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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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Andy Schocken
Thu 8 Jul 2010Link

Hi Manoj. Are you looking for existing LGBT documentaries? I did a quick google search and found these links:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category%3ALGBT-related_documentary_films
http://www.rainbowsauce.com/dvd/docodvd2.html


Manoj Raj Pandey
Sun 11 Jul 2010Link

Andy thanks.I am just looking the future possible market for my film, like LGBTI film distributer,TV station,Buyer etc.


Amish Nishawala
Sun 11 Jul 2010Link

Hello D-Word! I'm going to India for 3 wks to interview my father's friends and relatives to make into a documentary. I have no experience with filming, but do have some experience with DSLRs for still photography. My filmmaker friend recommends the Sony ex 1, but I want something more portable, but still shoot in a resolution good enough for theatrical release (I can dream!).
I'm thinking about the Canon 7D for all the interviews and the Panasonic HDC-700K for hand held shots. I'm not planning to use any steadicams or dollys, just external mics. The guy at B & H said this would be fine but I should record with a Nano Flash. (Which I found out costs more than either camera I was considering!)
I was blown away by City of Lakes which was entirely shot w/ DSLRs.
Thanks!


Phoebe Brown
Mon 12 Jul 2010Link

In reply to Amish Nishawala's post on Sun 11 Jul 2010 :

If you search posts for "7D" you'll get lots of technical advice from this board. You might also want to look at the Canon T2i which is less money for the body and pretty much the same video quality. It is a lighter camera body but in your case that might be a plus. It does shoot absolutely beautiful footage but do your research before you commit--the biggest issue is that 12 minutes is the longest single take you can shoot. The camera reboots pretty quickly but you'll have to restart the camera frequently.
But again--search this board and the web and you'll get all kinds of technical feedback.

When and where will you be in India? Me and my small crew leave on Tuesday--also for a doc shoot in India. Maybe we'll cross paths.


Amish Nishawala
Mon 12 Jul 2010Link

In reply to Phoebe Brown's post on Mon 12 Jul 2010 : Thanks for the quick reply and info. Yeah, I'm not sure how the City of Lakes guys got around the 12 min limit issue. We'll be in Mumbai this December. Good luck on your shoot!


Nick Brown
Mon 12 Jul 2010Link

Hello all. I just joined this forum this morning and have been reading up on the last few months of posts. This looks like an awesome venue for newbies like myself to learn from others, so I just wanted to post a general shoutout for feedback and see what comes in. A buddy and I have been shooting a documentary about a local community opera company for the last 5 months and we're just a few weeks away from wrapping up the majority of filming. We had absolutely no idea what we were doing when we started this, and have been learning from a combination of googling stuff and our own mistakes along the way. We've been shooting on 2 DVX-100a's, sennheisier shotgun mics, and using FCP to edit on a suped-up Hackintosh system with about 200 hours of footage (I've been calling it the monkeys-with-type-writers approach). We're at the point now where we've got all this footage: a combination of rehearsals, performances, interviews, production meetings, set-building, etc. (about 40% of it has been ingested and logged into FCP so far) and it's time to start story-boarding the project. I was thinking of budgeting about 8 weeks (80-100 hours of evening/weekend work around the day job) to create the outline/script before we get into the thick of editing, and then 6-9 months of editing before we try submitting to a few film festivals. I figure we have enough material for an 80-90 minute movie about this group of people working to stage an opera that could be compelling – this is a character-driven documentary with some good moments of conflict, funny things, a look into the eccentricities of the opera world as a microcosm for how people work together, that sort of thing. We found some template releases off the web and have adapted those to have everyone sign them (that has been a struggle at times as two folks with career-related concerns have asked to review any footage that includes them). We'll also be looking to obtain rights for some archival footage of Leontyne Price singing at the White House back in 1976 that looks to be owned by PBS, so I imagine that will be an interesting process to go through as well. I do have some Fair Use related concerns as there are some pieces of dialogue we have that took place in a coffee shop with canned pop-music that can be heard in the background, as well as some scenes shot in public with folks walking by in the background. I'd also love general ethical/professional advice people have on portraying the "characters" in a film such as this. We have about 7 individuals who we're focusing on in-depth, and we've obviously had to forge some close relationships with them over the last several months to get them comfortable with revealing those dramatically-compelling parts of themselves on camera. I'm curious how others have worked to do an honest portrayal of their character's strengths and weaknesses under similar circumstances. We've also got some technical hang-ups from our own inexperience, as some of our footage was shot in 29 FPS vs, the 24 FPS we'll be editing in, as well as 4:3 aspect ratio vs. the 16:9 we'll be editing in. I guess just a lot of cropping and rendering work? And though we're likely still closer to the beginning then to the end of this project, any advice on how to submit to festivals and protecting the finished product would be appreciated. So far this project has just been the two of us, and completely self-financed with a budget of about $5k so far (any major unanticipated expenses I should worry about on the horizon?). Also curious to know what should be the most important questions/considerations we should be thinking about at this point in the process, as we've pretty much exhausted the "how to film a documentary" search results. Cheers and thanks.


Jo-Anne Velin
Mon 12 Jul 2010Link

Wow. First, good for you to take this on. You hit on many key issues in documentary filmmaking first time at bat.

My only tiny comment is that people walking past a camera in a public place incidentally are not going to be a concern, especially if the context wasn't controversial. Maybe others will disagree, but another way of looking at it is, will they come after you later? Will they hurt your chances of getting the film insured?


Nick Brown
Mon 12 Jul 2010Link

In reply to Jo-Anne Velin's post on Mon 12 Jul 2010 :

Ah, yes, thanks. No, there's no reason we know of that strangers in the background would have a problem with an incidental appearance. Though during this process, a stage manager at one of the theaters where they were performing mentioned that she had run into a problem once with a film crew coming in and someone they caught on camera was in the witness protection program and it caused all sorts of problems. Obviously we have no control over that, but maybe the best solution is to get a good lawyer on retainer or something (though is that even worth the price?) to deal with any potential issues like that? And that's also a hairy issue I guess: what is the definition of a "public place"? Obviously a park is, but what about a restaraunt? Or a theater? And what's this you say about insurance? That's something I've never read about needing to do so obviously I will... before or after submitting to festivals? Thanks a bunch!


Jo-Anne Velin
Mon 12 Jul 2010Link

The insurance is to cover getting sued due to errors and omissions by the filmmaker/producer. E&O. Google E&O documentary film – there's good starting material on that there.


Nick Brown
Tue 13 Jul 2010Link

In reply to Jo-Anne Velin's post on Mon 12 Jul 2010 :

ah thanks a bunch! that could prove to be very valuable advice.


Christopher Wong
Tue 13 Jul 2010Link Tag

nick, welcome to the d-word. sounds like you and your co-director have an interesting piece. it also sounds like you are in a similar position to many first-time filmmakers – lots of good footage, but not much knowledge about what comes next (other than a lot of editing). the d-word is definitely the right place for you to start learning...

i'll tackle a few of your questions, and let some others handle the rest:

1) regarding the shooting format differential, there's a really great (and inexpensive) piece of software called Nattress which does an awesome job of converting 29.97 footage to 23.98, which is what you want to edit in. for only $100, you get really great looking footage.

2) regarding Fair Use, you don't have anything to worry about regarding pop songs playing in the background of a cafe. as long as you don't use the pop songs in any "creative" way to enhance your scene(s), you are absolutely covered here. no need to buy licenses for the use of such music.

3) i think you have a good estimate for what it will take to finish the film, but you should really budget closer to 9 months of editing than just 6. things ALWAYS take longer than you think. normally, i would actually budget for about a year of editing with that much footage, but since your story is pretty chronological, that removes some of the storytelling hurdles.

4) you didn't mention the extra expenses of color correction, audio mix, and music score. i assume you already know about them, but those will all be fairly expensive items at the end of the game. Color correction averages around $10-12k, audio mix about $8-12k, and original music about $10-15k. and those are the low-to-mid-range estimates. it can be much more expensive depending on whom you use.

anyways, good luck, and feel free to post more questions. you'll get more responses if you just post one query at a time...


Nick Brown
Tue 13 Jul 2010Link

In reply to Christopher Wong's post on Tue 13 Jul 2010 :

wow, thanks Christopher, that's really helpful.
1)awesome. If it comes recommended for only $100, totally worth it.
2)cool. I remembered hearing a story from On the Media where a doc filmmaker got in trouble for using a scene where a character's cell phone went off and it had a pop-song ringtone on it so he got sued. But maybe it was used in some creative context – I can't find the story anymore.
3) cool. yeah, I guess it's just done when it's done....
4) Most helpful. I am embarrasingly naive about this stuff (though that's probably a good thing, because we might not have started it at all if we'd had a realistic view of how much work it would be). I spent some time last night reading about both color correction and audio mixing. I watched a few tutorials about doing all this on your own using the Color and Soundtrack programs in the Final Cut Suite, so I am thinking of trying to go that direction. I figure if we can use YouTube tutorials to teach ourselves FCP we can probably use them for Color and Soundtrack too? Or are they way more complicated to learn? As far as original music I'm actually pretty stoked about that. We have a few friends who do hip-hop mixing or are in local indie bands, so we were gonna try to get them on board to let us use their stuff for free. We've kind of been taking the approach with people that "this will most likely never make money, but if it somehow does, and you help us out, you'll get a cut of it." I know it probably makes lawyers' stomachs churn, but so far people have seemed to be cool with it. Though I do wonder if that may bite us in the ass some day...
Thanks again!


Matt Dubuque
Tue 13 Jul 2010Link

Good morning,

I'm currently outputting video in H.264 format with my Canon 5d Mark II.

I'm informed that if I import the footage into Final Cut Pro it will need to be transcoded. I know there are various transcoders available, including from Canon.

I'm also informed if I import this same footage into Adobe Premiere Pro that zero transcoding will be necessary.

I can use either program. I am comfortable with each.

I just want my end result to be the highest quality image and I don't want to start off on the wrong foot by introducing more distortion and noise into the process than is absolutely necessary.

Isn't it true that every time you introduce transcoding or format conversion into a process that you will harm the image, even if it is in some minor way?

I'm very well aware of the relative merits of FCP and Adobe Premiere. My question is only about this initial transcoding step.

The Apple folks tell me there is zero harm to the image caused by this transcoding.

Must I believe them?

Thanks so much!

Matt Dubuque


Andy Schocken
Tue 13 Jul 2010Link

I don't know anything about premiere, but I wouldn't worry about transcoding to prores for FCP (except how much *%&! time and disk space it will take). If you have FCP7, use prores lt, if you have FCP6, use prores. Nearly everyone using the 5d is doing it this way.


Matt Dubuque
Tue 13 Jul 2010Link

Hi Andy, thanks for responding!

I understand this is the widespread practice.

But given the very high compression of this H.264 codec and the distortions that inevitably seem to occur in other transcoding processies that I know of, I'm wondering if I might get a 2% (rough guess) better image if I import it natively into Adobe Premiere.

Because I am going to a very large screen, I need every tiny advantage I can possibly get.


Andy Schocken
Wed 14 Jul 2010Link

That's beyond my pay-grade technically. My guess is that whatever minuscule compression artifacts may arise from converting to prores would be dwarfed by a whole set of technical issues, such as motion judder or the aliasing issues of the 5d sensor. (I probably shouldn't tell you that regardless of the level of technical perfection you achieve, the projector or projectionist will destroy it at 98% of the venues it will ever play.)

That said, if you want to talk tech, you'll get a better response at some other boards than you will at d-word. Try these:

http://www.cinema5d.com/index.php
http://www.dvinfo.net/forum/
http://www.dvxuser.com/V6/


Matt Dubuque
Wed 14 Jul 2010Link

Thanks for the pointers to other forums Andy, I appreciate it.

Given the mulitiplicity of problematic artifacts and the overwhelming majority of 5D users who transcode their files, it seems plausible that some of those artifacts may be attributable to the transcoding process.

A point in support of that is that even though many 5D users were saying that some of the transcoding programs available injected no problems into the workflow, Canon felt compelled to create a transcoding program of their own, on an expedited basis.

If there were no problems, why was Canon compelled to offer a transcoding program of their own and why the hurry?

But I'll bring my thoughts to those other fora.


Peter Brauer
Wed 14 Jul 2010Link

matt, I use premiere pro with my 7D all the time. I would say not having to transcode is the primary reason why I do this. Also when you go to finish and export the adobe media encoder is a world above compressor. Personally I prefer adobe premiere for many reasons, but know if you want to bring in another editor you may run into problems.

Linda, don't assume your school will support anything. Mine never did even though I was paying 40k per year. I made a film about a video games and used tons of footage of the games without permission. We didn't paint the most positive picture of the games, but they left us alone. Fair use is your best friend. Learn it well, and you should be okay. Also if you do get sued you get tons of press. I would fly under your enemies radar until you are ready to screen. If you buy errors and omissions insurance before you screen, at least you will have an insurance company defending you from any suits.


Nick Brown
Wed 14 Jul 2010Link

In reply to Peter Brauer's post on Wed 14 Jul 2010 :

Reading Peter's reply about fair use tempts me to ask generally: what are the best resources for researching fair use law? I've followed it casually for a while, but it seems to be a pretty unsettled area of the law and fairly controversial. Short of hiring expensive lawyers to consult throughout the process, I'm curious what are the best resources people would recommend to make oneself an "expert" (or at least a very good b.s.-er) on Fair Use?


Peter Brauer
Wed 14 Jul 2010Link

Look to the http://cyberlaw.stanford.edu/fair-use-project and http://www.centerforsocialmedia.org/fair-use for answers most of your questions. The folks at Stanford may even represent you for free if you apply to their program. I did, and I can't thank them enough.


Nick Brown
Wed 14 Jul 2010Link

In reply to Peter Brauer's post on Wed 14 Jul 2010 :

Thanks, Peter, that Stanford program does look extremely helpful. Both sites look to be good resources. Much appreciated.


Christopher Wong
Thu 15 Jul 2010Link

USC also has a great resource. less well known than Stanford, but equally free...

contact:
Jack Lerner
Clinical Assistant Professor of Law
University of Southern California Gould School of Law
699 Exposition Blvd. Room 425
Los Angeles, CA 90089
213/740-9013
213/740-5502 fax
jlerner@law.usc.edu
http://law.usc.edu/iptlc


Daniel McGuire
Tue 20 Jul 2010Link

Funny, there's no "Making Money" section to this Forum. What does that say about the documentary world?

Here's my question. Back in 1997 I had a VX-1000 and I worked on a never completed documentary on Balinese Healers. One of the healers I interviewed was Ketut Liyer, who is a major figure in the best-selling book "Eat Pray Love" (Movie with Julia Roberts to be release in August 2010.)
I have an hour long interview with Liyer as well as a lot of b-roll that has never aired. I wonder if folks here have any ideas on how to monetize the material given the huge interest in EPL. I could list it with a stock agency, I know. But I assume I could find an editor to cut it together and sell a finished piece. Any suggestions? To give you a sense of the quality, here is a bit of footage of a different healer I shot at the same time:<http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h0ppvIGs5H0>


Jill Woodward
Wed 21 Jul 2010Link

Perhaps a way to monetize it would be to get the material out there with your name on it. This might result in higher visibility for yourself and increased work, for which you receive money. Do you edit at all? Do you own the copyright to the material?


Daniel McGuire
Wed 21 Jul 2010Link

I shot it, I own all the tapes, have all the releases.


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