View Full Version : a camera for ethnographic documentaries

06-10-2005, 11:18 AM
Hi everyone,
I was about to buy a dvx100a to shoot ethnographic documentaries but realized, reading the entries in this forum, that it may not be the best option in low-light situations. I'll be shooting in developing countries where the natural light outside is Tropical and people's houses can be very dark even during the day. I'll be doing all by myself and do not want to worry about carrying and setting up a light kit (the most I can do is film, interview, and handle an external mic at the same time), also, I'll hardly use a tripod and was thinking that probably a camera with a shoulder pad may easier to handle when running after people. I'm trained as an anthropologist and have little experience on filming, so any tips on cameras would be very welcomed. Thanks!

06-21-2005, 11:52 PM
Hey there. Sounds great about your work. I use the DVX-100 for missions work and travel as a one man crew. I don't carry lights and have not run into problems that I could not work around. When interviewing indoors, use natural light from windows as your light source. When outdoors shoot in the shade. I don't interview at night. I also bring a reflector to bounce light when needed. I would highly recomend using a tripod when interviewing. It gives you the chance to connect with the person you are interviewing (paying attention and talking directly to them). If you are chasing people around, then handheld is great (if done right, with wireless). For sound I clip on a hardwire lapel. I will probably switch over to a boom mic, but that means a stand to carry.

For some basic camera technique, try witness.org and track down their video training manual. It is basic but a nice place to start. The DVX would work great if you have the budget for it. Any q's let me know...

06-22-2005, 08:00 PM
I also shoot in developing countries in the same type of dark houses. Simply shoot outdoors, or position a reflector outside the window to bounce light inside with a Photoflex (or equivalent) reflector with stand (stand is important unless you like wobbly light!)

When things get dark the DVX gets grainy as opposed to getting blocky. I don't think this looks bad, as film also gets grainy -- people are used to seeing this effect, and it doesn't bother them. In fact it could serve as a useful visual cue that you're now in a dark place.

06-23-2005, 11:50 AM
Stand and plastic clamp for the reflector - priceless. The last trip I was on, I had a guy holding the reflector (he was american), he saw something elsewhere and just set the reflector down and walked away - right in the middle of filming!