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Namibia Documentary Shot on GH2
  • Here is the first half of a doc I shot, edited and wrote (alone) called The Wild West of Namibia. Lenses: 20mm, 14-40mm and 100-300mm panny. Rode Video Mic Pro. The aerial time-lapses were with the GoPro Hero2 flying off the wing of the airplane for several hours at a time. Edited in Premiere Pro. Here is a link to how I made the film It is playing in Cameroon and Jamaica next month and I hope a few more festivals before releasing the entire film.

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  • rubberbandito, I assume you posted it because you'd like notes on the cut? I've only watched the beginning and jumped somewhere to the middle, so I'm only touching what I saw. I'm not addressing editorial, whether this cut is the Picture Lock or not; I'd say it's not because I was bored and skipped forward.

    +1 for making the effort in the first place, but even for a no-budget/low-budget project there is still much work to be done.

    Narration: the writing may be good enough but I didn't get past your monotonous voice. You're not cut for this, you'll need to find voice talent.

    Sound: opening sequence soundtrack is not that great of a choice. Talking head sync sound needs major cleanup (do it in Audition and use headphones).

    Finishing: shaky shots needs to stabilized (Warp Stabilizer in Premiere CS6 is GPU accelerated so it's faster than in AE). You could reframe to 1.85:1 use the Crop effect/Motion tab in conjunction with the stabilizer so you'll retain the most interesting part of the frame. It's probably easier to do in AE but the render time will hit you hard.

    Color Grade: in your making-of page you say you used MB, Colorista, etc. I don't think you've gone nearly far enough. Also grading directly in Premiere on un-hacked footage greatly limits what can be done. I suggest converting with 5D2RGB (to ProRes or DNxHD) and reconforming the cut (manually with Replace Footage).

    You've got interesting material but it needs TLC, I see you've already put it through festivals.

  • I liked it. It served the purpose of taking me along your journey, and at points wishing I was there as well. That would be the point of such a film. The narration did not bother me at all. Top notch voice talent are expensive and it is an art form like acting. Everything looked nice. Perhaps some light image stabilization in AE or Premiere. Some of the pans could be made smoother. I wouldn't go crazy with it,, but warp stabilization can make hand held look like steadicam.

    Good job. This isn't a $1 million PBS nature film. The Panasonic and GoPro hold up very well.

  • Yes he's done a good job for a one-man army. The finished product can be well, finished a lot better that it stands right now, time and skill permitting. We're not talking PBS standard, just bringing it to reasonable broadcast spec. For example color grading continuity - it's not there, and it takes me out of the experience.

  • @rubberbandito, you work looks good bravo. Only thing I will add is maybe do some stabilization in AE. You mentioned it will be playing in Cameroon next month, just curious why Cameroon. I lived in Cameroon my young years so just curious as why it's playing there.

  • Yep, looks good to me and CC doesn't matter that much IMO in something like this. People know you're grabbing what you can when you can. There's no time for setups and making sure everything is exposed properly all the time. I will agree on the stabilization and VO. Not sure if the VO is something you have time to redo and if not, screw it but I learned a little while ago there's two things I'm not going to do. Direct myself on camera and VO! I sound like a dead fish on VO! :)

  • Don't you love critics?...Actually, everyone has offered helpful points. I liked it for the most part but stabilization and grading would help. The one thing that did bother me was the audio. Your voice could use a little work but the part that threw me off the most is also the easiest to fix. Your score overides your voice in a lot of places. Audio is king in Docs. You can get away with flashing 100 year old photo's if you have the narration down pat!

    You deserve a big pat on the back for an extremely good effort.

  • thanks everyone, regarding

    1. color correction: I reached my ability to further improve it (the flat color on balloon bothers me as does intro dunes-gopro-timelpase, but my skills have been reached)
    2. budget, my budget is exhausted, no money to hire anyone or pay for anything,
    3. stabilization, I will play around with warp stabilizer in PP, I have used before and feel it creates jello sometimes, but I might add to a few shots (since it does not require money on my part) (but not car and plane shots as it would be totally unnatural),
    4. VO, I agree my VO is bland and poor. However, some that have seen my film have complimented me on it, they like the "soothing effect". second, I would have to write the script from third person rather than first, which is ok, but then you have problem of my interjections on camera. The narrator would have to say the filmmaker rather than me or us. Third, there is no money for a VO guy/girl. But I am going to see if I can perhaps improve my voice or if I can find a free VO guy I might do it. Again, you don't need to convince me the VO is bland, I agree!

    It really all depends on what you are going for. If you want a David Attenboro BBC doc you will not be able to get that from my footage. If you want a slick flash cut like a typical Animal World mini doc survival story, you will not get that from me. The person I try to emulate in Werner Herzog, he has a very simple style and it is all about story telling and his knowledge and wit rather than the edit, color correction etc. It really is all about the story and people interested in Namibia, if there is no interest, then the footage and VO will sound and look poor and the person will change the channel. No skin of my back.

    Overall, as a no budget film, sometimes it's best not to try to emulate the big budget people but to give it the homemade indie feel, this is normal for many doc filmmakers, it is normal to see shaky footage, homemade VO etc. To superimpose high end VO work or try to stabilize shots too much can be overkill and take away from the experience IMO. I'm sure most (but not all) of you indie guys agree with this.

    My kickstarter campaign did not work for this film so I was left without the funds needed to hire a sound editor/sound design guy. So I did it with Audition. Had I not you would have heard yea, u hum, etc 30 million times from the guys in the background. Regarding music/VO levels, this sound is optimized with THX certified speakers up loud (not headphones: using them is a bad idea in editing sound), I don't agree the music overcomes the voice. It's great to have a pro sound guy to advise me on this but I don't have so use my ear and levels inside PP. I would have had a color guy and probably would have hired a studio to record VO but without budget you either don't have a film or you release the best you can do with what you have.

    Luckily my producer Richard Taylor loves the film and has invited me on another trip later this year, unclear where but it looks like Guyana, Suriname, etc. I am doing the research for it now and will shoot it on my new GH3. He pays a lot for the trips but not necessarily for creating the film. I hope my next kickstarter campaign can be successful. My film company is a 501c3 charity so anyone interested in donating money, time, services, feel free to contact me!

    Regarding Cameroon, it is part of the Africa World Documentary Film Fest at the University of Yaoundé. I have never been there and don't have the budget to attend.

    Regarding pans, perhaps warp stabilizer can help, but I actually think part of the problem is vimeo 1080p, the YouTube 1080p version looks closer to the final cut. I think vimeo stutters a bit. My original pans are not 100% smooth but they are smoother than shows in vimeo.

    Thanks for all the compliments, it's great of you all to take the time to write. Eventhough I was not looking for feedback this has been useful for me and I am glad I posted here and will do so in the future perhaps before releasing another film publicly for input from those making films. Maybe I will post here only a small clip with a bit of warp stabilizer and my new and improved dramatic VO to get opinions in a few days!

  • @rubberbandito Hey man, a few quick notes to your comments:

    Audio: you're wrong about headphones, I used to be wrong too. I used to master on M-Audio speakers, and then when listening on headphones hell broke loose. Conversely, I mastered on headphones (they don't have to be professional, just high end consumer/DJ like Sony MDR-V150 - I used even unbranded at some point) and had theatrical projection with that sound over 1000W PA. I was complimented on the awesome sound.

    Warp stabilizer gello: play with the settings, sometimes Warp subspace is good, sometimes Stabilize/Crop/Zoom only. It has to do with the level of motion blur in the clip. Go lower the 50% smoothness where 50% doesn't hold for whatever reason.

    Color grading: I understand you've reached your limits (or rather the limits of your choice of tools). For continuity grading the proper tools are something like Smoke (in tryptich view) or Scratch. I'm somewhat of a finishing nut but I don't have time to donate I'm afraid. Maybe you get even a semblance of a post budget and we can talk.

  • @radikalfilm I disagree, headphones miss all the big sounds. Any pro uses the best monitoring speakers. Thanks for the tip, and for the other tips on warp stabilizer, I am playing around with it, some shots look horrible with it, but there are a few that look better. Sounds like you know what you are doing. However I took a look at your vimeo channel radikal film and honestly the work you have posted is not very good, most are out of focus and lower res and not color corrected in any great way. You should post better work before offering your paid services.

  • @rubberbandito, if you want your documentary to have a faster and easier consideration in Cameroon throw in some French subtitle or better yet French audio translation for the version you sent to Cameroon. Cameron is a bilingual country but French rules over everything.

  • Sometimes I actually think the more people critique your project the better. It might be that people can relate to it more and want to be more involved! :) Overall, great job for a no budget gig and the fixes really wouldn't cost you anything. Maybe redo you VO and bump it up a notch, not too 11 but maybe 5 :)

  • BTW, how much footage did you end up shooting? I can't imagine the Gigs!

  • @HillTop1 there is a huge cost to translating and re-doing something like that. wish I could but not required. @vicharris thank you for the compliment! I agree, posting here lets people get involved in some way even if just by there 2 cents. it was not that bad in terms of gigs, it was only a 10 day trip and I am pretty smart when to turn the camera on and off now a days. the folder I am using is only 250gigs. my new gh3 will produce much more on next shoot. @all Overall, I watched the film last night, and I have changed my mind. The narration is not that bad, in fact in comparison to much work like this, indie doc style, it is quite good. (I will not be able to improve VO in any substantive way, the only thing would be to get a pro VO, an actor or something, but not sure that is worth it.) Of course this type of film does not suit many people, especially those that are comparing to high end productions. There are lots of David Attenboro BBC films those people can watch, or Philip Bloom no narration docs and music videos. No reason for me to worry, this is a film that tells a ton of history in a small time in an effective and colorful way.