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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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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.


Christopher Wong
Thu 22 Jul 2010Link

have you thought of offering your interview with Liyer for the eventual DVD release of EPL? probably would make a good DVD extra for them.


Daniel McGuire
Thu 22 Jul 2010Link

This is what I am talking about – a Time magazine story on the healer Ketut Liyer... http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,2005158,00.html


selina marques
Wed 4 Aug 2010Link

Hi,

I am fairly new to filmmaking, though I have shot a couple of student documentaries. I am looking for enough equipment to make a complete and reasonably good quality film. Most likely documentary. I currently have H2 Zoom (which I am not very familar with). I also have an old Sony camera, Hi8 and a first generation macbook. I am looking to spend under $1000 if possible. I have been thinking that the best solution is to invest the money in a new camera. I have a number of questions:

1. Is mini-dv a good investment? Currently, in Canada stores are not carrying mini-dv formats for cameras under $1000. However, I am inclined towards mini-dv because of their cheap storage format. Should I purchase a second hand mini-dv camera, what make and model would be best?

1.b. What sound equipment would I need to purchase?

2. Is the Canon T2ii a good alternative investment. What would I need for good sound? Could I use my existing H2 zoom? Would this be sufficient?

3. Are there any options for under $500?

4. What is a reasonable budget?

Thank you in advance,

selina


Daniel McGuire
Wed 4 Aug 2010Link

In reply to Christopher Wong's post on Thu 22 Jul 2010 :

Sorry to take so long to respond, Chris. Yeah, It would be perfect for a dvd extra, I spend several hours trying to reach a human at Sony's DVD authoring division but was unsuccessful. If I could find out who was in charge of making those decisions, I think I could sell it.
10% commission for the email address or phone of the person at Sony who makes those decisions!
Cheers,
DAN


Seth Shire
Fri 6 Aug 2010Link

Hi Everyone,

I have some technical questions for a small project I want to edit using iMovie, and I wonder if I may ask your advice.

I need to get the footage, from the person who shot the project, onto my computer. The person shot to cards using what looked like a flip camera. She claimed it was hi-def. I'm happy to edit it in standard def. She has the footage on her computer and she also has the cards.

I'm thinking that the simplest way for me to get the footage is for her to transfer the footage from her computer either directly onto my iMac or to an external hard drive that I have. I'm also thinking that another option would be to use a Firewire cable to connect her camera to my iMac and transfer the footage that way directly from the cards. In either event I think I should get the cards from her for back up. Does anyone have an opinion as to the best method for me to get the footage? Thanks.

Seth

Edited Fri 6 Aug 2010 by Seth Shire

Judy Lieff
Wed 11 Aug 2010Link

Hello Everyone,

About a month ago I attended a seminar by a Publicist who said that in the current climate it is wise to try and get a publicist on board before entering the major festivals. He said that because there is such a huge deluge of submissions, it's helpful to either know one of the programmers or find a publicist who has programmer contacts.
Does anyone have any thoughts about this? I've been advised by ITVS folks to submit to festivals as early as possible – is it worth sending in a version that is not quite "tweaked" to it's best in order to make an early deadline? Or, is it better to wait till you have the best possible version and make it into the last possible deadline?

Thanks for your comments.

Best wishes,
Judy

Edited Wed 11 Aug 2010 by Judy Lieff

Christopher Wong
Wed 11 Aug 2010Link

while it is usually best to submit the best possible version, you also don't want to wait too long to get everything just right. top-tier festivals like Sundance only have one or two open spots left by their late deadline. probably the best thing to do is to submit the best version you have by the regular deadline.

regarding the use of a publicist, that is the dirty secret of film festivals. programmers don't like to admit it, but publicists play a very large role in getting their films to the top of the consideration pile. this is because film festivals are constantly in search of buzz, and that is exactly what publicists are good at doing. and once a publicist gets your film into one A-list festival, then all the other festivals will soon come-a-knockin'.


Doug Block
Wed 11 Aug 2010Link

Welcome aboard, Judy. If it's Sundance we're talking about, I'd submit your best version RIGHT NOW. You're at a huge advantage getting something to them earlier rather than later and I'm sure they'll see how great your film is even if it's not fully finished (full disclosure: I moderated a DocuClub work-in-progress screening of Judy's film, so I know firsthand).

By the way, the Mentoring Room is pretty much for non-members. As a full member, this kind of question should go in our Festivals topic.


Doug Block
Wed 11 Aug 2010Link

In reply to Seth Shire's post on Fri 6 Aug 2010 :

Likewise, Seth, the reason you might not be getting any replies is the technical folks generally don't hang around the Mentoring Room. As a member, you're better off posting in the Editing topic.


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