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DSLR for Documentary Project

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jake peterson
DSLR for Documentary Project
on Jun 23, 2011 at 6:32:14 pm

I posted this on Digital Photography Review and it was suggested to ask here, so I am asking the following. Also, possibly any solid camcorder possibilities would be great, though I'd like to shoot using a DSLR.

I am in the planning stages for a capstone documentary project for my college degree. This project is a full documentary about our choir's tour/ concerts in Italy. The project itself is pretty big and I need a solid camera to do the filming. Because I want to shoot HD (1080 possibly, but might just use 720 for data size reasons), I am considering getting a DSLR to provide flexibilty for my shooting, as I can also do high quality photos and use a simple harness to also have it handy. What DSLR should I consider?

The video segments, because I will be in the concerts, and setting up the recording beforehand, could be over an hour in length. Thus the DSLR must be able to record that length of time and not small clips.

I am unsure if any DSLR have built in ND filters, but this is another concern as likely much of my filming will be outdoors locations.

Quality sound is an issue also.

Because I am a student, I cannot spend like $5k on the project, so I need solid quality but at a reasonable price.

Other options that you could suggest would be greatly appreciated. I am also looking for a cheap/ functional/ portable shoulder mount or something that will stabilize the shots as I go. Likewise I would also like to know if there is a solid/ good quality tripod that quickly sets up. Do they make a one handed setup tripod?

Much thanks and respect to all.


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Peter Burger
Re: DSLR for Documentary Project
on Jun 23, 2011 at 7:15:44 pm

[jake peterson] " Because I want to shoot HD (1080 possibly, but might just use 720 for data size reasons) (...)

At least with any of the Canon DSLRs the 720p mode is next to unusable because you'll get much aliasing and moiré.

[jake peterson] "The video segments, because I will be in the concerts, and setting up the recording beforehand, could be over an hour in length. Thus the DSLR must be able to record that length of time and not small clips."

This will be a huge problem, at least with Canon DSLRs, since they'll record only about 12min. per clip, both 720p or 1080p

[jake peterson] "I am unsure if any DSLR have built in ND filters, but this is another concern as likely much of my filming will be outdoors locations."

No built-in NDs in any DSLR that I know

[jake peterson] "Quality sound is an issue also."

With any DSLR (not only Canon) external sound will be a must for a "sound-based" project like yours imho.

------------------------------------------
"Tragedy is a close-up; comedy, a long shot." - Buster Keaton


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Chip Thome
Re: DSLR for Documentary Project
on Jun 25, 2011 at 6:07:10 am

If these are going to be inside you have low light to contend with.

About the only thing out there that matches all your requirements would be a Panasonic GH1 with a 32gb card. The older GH1 had a larger and longer lasting battery than the newer GH2. The GH2 would be better in low light, but without enough battery it doesn't make a lot of difference. You can now hack any GH1 and if you hack it to the lowest bit rates, which are still very good, you can easily get well over an hour on a 32gb card. You might even be able to go up a step in bit rate and still get it all in.

As far as audio, Peter's dead on, no camera is going to do the choir justice and you should plan on external audio recording.

Without knowing where the choir is performing, it is difficult for us to make any lens recommendations. But you are going to need lenses that compliment the environment you are in.

If I were you my plan of attack would be first to determine the environment. Second would be to select a camera and lenses to work well enough with your skills and where you will be shooting. Next you have to work on your audio set up and decide what is needed there. When you have your selections made, go price it all out. Then give consideration to the rest of the gear on your list.

I have bought most of what I have now over the past year and have done some scrounging to get it at the prices I did. I probably already own all you would need, except the shoulder rig, and I'll bet I still have $2500-$3000 invested in that stuff. I would say, when your "wish list" is complete don't be surprised if you are far closer to that 5K than you want to be.


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Brent Dunn
Re: DSLR for Documentary Project
on Jun 29, 2011 at 5:01:46 am

Since you don't have much of a budget, you might consider renting a camera. Sony EX1-r, Panasonic AF100, Sony NEX FS100

Panasonic AF100 would be great if you have the budget.

You also have to add up the cost of lenses, tripod, media cards, laptop, external hard drives for backing up / archiving footage, etc. to get a realistic budget. Then there is travel, hotel, food, etc.

Sounds like $5,000 will only pay your travel expenses.

Brent Dunn
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DunnRight Video.com
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