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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
Thu 31 Jan 2008Link

Yes, well, I appreciate these explanations. I understand better now. Seems my dp would be the best translator, since his Italian is great and his English is excellent (and he gets the meaning of what these people – older people in a remote village often speaking in proverbs, etc...) are saying. But I don't know that I'm going to have him actually edit b/c after we finish shooting, I go back to NYC and he goes to Milan. I think it would be offensive to ask him to log/translate (obviously I'd pay him) but not edit . . . so I'm a little stuck. Well, not stuck. Just feeling in a bind. We're here for 10 more days and we've got a lot of good material (and information) already. I want to cut a trailer to enter into a grant/contest for April 1, so just wondering if I should cut our shoot like 4 days short and translate/log . . . edit . . . with him . . . (for the trailer, perhaps). I can still come home with all my footage and work with another editor down the road. This is only going to be about 20 hours of footage . . .


Christopher Wong
Thu 31 Jan 2008Link

unless your DP is very unusual, he shouldn't object to doing the logging and translating with you (and not the edit). he might object to logging and translating in general, but he'll certainly understand that you need to edit this locally back in NYC.

one thing to keep in mind is that logging and translating almost 20 hours of footage (or even 10 hours) will take a LONG, LONG time. for every 1 hour of footage, i would estimate at least 4 hours to turn that footage into a transcribed, translated, timecoded document – and i believe that is a very conservative estimate.


Wolfgang Achtner
Fri 1 Feb 2008Link

Darla,

If he is willing, you could ask your DP to do the transcriptions and translations for you. There is no need for him to log the tapes to do this. Otherwise, you might find someone else in Italy.

As I explained in a previous post, you should do the logging of all the tapes WITH the editor with whom you are going to edit your documentary because you BOTH need to be aware of all the video.

This way you'd only need to copy onto VHS tapes or a DVD with burnt in timecode (in order to be able to transcribe beginning end ending times for each sentence/paragraph) the tapes (or sections there of) with the interviews. You'd still need to capture this material onto a computer – and this takes place in real time – but you could return home with the tapes and your DP or whoever will be doing the transcription and translation could work at it over here and then e-mail you the finished transcripts.


Erica Ginsberg
Fri 1 Feb 2008Link

Darla, if you can afford a professional translator, that would be your best bet. It really is an art and the challenge with working with someone who doesn't do this is that it can go much more slowly and either not accurate enough or too accurate.

With Crucible of War, we had a lot of material, so split the translations of the transcripts between the director (who did speak the language while the editor didn't), two student friends, and two professional linguists. The quality of the translations was best with the two professionals, followed by the students followed by the director. He was simply too close to the material and his translations took a painstakingly slow amount of time and were too literal in text. Once we got to the point of editing, we brought in one of the professional linguists to work with us on the subtitles, both to help the editor get the cuts exactly right, improve the linguistic construction, and dare to lose some of the exact words to fit the space and still retain the meaning.


Darla Bruno
Fri 1 Feb 2008Link

Since we're specifically on the subject of translation – can someone give me an idea of price ranges (per hour, I assume) . . . and were you finding that it's about 4 hours per 1 hour of footage?

Also, do I need it written first in Italian, and then translated to English, or just written in English? I assume both.

Finally, the thing with my DP is that he really loves these people, and their stories, and he knows the context for some of the wacky things they're saying . . . so while he may not be a professional translator, I think he might offer some good insight. Perhaps I can just ask him to do the work (instead of cutting our shoot short, I'd probably send him back to Milan with DVD copies) and then have it looked over by a professional translator.


Boyd McCollum
Fri 1 Feb 2008Link

Maybe your DP can do the Italian translation with notes, then you can have that transcribed here in the states.


Darla Bruno
Sat 2 Feb 2008Link

Sounds good, Boyd . . . (Maybe I'm just tired) but can you spell this out for me a little more? So he'd write everything out in English? And then . . .

Edited Sat 2 Feb 2008 by Darla Bruno

Wolfgang Achtner
Sat 2 Feb 2008Link

Darla,

You need to transcribe the dialogues first in Italian so you have a record of what was really said and also to allow another translator to check the translation (if necessary).


Boyd McCollum
Sat 2 Feb 2008Link

Darla, along with what Wolfgang said, your DP would also be able to annotate the "wacky" things your subjects are saying (either in Italian or English). This is especially important if they are speaking in a less common vernacular.

Another workflow would be to do your translations first, and then send them to your DP to review and annotate. I remember reading that they did a similar thing on the English/Chinese translation of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, where they would send the translations back and forth between China and the US, constantly tweaking to get the best translation they could.


Lucia Duncan
Wed 6 Feb 2008Link

I'm looking for advice about how to film a scene that shows a group of tourists flying to a remote destination to do whale-watching. I'm thinking of doing this in two parts. First, filming the tourists in the plane looking out the window. Second, flying in a plane with no tourists, so I can ask the pilot to circle around a couple times in order to film the ocean/desert below. (Am I being unrealistic in thinking I could get this right in a couple of takes?) I'm shooting with a Panasonic DVX100b, 24P. Would appreciate any suggestions.


Erica Ginsberg
Wed 6 Feb 2008Link

How long does it take the plane to drive over the interesting land/seascape? Could you not save yourself time and presumably money by shooting both shots on the same trip by getting yourself a window seat for the beauty shots and then standing up to shoot the tourists looking out the window? Or shooting the tourists on your way in and the land/seascape on the way out?

Edited Wed 6 Feb 2008 by Erica Ginsberg

Matt Dubuque
Wed 6 Feb 2008Link

Let's say this takes place in Baja California, which has a mix of whales, desert and water. Would you consider renting a seaplane for the second portion where you give the grand overview of the whole scene?

If you are in fact doing it in Baja, you could probably charter one at a reasonable price out of Loreto and you would get some amazing footage, shot from a lower altitude.

Just a thought.


Peter Brauer
Thu 7 Feb 2008Link

On Second Skin, whenever we traveled to a location via plane, we shot tons of stuff out the window. Several of our characters took flights during the movie, so this stuff was really useful. You can get a lot out of airliner windows, especially right before landing and right after take off.

The whales raising young in baja are something everyone should see first hand. Talk about an animal that makes you want to save the world.


Lucia Duncan
Thu 14 Feb 2008Link

Thanks for the suggestions regarding aerial shots. Here's a sound question. I've been shooting with a relatively inexperienced boom operator. When I still had access to school equipment we used a breakaway cable between the camera and the boom/headphones. How do those of you who do not use a mixer allow for boom op and camera op to monitor sound? I have a cheap 8 pin splitter and I've thought of getting a 8 pin female/male stereo cable that would serve as an extension to my boom op's headphones. But I'm afraid the splitter might reduce sound a lot and the cables may cut out. I've been reluctant to use a mixer because I think it's a lot for the inexperienced boom op to handle. Would love to know how others handle this.


Kevin Morrow
Fri 15 Feb 2008Link

Hey, everybody. I'm a freelance photo researcher trying to find work in the documentary film industry. Can anyone think of a good way to find work of this sort? Even trying to find listings of documentary film companies is difficult, because they are usually in password-protected members-only sections of websites for various professional organizations whose membership dues are in the three figures!


John Burgan
Fri 15 Feb 2008Link

Welcome Kevin. You might like to check out Docs in Progress , a Washington DC initiative started by D-Worders Adele Schmidt & Erica Ginsberg.


Kevin Morrow
Fri 15 Feb 2008Link

Thanks for the good tip! I just talked to Adele Schmidt at Journeyfilms, and she was very helpful.


Susan Hoskins
Sat 16 Feb 2008Link

Legal Question: We sent out an announcement for our documentary premiere and have received a request from a University Library for a library order. We licensed all our clips, photos and music. Can we sell our dvd now? What else do we need to do?


Erica Ginsberg
Sat 16 Feb 2008Link

John, thanks for the plug. Kevin, glad you talked to Adele. Docs In Progress actually has an event tomorrow night at Busboys & Poets and would love to see you there. In the Intro topic, I also suggested some other DC-area organizations which would be worth the membership dues for you.


Matt Dubuque
Sun 24 Feb 2008Link

Has anyone read the book:

Kino-Eye: The Writings of Dziga Vertov?

It's at:

http://tinyurl.com/yrb48k

I just read a short passage from one of Vertov's articles he wrote for Film Truth magazine that was excerpted in Documentary: A History of the Non-Fiction film by Erik Barnow, an awesome book written by the fellow who used to be Chief of the Library of Congress Motion Picture Division.

The passage that I read of Vertov (about 500 words) was a real revelation for me. Amazing!

I don't think I can obtain copies of the magazine (because it is from the 1920s and probably in Russian as well), so I wanted to ask if anyone here was familiar with this book.

It's a bit pricey, so I thought I'd ask around before purchasing it.

Any thoughts?

Thanks!

Edited Sun 24 Feb 2008 by Matt Dubuque

John Burgan
Sun 24 Feb 2008Link

Definitely worth checking out. You can find second-hand copies via http://www.abebooks.com/


Fredric Lean
Sun 24 Feb 2008Link

Hello,
what would be the best options in terms of camera to shoot a shoestring budget feature length documentary which requires a lot of outdoor shootings following a subject discreetly in different local public places and some indoors for interviews- (pretty much guerilla/ news style)?

here are the options:
-Panasonic DVX 100b
-Panasonic AG-HVX200(P2 cards + camera =outside our budget range-unless somone knows a great place to buy it cheap)
- Sony HDR-FX1 (someone told me good but not so great)
-Sony HVR-A1U
-Sony HVR-Z1U

now i have been told, since the film style will be pretty much hidden camera style (almost) , to use may be a high end HD consumer camera so i can hide it even in pocket.
does anyone know anything about the quality of these cameras below:
-Panasonic HDC-HS9 (HD & 24p)
Canon HV20 HDV (HD & 24p)
Panasonic AG-HSC1
Sony HDR-CX7

any suggestions or help?

thank you


Joe Moulins
Sun 24 Feb 2008Link

for a no-budget production I'd go with the Canon HV20, recording sound to a separate recorder.
Something like this . There may be better audio recorders for the price, but any of these recorders should give you better sound than you'd get with any of those camcorders.
If and when you move up to a better camera, the audio recorder will still be a good and useful tool.

Add a wireless mic and you'll have a kick-ass guerilla kit for half the price of a z1U.


Chris Hinrichs
Mon 25 Feb 2008Link

In reply to Chris Hinrichs's post on Mon 28 Jan 2008 : Hello all! Some of you may remember me from the post linked above. For those of you who are interested or have some time to kill, I have overhauled my presentation, using some of the suggestions I recieved here. In order not to clutter up the Mentoring Room, I'll hide the rest of my message...

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Andrew David Watson
Mon 25 Feb 2008Link

Does anyone know of any job websites just for documentary projects? i have picked up a number of freelance gigs from sites like www.mandy.com www.mediamatch.com and local Craig's List but am looking for more documentary specific jobs. Thanks!


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