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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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Darla Bruno
Sun 6 Jan 2008Link

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.

Edited Sun 6 Jan 2008 by Darla Bruno

Eli Brown
Sun 6 Jan 2008Link

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:
http://www.kenstone.net/fcp_homepage/pal_ntsc_conversion.html
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.

Also:
http://forums.creativecow.net/thread/8/968020
http://www.2-popforums.com/forums/forumdisplay.php?f=161


Darla Bruno
Sun 6 Jan 2008Link

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 -


Wolfgang Achtner
Mon 7 Jan 2008Link

Darla,

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.


Azad Jafarian
Mon 7 Jan 2008Link

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.


Darla Bruno
Mon 7 Jan 2008Link

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 . . .


Christopher Wong
Mon 7 Jan 2008Link

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...


Wolfgang Achtner
Mon 7 Jan 2008Link

Darla,

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.

http://videoexpert.home.att.net/artic1/glosbold.htm

http://www.videoforums.co.uk/guide-glossary-77.htm

http://www.altera.com/end-markets/broadcast/glossary/bro-glossary.html

http://www.high-techproductions.com/glossary.htm

http://www.acvl.org/acvl_manual/video_terms.html

http://www.kodak.com/US/en/motion/support/glossary/glossary.jhtml?id=0.1.4.15.20&lc=en

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!


Darla Bruno
Mon 7 Jan 2008Link

Excellent, you guys. Thank you SO much!


Wolfgang Achtner
Mon 7 Jan 2008Link

For the log and capture process, Erica Ginsburg has a DSR11 deck; maybe you can rent hers!


Erica Ginsberg
Mon 7 Jan 2008Link

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.

Edited Mon 7 Jan 2008 by Erica Ginsberg

Darla Bruno
Mon 7 Jan 2008Link

Erica,

So you converted how? With your own software or professionally? How did the conversion turn out?

Darla


Erica Ginsberg
Mon 7 Jan 2008Link

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.


Wolfgang Achtner
Mon 7 Jan 2008Link

Darla,

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! :-)


Wolfgang Achtner
Mon 7 Jan 2008Link

Darla,

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.


Wolfgang Achtner
Mon 7 Jan 2008Link

Darla,

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.


Darla Bruno
Mon 7 Jan 2008Link

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 :)


Wolfgang Achtner
Tue 8 Jan 2008Link

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!


Darla Bruno
Tue 8 Jan 2008Link

Yes, it'll be good . . . it's in Abruzzo -


Robert Goodman
Tue 8 Jan 2008Link

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.


Wolfgang Achtner
Tue 8 Jan 2008Link

Robert,

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!!!


Erica Ginsberg
Tue 8 Jan 2008Link

Hmmm, Wolfgang, I was going to accept your previous apology, but now I'm not so sure... ;-)


Wolfgang Achtner
Tue 8 Jan 2008Link

Erica,

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!


Erica Ginsberg
Tue 8 Jan 2008Link

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."


Wolfgang Achtner
Tue 8 Jan 2008Link

Cool. Great idea. Doubt I'll ever have to worry about prizes but cash is certainly better than medals or trophies.


John Burgan
Tue 8 Jan 2008Link

Ha! I knew RG nicked that Zinneman/Cohn quote from my post back in May 2002!


Robert Goodman
Wed 9 Jan 2008Link

perhaps you reminded me since the biography is in my collection?


John Burgan
Wed 9 Jan 2008Link

Yessir! (smile)


Leon Coleman
Thu 10 Jan 2008Link

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.


John Burgan
Fri 11 Jan 2008Link

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


Joe Moulins
Fri 11 Jan 2008Link Tag

This should do it, Leon.


Leon Coleman
Fri 11 Jan 2008Link

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.


Monica Williams
Sun 13 Jan 2008Link

Hello everyone,

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!


David Blumenfeld
Sun 13 Jan 2008Link

Hi...Can anyone recommend any good Film Workshops for Directing, Writing, etc. in London England?


Darla Bruno
Sun 13 Jan 2008Link

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.


Christopher Wong
Mon 14 Jan 2008Link

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.


Evan Thomas
Mon 14 Jan 2008Link

David hi,

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.

http://www.panicofilms.com/courses/foundation_courses.php


John Burgan
Mon 14 Jan 2008Link

David – check out the training programme of the Documentary Filmmakers Group


Darla Bruno
Mon 14 Jan 2008Link

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...


Robert Goodman
Mon 14 Jan 2008Link

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.


Darla Bruno
Mon 14 Jan 2008Link

Okay, Robert. Sounds good! Thank you!


Le Sheng Liu
Mon 14 Jan 2008Link

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!!!


Le Sheng Liu
Mon 14 Jan 2008Link

And while we're on this subject, someone remind me of the difference between PAL and NTSC. What do they mean and stand for?


Marianne Shaneen
Mon 14 Jan 2008Link

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!!


Riley Morton
Mon 14 Jan 2008Link

Monica,
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....


Matthew Hickney
Mon 14 Jan 2008Link

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.

THANKS!

~Matthew

Edited Mon 14 Jan 2008 by Matthew Hickney

Le Sheng Liu
Mon 14 Jan 2008Link

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.

Edited Mon 14 Jan 2008 by Le Sheng Liu

Le Sheng Liu
Mon 14 Jan 2008Link Tag

Also, I found this site which has free sample release forms and other film-making freebies.
http://www.dependentfilms.net/files.html


Wolfgang Achtner
Mon 14 Jan 2008Link

Hey Darla,

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.


Le Sheng Liu
Tue 15 Jan 2008Link

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.


Robert Goodman
Tue 15 Jan 2008Link

It depends on the film. Cinema verite style films – certainly. Others not so.


Christopher Wong
Tue 15 Jan 2008Link

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.


Jo-Anne Velin
Tue 15 Jan 2008Link

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...


Dale Archibald
Wed 16 Jan 2008Link

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.


Chris Hinrichs
Wed 16 Jan 2008Link

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.

Edited Wed 16 Jan 2008 by Chris Hinrichs

Vicki Vasilopoulos
Wed 16 Jan 2008Link

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.


Matthew Hickney
Wed 16 Jan 2008Link

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?


Evan Thomas
Thu 17 Jan 2008Link

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"?


Dale Archibald
Thu 17 Jan 2008Link

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.


Jo-Anne Velin
Thu 17 Jan 2008Link

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.


Dale Archibald
Thu 17 Jan 2008Link

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.


Erica Ginsberg
Thu 17 Jan 2008Link

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/


Ryan Ferguson
Thu 17 Jan 2008Link

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.


Chris Hinrichs
Thu 17 Jan 2008Link

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.


Monica Williams
Thu 17 Jan 2008Link

Thanks so much to Riley and Jo-Anne for the wonderful advice! Both of you are always very helpful to me.


Matthew Hickney
Fri 18 Jan 2008Link

hey guys, I have a quick legal question. If I shot a sporting competition (such as an MMA fight) , what type of legal document must I attain from the promoters of the competition to have the right to use it in my film?

I have release forms for individual participants, but is there a separate form for business, locations, ect?

and legally speaking, do I need to worry about locations like suburban streets and intersections, small chain stores like bi-mart (small chain in eastern Washington and parts of Oregon), and things like gas stations?

if there is a separate type of release I need to get, links to the documents I can download would be awesome...

thanks guys, I really appreciate it!


Dale Archibald
Fri 18 Jan 2008Link

Sorry to act the role of a gadfly, but I guess I just don't see what sort of secret rites and protocols could cause "Let's show this to other adults, but don't let the kids see it." I understand there might be a reluctance to have everything on the site (e-mail addresses, etc.) available to search engines and spammers, but if forums are archived without editing the info is outed anyway.
So, as part of my learning curve, could someone explain to me what shouldn't be shown to enthusiasts? Without a complete description, of course? Or have a set of clear guidelines posted? I'd like a guideline as to whether I can put a website name down as a resource. I avoided doing so in an earlier post because I didn't know the guideline.
This is a marvelous site, one I came across by reading Wikipedia, and I've been looking for info on documentary filmmaking for some time now. I'd like to help it be better.


Doug Block
Fri 18 Jan 2008Link

Dale (and others), as The D-Word's founder, let me jump in here with a brief policy explanation. The D-Word has always been an online discussion forum for documentary professionals worldwide. We make no apologies for the fact that we're somewhat "exclusive" or "clubby". We want a place where we can converse with our professional colleagues rather than be bombarded by basic questions from students and beginners.

In recognition that we all have to start somewhere, we've always had a public area of The D-Word, where Enthusiasts, as we now call them, can read the many guest conferences we've done over the years, and to ask questions in the Mentoring Room topic. We definitely plan to expand the public area of The D-Word in the coming years, particularly as we start to implement video hosting on the site.

As far as determining if someone qualifies as a pro, it's somewhat subjective as one of the co-hosts goes through every registration for membership. If there's any question, he either brings in the other co-hosts for their opinion or asks the registrant for more info. And if we do wind up rejecting an applicant for the professional area, we always allow them to either make a stronger case for themselves or re-apply at a later date when they presumably do have more experience.

As for making Members posts available for non-members to read, it would greatly curtail the freedom we feel to post our opinions. Especially since posts in the public area can be googled by the general public. But we're very open to new ideas of how to make the public area more vibrant, as Ryan puts it. So it's good to get everyone's thoughts and suggestions.

Edited Fri 18 Jan 2008 by Doug Block

Christopher Wong
Fri 18 Jan 2008Link

as some encouragement to Dale and other like-minded enthusiasts, you can be a first-time filmmaker and still qualify as a member. i still haven't finished my first film, but when i applied, i had reached a certain level with my doc in terms of funding and some industry recognition (along with my other film/video experience) where the hosts were comfortable that i would add something to the conversation, and not bog down the conversation with questions that were too basic. so when you are at a point that you are ready, apply for the full membership. in the meantime, the members will still be ready and willing to post helpful responses in the Public section.


Dale Archibald
Fri 18 Jan 2008Link

Doug, thanks for taking the time. I'm really not checking out the incisors of a gift equine, just trying to learn as much, as fast, as possible.
It occurs to me that if the enthusiast/member difference must be kept up, perhaps you could offer a "guest member" or "trial member" listing. Have it for a short period of time, e.g., three or six months, and only allow it to those the Hosts approve.
At the end of that time, the person must show they've advanced toward becoming a professional: perhaps they've finished some paid classes, or have created and submitted==at least worked on==a 3-5 minute doc.
You might even put such trial balloons into a special area for viewers to comment on. Sort of myD-wordspace.
--
Christopher, thanks for the comment. I've been working on a film concept for some time. Since I'm a writer/editor/webmaster of over 30 years, I've been trying to master the storytelling/screenwriting aspects first. By the end of the month I'll start a class in Field Production, learning to use the cameras and mikes, lights, etc.
Since I'm sort of a "braid your own shoestring to start on" kind of independent cuss, I plan to self-finance my low-budget doc(s), although if I can land some funding I will be happy to accept it.
So...am I a filmmaker? I've certainly got the inclination.
I suppose I should let this lapse for awhile. I, too, don't want to "bog down the conversation with questions that [are] too basic."


Christopher Wong
Fri 18 Jan 2008Link

dale, don't worry, you aren't bogging anything down. and i admire your perseverance and grit. i spent 7 years just "training" – community college courses, internships, editing awful local car ads – so that i would be confident in my own skill (camera, audio, etc.) when the right documentary idea came along. i'm sure you'll be up to speed MUCH faster than that. until then, keep asking the "basic" questions...


Le Sheng Liu
Fri 18 Jan 2008Link

If I can contribute anything, let me introduce my fellow enthusiasts to another site if you haven't already joined it. http://doculink.org/mailing.html features an e-mail group where members have discussions on anything relating to documentary development, production, etc etc etc. It is still meant to be by professionals, for professionals, and they do ask that you don't spam the list. But as a beginner I've found it pretty useful and enlightening and if I've ever posted something too petty or amateur, the worst that has happened is that no one responded. No big deal.

But as part of my efforts to be a member here someday, I am seeking employment and actually wanted to know if anyone can recommend any job sites that specifically feature positions in non-fiction entertainment. This would greatly narrow my search to the kind of work I want to move into. Post any websites you know of here or e-mail me lesliu@gmail.com

Thank you!!!!

Edited Fri 18 Jan 2008 by Le Sheng Liu

Dale Archibald
Fri 18 Jan 2008Link

Thanks, guys. I'll check out doculink.org for sure.


Jason Boritz
Sat 19 Jan 2008Link

Hey Everyone new to this site.
I am needing to create revenue projections for our
investor and our lawyer for a documentary I am producing. I am
relatively new to this process. Was wondering if anybody had samples
or advice on how to properly create revenue projections for a
documentary.

Thanks ahead of time,
Jason Boritz


Matt Dubuque
Sun 20 Jan 2008Link

Hello everyone-

Does anyone know of online resources (other than Netflix) where I can view older movies and documentaries online for a fee?

I'm particularly looking for access to some of the harder to find, non-mainstream items, older foreign documentaries and films, etc.

No file-sharing recommendations please. These usually don't have the harder to find, less mainstream titles and I also want to respect the rights of the copyright holders.

Thanks so much!

Matt


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