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Critic my one man doc kit.
  • I am planing a one man doc. I edit on FCPX/imac. I am planning on a black and white 16mm look in post.

    My planned kit is:

    • EM5 MKii
    • 25mm Olympus lens. I like try small form factor and don't want to rely on zooms
    • Giant Squid lavalier mic
    • A small onboard mic (sometimes) Seinheser mke400
    • Zoom H1

    My strategy is environmental sounds the onboard mic can manage. if I need extra foley I can gather some with the H1. Sat down interviews either Giant Squid directly into camera or into H1. If I have people interacting then maybe I would switch to the mke400.

    Any advice, have I missed anything?

  • 28 Replies sorted by
  • I would strongly encourage you to consider a zoom over a prime. It is nice to have something longer than 25mm for head and shoulder interviews.

    If you want to go the zoom route, I would get the Olympus 12-40, or if you are willing to take a size hit, the Olympus 4/3 12-60 SWD. I find the Olympus lenses with the clutch manual focus (or 4/3 SWD lenses) much more usable for manual focus than other native glass.

    If you want to stay on primes and keep a low budget, I would couple the 25mm with the Sigma 60mm 2.8 and maybe the Panasonic 14mm 2.5 (both cheap with good performance). In my experience, primes get rarely used for doc work other than sit-down interviews.

    If you are shooting outside in daylight, I would recommend picking up some kind of ND system. In my experience, Tiffen Variable ND's are a good middle point between price and quality. A set of separate ND's will be higher quality, but more work to deal with in the field - I would personally go the variable ND route for one-man work.

    You don't mention a tripod/head. Is that something you already have, or are you planning to pick up something new?

    Sound-wise, be ready for frustration if you rely heavily on on-board camera mics. Capturing good sound is one of the hardest parts of working by yourself, so don't ignore it while shooting or you will pay for it after the fact.

  • i have the same exact kit with a gh3 and a different shotgun. i'll agree with the comment above that a zoom lens is a must for ENG type work. I have the old version of the panny 14-140 that stays on the cam most of the time. you gotta be versatile or you'll risk missing a shot. however, i believe primes still have their place in docs. my olympus 25mm still gets a lot of use. larger aperture helps for low light situations and shallower DOF gives you more flexibility for b-roll shots. I also use it for timelapses because of the better image quality.

  • I don't plan on relying on onboard but I have heard a few tests which if in a pinch could be adequate. I plan them however to be only foley ambience stuff. Plus I'm wondering about how I structure interviews and from footage online the onboard mics do a great job at picking up users voice and a close subject so I want to test that out.

    I hear you on the zooms, I recognise I'm being a little naive. I guess my thinking is to craft a doc as you might make a movie more than just hang around hoping to get nice shots which gives time for primes be used. If I struggle i'll bite the bullet and get maybe the 14-42mm. The 12-40 looks great, but a bit bulky and pricey. I was thinking to start with buying just the 25mm, a normal that can so most things with effort but maybe adding a wide and a portrait if necessary, i.e. the 17mm and the 45mm olympus.

    Again I planned to craft the doc even to the point I wait for natural lighting to be right (probably not making my life easy) So I was thinking to avoid a variable ND which I find gives a very gloomy daylight look. I might however get one if I'm desperate.

    On the tripod, I purposely am going to use the Olympus cause of its incredible stabilisation. I can't see any reason to have a tripod slowing me down. Almost all footage I've seen looks as good as a steady cam and if there were any jolts then post would iron it out.

  • Zooms (or multiple primes), and tripod. I would do some test shots without tripod to see if you're really comfortable with a steadycam look for your material. If you're willing to wait for natural light, then you've got a few minutes to set up the tripod.

  • if this is really a one man show, buy a tripod. don't conduct interviews looking through a viewfinder. typically, you don't want the subjects looking straight at the camera.

  • I actually tend to like more natural movement in interviews and hate the classic 3 point lighting, perfect rule of thirds interviews, the kind you see on CNN etc.

    I might get a tripod just to mix up the style of interview. A static shot to me gives a different feel, less intimate, more formal, I may have use for it however if I want that feelings. A good tripod is damn expensive though and might try to get away with a gorilla pod or something on a table top. Recommend a light weight, cheapish tipped for the Olympus? Its not a big camera.

    The above clip they mentioned was with one hand, I was wondering if I could balance the camera on one bent up knee on a chair and rely on the autofocus to do the rest. Foolish?

  • i have some questions. what about a monopod instead of tripod? for sound, use onboard shotgun as much as possible and a zoom external recorder as a backup. in post, use the onboard sound and sync the externally recorded sound when the onboard sound isn't good.

  • A monopod wouldn't solve much as a one man shooter. I guess I could hold the monopod in an interview like I'm Moses holding his staff..

    Audio for interviews would be a choice of three.

    Plug the lav into the H1 Zoom, (good but can make the interviewer less natural) = I would have onboard miss in a disaster.

    Plug the lav directly into the camera, as above and also less mobility and no double recording.

    Maybe use the onboard or a small shotgun. Honestly people love to use shotguns but unless you are right up on the interviewer they aren't any good anyway and then the onboard as the clip shows can do the job. I thought I would only slap a stupid shotgun mic on if there is a group conversion.

    *I guess my thinking is to get as natural and as relaxed and informal communication as possible. Sticking shotgun mics in peoples faces tends not to do that, they are called SHOTGUNS for goodness sake. ;)

  • Stabilization is great and everything, but it is not a tripod. Great tripods can be expensive, but a cheap tripod is infinitely better than no tripod.

    If you don't need a fluid head and you are using lightweight equipment, there is no reason you need to spend a ton of a tripod. My favorite set of legs cost me <$150 used. I would get something rated for at least three times the weight of your system. Tiny leg diameters pick up shudder and other issues- you want something with a little mass to it, even if that seems unnecessary. Smith-Victor BH5 is a good (non-fluid) head for low cost.

    The 10x zooms are great and useful, but I would find them limiting as a one lens kit due to their apertures. Waiting for usable light outdoors will be a long wait. M4/3 lenses hit diffraction around F8, and at 1/50 you will he hard pressed even at base ISO in daylight.

    If you are going to do the 14-42, I would really urge you to consider the 4/3 14-54mm or 12-60mm. They are both better lenses with wider ranges and faster apertures than the 14-42. The penalty is that they are bigger and won't autofocus as fast. The 12-60 has actual manual focus (not focus by wire), which in my opinion is a major plus. The 14-54 is a great lens and can be had for under $100 used.

    If all you have is a camera and a single prime, you will be able to find a way to work. Maybe those limitations will help you. My guess is that after you shoot a bit, you'll start to understand why things like fast, constant aperture zooms and good tripods are so desirable. I would argue you would be better off buying a cheaper camera (GH2s still hold there own against anything out there...) and put your money towards quality glass and support.

  • I was just looking at mefoto mini travel tripods. I guess I would only need to stay still plus the cam is light, no pans etc.

    The GH2 image is fine for a doc. I just can't handle being rigged up with these zacuto disability support looking type rigs. I feel like a twat!

    To be honest I would use a black magic pocket if I used a rig. I tried that cam, its unusable for docs unfortunately.

  • I am by no means an expert. I'm still learning myself. But I think perhaps you're being too quick to dismiss using a monopod. In my opinion, they are a much more portable and inexpensive alternative to a tripod. And image stabilisation or not, doesn't fatigue in holding the camera hand-held come into play at some point?

    Also, I think your point about audio is interesting. Maybe the shotgun mic is not necessary / over-rated.

  • I'll see if I can hold the camera steady and do an interview. For general shooting I haven't seen footage that wasn't absolutely stable, I like the fact I can even get shots with the Olympus it seems that have almost no movement and look almost like tripod shots. If I can't hold the camera I will look into maybe a small pistol grip maybe and a mini tripod too.

    Personally and I take this from listening to James Longley who made Iraq in Fragments that probably the best way to get great interviews is a wired lav.

    The giant squid into a H1 is actually almost too good for what I want. Little bit too clear.

  • Image stabilization, even on a monopod, is not a replacement for a tripod. There are plenty of small/portable tripods available (heck, you could even consider a gorillapod).

  • yes, but aren't mini tripods only useful for tabletops? and in that case, aren't elbows a decent alternative? regarding lavs into h1 for sound, you need to sync everything and i'm trying to figure out how to avoid syncing as much as possible and use an external recorder only as backup. so i'm thinking of a videomicpro and a pistol grip or on a mini boompole to get it closer to the speaker and leave it on the camera when not doing interviews.

  • What software are you using to edit? Most of them have auto-sync features, now. There is no "too good" audio in video world, believe me... Best way to do interview with no budget is the lavalier H1 combo, I use the AT3350, but I want to try that Giant Squid: it sound more robust and a lot easier to manage in post.

  • Gorillapods can be wrapped around things in the environment instead of just put on a table and if your camera/lens are light enough, they do a nice enough job. Otherwise, there are small/light tripods available which have telescoping legs and which are suitable for more than just a table top.

  • For interviews you definitely want the lav and h1 on your subject. The shotgun will almost always be better for nats/backup mic than the onboard mic so I would suggest plugging it in to the cam. If you want a degraded audio effect I would recommend doing it in post. Working with limitations, like having one lens, can be helpful in getting more creative shots but a good understanding of perspective and having a zoom lens will improve your footage dramatically. Also waiting for natural light to be perfect is romantic but is not very efficient will lead to a much longer shoot. If you have the time and depending on the subject matter that might be just fine, but a long doc project with lots of interview sound can become discouraging after a while especially for a one man band. As far as tripods, I think you need one for interviews. I realize it's static but if you like the omd because it always looks like it's on a tripod then there's rly no problem. If you feel the shot is boring then you need to study more into composition and lighting. Also context in the frame is a big deal to me for interview shots in doc work. And if you want your subjects to give good sound then you need to be engaged in a good conversation and practice good interview etiquette. Seems obvious but that doesn't mean it's something to ignore. Tripod helps with this tremendously because the other person will be very distracted and uncomfortable if you seem to be fiddling with or looking at the camera the entire time.

  • Also I'm hoping to get the same camera soon so would love to see any work you do with it or even test shots you might do.

  • @eatstoomuchjam, can you recommend a specific model tripod (apart from the gorillapod)?

    and about the lav and h1: if you're interviewing a group of people. you would need a set for each person? or could you just place a recorder without the lav as close to all the speakers as possible to avoid having to lav each speaker?

  • Group interviews are tricky and 1 lav usually never works well even for as little as 2 people. In a one man band situation the best option might be just showing them how u would like them to hold the h1 and just let them talk directly into it and pass it to whoever is talking. It may not look great but then you could cover it with b roll.

  • I wonder if anyone who has used the EM5 OMD and The EM5 OMD MKii can say if the quality of the built in mic on the MKII are as good as the Sema mic was used with the EM5 original?

  • @babypanda My latest small-ish tripod is a Promaster FW20t. It's decent enough for a light camera - I wouldn't trust it with anything heavy or in a strong wind storm or anything like that, but it's an acceptable height and has been OK with my A7r and A7s on it.

  • @suresure123 - is your doc intended for broadcast? You'll never get through broadcast tech review imagining you can use onboard dslr microphones for your audio. There's a reason that audio from a shotgun mic is the first thing a sound dubber reaches for...

  • Multiple cameras is very handy for filming sit down interviews (so you can cut to another angle, and to have one on the interviewer too).

    Plus a back up camera I feel is always essential! Thus at the very least, get at least one more camera (even if it is just a GH1, which can be picked up for a mere US$150 on eBay).

  • I'll test the onboard mics. I guess my ultimate dream is commercial distribution, I kind of think if someone wants to show a documentary then little flaws won't stop them. Some of my favourite docs are a bit rough looking, like Dig! and My Date With Drew. I know the latter was just using a consumer camera and no shotgun and that got to theatre release.

    I'm open to advice though. I checked the Oscars rules (just to find the ultimate specs ;) ) and they were more interested in the spec like 5.1 audio etc not the actual quality?

    *I do probably intend to use the lav for interviews, onboard just for if i capture some voices I didn't plan on but helps somehow but mainly for general ambiance is the plan.