- How to make a documentary
- Logging the documentary
- Editing the documentary
- All the posts about documentary making and the Colombian documentary
I am leaving tomorrow morning to Colombia to make my first documentary film ever. I always wanted to make a documentary.
I’ll be using a little consumer digital mini-DV camera (a Sony DCR-PC120BT, around $800). I bought it six months ago, and I’ve made a few small movies of friends and stuff to practice since.
Here’s an overview of what I’ve learnt so far:
- Image quality (lens, resolution) of a consumer camera is good enough for this documentary. It looks fine played back on a television.
- How I film it has a big impact on the perceived image quality. Use a tripod for many shots. Be aware of lightning.
- Showing the visual evidence is more important for a documentary than shooting pretty shots.
- Hold that shot! First lesson not to look like an amateur: hold that shot. Don’t start zooming, panning and so on if not absolutely necessary. This was a hard lesson but I think I’ve got it.
- Sound is the hardest thing to get right. As long as you point your camera in the right direction and your battery is ok and you have enough film, you’ll get decent visuals. But sound is very hard to get right, and if you get bad sound there is no way to get it good again. I bought a small $70 Sony shotgun mike that goes on the camera, but that didn’t really produce good sound either, so we borrowed a professional shotgun mike from a friend. The mike’s bigger than the camera. This may sound a bit exagerated, but it’s necessary. The mike in the camera (and even the outside mike I bought) just suck to the point of the sound being unusable.
- Editing on the computer is easy. I am using Vegas 4.0.
- When you’re finally doing the shoot, you don’t want technical problems. So I bought a backup battery and lots of tapes. I’ll start a new tape at every shoot, even if the previous tape was only half full.
- It’s nice to shoot little scenes that can complete other scenes (for example when you have a part that’s not usable because it’s out of focus).
- You can’t know exactly how the documentary will work out before doing it. (At least, I don’t).
- You should watch what you filmed every evening to get a feel for what you’ve got, and where the documentary is going.
Me and my girlfriend have found a way of working for interviews and such that seems to work: she asks the questions and points the mike, and I film and listen to the headphones to make sure the sound’s ok. We practices a little bit – I’ll report back on how it worked out.
We are going to film for about a week. Until then.