View Full Version : The Bare Necessities

12-04-2004, 10:59 AM
I'm planning a documentary for next summer. Aside from the DVX and a tripod, what (on a very weak budget) will I absolutely need to create a technically good doc?


12-05-2004, 01:28 AM
A good mic, maybe a lav and a shot gun( not the ones that shoots bullets.) Headphones for audio monitoring. A small crew or you can do it by yourself depending on your project. A crew would be nice of course. A decent something you can afford light kit. Finally some skills, I'm not trying to say you don't have any. I think that would the the bare minimum. Hope this helps.

12-06-2004, 08:40 AM
Spider is right, sound recording is critical. if people can not hear what your subjects are saying the will not watch it. That aside, even a few cheap Home Depot like lights can help bring up the light levels. But most important thing to go is watch docs, and even news show with a critical eye. Theya re your text books. Watch how they are shot, how they handle content. What things you like, and do not. This way you can come up witha plan of attack. You can create stlye. It is not just about following the puck I am from Canada).

12-06-2004, 01:40 PM
The most important things in order of appearence:
A story to tell, and good health.
Hope you have both.

12-07-2004, 10:17 AM
The most important things in order of appearence:
A story to tell, and good health.
Hope you have both.

I just recently returned from a two-man (okay one man & one woman) shoot overseas. I had a lot of stuff I didn't 'need' (it would have been nice to use it but it due to space and respect to interviewees we didn't), so here is what I think was the bare minimum (other than the obvious - camera - listed in order of imporance, IMO):

Rain cover
Shotgun mic
Caffeine and sugar (and hot wine) to keep you going for 14 hours straight.

*Lav mic (wireless) & shotgun mic. They complement each other, I had a moment where the lav's transmitter ran out of battery but there was some crucial information being shared by the interviewee so I didn't want to interrupt. The shotgun mic picked it up quite nicely. On the other hand, the shotgun also picked up (in other shots, fortunately:) ) phone rings next door, creaking chairs, and dogs barking outside. Use both if you can. :)
*Headphones - you really want to hear exactly what gets recorded (see the creaks above)
*Tripod - kind of obvious ;)
*Collapsible reflector. More important than next item:
*One light. I had four, and used only one (or none in extreme situations). In one interview, I only had an hour to do the whole thing. No time to mess with lights. I put the guy next to a window, put some chairs on a table, and leaned the reflectos aganst the chairs. Worked beautifuly.
*Water or juice - when people talk three hours straight, they really need the fluids.
*Polite persistence - I was amazed how some subjects would avoid topics they didn't really want to talk about. In the end, I've got the five minutes I was after, but they came after two days of shooting (with the same subject). People will gradually lose their guard, and will share with you important moments of their life - you just have to be patient. Of course, this depends on what kind of documentary you are shooting.


12-09-2004, 06:15 PM
Went to Myanmar (Burma) to do some doc work and was a single person crew so I had to have a small set-up:
DVX100 - Small/light tripod - hard wire mic - Lots of Batts & Tapes - Headphones - Apple Powerbook - digital still camera.

Heading off to India to do more work(and hopefully Scotland on way back for side project). Here's what I learned and will take on this trip that is different:

small tripod (not as light, but better model) - 2 hard wire mics - 1 wireless mic - more Batteries - No labtop (could not find good power and no time to log tapes) - better still camera - lens cleaner! - matteblox (see banner ad) - polarizer filter - Marshall 5.6" lcd screen (for interviews when I change positions opposite the pull out screen - hard to make sure subject is not moving around out of frame when peeking over camera from other side) - fold up reflector.

I hope this helps.

Have Fun!


12-10-2004, 01:43 AM
I agree that a tripod, good mic and reflector are important. Something my doc crew wish they had was a nice soft carrying cast for the essential gear. We have some hard cases that seem to always get in the way...they do provide extra protection though.

I would also recommend a strong story outline and prep for your shots and interviews. I did several interviews that i wish I could do over because my story was not as sound as it should have been.

Best of luck!

01-06-2005, 06:18 AM
This is some really good information fro people who know from experience.
Advice noted.

01-15-2005, 02:44 AM
Travis said a lot in very few words: a good story. Most people will forgive technical lapses, but not bad writing, editing, pacing, etc.

01-18-2005, 09:56 AM
This is some great info. I'm just starting out on a doc where I'm interviewing various people, and the bare essentials suggestions are great. Does anyone have a suggestion for a reflector that they like for this kind of stuff?

01-23-2005, 08:40 PM
I am leaving soon for India (two weeks), and will pick up a reflector for the trip that fits my bag (stuffs gotta fit!). Just gonna go downtown (Minneapolis) and hit the largest photography store. You can get an idea from B&H at this link:
http://www.bhphotovideo.com/bnh/controller/home?A=search&Q=&b=0&a=0&a=687_6087&Submit.x=7&Sub mit.y=9&shs=&ci=1327&ac=

I need white to bounce some light for fill (not traveling with lights, will make do over there).