View Full Version : what equipment do I really need to film a doc?

02-10-2005, 01:23 PM
Obviously the Camera ($3200+), anamorphic lens ($500), a nice boom mic (500+), a DV rig Pro for steady cam usage (500+), and a tripod. What am I missing? I'll have a camera operator, a person to hand out the waivers, and myself on location at a trade show, and conduct interviews at a hotel. What crew/equipment am i missing?

02-11-2005, 04:20 AM


02-11-2005, 10:38 AM
haha, what? I was asking for more than just audio help.

02-11-2005, 01:23 PM
Just my stupid little glib way of saying you need someone for sound and are gonna need more than boom mic for audio.

To get broadcast quality audio you are gonna need to spend at least the same you will spend on the camera. You can put together a cheap package for less (maybe $2000) but your audio will suffer significantly.

Lastly you are gonna need someone taking care of audio and they need to know what they are doing; not just a PA who is handed the boom.

Outside audio you are gonna need a quality case to carry camera in ($300), spare batteries ($100-$200), and some filters ($100).

I dont really know that you need a anamorphic lens unless you really feel the project needs it (in that case you might consider another camera like the XL2).

Good luck

02-11-2005, 02:08 PM
i know this has sort have become the wrong board now, but what on site audio tools will I need?

I want the anamorphic lens for proper widescreening.

02-13-2005, 10:12 AM
I donīt think that you need a anamorphic adaptor too.
I invest (over Ana Adaptor) in a lav mic, shootgun mic and boom, a good light kit.

02-13-2005, 08:45 PM
you think it's better just to crop from 4:3?

02-13-2005, 09:10 PM
I think (just my opinion) that if you haven't bought your camera and you feel 16x9 is what you want, you should consider buying a different camera that has a 16x9 chip(XL2 for example).

Most docs do not use 16x9 and it really isn't necessary. It's a great aspect ratio for cinema but truely unnecessary for anything else. Television is still very much a 4x3 world and probably will be as long as SD is still the standard. The choice is yours but just be sure why you are choosing 16x9 if you do.

If you NEED 16x9 and buy a 4x3 camerea like the DVX100 then yes an anamorphic lens is good idea.

Best of luck

02-13-2005, 09:59 PM
I suppose you're right, 16:9 is just great in theory, i'd like to push the visuals...

02-24-2005, 06:14 PM
Yeah, you need really good mics and extra batteries (for the camera and everything else). I recently shot at a trade show and the background noise was unbelievable. The lavs saved my life! An on camera light would be good too for shooting around booths that are a bit shaded.

03-03-2005, 04:36 PM
don't forget that the AG-DVX100A has 16:9 support. Whee!

[I've lurked here in the past. A new registrant, though. So, howdy to all. And, Giddy up!]


Aaron Koolen
03-21-2005, 02:15 PM
Yes get a lav. Also a lav means you have the ability to do without a sound guy if you're in a bind and it's just you or you and a director/producer. Just clip on the interviewee and you're away. Monitor the sound with headphones....Hmm, yes headphones is something you'll need. Some good ones.

Sean Michael
03-21-2005, 03:46 PM
This topic is of great interest to me... I'm also plannng a documentary (my first). Although I really prefer 16:9, I'm going to shoot in 4:3 because I've chosen the DVX over the XL2.

you are gonna need someone taking care of audio and they need to know what they are doing; not just a PA who is handed the boom

I have a AT shotgun mic on the way, and will get the lavs too. Do I REALLY need an audio guy to capture decent sound? In a perfect world that would be great. But for a "guerilla-budget" documentary, can a couple of good mics do the trick?

03-21-2005, 04:02 PM
Your gonna to need some lights at some point. Poor lighting will not enhance the interviewee nor the viewers enjoyment. Check out Walter Graffs WEB site for some nice lighting tips. It makes a big difference.

A few small L-Lights some CTB gel, stands sand bags and extension cords should help. A dimmer or two would come in handy. Many times you can use exsisting light from window or practicals but your modest light kit will help when these things are not available.

Good lighting , good sound, good composition and photography will help you capture what ever good things they have to say. Get lots of B-Roll and go to town editing.

03-21-2005, 04:28 PM
I have a AT shotgun mic on the way, and will get the lavs too. Do I REALLY need an audio guy to capture decent sound? In a perfect world that would be great. But for a "guerilla-budget" documentary, can a couple of good mics do the trick?
Simple answer...yes and no.

Some documentaries don't even need a cameraman, just an editor and some archival footeage. It really depends on what you are trying to do.

If you are doing simple 3 point lighting sit down interview in a controled environment then you can pull together some pretty decent sound by yourself.

If you are trying to capture something more complicated, then decent mics with someone who is a sound novice is playing russian rolette with your sound. Sometimes you will get some great sound, other times you are gonna end up with unusable crap. None of which you will know until you are in the editing room.

If you are working with some partners you can have one of them take on the sound duties. He (or she) can do some quick training and practice. Invest a couple thousand in sound equipment and you will MAYBE be able to pull something off. If you or your dedicated sound person has sound questions, this website has a great audio forum for you to get answers. :)

Best of luck

Sean Michael
03-21-2005, 07:07 PM
I'm in the process of assembling my equipment. I've ordered a DVX100a to complement my Canon XL1, plus an AT897 shotgun mic. Next I'll get some lavs and the lighting kit.

I want to do this "on the cheap" without it looking cheap. :laugh:

I will definitely pick up a lighting kit. At NYFA we used a Lowell 3-point kit. Any preferred source for one of these Lowell kits (or is there a better kit you might recommend)?

03-21-2005, 08:42 PM
If you're going to go with Lowell lights, I would look at the Riffa 55 kit. It gives you tremendous flexibility, although you might not need everything right off the bat.

I'm not sure why you would keep the XL1... I'm a Canon guy and own the XL2 but I would never shoot with an XL1 if I had a DVX available to me. If I were you I would probably sell the XL1 and use that to help fund other purchases.

Just a thought...


Sean Michael
03-21-2005, 09:28 PM
Thanks Matt, I will look into the Riffa 55 kit.

You're probably right about selling the XL1. I guess it'll go on eBay. After much gnashing of teeth, I chose the DVX over the XL2...but I reserve the right to be wrong. :undecided: The key issue for me is that I'll be doing another NY Film Academy workshop later this year, and NYFA uses the DVX. I simply think I'll be more proficient using that camera, though I'll miss the native 16:9 of the XL2!

Any other equipment I should put on my documentary "must have" shopping list?

03-22-2005, 12:38 AM
A lighting kit can even be a couple of simple reflector lamps from a hardware store, the type with the spring clamps in back, some photo bulbs, frost gel, spun, CTB gel, clothes pins,

that's maybe around $50 worth of stuff.

It doesn't seem pro but it'll work out great once you experiment and learn to use it well.

Robert Rodriguez did his 1st movie, El Mariachi with just 2 of these lamps and it helped make him a top Hollywood director.

Jim Brennan
03-22-2005, 03:07 PM
I use clip on lights a lot, but I get BROODER lamps. They look like regular clip on relectors, but they have a ceramic fixture. The plastic ones can only take a bulb up to 100w. The ceramic ones can go up to 300w. I use 75w halogen bulbs in them (Flood, not spot) from home depot all the time, but it's nice to be able to pop in a 200w practical without worrying about the fixture melting.

I also use 18 inch China Lanterns for interviews a lot. Nice, soft light. Nice cheap price. Plus, they are portable.

I also picked up some cool dimmers at Ikea. One end plugs into the socket, with the plug for your light right behind it. The other end of the cord (about 8'?) has a slider on it which dims the light. You have to watch your color temp, but if you white balance after, it can come in very handy. I think they were about 12 bucks.

Somebody also recently posted about gluing c-47's to magnets and using them on reflectors to hold cinefoil, diffusers, or whatever. I haven't tried that, but I will.

I like being portable in doc work. The less gear you need, the quicker you can move to where you want to be.

03-23-2005, 06:51 PM
As always, it depends on what you're going to shoot.

I shot a feature-length doc this fall by myself one-man-band style, and I used this as my basic setup:

DVRigPro (I *love* this thing for long verite-style shooting)
5 DVXUser.com batteries
UV filter to protect glass
0.7x Wide Angle Lens (rented as needed)
AT 101 (?) wireless lav mic
Countryman wired lav
Headphones (I should have gotten better ones)
Sennheiser MKH416 shotgun
Mic Holder with rubber bands and hotshoe attachment
3 XLR cables (1.5', 3', 15')
Wind screen (although I basically never used this)
Lowel id-light (I did a lot of shooting in a dark, dark club, and this light is dimmable)
Bescor 12V battery
Cases (tripod, camera, DVRig Pro)

For sitdown interviews, I used a tripod, the wired lav on one audio channel, and the shotgun mounted on the camera as backup on the other audio channel. Some folks will use a wireless for interviews, but I didn't trust it.

For verite shooting, I used the DVRigPro, the wireless lav on my principal subject, and the shotgun mounted on the camera for everyone else. This was obviously less than ideal at times, because I had to point the camera at someone to get better sound from him or her, but it worked pretty well for me. I tested cheaper mics than the MKH416, though, and I think it would not have worked with them. I have been consistently amazed while editing at what the 416 was able to capture.

Count me as a person who doesn't think that an anamorphic lens is necessary; I've heard annoying things about auto focus with it, and it would have gotten in the way too much for me. I certainly would have liked to shoot 16:9, but the negatives outweighed the positives. If I were you, I'd spend the money for the anamorphic on better sound equipment. People will forgive a TV aspect ratio much more easily than they will forgive sound they don't understand.

Except for the on-camera light for club scenes, I didn't use lighting; I just couldn't lug around any more equipment as one person. Some of my interviews suffer a little because of it, but honestly I don't think it ended up being a major problem. A larger problem with my sitdown interviews was noisy locations.

I would tell you that the best thing to do is to test. Rent some equipment you think you might like and try shooting a situation that will be similar to your subject. Watch and listen to the footage. Decide from there.

03-28-2005, 03:02 AM
OK so lav mics for a doc...What are the best value for money lav mics around?
And what about drama? Can anyone suggest a good mic for a budding Short maker? How much should I be paying and below what quality should I not go for a professional end result?

Sean Michael
03-28-2005, 04:40 AM
Xander, your list has been very helpful. Based upon your (and other DVX user) comments, I've ordered a DVRigPro. Also on the way are batteries, a shotgun mic, and carbon fiber boompole. Lavs are next!

I also would prefer to shoot in 16:9, but must assume that the DVX's "squeeze mode" isn't the preferred way to go? I guess I'll shoot in 4:3.

Thanks again for your equipment list. I'm trying to get everything in place by next weekend, so I can start shooting.