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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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Kevin Hallagan
Wed 2 May 2012Link

Compared to the cameras you guys have been talking about, I feel foolish asking about the ones I'm looking at.... but I'm going to do it anyway.
I am going to start my first Feature Doc this fall if not sooner, but I honestly only have about $5000 in my bank account and have no car, need to pay for food, rent, etc. so I'm looking at most in the range of the Canon 5D Mark II or the Pentax k-5... Snapsort helped me narrow it down to those two, but something about it makes me feel uncomfortable. I know it's my first doc but I feel like these cameras are just unprofessional. I don't want to be seen as a student making a movie, but I also don't have a car so getting my gear from place t place needs to be a compact operation and I can't afford anything nicer... any suggestions?

thanks
-Kevin

Ps. here's the Snapsort comparison: http://snapsort.com/compare/Canon_EOS_5D_Mark_II-vs-Pentax_K-5


Kevin Wells
Wed 2 May 2012Link

In reply to Kevin Hallagan's post on Wed 2 May 2012 :
If price is a constraint and you want to use a dslr, I would suggest one of the cheaper dslr's. I love my 5D Mark II, but something like a 60D or t3i would work just fine (and have an adjustable lcd screen). Also, the Panasonic GH2 can produce a wonderful image – you have to take the crop factor into account, but it's a nice doc camera as well. For all of these you'll need an external audio recorder – Zoom H4n is great.

I would recommend a shift in thinking over whether a camera is professional or unprofessional. They are tools – if you can get something cheaper that helps you do what you need to, get it. People take cues from how you conduct yourself. And often times, using a dslr helps on a doc shoot because you are hassled less from police, guards, etc because it's unassuming...


Peter Brauer
Wed 2 May 2012Link

What Kevin says is right on. I shoot a 7D and love it most of the time. But the 60D and t3i is nearly as good as the 7d. Spend your money on audio. Get a good mic. Good sound is probably more important to seeming professional. Ultimately its not the camera that will make things look and sound good. Its you. Good luck.


Kevin Hallagan
Wed 2 May 2012Link

thank you, Kevin and Peter. time for me to redirect my camera research.


alyce ornella
Thu 3 May 2012Link

I shoot with the 60D and vintage Soviet lenses w/adapter (which are not the most versatile, and not image stabilized, but all I could afford). The camera is great. Like you, I have no funding at the time and largely shoot/edit/produce alone. You will have to put the most thought into stabilization and audio recording.

For sound, I wear a small 4-channel field mixer around my waist where I can run a shotgun mic (mounted to the camera hotshoe) and wireless lav, then output via stereo cable to the camera input. It'd be better if I had a separate sound person but I usually don't, and after a lot of trial and error this seems to be working best for me.

As soon as I have a spare $600 or so I will get an image stabilized lens, but I have no idea when that will actually happen. Get one of those if you can. I rely on a combination of tripod, monopod w/feet, gorillapod, and rail system shoulder mount (which causes so much pain after using for a couple of hours that I rarely use it).

Also I found with the 60D it's much better to work with one of those magnification mounts you clip on to the LCD screen, this helps you see much easier if you are in focus. I guess you could also use one of those small LCD field monitors if you have somewhere to mount it.

Get a 60D instead of 5D and invest the savings into the other things you'll need.

Edited Thu 3 May 2012 by alyce ornella

Jesse Zook Mann
Fri 4 May 2012Link

Get some credit cards. Buy the camera you want used. Make your movie. Sell camera. Pay off card. Thats what I've done for 10 years. Will be worth having a camera with XLR inputs – I synced 100 hours of 7d footage. It sucked. Bad.


Kevin Hallagan
Mon 7 May 2012Link

so what are everyone's thoughts on a Pentax K-5 with a BeachTek adapter for XLR inputs?


alyce ornella
Mon 7 May 2012Link

I had a Beachtek for a while. I never found the monitoring level to be very good, nor the level indicators to really work. The right channel blew out not too long after I got it. I get much better results using a 4 channel field mixer in a shoulder bag.

Edited Mon 7 May 2012 by alyce ornella

Joey Savoie
Sun 13 May 2012Link

Hey guys,

On the topic of price constraint equipment I was wondering if you guys would have a mic suggestion. I am currently using a 60D and need to buy a mic to accompany it. I do not want to have to sync audio :( and do not have a huge budget (but a semi flexible one). I will be doing almost entirely interviews both indoor and street interviews.

A friend suggested the MKE400 but I thought you guys might have some thoughts as well.


Raymund Gerard C. Cruz
Mon 21 May 2012Link

In reply to Matt Dubuque's post on Fri 2 Mar 2012 :

Hey Matt,

Your mindset is on the right track. There is nothing harder than patiently soaking criticism from your peers. Tears flow inside my helpless smiles when somebody bashes my works. However, what you're doing is the best way to deal with the harshness. All the confidence you need comes from you and your loved ones.

I'll watch the short film later on and give my comments soon. Keep that philosophy in check bro!


Raymund Gerard C. Cruz
Mon 21 May 2012Link

In reply to John Burgan's post on Sun 18 Sep 2011 :

Aside from the informative "THE CUTTING EDGE" documentary, there is also a film made my Gabriele Voss titled "Cuts in Space and Time". It's in German with English Subtitles.

The DVD is the link

It's great for both narrative and documentary editing! The director Gabriele Voss (along with her husband, Christoph Hubner) have been doing amazing cinema verite works. And they are also exceptional mentors!


Margot Roth
Mon 21 May 2012Link

In reply to Raymund Gerard C. Cruz's post on Mon 21 May 2012 :

Raymund, I confess I don't always read this topic but was v. glad I did today when I saw your glorious turn of phrase, "tears flow inside my helpless smiles." It inspired me to write a poem.

Apology Not Accepted
by Mrs. Wm. Carlos Wms.

When I opened
the icebox
to see
my plums
were gone

tears flowed
inside
my helpless
smile

Just thought
you should
know.

Show hidden content

Laura Moire Paglin
Mon 21 May 2012Link

Your words
So sweet and so cold.


Raymund Gerard C. Cruz
Mon 21 May 2012Link

In reply to Margot Roth's post on Mon 21 May 2012 :

Margot!

I didn't know my anxiety could produce such deep poetry. haha! Thanks for sharing. That energized up my day.


Doug Block
Mon 21 May 2012Link

What Margot said, Raymund.


Raymund Gerard C. Cruz
Mon 21 May 2012Link

In reply to Doug Block's post on Tue 22 May 2012 :

She turned a simple phrase from my reply to Matt, and turned it into a poignant poem. Brilliant!


Margot Roth
Mon 21 May 2012Link

lol. Doug was refering to the hidden section of my post, Raymund. We're happy to have you. :) (Altho your selfless read of his comment further seals your reputation as the kindest, most sympathetic D-Worder of the incoming class of 2012. Congratulations!)

Show hidden content
Edited Mon 21 May 2012 by Margot Roth

Raymund Gerard C. Cruz
Tue 22 May 2012Link

In reply to Margot Roth's post on Tue 22 May 2012 :

Haha! thank you for selecting me in the All-Rookie team. :) I will avoid these hyperlink turnovers soon.

Great poem by the way.


Kat Jarvis
Fri 25 May 2012Link

Hi, I'm a documentary filmmaker working on a business plan for the first time. I'm trying to find some good sources for finding out the marketing research data on the documentary film industry (and ideally broken down further to the LGBTQ documentary film industry). I'm trying to answer questions such as size of the market, demands in the market, trends in the target market etc. Does anyone know of any good resources?


Robert T Speziale
Tue 12 Jun 2012Link

In reply to Matt Dubuque's post on Fri 2 Mar 2012 :

Matt,

I'm confused. I watched your short, "Twitter Time" on Youtube (about 7 min 45 sec). It has excellent production values: camera technique, sound, color, sountrack, editing, mixing, credits, etc. I saw close to three minutes of text crawls around and across a black screen, with an engaging drum sound track. This was followed by a series of colorful and well shot stills mixed with video of people planting small evergreen trees in a forest, and a large oriental (Buddha?) mask, without any dialogue and with the same engaging drum track. This was followedby about a minute of very nice credits rolling. I didn't see anything remotely connected to singularity or Ray Kurzweil or Twitter.

Bob


Rebecca Rolnick
Tue 10 Jul 2012Link

Hi Friends,

I am new to D-Word and not sure the mentoring forum is the right place to send my query into the d-byss, but it seems like a good place to start ...

I am producing a documentary about a young Iraqi girl who has been in the US for 5 years (thebeautythatremains.com). I am eager to get footage of her village (in Diyala Province) as well as interview some of her family members, etc. I will not be able to travel to Iraq but am looking for a trustworhty, streamlined team (perhaps Iraqi filmmakers or reporters who speak English, or independent journalists, writers, etc who are still over there?)

I have traveled down many paths already – connections through American news stations, reporters, etc. – but have so far come up empty-handed. Does anyone have any thoughts or advice, or know anyone I could reach out to directly?

Any input would be greatly appreciated.
Many thanks!
Becky


Raymund Gerard C. Cruz
Wed 11 Jul 2012Link

In reply to Kevin Hallagan's post on Wed 2 May 2012 :

I agree. The 60D is actually pretty good. Most filmmakers here in Asia use it for independent film that have widescreen releases. What you should invest on are the lenses.

Edited Wed 11 Jul 2012 by Raymund Gerard C. Cruz

Laura Hoover
Sat 28 Jul 2012Link

Hello, all! I am a newbie documentarian..My film, The Strength of Strings: Appalachian Music at Rocky Branch, needs funding. I just made a Kickstarter pitch video..but I will need more than that> I am thinking of having a Bluegrass concert, the proceeds of which will go towards continued shooting. Anyone out there good with Fuindraising suggestions>? I'd love to get a pro onboard..like Steve Martin..Jackson Browne.. or other local musicians! Am I just dreaming..again? Thanks for input,, much-appreciated!


Daniel McGuire
Sat 28 Jul 2012Link

In reply to alyce ornella's post on Thu 3 May 2012 :

I'm very curious to hear more about "vintage soviet lenses" and see what the results look like.
cheers,
dmcg


Jill Morley
Sun 29 Jul 2012Link

Hi Laura, getting a "name" onboard is always a good idea. Definitely pursue them after composing a compelling letter. Best of luck!


Larry Vaughn
Mon 30 Jul 2012Link

In reply to Errol Webber's post on Tue 8 Feb 2011 : The Canon XHA1, and the XHA1s are cheap now used on ebay, just get one that doesn't have a problem with the firewire port so you can ingest the video into your editor, or get an HV 10/20/30 or 40 to use as a tape deck and maybe a stationary camera. I've also seen the flash memory card replacements to the XH series going for 1/2 of the new price on ebay.

I haven't heard about the color issues, no one has complained about the 70+ interview type business owner commercials I've made with mine. I try to white balance on a grey card which is closer to skin reflectivity that a white card or other white object like a shirt.


Darren Coyle
Sat 4 Aug 2012Link

My podcast is called "The Real Stuff" and it's a series of interviews with the makers of unscripted tv and film. And it's FREE!

A new episode is posting today – I hope you will check it out and tell all your friends to do so too!

This episode, my guest is Tyler Mathers. Tyler is an Associate Producer living and working in Washington, D.C.

Please check it out at my site:
http://darrencoyle.com/joomla/index.php?option=com_content&view=category&layout=blog&id=79&Itemid=465&lang=en

OR subscribe to it on iTunes. You have to search a little for my page, but it's there!


ilona zonnenfeld
Sun 5 Aug 2012Link

Hi all,

Im a producer/editor and working on directing/editing my first feature doc. I edit my own film as well as client projects using FCP 7 on my old mac book pro and i need to replace computer. Question is whether to get a new Mac Book Pro or an imac. The Retina doesnt seem to be a good option for me bc it doesnt have firewire ports and all my footage is on LaCie drives w/Firewire ports (no thunderbolt port). Retina also lacking a dvd drive – so not gonna work for me. I love the portability of my macbookpro which is why im tempted to get a new one – w faster processor, more RAM, etc.... But the imac is tempting bc processor is SO much faster, more RAM, higher graphics card, than the MacBookPro. specs on macbookpro are as follows:

2.6GHz quad-core Intel Core i7
Turbo Boost up to 3.6GHz
8GB 1600MHz memory
750GB 5400-rpm hard drive1
Intel HD Graphics 4000
NVIDIA GeForce GT 650M with 1GB of GDDR5 memory

Whereas specs on imac are:

3.1GHz Quad-Core Intel Core i5
2560 x 1440 resolution
4GB (two 2GB) memory
1TB hard drive1
AMD Radeon HD 6970M with 1GB

BC Im not a full time editor – i do a lot of producing – can I go w MacBookPro or would it be a mistake? Also, is FCP7 going to be extinct soon? I need to finish cutting my film on FCP7. How will this effect me? For new projects, should I be cutting on FCP10 instead? Are bugs worked out?

Thanks!


Chuck Fadely
Sun 5 Aug 2012Link

In reply to ilona zonnenfeld's post on Sun 5 Aug 2012 :

Ilona, you might look at the Apple refurb 17" MacBook Pros. The express card slot, which was only on the 17", lets you add additional firewire or ESATA connectors. I don't understand why they discontinued the 17" – it's a great editing platform. I think the October 2011 model was the last one before being discontinued.

In general, an i7 processor is faster than an i5 processor so don't go by the Ghz rating of the processor – you have to find independent speed tests. And even then take them with a grain of salt. Disk access speed is as important for video than raw processor speed (as long as it's a reasonably fast computer.)

I don't think you can buy Final Cut 7 any more, but it still works fine if you've already got it. FCPX can be useful for short web work but is not what you want for a feature film. I don't think you can get by anymore with just one editing program....


ilona zonnenfeld
Mon 6 Aug 2012Link

In reply to Chuck Fadely's post on Sun 5 Aug 2012 :

Thank you Chuck! Very helpful feedback!

When you say, " I don't think you can get by anymore with just one editing program...." what programs are most editors working on these days? And would you say most editors are working on a desktop or laptop?

Thanks!


Miranda Yousef
Mon 6 Aug 2012Link

In reply to ilona zonnenfeld's post on Mon 6 Aug 2012 :

Hi Ilona,

In terms of the programs editors are working on--I'd say that in my experience, up until the introduction of FCPX, the vast majority were on FCP7. But now that Apple has stopped supporting FCP7, we are in a weird in-between stage where there are still a lot of projects cutting on FCP7, but there is a sense that as the OS continues to get updated, at some point you just won't be able to run FCP7 anymore. So I think a lot of people are transitioning to Avid or Adobe Premiere (in my experience, mostly Avid).

Also, I am not sure that 5400rpm will be fast enough--I've always done 7200.

Right now I am cutting an HD project (FCP7) on a 2010 15" MacBook Pro, and it is working fine (although I should note it is a short, and I'm able to do it using one FW800 drive). If I were you, since you have to finish on FCP7, I might look into getting (or borrowing) a used system, possibly a desktop. My top concerns would be connectivity and drive speed. Because desktops have more connectivity options, and they are just more powerful than laptops, I'd say that usually a desktop model is preferable for cutting features.

Hope this is somewhat helpful.


Tom Dziedzic
Mon 6 Aug 2012Link

In reply to ilona zonnenfeld's post on Mon 6 Aug 2012 :
I'm currently on a 27 inch iMac running Avid Media Composer 6. I'm a big AVID booster as it has been and remains a robust and reliable editing platform for over 20 years. You can download a trial version of Avid off their web site. Having the i7 top iMac 2011 model makes editing easy with all the different versions of HD out thee today.


Olivier Uwayezu
Mon 13 Aug 2012Link

Hello to everyone,
I see Apple stopped to support final cut studio, Most professional editors use Final cut studio since many years ago, why don't we bring our voice up to tell apple our wishes (and now we are suffering into other software) ? I suggest the host of D-word can help us to gather our wishes and voice. May be Apple thought we don't need it any more.

Waiting to hear from you


John Burgan
Mon 13 Aug 2012Link

Much as we'd like to think that The D-Word has that kind of power, Olivier, it seems that Apple has made its decision about the direction it intends to take come what may.

Check out industry veteran Walter Much's reaction and also Walter Biscardi's thoughts on the subject


Marcus Torrez
Mon 20 Aug 2012Link

In reply to Rebecca Rolnick's post on Tue 10 Jul 2012 :
Have you considered reaching out to Kuwait film makers? There's a lot there and they have visa permission to go into Iraq.

Other than that, one might contact and Iraqi Student whose home for Ramadan?


Marcus Torrez
Thu 23 Aug 2012Link

I'm sure this question's been answered several times: What's the best way to secure permission to film a documentary? On screen Ok's. Since mine includes a lot Veteran Support groups, I'm running into an issue.

I'm documenting my experience getting help/lack of help. But the moment I call mention I'm making a documentary, they roll out the red carpet. The Military has always been like that. If it's going to go public, you're the star Soldier.

Can I just shoot first ask later? No pun intended.


Andy Schocken
Fri 24 Aug 2012Link

You don't need permission to film a documentary, unless you're on someone else's private property. You'll need permission from the people on screen if you want to distribute it. To get distribution and the E&O insurance that's required for it, you'll need to have written release forms from your subjects. Google "appearance release" or "talent release" and I'm sure you'll find some boilerplate versions. On-camera releases may be better than nothing, and they're probably fine if you don't have big distribution plans, but I doubt they'll be sufficient to get E&O for a broad distribution.


Mark Barroso
Fri 24 Aug 2012Link

Andy's right if you intend to ask a festival , theater, or broadcaster to show your film. However if the extent of your ambition is to show it on the web or private screenings, written releases are not required. In the US, you have the First Amendment right to shoot anyone you want in public. It's the insurance companies that demand releases (which can also be gotten after the fact). If you are in the beginning of your filmmaking don't get too hung up on getting written permissions for every little thing or person.

Others may disagree, but I advocate for exercising our rights to the fullest extent, particularly if the film isn't going to be on a big screen or broadcast.


Marcus Torrez
Fri 24 Aug 2012Link

In reply to Mark Barroso's post on Fri 24 Aug 2012 :

In reply to Andy Schocken's post on Fri 24 Aug 2012 :
Thank you... Yes, I'll publish/distro to the public. You definitely answered the question. Thank you!


Summers Henderson
Fri 24 Aug 2012Link

Marcus, be careful about recording phone conversations. Depending on the state you're in (including California) it can be against the law to record someone else without their knowledge. I don't know about Arizona. However, while it may be illegal in such situations to record someone else, that doesn't necessarily mean it's un-ethical. If you're phoning a health care provider, and you need to document the poor level of care they're providing to you BEFORE you tell them you're making a documentary, then I can see an ethical argument for doing so. You have to weigh that against the likelihood of criminal prosecution, which I would guess is small, but I'm not a lawyer.

In almost every other situation where you're filming someone (short of some crazy hidden camera scenario) they're going to know that they're being filmed, and will behave accordingly. They may or may not be willing to sign an appearance release, but that doesn't impact your right to film. Of course, if you're trespassing on private property, they can try to bust you for that, but the camera doesn't change that one way or the other. And of course, US military property is public, not private.

I agree with Mark that if your primary goal is to get the film made, then you should try to get a release, but don't be stopped if you can't get one. For professional documentary filmmakers, who are motivated by trying to earn money to pay the lease on their Volvo station wagon, it doesn't make sense to film someone without a release. Because they need that release to get E&O insurance, which they need to sell their film to PBS or HBO. But if you're motivated by a passion to document your own experience, then you can still make a film that people will see someday, even if not on HBO.

Good luck!


Todd Johnson
Sun 14 Oct 2012Link

Hi---I am working on a short documentary that has 4-5 talking head interviews. After putting up graphics to identify who is being interviewed for the first time---how often (if ever) would you "re-identify" who is speaking? Is the viewer supposed to remember the name if they haven't seen them on camera for a while? Should you identify them say the first two times they are on camera and then none after that?

What is the rule of thumb so to speak on putting up titles on interview subjects? I keep going around and circles between identifying my interview subjects too much and not enough. Thanks so much in advance for any feedback or advice you can give me. I appreciate anyone taking the time to respond with advice!


Tom Dziedzic
Sun 14 Oct 2012Link

In reply to Todd Johnson's post on Sun 14 Oct 2012 :

Todd, if I ID with a lower third I do it on the speakers first or second on-screen appearance. Sometimes a film may have a montage of opening comments and then the IDs come in after the opening as the narrative opens up.

The old rule of thumb was the ID should be on long enough to read twice but that has gone out the window with lots of other thumb rules. I prefer 4 seconds at least. I've seen many only 2 seconds.

If the piece is long enough, say over 25 or 30 minutes, you can ID again if necessary especially if the person hasn't been on lot in the first section. Sometimes you can get away from on screen IDs by having people introduce themselves or have a narrator introduce them (if there is a narrator).

Ideally the film should give you a sense of who they are because most viewers won't really remember the name but need to know what they do or how they fit into the narrative. Hope that helps.


Todd Johnson
Sun 14 Oct 2012Link

Thanks, Tom---Appreciate your taking the time for that feedback!

I think I'll go with the "old" rule of thumb, and do them twice. That seems to fit mine, which is about 24 minutes or so.

Thanks again,

Todd


David K Jones
Thu 15 Nov 2012Link

In reply to Lynnae Brown's post on Wed 4 Feb 2004 :

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Daniel McGuire
Mon 19 Nov 2012Link

I'm going to be shooting a project on a canon XA10 and a Canon 5d.

I will use one camera for certain applications, – the xa for run and gun, the 5d for interviews and tripod shots.

I'm confused by all the available formats, and wonder what formats would be ideal that would allow all the footage to be dragged to the same timeline in FCP7 and edit with a minimal amount of render time.

Right now I log and transfer footage from both cameras to Prores422.

The XA10 offers this option of quality:
Mxp (24mbps) FXP (17mbps), XP+(12mbps) SP (7mbps) and LP (5mbps).
Frame rates are 60i, PF30, PF24, and 24p

The 5D has a choice of video system NTSC or Pal
If I use NTSC, the
Movie Rec size options are 1320x1080 (30) and 1320x1080 (24)
(it also has SD NTSC)

If I use video system PAL, the
Movie Rec size options are 1320x1080 (25) and 1320x1080 (24)
(it also has SD PAL)

So the question is: What settings for XA10, what settings for 5D, so they cut together as well as possible.

And BTW, what is the difference between PAL 24 and NTSC 24FPS on the 5D?

If this question is off the mark, of if you can point out something I am misunderstanding, please do.

Thanks,
DAN MCGUIRE


Kevin Wells
Mon 19 Nov 2012Link

In reply to Daniel McGuire's post on Mon 19 Nov 2012 :

No reason for you to film in PAL unless you're shooting specifically for European delivery. Standard here is NTSC. Regarding the resolution, I think you mistyped – it's 1920x1080. Also, the PAL option would be 25p, not 24p, correct? Either way, shoot NTSC.

I would definitely suggest continuing to transcode both sources to ProRes – 422 is great, but you could probably do 422 (LT) to save space (if needed). Shooting 24p or 30p is a completely aesthetic choice. I personally dislike the look of 30p and shoot 24p almost exclusively. Just make sure to pick one and stick to it on both cameras.


Daniel McGuire
Mon 19 Nov 2012Link

You're right about that typo. But if PAL and NTSC are both 1920x1080, and there is a 24 fps both NTSC and PAL – what is the difference?
And what about data rate?


Kevin Wells
Mon 19 Nov 2012Link

Unless you have a reason to film PAL, have it set to NTSC. I don't know the differences between their 24p – for simplicity sake, use NTSC. It's not worth the time researching, testing, looking up the difference, when you have no reason to film in PAL.

For data rate, always shoot the highest possible you camera allows.


Heath Cozens
Tue 20 Nov 2012Link

Hey Dan, there's no difference between the NTSC and PAL 24p. They are both exactly the same – 1080x1920. And both record at a truly cinematic 23.976fps.

It's just a confusing menu interface. There is in fact no such thing as PAL 24p or NTSC 24p. 24p is 24p. To be more precise, it's 23.976p. Which is what film runs at.


Robert Goodman
Sat 24 Nov 2012Link

Your statement is incorrect. A camera set to PAL and recording in 24P will record at a frame rate of 24 frames per second. A camera set to NTSC and recording in 24P will be at a frame rate of 23.976. Film runs at 24 frames per second flat.

The problem will not be in picture but in sound. If your editing system is operating on 60Hz power then you should use the NTSC setting otherwise the sound will drift out of sync.

If you are doing double system sound the issue becomes even more important if you want to have the sound stay in sync.

It may not seem like a big difference but a .004 frame difference over 10 minutes is lip flap and a post production nightmare.


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