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Making a documentary short


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#1 Mariano Nante

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Posted 14 June 2005 - 08:43 PM

Hi guys,

I am planning to shoot next month a documentary short, which will mostly consist on an interview to somebody.
I am quite new to film-making; in fact this is my 2nd short (but for the first one I didn't care at all about photography).
I will soon own either a Sony vx-2100 or a Panasonic Dvx-100A, depending on the prices I get. I own a tripod and also a computer with Premiere ready for editing.

Could you tell me:
a) What should I get regarding mic, lights and stuff like that (taking into account that my budget is quite modest)
B) Any tips on how to light a scene in a dark room with one character sitting facing the camera. (or a good website from where I can learn how to do it)


Any input will be helpful.

Thanks,


Mariano Nante


Buenos Aires, Argentina
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#2 drew_town

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Posted 15 June 2005 - 12:33 AM

What is this short for?

Typically a lav mic is used for an interview. The cheapest wired lav runs about $100.00 at B&H. Is sound that important to you? If not then use the camera's mic. It will pick up much more room tone than the lav, and you will be able to hear the distance from the camera to the subject. So it won't sound nearly as good, but if it's not in your budget, it's not in your budget.

Lights? What kind of lighting design do you want? If you want to get by with some cheap lights, go to a hardware store and pick up a few incandescent work lights and bulbs. Then find some material to diffuse the lights- anything not completely translucent that won't burn. I've used sheets of velum before. If lighting is more important, you can start to look at some tungsten fixtures. Lowel and Altman brand lights are pretty good and cheaper than most others.

Equipment all comes down to a need/budget scenario. The more diverse and flexible equipment you have, the more you are able to do with it. You don't have to buy a lav mic or any lights, but as you know, they are needed to give your project a sense of production value.
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#3 Mariano Nante

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Posted 15 June 2005 - 01:15 PM

Thanks for your reply, Drew.

The short is not meant for any competition or festival; it is just to get started on some more serious film making.

About the mic: I don't know if the voice of the person will be crearly heard if I shoot with the one incorporated in the cam. I want his voice to be predominant: the whole short will be based on what he says. The other option is using a regular mic (the singing type), and plug it to the cam, but I don't know if this will give good results. What do you think?

About the lights: I am not trying to give it a very sophisticated look. All I want is to try and make it not scream "VIDEO!!!!". I don't want to much light, I'd prefer a "chiaroscuro" look, with one side of his face lit and the other one more dark. Any tips on how to achieve this?

Oh, and I'm not sure what "velum" means. (my english isn't that good :unsure:)

Thanks again!


Mariano Nante

Buenos Aires,
Argentina
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#4 Jon Amerikaner

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Posted 16 June 2005 - 01:11 PM

Hi
I shot and edited for CBS News for nearly three years. I shot many interviews, lit and not, among many other things. The best thing for a traditional sit down interview is a lavaliere microphone. The key to recording good audio is to constantly monitor your sound. Don't assume the camera will get it. Have headphones and always listen to the sound. You don't want to find out after the interview is over that your audio is not usable.

As for lighting, you will want at least two lights: a key light and a backlight. Place the backlight behind your subject and your key in-front of your subject. You will have to adjust depending on your situation. Make sure you evaluate your lighting through the viewfinder. A third light, the fill light, would be optimal especially if you want your background to be visible, if it's not already.

Lights can be expensive. Because this is a test project I would suggest renting a light kit. You should be able to get one for a day for a few dozen dollars. In fact you could rent everything: the camera, lights, and microphone for a couple of hundred dollars. You can probably rent better equipment then you can afford to buy for a fraction of the cost. That way you can get a great camera and if you?re not completely happy with it you won't be stuck with it.
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#5 Mariano Nante

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Posted 16 June 2005 - 02:07 PM

Thanks a lot.

Do you know any websites where I can find a sketch of the places where I should put the lights?
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#6 Joshua Provost

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Posted 16 June 2005 - 02:58 PM

Mariano,

Check out the ARRI Lighting Handbook. A great primer.

Josh
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#7 Mariano Nante

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Posted 16 June 2005 - 06:36 PM

Thanks, Joshua. Very helfpul. :)
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#8 Tim J Durham

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Posted 16 June 2005 - 08:22 PM

Thanks, Joshua. Very helfpul.  :)

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

Sound is crucial. Spend your limited money to make sure you get good sound quality. For lights,
you can buy three china balls of different sizes/wattages, three cheap light stands with arms to hang them from and you have a light kit for less than $100.

As for a lighting scheme, here's a set-up for a large room: if you think about the plane between the subject and camera where the subject is at the center of a clock and the camera at 12:00, you can put your key light (say 100w bulb) at about 2:00 or 2:30, maybe 6 feet from the subject. Next, put your fill light (75w bulb) at 10:00 about 10 feet from the subject, then put your backlight (75w bulb) at 8:00 and maybe 10-12 feet away from the subject and about 2 feet above the height of his head or less. Make sure the backlight is not in your shot, ofcourse. Experiment with stand heights and distances until you get it the way you want it. Try to get the camera atleast 10 feet away from the subject.

Then have the questioner sit between your key light and the camera and you'll have a pretty nice set-up. Keep his nose just right of center in the frame.
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#9 Mariano Nante

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Posted 16 June 2005 - 09:46 PM

I'll try that, Tim. Thanks a lot! :D
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#10 Mariano Nante

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Posted 29 June 2005 - 04:17 PM

Ok, so I made a lighting plan, but I've just realized something: the place where I'm shooting has no electric power.

Where will I plug the lights?

I haven't seen the place, so I don't really know if there are many windows or not. The only thing I'm sure of is that I'll be shooting during the day.

Should I rent a big battery or something? Should I reflect the sunshine with those silvery things (I don't know what they are called in english :P ) ?

Any suggestions?
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#11 Algis Kemezys

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Posted 29 June 2005 - 10:18 PM

Mariano,

  Check out the ARRI Lighting Handbook.  A great primer.

Josh

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>



Thanks for posting this. With this handbook you cannot go wrong.
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#12 Algis Kemezys

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Posted 29 June 2005 - 10:32 PM

So far so good. Good advice everywhere you turn. Lights , Camera......no wait ! Action has to follow after one has done a good location check. A pre location scouting will yield lots of helpfull information prior to shooting. If time is tight go to the site an hour early to scout around. Even driving in to the location is scouting. If you see something within 5 to 10 minutes that might lend itself to the subject matter..Note it. So for me finding the best place to seat the subject is half the fun. Esp if you can 3 shot it. Good >Wide, Medium and Tight shots that change the details as you close in.

I think I prefer a Lavaliere Mic. Listening is important as mentioned but it frees up the camera to move around if you do that kind of thing. With the Lav Mic one can jump big distances without worring about the sound fall off or the ambient sound might become a problem. I think in most cases with Lav Mic the background sound in never totally diminished.
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#13 Mariano Nante

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Posted 30 June 2005 - 12:30 PM

So far so good. Good advice everywhere you turn. Lights , Camera......no wait ! Action has to follow after one has done a good location check


Yeah, I know. Usually, I woluld check the location out, make a lighting plan and stuff. But this time is different: I don't think I will be able to go to the place I'm shooting in more than once, because... well, because of a number of things I cannot really explain right now.

I checked out some prices for renting batteries and I'm guessing I'll have to rent like 10 or 12 of those (12 V 7,5 A), which will cost a lot...

By the way, I only have one battery for my Sony vx-2100, and that obviously won't be enough. Can I plug it into a 12v battery? (excuse me if this question is really stupid, but I don't know a thing about electrical stuff :P )

Thanks
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#14 Chien Huey

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Posted 30 June 2005 - 10:07 PM

I checked out some prices for renting batteries and I'm guessing I'll have to rent like 10 or 12 of those (12 V 7,5 A), which will cost a lot...

By the way, I only have one battery for my Sony vx-2100, and that obviously won't be enough. Can I plug it into a 12v battery? (excuse me if this question is really stupid, but I don't know a thing about electrical stuff :P )

Thanks

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>


As far as batteries go, I don't know how to rig batteries to power lights. I have used a UPS (Uninterruptable Power Supply - used to power computers during power outages) to power a light. But this was for only one shot where I mounted the UPS on a dolly. Unfortunately, the UPS won't last for hours with two lights continuously plugged into it.

As for the VX2100, I don't recommend rigging batteries for it. I don't know if the rental shops rent camera batteries, but if you can rent a couple. While you're at it, you should get a separate battery charger. The VX2100 requires you to charge the battery using the camera. So really, unless you had the external charger - you're limited to the running time of all your batteries before you have to recharge. With the charger, you put one battery on and then charge the other one and switch.

Chien Huey
Student & Aspiring DP

Edited by Fast Chieney, 30 June 2005 - 10:08 PM.

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#15 Mariano Nante

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Posted 02 July 2005 - 01:00 PM

The VX2100 requires you to charge the battery using the camera. So really, unless you had the external charger - you're limited to the running time of all your batteries before you have to recharge. With the charger, you put one battery on and then charge the other one and switch.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>



Yeah, I have the external charger, but I'll be shooting in an appartment with no electrical power, so I won't be able to charge the battery while I'm using the cam. I found a place here where I can rent a 6-hour battery for 30 pesos (10 dollars), so I guess I will rent a couple there.

Thanks for your reply.

By the way, do you know if the NP-F970 work with the 2100?
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Visual Products

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Tai Audio

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Ritter Battery

Aerial Filmworks

CineLab

Glidecam

Abel Cine

Technodolly

FJS International, LLC

Opal