Shooting a local PBS documentary, need help please!

Started Jun 15, 2017 | Discussions thread
CharlesB58 Veteran Member • Posts: 8,974
Re: Shooting a local PBS documentary, need help please!

hindesite wrote:

myess wrote:

To the digital video group and m4/3 group

I need some help and hopefully you all can. I will try and make this as short and concise as possible.

My background: I am an avid photographer that understands the technical aspect photography. I have a full time job in sales but do paid photo side jobs with families/portraits and real estate. I have very little video experience but have been reading a lot since I accepted this assignment.

OK, less reading, more doing. You sound really calm, but October is not far away and if you have little video experience you should be panicking. I've been doing video for years and I know I'd be panicking if I was in your situation.

You've got a lot to do to get up to speed; this is a once-in-a-lifetime event and you need to be getting hands on experience right now.

Use your phone, use your GoPro, even use your EM-5 if you have to; start recording video and doing some simple editing in iMovie so you can see where the problems lie. You'll more rapidly develop an awareness of how you should have taken the shot, and what extra shots you should be looking for, if you do even rudimentary editing. You might also see why handheld video isn't such a great idea a lot of the time.

Go and do something silly like documenting making dinner, interview your kids/partner/parents/grandparents about their day, or use your GoPro to document extreme lawnmowing. It sounds pointless, but you'll learn more than you ever thought possible.

Situation: I am traveling overseas to Armenia in October with my family to hear a symphony play a song my uncle composed. Very cool. The local PBS station caught wind of it and they want a documentary on him and the song. I was asked to provide footage, interviews, etc of the trip overseas to include in the documentary. The actual symphony performance will be recorded by professional crew so that is not me. I am to supply PBS with the raw footage as they will edit.

That's got to be a huge relief, and also the fact that somebody else will be telling the story. But you may also want to consider your own viewpoint, would love to see a BTS video of your experience.

Do you have access to their video for incorporation into your own video (unlikely), or will you have to record your own version for that?

I am being paid in gear of my choice, budget is $3,000.

So, no pressure, then

Requirements from PBS: 16:9 HD (1920x1030). All audio tracks should be isolated (not sure what that means and how to do that).

Well, I'm surprised there are no requirements around bit rate, bit depth, levels, audio sampling rate and format etc.

Most modern cameras will probably be good enough BUT you have to know how to use them; I'd actually stay away from the GH5 unless you can really get up to speed with it before you go. Keep everything really, really simple.

Note there has been a lot of hype in this forum about the GH5 and people buying it to "learn video". But very few actual videos published. That's got to tell you something...

Use an external audio recorder (Zoom or Tascam) backed up with a phone and external mike. Also headphones and support for the recorder/mics. Audio is a whole subject in itself, and very important.

Are you doing the interviews, as well as shooting them?

Current gear: Olympus OMD-EM5 that is on it's last legs. Have 12/2, 25/1.5, 45/1.8, 12-50.

My requirements and initial thoughts: I would like portable gear. Full frame is nice but too big with lenses. Since I am familiar with m4/3 I am leaning towards OMD EMii because of the photo capabilities selfishly and IBIS. I don't need 4K though. Also, just rented a Fuji XT2 and really like (love) the JPGs but would require a gimbal or tripod (which I don't want to take).

Tough. Get a tripod, your audience will thank you. How are you going to record interviews if you are conducting them, and handhold the camera? Set up the camera out of the subjects face so they aren't distracted - you'll have enough problems without hassling with gear. Same with audio.

If you are expecting to do vlog style travel stuff (which probably mostly won't be used by PBS) in camera stabilization might be useful, and the Panasonics (certainly the GH5) are astonishingly good at this.

But whatever you do, you've got to learn to be methodical, deliberate and slow; capture heaps of footage around each clip. AF (especially with DFD) is really good now, but you may still have to learn how to manage that aspect of video. It is very different to stills. The fourth dimension is a PITA.

I think I need camera, wide angle zoom and standard zoom.

Your existing standard zoom might be good enough, depending on the camera you eventually upgrade to.

A mic (no idea which one) and I think that is it?

(One of) my backgrounds is in broadcast audio, and though times have changed since I was doing this, a lot hasn't. Audio is very much underestimated and treated as a minor detail; believe me, it isn't.

External recorder (they are not expensive) and lavalier and rifle and on-board mics should give you flexibility. Get started on that kind of thing now - practice recording interviews, and do them seriously, not just a few tests and think everything will be right on the night.

You need to know how to set up the gear, how to set up mics, set levels, recognise issues with ambient noise (always record extra ambient noise for later noise reduction).

Have a serviceable backup audio system, just in case. Phones with decent external mics can be good for this. Don't forget headphones.

Questions for the group:

  1. What would you do with the $3K knowing my current set up? I am not opposed to selling current gear but not sure if necessary

I'd deal with this project as a standalone event, and not compromise it by thinking about future use of the camera; you can always sell that and you are still ahead.

I'd get a G85 and 12-60 lens, and spend the rest of the money on important stuff.

You say you don't ant 4K but it gives you room to move in post if you are rendering at HD - you can use the same 4K footage of an interview to change the viewpoint fromthe same shot, which makes the video far more interesting.

  1. I have watched a fair amount of youtube on how to shoot but not on the technical (but not too technical) aspect of it. Any suggestions on a video series or courses that are free or little cost?
  2. Am I forgetting anything?I have a MAC with iMovie and lightroom.

Yes, you are forgetting extra SD cards and a reliable backup system.

iMovie would be good to stick with, you do not need any distractions around editing with the timeframe you have.


I would add that after some practice runs doing interviews and documentary footage, take what you have to the PBS producer and director and get their feedback. They will appreciate it and so will you.

Also, you can never have "too much" of the type of video they are wanting. If they are going to do, say, 10 minutes of the interview/documentary stuff, at least 5 hours of solid material is needed at a minimum.

This brings up a reason why they want isolated audio: it makes it easier to use an audio clip with a different video segment than what it was recorded with, such as using the audio of an answer to an interview question with a clip of something else. This, in turn, emphasizes the importance of quality, isolated video. They won't want unrelated bqckground noise showing up if the change up the audio.

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Photography is not about the thing photographed. It is about how that thing looks photographed. Quote by Garry Winogrand

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