View Full Version : Starting Doc Production, Advice Appreciated

03-11-2006, 04:21 PM
I'm going to be starting production on a documentary about a local eccentric, and would like any helpful feedback you guys could give me about my camera and sound setup.

Camera: DVX-100B

Aspect Ratio--Initially I thought I would need an Anamorphic adapter in order to get a 16:9 aspect ratio, but after reading the laundry list of limitations it imposes and reading various threads on the board (espcially the one about "Iraq in Fragments") I've decided against it. Instead, I plan to shoot in 4:3, uprez in PhotoZoom, and then add letterboxing in FCP.

Framerate--Seeing as how I plan on submitting the completed film to festivals, the issue of having to do a video to film transfer might come up, so I figure that shooting in 24PA is my best bet (not to mention the fact that 24P footage looks just BEAUTIFUL).

General Camera Setup--I'm not really going to mess with the camera settings aside from having my timecode set to TC PRESET to keep my footage in more organized. However, for the outdoor handheld shots, I think using Focus Assist would be wise, as the distance between myself and my subject will be changing quite a bit.

Media--I really like the quality I get from Panasonic's 83 minute Master Quality tapes, but I was reading in Barry's book that one could conceivably buy a cheap full size DV camera and have it record the DVX footage via Firewire using tapes of much longer duration. Can anyone suggest a specific model of camera for this purpose?

Stabilizer--I really like the feel and versaility of the Fig Rig, but lacking a counter weight, I don't know if it will help the steadiness of my shots. What do you all think of the Fig Rig versus other such systems (ie. Merlin)

Audio--For the interior shots at least, I would like to use a wireless lav. However, I was shown various models: a VHF, UHF, and XLR. Of course the XLR would connect directly to my DVX, and I'm told is the best quality, but it's also the steepest in price. Is there really a big difference in quality between the 3?

For my exterior shoots I would like to use a shotgun mic, but I'm not sure what my options are for mounting this on my camera and/or stabilizer (of course I could get an audio tech, but I'm trying to keep things as simple as possible at the moment).

Any feedback and helpful info would be much appreciated.


03-11-2006, 07:55 PM
Unless you need the extra length tapes, I suggest you stick with 60 min for reliability..

I have both wired and wireless lavs in my kit. Also a shotgun, stereo mic, and wireless adapter for XLR mic (to make my shotgun wireless). Mic choice depends on the specific situation. But UHF far better than VHF...

Focus Assist in 24p can be sluggish, practice and get to know it before you use it.

I don't owna FigRIg, but it looks to me like a bad idea that would make you very tired (and therefore less stable.

Monopod? I use mine for light weight, to get higher angles, and sometimes as stabilizer.
Extra Batteries.
Reflectors & maybe lights....

03-12-2006, 06:23 AM
If you are shooting a doc, I would definitly stock up on audio equipment and extra batteries. A rain cover might be a good idea, you never know what will happen - plus they're not too expensive. You could always just go for a makeshift plastic bag in a hurry. On my last doc I used a monopod. Though the DVX may seem like a fairly light camera, after shooting hours straight holding it in just your two hands, it gets real heavy. The monopod is great because it gives your arms a rest at times, steadys the image a bit, and if you need to move fast, just raise the camera up a few inches and take it wherever- what I'm trying to say is that a monopod's weight is not really a hinderence, but the way it takes the weight off your hands is fantastic. I was also thinking about a shoulder mount, but I had the monopod so that's what I used. Good luck!

03-15-2006, 06:27 PM
I'm no stranger to how heavy a DVX can get during hours of handheld shooting, but I'm not sure a monopod would be the best tool for my exterior shooting mainly because I will be more or less constantly mobile as I follow my subject around (and I'm told he's a challenge to keep up with). Some sort of shoulder mount would probably make for steadier shots, but then I still have the problem of where I'm going to mount my shotgun mic. Of course I could use the wireless lav, but I'd rather not have to rely on it (I already have one battery powered device to keep track of).

Focus Assist is indeed sluggish, but I find that the transitions between an unfocussed picture and a focussed one are very smooth and thus don't draw as much attention as something like quickly trying to manually readjust the focus.

The only headphones I have are rated at 32 Ohms, and I know the socket on the DVX100B is rated at 100 Ohms. Finding headphones at this rating have been difficult at best. The closest I've gotten is 60 Ohms.

I plan on getting an extra battery from the forum here, as they are nicely priced, and if the advertising is true, long lasting.

I have lighting for the interior interviews, reflectors, and a tripod.

03-15-2006, 07:45 PM
A shoulder mount seems best suited for this situation then. As for the microphones, I'd take that extra leap and worry about the batteries! The purity of the sound will definitly be worth it. I would also, though, use a camera mounted shotgun (assuming its just you with no boom op). You can easily find a camera shoe mountable shock mount for your phantom powered shotgun.

03-15-2006, 08:02 PM
DVXuser battery works great for me. Something to keep in mind is that you have two mic inputs, so can do a shotgun in one and a wireless lav in the other. Mix or select in post as needed. If you use one source, consider tying both to single wource, then changing the gain/sensitivity on each track to give you more dynamic range.

Amd if I could only have one stabilizer device, it would likely be a monopod with a QR. Just practice with whatever you decide on and good luck.

03-16-2006, 09:52 PM
Galt is right about the audio, shotgun, and wireless would be the way to go when following a guy around. The shotgun mic can be mounted on the provided mount, or you can get some nice ones for a decent price that mounts to the top of the camera. As for a stabilization device I have been using the DV Rig Jr. It is fantastic for use all day long. I have used the DR rig PRo, but your hands are off the controls, the JR lets you keep both hands at the camera, where they need to be.
Stay away from the 83 min tapes, you are asking for trouble.
As for the type of wireless mic you want, it depends on budget, both UHF and VHF will come with a XLR plug. They UHF and VHF both are terms of frequency, which is the signal strength. You will pay more for UHF mic systems, but the Ultra High Frequency will cause less hits and give you more reliable signals.
Hope this helps, and good luck.

Duct Tape Films
03-17-2006, 03:27 AM
I own the anamorphic, and despite the limitations, and somewhat tenuious build, I find that the extra resolution gain is extremely noticeable. Also, if you plan on uprezzing, skip over Photozoom and check out Synthetik's Supersizer, which right now is only within Studio Artist, but they will be coming out with a stand alone version soon according to the designer himself. It looks great without any extra tweaking, and, at least within SA 3.5, it is already in an environment geared towards processing video, as opposed to batch processing frames. 24Pa does give you the most options later on, including going to 3:2 later. However, you may or may not want to use it by rote off of Panasonic's preset, those are just starting points. As far as audio goes, I would suggest getting a decent shotgun (as in somewhat disposable, so buy two - doc shoots can be slightly unpredictable), and a couple better wired or wireless lavs (depending on whether you want them for sit downs or not, or you could always get wired, and then expand on them to be wireless later on down the road). Also a high quality dead cat, shock mount, and something to raise the level off of your camera about six or more inches is a good notion too, so it won't get in the shot, etc. I would basically bookmark or jeez homepage the B&H Photo website.

03-17-2006, 06:11 AM
Forget the anamorphic adapter unless you plan on bumping tape to film. Use 4:3 Full Frame and do not letter box in FCP. Shoot on sticks for your interviews, use onboard mic if you are close to your talent. Use wireless when you have a distance issue or lots of ambient noise. Be unobtrusive, thats the most important thing when shooting the Documentary format. Use a zoom controller such as the stealth w/ rocker made for DVX 100A for your creeps. Easy advise, leave the camera on the person and let them talk. If you want yourself heard in the shots asking questions use multiple lavs. Don't roll over 15 to 20 minutes of each interview unless you really need the person to tell their life story. You are going to end up with tons of footage anyway even for a short Doc. Lots more to discuss but I have to run... I will say that the DVX100A in my case is the perfect camera for shooting any Doc.

Best of Luck! / J.E.V. - IDA MEMBER

03-20-2006, 07:47 PM
Alrighty, I've nailed down places where I can rent the shotgun and wireless lav from (tested out the lav the other day, very nice).

What's wrong with using 83MQ tapes? That's all I've ever used and I've never had a problem.

I'm deinfitely not going for the anamorphic. It would make Focus Assist on my exterior shots impossible.

DTP--how does Supersizer out perform PhotoZoom?

JEV1A--Why shouldn't I uprez and then letterbox in FCP? I plan on submitting this to festivals after its completed. thus won't the final product have to be in 16:9?

Safford Productions
03-21-2006, 09:01 AM
There has been a long, ongoing discussion about using 83 min. tapes on this site. The recommended is the 63 min MQ. There seems to be an issue about loosing frames on the 83 min because of the tape being thinner and unable to hold as much info. We are not really sure using the 83 min. tape can create a head alignment problem. We use them only if we are shooting a Catholic wedding where mass is being said, and try to avoid them. I think that if I were investing a lot of time into a shoot (as you seem to be) I would use the new advanced master quality tapes 63 min tapes. Do a search on this site for further info about tape issues. Good Luck! It sounds like you're getting set to have some real fun! P.S. USE ONLY PANASONIC TAPES!

03-21-2006, 04:43 PM
Now I find out. Well ten of 'em just came in the mail today, so I'll have to make due for now. I don't think I'll have any problems, but just to play it safe I'll get the 63MQ's next time.

03-24-2006, 01:03 PM
don't get caught up too much on the technical... wire a lav to him and go,
mount a microphone no worse than a me-80 sennheisr or me66 on your camera...
sound for doc is absolutely essential... essssssential.

ps don't use auto iris if you can avoid it,.... but be there for the moments... the moments are what seperates doc from news.

05-01-2006, 08:50 AM
Imagine your final cut and film festival submission letterboxed and the digital projector shows the black bars on the top and bottom of the big screen. 16:9 Widescreen with the Anamorphic is truest but as far as Docs go unless you are offered a deal with a specific TV Cable or otherwise Distributer that is saying Letterbox is ok, leave it Full Frame since that is what you shot in the first place.

JEV / www.DonEllisFilm.com

05-26-2006, 06:37 AM
There has been a long, ongoing discussion about using 83 min. tapes on this site [...]
I believe the people who write on this board that the 83 min. tapes are thinner and therefore prone to stretching and damage. Rule Broadcast, a trusted rental house here in Boston, has also advised me against them, and they have never steered me wrong. I've stuck to the shorter PQ and MQ tapes without problems, and I don't like to ask for trouble, and the only time someone I know put a Sony tape in the DVX camera when I was not looking, I had all those problems that people have also discussed on this board about mixing Panasonic and non-Panasonic tape, I've actually observed the problem. As long as I stick to Panasonic tape and avoid the 83 min version... I've observed no serious problems with what I've recorded.

05-26-2006, 06:43 AM
don't get caught up too much on the technical... wire a lav to him and go, mount a microphone no worse than a me-80 sennheisr or me66 on your camera...
sound for doc is absolutely essential... essssssential [...] be there for the moments... the moments are what seperates doc from news.
I agree that sound is the most important aspect of documentary. The first film event I ever attended was a panel of documentary filmmakers back in the late 80s in San Francisco and someone asked Stephen Lighthill (who was one of the camerapersons on Gimme Shelter and a celebrated cinematographer) what the cinematographer's most important job was on a documentary and he answered, "making sure the sound person is getting good sound." That said, it's OK to have a camera mounted mic, but it's critical to have a second mic on the subject, either lav (as caldwell suggests), boomed, or pistol-gripped, but it's CRITICAL to have two mics, because I always find that while following someone who's talking, it's often interesting to point the camera at what they are talking about and when the camera turns away, you want to make sure you've got continuous good audio on the speaker.

07-03-2006, 06:42 AM
how do i cut out my voice when doing a interview and be left with the inteviewee's oly?