What kit should I get?...

Hi guys

I am in need of some help and advice! In several months time I am traveling to Tanzania for up to six months. I am volunteering at a specific charity where I will be primarily making documentaries. I also want to make some short foreign films...however documentary making is the key focus whilst out there. I am currently looking to invest in to kit but my knowledge and expertise with equipment for film making is fairly poor.

I have a budget of £1000 max, unfortunately being a third year student has drained my funds.

Here is all of the equipment that I will need to purchase (second hand probably):
I would greatly appreciate any help and advice I can get with this!


- A new camera
Something that is discrete for documentary film making, and produces a high quality image. (I have been looking in to the Cannon 70D?)

- Lenses
I am open to options here, but a good zoom lens will be vital I think.

- Microphone
Something that can be attached to the camera and can pick up dialogue or sounds from fairly long distances with high quality.

- Stabilizer/rig
Some form of stabilizer that can create relatively smooth tracking shots, however isn't to large to travel with.

If you think I have missed anything else then please do let me know.

I am really interested in seeing what you guys have to say!

Thank you so much
Josh
 
- Microphone
Something that can be attached to the camera and can pick up dialogue or sounds from fairly long distances with high quality.


It does not exist. Quality sound - aside from the equipment itself - is all about knowledge and skill/technique. It starts with proximity (the closer the mic is the better) and proper aim (from above and aimed at the notch at the base of the throat). If your mic is mounted on the camera and the you're filming a two-shot with the characters facing each other your dialog will be everything coming out of the actors ears.

gangs_of_new_york_two_shot_a_l.jpg


Sunhi-1-600.jpg


This is what boom-ops do, keep the mic properly aimed at all times. BTW, the boom-op, after consulting with the PSM (Production Sound Mixer), will choose which microphone is needed for each particular situation as there is no one mic that can "do it all."

In another post/thread you asked about the skill sets you will need. Audio is just as complicated as cinematography, visual editing and effects, color correction, CGI, etc. And for many indie film types it's even more complicated because they can't see it. There's production sound (capturing dialog on-set), dialog editing (using dialog from alternate takes to replace existing "problem" dialog or even partially reconstructing a character), Foley (replacing all of the human made sounds like footsteps, punches, kisses and all sorts of props handling), sound effects (everything from doors to weapons to vehicles and thousand other things you would never think of), music editing and rerecording (post production audio mix). Each of these audio skill sets can individually take years to fully grasp, let alone master.



In another thread you asked what skill sets you will need. By far the biggest skill set you are going to need will be seeing and hearing things as they really are, not how you perceive them to be.
 
Alcove Audio- It does not exist. Quality sound - aside from the equipment itself

Hey thanks for the response, I completely agree with everything you said in terms of audio for film. But I think that for documentary it is different...which is the content I will be creating in Tanzania. So unfortunately I would not have the time to set up such audio set ups, and the use of a boom microphone would be to intrusive.
The microphones I think would be more practical in my situation would be ones that are attachable to the camera, this way I would be able to capture audio spontaneously on the spot, which is needed for documentary film making. I will also get a separate sound recorder which I can use for narration and other various parts of audio.
Do you know of any good microphones that would suite this situation?
Thanks a lot!
 
Documentary sound has to be "perfect" first time, every time. There's no chance for retakes, there's no post dialog editing or ADR, you have to live with exactly what you recorded in the field. This means that you must take MORE care with your production sound.

As a sound guy, I, of course, have to include my usual advice:

Your project will only look as good as it sounds, because
"Sound is half of the experience"

If your film looks terrible but has great sound, people might just think it's your aesthetic.
If your film looks great and has bad sound, people will think you're an amateur.
Sound is the first indicator to the industry that you know what you're doing.


Are you doing interviews? You're going to need to get the mic in close. What's the point if you can't clearly understand what the people you're interviewing are saying?

Bad production sound is one of the first mistakes all new filmmakers commit. And until you - or any filmmaker - realize that you get to influence only two senses out of the five that human beings possess you are using only half of your storytelling capabilities. Trust me; you'll have a much better product if you spend a large portion of your budget on sound gear (and, of course, learning how to use it well before you go out into the field) and shooting the visuals with your phone.

I've heard dozens and dozens of bad production sound jobs; that's how I got started, cleaning up other peoples messes. Please Save Us!!!!:D The best I could usually do was to get the dialog intelligible, and sometimes not even that. Almost all were camera mounted mics.


Ask around the forum; I know what I'm talking about.


The old curmudgeon will now cease sermonizing.
 
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For the most part, Alcove is spot on.

The most important question was never asked. What's the purpose of these documentaries? Where will they be shown, if at all? What quantitative quality do you require?
 
What's the purpose of these documentaries? Where will they be shown, if at all? What quantitative quality do you require?

Along with who your docos are aimed at, these are all extremely important questions for you to be thinking about Josh! If your answers are say: Friends/family, YouTube and average amateur home video quality or marginally better, then in some or possibly most situations you will probably get away with mounting a mic on the camera. If you're looking for something significantly better than say amateur holiday vid standards, which your other listed equipment implies you are, then you need to get the mic off the camera!

The microphones I think would be more practical in my situation would be ones that are attachable to the camera, this way I would be able to capture audio spontaneously on the spot, which is needed for documentary film making.

No, that's not what's "needed for documentary filmmaking". What does it matter whether the dialogue is "spontaneous" or obviously contrived, if the audio quality is not good enough to be able to actually hear any difference?

Do you know of any good microphones that would suite this situation?

If the "situation" is an unmoving camera, at an unvarying distance (set somewhere between about 6" - 20" (10-45cm)) from an unmoving subject, somewhat above or below the subject, in a very quiet indoor location, then a Rode VideoMic Pro mounted on the camera would "suit this situation". If you're talking about a "situation" which does not fully comply with all these conditions, then you'll need a different mic for that situation. Furthermore, if the "situation" is substantially different from one or more of these conditions, it's possible/probable that no camera mounted mic, at any price, would suit that situation!

If you think I have missed anything else then please do let me know.

Decent, well isolated headphones. You need to monitor what you're recording. Would you shoot video without a viewfinder/monitor and therefore not being able to see what you're actually shooting?

I completely agree with everything you said in terms of audio for film. But I think that for documentary it is different...

Yes, documentary is different, audio quality standards/expectations for docos are generally lower than for film. On the other hand, as Alcove stated, with films you've generally got more acoustically controlled locations/sets, plus the options in audio post of alt takes and ADR. So, although the standard is a little lower, you have to hit that standard first time, otherwise your footage is useless (unless you can turn it into a music video!).

So unfortunately I would not have the time to set up such audio set ups, and the use of a boom microphone would be to intrusive.

Unless you're talking about footage of some unexpected live event, say an accident or a disaster for example, audiences will expect decent quality audio. They will not give a damn about what you thought would be too intrusive or how much time you allowed yourself to set up the audio. All they will "see" is a doco not worth watching and an incompetent amateur filmmaker or rather, that's all they will "see" for the few seconds until they click on something else more watchable, if indeed they even bother to "see" it for those few seconds to start with! Which brings us back full circle to the questions I started this post with.

G
 
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What's the purpose of these documentaries? Where will they be shown, if at all? What quantitative quality do you require?

The purpose of the documentaries is to capture the incredible stories and people that the charity come across daily, these will be posted on to their YouTube channel where they will help raise awareness, funds and sponsors for specific projects. These documentaries will contribute to my portfolio of work, and I hope to submit some of them in to film festivals. Sorry I don't understand what you mean by 'quantitative quality'?
 
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What quality do you need? Quantitatively as opposed to a subjective.

Subjective would be saying, "It needs to be good quality" where we have to gauge what you mean by good. Quantitative takes the guesswork out of it. For instance, for Netflix.

If your aim is to raise funds for sponsors, I'd guess it'd be fairly safe to bet that you'd need a professional level of production quality.

When you say add to your portfolio of work, I gather you mean a portfolio of your aid work?

As for festivals. It'll depend on the festival. There was a local director win a film festival with really crappy camera audio. Most other festivals would reject it automatically. From what I understand, most films get rejected for poor audio quality than any other cause.
 
Please don't feel like we are attacking you. APE (Audio Post Expert) and I are among a bunch of professionals here on IndieTalk making a living in the entertainment biz. One thing, though, we're usually short on time, so we can be rather blunt. Besides, if you can't "take it" here you'll never survive in the brutal, viscous, entertainment world :D.

Even though you're fundraising or whatever your product still has to be entertaining enough and have sufficient quality to hold the attention of your audience.
 
Thank you for all of your feedback.

Your project will only look as good as it sounds, because
"Sound is half of the experience"
. 'Alcove Audio', I completely agree with everything you have said here. Several years back I did a course in Music Technology, and i'm also a keen musician/composer, I completely agree with the importance of the audio.

No, that's not what's "needed for documentary filmmaking". What does it matter whether the dialogue is "spontaneous" or obviously contrived, if the audio quality is not good enough to be able to actually hear any difference?
- 'AudioPostexpert', I somewhat disagree with you here. Throughout the process of creating these documentaries I know that there will be times where I need to capture spontaneous events quickly before they end, and I would far prefer to capture the footage, rather then have nothing, the set up time may cause me to miss certain events and therefore I need a microphone that can be as reliable as possible in these situations. I am aware that this is not an ideal situation.

Throughout these documentaries there will be use of moving and static shots. I will be out there by myself capturing the stories, which is why I think the use of a boom microphone wouldn't be practical for my situation. I intend to get two microphones, one that I can attach to the camera at all times, and one portable one. I would use this one in situations where I have time to set it up. I must add, the documentaries I create will be based on people that have probably never been in front of a camera, therefore I need to be very considerate on how intrusive I am.
 
- 'AudioPostexpert', I somewhat disagree with you here. Throughout the process of creating these documentaries I know that there will be times where I need to capture spontaneous events quickly before they end ...

As I mentioned in my final paragraph, providing the events you're talking about are suitably dramatic, then audiences will forgive poor/very poor sound in a doco. Spontaneity on it's own would not generally be enough to qualify as "suitably dramatic" though! I think you are probably going to have to discover this for yourself, the hard way.

G
 

sfoster

Staff Member
Moderator
What if you carried a handheld mic+recorder and attach a gopro to your head.
You could very quickly get high quality audio and video for interviews without any crew assistance.
 
Spontaneity on it's own would not generally be enough to qualify as "suitably dramatic" though!
G

Yes I completely get where you're coming from and I agree with you. Its not going to be an ideal situation, so I'm just going to have to work with what I have. Which is a one man crew consisting of myself and a budget of £1000 for my equipment.
 
Camera: Have you considered a micro four thirds camera? They are smaller (more discrete) and the small sensor means you have a larger margin of error on focus pulling. There are also a lot of very fast autofocus lenses (which might be crucial if you are one-man-banding it).

Audio: Rode mics can be decent. You can also pick up a Sennheiser ME66 for cheap on ebay, though that is a considerably larger microphone and will be more difficult to mount on camera.

Stabilizer: My university made fig rigs out of old bike wheels; they are better than nothing and cost a trip to the junkyard.
 
http://duylinhtu.tumblr.com/post/62484313760/eos-m-video-setup

Some variation of that setup is probably a good idea for you.

Duy has other great recommendations in other blogs if you click around.

Also search YouTube for run and gun setups and look for examples of the stuff you think you'll be doing and try to find out the equipment they used to do it.

Either way to get what you want with your budget you're going to need to pinch every penny. Watch Craigslist and Ebay like a hawk and buy refurbished.
 
- A new camera
Something that is discrete for documentary film making, and produces a high quality image. (I have been looking in to the Cannon 70D?)

- Lenses
I am open to options here, but a good zoom lens will be vital I think.

Heck no to a Canon 70D, that would be an awful choice, especially when you're on a tight budget.

Any of Panasonic GH4 / G7 or Samsung NX1 or Sony A6300 would be a better choice instead.

My recommendation is a Panasonic G7.

For lenses a solid simple starting set would be: Tokina 11-20mm f/2.8 + Sigma 18-35mm f1.8 + Sigma 50-100mm f2
 
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