View Full Version : Newbie: Help on first documentary

01-11-2005, 10:52 PM
I hope this is in the right section, if not my appologies.

I recently purchased a AG-DVC30P and have been playing around with it; it's quite a big step up from my Sony DCR TRV-17 which I used for filming family and social gatherings.

Now onto the topic; I plan on filming my first documentary on our university's dragon boat team. I did this last year, but it lacked commentary and a lot of people were camera shy. I also participated in the races so I got a friend to shoot my race as we have two boats.

This year I want to improve on what I lacked so any help would be appreciated; now onto the questions:
1. Is there anyway that I can convince the team members to be less shy in front of the camera?
2. I have trouble coming up with good questions to ask the team members so what are some comical and good questions I can ask them?
3. I will be shooting a few land training practices so what kinds of good shots should I capture?
4. Would it be a bad idea for me to add commentary on my own as I film others?

In addition, sometimes I'm not sure what I should be capturing so any ideas and tips would be helpful. Lastly, for those who don't know what dragon boat is, it is basically a regatta consisting of about 20 paddlers, a drummer and a steerer.

Thanks again!

01-12-2005, 06:49 PM
I suggest you get this book and read it over and over. It will help you a lot on the creative side. I'll try to answer your question the best I can, I'm no pro but I did get my degree in this.

1. Try to make them feel comfortable around you. Don't just show up one day with a camera and expect them to know how to act. If you don't know them, spend time with them at practice. That will build a trust factor between you and the people in the doc.

2. When I do interviews, I don't have a "set" list of questions that I must ask. Instead I have areas I would like to touch on. Interviews can go in so many directions but if you have a guide you should be fine, plus during the interviews you might come up with questions on the spot.

3. I can't tell you what shots are good. That's for you to decide. Read that book, watch Docs!!!!!!!!!!

4. That's up to you.

If you don't know what you should be capturing maybe you should take a little more time thinking your Documentary through. ANYone can make a film, but those that are well thought out and not rushed separate themselves from poorly planned films that are put together without a lot of thought. Don't shoot just to shoot. You can waste money that way.

Hope this helps! Like I said I'm not a pro, but I've learned from mistakes I've made in the past. Pre-Production is the key! If I had a penny for everytime they said that in school I'd be rich!

02-13-2005, 06:48 AM
It sounds like you hang with these people alot. To get them over camera shyness, just start bringing your camera and shooting stuff all the time. Use the small handycam. Then next time you show up, bring along footage from the last time to show around to people. A portable DVD player is an easy way to do this. Get them used to you shooting, get them used to seeing themselves, make it fun, the shy ones will not want to be left out.

I would only add "cameraman commentary" in areas where you know it will be b-roll stuff, or edited out completely. Its a good way to keep notes. Your voice should not appear from behind the camera in the final cut, IMHO. But all rules can be broken.

02-13-2005, 11:44 AM
One idea for getting good responses is to actually sit them down in a proper interview context (don't have yourself behind camera but sitting at eye level with them to the side of camera). Don't have other friends/people around distracting them and encouraging them to be more "animated". Don't forget proper lighting and sound.

You should also explain to them that you are there to make them look and sound good and if they need to restart or correct anything you will make it all work out in the editing.

The first couple of questions should be easy and more just to get them comfortable with camera (don't expect to use in final edit). After a few questions they will get more comfortable, forget the camera, and focus more on actually answering questions thoughtfully.

As Hinson said, it's all in the planning. Pre-production is where a doc is made or broken.

02-20-2005, 11:44 PM
re #4: Remember that you can always add your own thoughts via voice over later if you want to, but it's near impossible to remove your voice if you speak a lot while you're filming. Adding your own thoughts afterwards as a commentary (rather than an illustrative narration that tells the viewer how to see the images) can be more interesting too - because you can comment on the footage you get to know by watching it, rather than commenting on events unfolding in your viewfinder.