Documentary Equipments (Viewer Mail 1)
Her Mail:
Hi Al,

I saw your Youtube channel and first let me say you have a bright future in film! I am a screenwriter and now I have turned my attention to making a short documentary film on a neurological condition I had brain surgery for last Nov. I hope to enter it into film festivals to create awareness and to eventually raise money for the condition which iscalled a Chiari Malformation. My budget so far is 5k but I am getting donations weekly and hope to raise 8k when all is said and done. I really feel with the right guidance I can get all my equipment for under 3K and the rest can be used for travel/marketing/post production work. I am getting a Macbook Pro and need advice. I am doingthe documentary mostly interview style with patients (including children)who haveChiari and doctors mixed withcreative B-rolls to break up the interview clips. The movie will probably be 30 minutes or a little less. Any tips on the best economical HDcameras to use with Macbook Pro with 13inch monitorand with Final Cut editing software. Also, what about external Hard drives - any advice? And any tips on the best lens to use to establish that warm and inviting feeling? I think I want that to be the tone since we are dealing with children. Any advice would beso appreciatedand thanks for the great website!!!
With Gratitude
Vicky


My Response:
Hi Victoria,

Alright, for a 3k equipment budget you might not be able to buy much, but you will be able to get a decent camera and computer. You can also find ways to buy them for cheap. Below are links to provide visual examples, click on them to see what I'm talking about. Also don't just stop at my suggestions, try to find ways to get them cheaper but in good condition. I save a lot of money by bargaining, trading and researching.

For a documentary that would not require too much editing and is mostly linear, with simple video color correcting, titling and sound mixing I would go with either the middle or lower range macbook pros. That would run you between $1100 to $1500.

I would also consider bigger internal harddrive than the default one or at least an external harddrive since you are dealing with HD clips that you probably want to be as high quality as possible. That's about $50 to $100. I would recommend Western Digital, That's what I've been using and I like them. You can also look at SeaGate.

For camera, I would go with either a canon t2i, a canon t3i or a canon 60D. The t3i or 60D are mostly for the swivel screen and longer recording time per session, but since you are not going to be moving too much, shooting low angles, or record for a long period of time at once, the t2i is great and cheap and has proven itself to be remarkable with the right usage. I recommend DSLR's because they are easy to carry if you don't have a crew, can changes lenses easily and look amazing for the documentary style. And I recommend Canon because they seem to have the best experience with DSLR video. If it were for big compact "video" cameras, I would have recommended Panasonic.

Now the MOST important part of the documentary filming is going to be your lighting and your lens. First the lighting. Get some soft-boxes, at least 2. a back light, and a reflector. If you want you can get an overhead light or soft-box but that would not be necessary. For the soft-boxes, the ones with the fluorescent(squiggly) lightbulbs are preferable, because they are easily replaceable and cheaper. (Tip: To best take advantage of the visuals, experiment with locations, walls and places to find the ideal backdrop for your interviews, unless you want to go the GreenScreen route).
Lenses are like brushes and pencils, there is no best lens but to get a really good quality you would have to go with either Canon, Tamrom or Sigma. find some ranging between f1.4 to f2.8 and, since you're going to be steady and at a close distance to your subject anything between 17-50mm to 150mm should be fine. Play around with the shutter speed and ISO, but for best looking images, put your ISO to 400 outdoors or 800 indoors and adjust your shutter speed accordingly. For changing environments you can put your ISO in auto, but it's all practice, trial and error. Experiment. Look into Digital Macro filters if you want to get some extreme needle or water drip close-ups or whatever.

Production tips: shoot with flat color settings, you'll adjust in post, find tutorials on ways to improve you camera's footage and how to manage it in editing (I suggest Dod3032). Experiment with the lighting and the environments way in advance to know exactly what to look for and how to capture it (unless you don't have pre-shooting access).

Audio: Get an external mic like the H4n or lower models or Lavalier mics. I personally have the h4n and it think it's best, but a lot of interviews use the Lavalier.

Well, that's about all I can think of, let me know if you have any other questions.

PS: Keep in mind I'm thinking in terms of a simple HD documentary with very little visual effects. I'm not considering later projects that might require more computer power and more lighting equipment. Again, research to get them for cheap, there are ways.


Pss :) Thanks for the kind compliments.

regards,
Al Delcy


Links:

Canon T2i:


Close-up shots:


Why Softboxes? here's why:





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