, solutions, and other help with those who are new to it. Or who want to discuss whatever they like. The public/private division has nothing to do with fees; it's more about protecting privacy and some of the personal information that members exchange. While it might never be perfect, it's a fix.
D-Word doesn't charge fees and nor does it raise money with advertising, but the hosts did initiate a voluntary fundraising exercise a while ago to help pay for the intense programming needed to make all the bits flow together better. This included a much easier to use public zone. Enjoy the freebie!
Dale, I have often consulted titles published by CMP Books. Their publications on digital video sound and lighting were recommended to me – probably all updated since I read them.
Thanks, Jo-Anne. I'll take a look at them.
I do enjoy the site, and appreciate the work and care that goes into it. I shall continue to graze around the edges.
To all who have expressed comments about access to the member-only areas of this forum, the hosts will hopefully chime in soon. But I can say that I don't think those sections are made private simply to keep the discussion only to professionals or to create a clique. They were separated more to provide a safe space for professionals to share their experiences and challenges with few worries of their comments being seen by anyone (ANYONE, not just enthusiasts). The public forums come up in Google searches while the private forums do not.
That said, I think a great solution would be for the hosts to send out a monthly or even quarterly e-mail message to all D-Word members with some highlights of discussions held in the private forums which could be beneficial to all without compromising privacy. For example, right now there is an interesting discussion going on in one of the member-only topics about house parties as a fundraising tool and it would be great for some of the highlighted recommendations to be shared with the enthusiasts who could benefit by this information for their first project.
P.S. Not trying to be too self-promotional here, but can't help myself. I am the co-founder of a doc organization called Docs In Progress. While some people know us for putting on work-in-progress screening programs in the Washington DC area, we also have two initiatives which may benefit doc filmmakers based anywhere and with ANY degree of experience. One is a quarterly e-newsletter we publish. It's free and you can sign up for it on our website at http://www.docsinprogress.org (next issue to come out before the end of January will feature articles on rights and clearance issues and a story about a unique approach to online fundraising). The other is a work in progress screening we are coordinating in collaboration with NomadsLand on February 17 where the filmmaker will participate via Skype. More info on how to submit is here: http://nomadsland.com/content/view/60/158/
Erica – I think that's a great idea, but it also sounds pretty time consuming for whoever has to compile that newsletter. Maybe another, more user based, solution might be to add another button by the tag,edit,help, etc. that basically makes your post available to enthusiasts. There could just be one public thread that is a 'members selects' compilation thread. That way it would be up to the actual author of the comment (or a moderator, I guess) to decide whether the post should be available to the world (of course the default would still be that every post is private). While I realize most members would still hesitate to ever do this, a good way of alleviating that would be to automatically make those posts anonymous in the public forum. Yeah, it's out of context for enthusiasts, but they would just have to take the info or leave it and know it's coming from pros. This may be enough to appease everyone (except the poor web designer who would have to implement these changes). Just a thought. I think it's definitely valuable to take measures to keep the public D-Word vibrant.
Thanks Jo-Anne, Erica, and Ryan for your clarifications and comments. I'm a curious guy in general (probably why I enjoy docs so much), so I'm interested in what you all are discussing. However, if there is sensitive stuff in there, I will be content with the areas of the site that are available to me. I'm sure that a ton of work goes into maintaining this site while at the same time keeping it free, and for that I thank the hosts.