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Capturing Africa

peterhits's picture
Last seen: 3 years 5 months ago
Joined: 05/21/2011 - 6:13pm

Hi all! My name is Peter and I am relatively new to the videomaking business. I go to a filmschool through which I managed to secure an internship filming documentaries in and about Uganda (east africa) next february.

The tricky bit is the fact that I'll be alone throughout the process. Which means i'll have to manage sound, video and interviewing all at the same time.

I have been given a 4000 euro budget and am trying to work out what gear to take with me and was wondering whether any of you have some suggestions for both the gear and the trip itself.

The gear I selected:

Camera: Canon XA10 - has xlr ports which allows for pro audio and is very compact. Also, since the footage will only be shown on the internet, I am asuming the AVCHD codec will suffice. The alternative is the xf100 which is 1000 euros more expensive and allows for less money to go to a accessories.

Sound: A shotgun mic. Either Sennheiser K6 with ME 64 or a rode mic. Also I am trying to find an affortable lapel mic. Also a camera stand to mount the shotgun on to record when handeling the camera.

Dolly: trackslider dolly system 75 cm (fits in lugage and gives a pro look to the film)

Is there something I am forgetting? Is there something I really should know before traveling to africa? Does anyone have any experience doing a one man documentary?

Any advice is welcome!


vid-e-o-man's picture
Last seen: 7 months 2 weeks ago
Joined: 02/06/2010 - 4:20am
Plus Member

Peter, I checked the camcorder that you mentioned (Canon XA10) and it lists a 64 GB internal flash drive and 2 SDXC card slots. This is a good amount of on-camera storage but I think that you might consider the additionof some off-camera storage for you accumulated video. This could take the formof additional memory cards ($$$)or some sort of computer based hard drives (internal or external). There are other forms of storage for your raw footage to consider- burning to DVD or Blu-ray discs etc. Some sort of redundancy of storage might also be a consideration. Having each video clip saved on two forms of storage might be a good precaution.Hopefully someone that is familiar with shooting in Africa can chime in here with some insight on the location-customs, electical voltage types, travel visas, permits necessary for this work, etc.

As far setting up interviews as a one-man band with one camcorder: lavalier attached to subject andhard wired to camcorder, shoot overinterviewer's shoulder concentrating on the interviewee. After the interview is finished, film the interviewer restating the questions (make sure to follow thescript of written questions both times). Also film interviewer nodding head or other reactions to answers. Blend this all together with some cutaway shots of something that in relevant in post andvoila!

This sounds like a wonderful oportunity, good luck and keep shooting.


peterhits's picture
Last seen: 3 years 5 months ago
Joined: 05/21/2011 - 6:13pm

Thanks for the reply! I have no experience whatsoever interviewing people so your tips are very welcome.

I didn't mention this, but I am also taking a laptop and a external harddisk to store (and edit) the footage.

It is a wonderful oportunity. I am actually going to get paid doing what I have always dreamed of doing. Also, the footage and endresult will look fantastic on my portfolio. (As long as I get it right that is. )


mfish653's picture
Last seen: 3 years 3 weeks ago
Joined: 10/01/2011 - 10:36am

It would be interesting to know what kind of film you are planning on making. I am from East Africa (Kenya) but I do mostly nature filming. I use a Canon XH-A1 and really like it for the purpose. Beings you are on a tight budget you will most likely walk and travel public most of the time. A backpack to keep your camera and gear in will be priceless. I also keep a UV filter on my camera while filming outdoors because it gets so dusty here. Have you checked craigslist or ebay for gear? I bought my camera from a wedding videographer who wanted to dump his gear for $1000 I found on craigslist. You have to check everyday for weeks sometimes to find deals but they are worth it. An XA10 will work out great for you tho considering the size. Stay away from shoulder mount cams (unless you want a really good camera and have a big budget) because of the pain of transporting your gear.



composite1's picture
Last seen: 7 months 21 hours ago
Joined: 12/11/2008 - 7:54pm
Plus Member Moderator

"Is there something I am forgetting? Is there something I really should know before traveling to africa?"

Yeah,

Tripod, a small camera bag in addition to your backpack, extra batteries, extra chargers, UV filters, cleaning gear, small on-camera light, small digital recorder, audio cables, a hand-held mic, a point-and-shoot digital camera that shoots video in the same format as your video cam (i.e. 720p/1080p) to use as a back-up and to get stills, lots of extra cards, a portable video storage unit like a NEXTO or similar, a small laptop capable of pushing HD video, reusable zip ties (plastic or velcro), lots of plastic bags of varying sizes, power adapters and several USB jump drives 16GB or larger to store video and stills on to provide back-up redundancy.

Your biggest issue will come with Customs in transporting your gear out of the country and trying to bring it into an African country. In the US depending on your gear, you may be required to draw up Commercial Invoice. Many countries require you to possess a CARNET which is a Merchandise Passport. The ATA Carnet is a temporary merchandise passport that is used to cover Professional Equipment (PE). They can get pretty expensive depending on what kind of gear you're transporting.

You need to contact your country's Customs Office before you finalize your plans and find out whether the gear you're taking will require a CARNET to get out/in your home country and the host country you plan to film in. Also, you may be required to carry insurance which is not a bad idea.

You also have to keep in mind that wherever you go, the local customs official depending on the individual may let you pass without any fuss or go out of their way to make your life miserable. Worst case scenario, customs decides to keep your gear pending appeal. If that happens, with your current resources it's done. If you got insurance, hopefully you made sure your policy covers such a possibility. If not, either go home or do your best to enjoy your time there. Don't get bent out of shape and say something that will get you on an episode of 'Locked Up Abroad'.

It may come down that you don't need a Carnet or Insurance, but find out from your Customs Office not at the counter at Heathrow or God forbid, in Uganda!

H.Wolfgang Porter, Composite Media Producer Dreaded Enterprises Unlimited, Inc. www.dreadedenterprises.com


grinner's picture
Last seen: 6 years 10 months ago
Joined: 12/29/2007 - 2:56am

I'd swap the dolly for a glidecam and call it done.

Toting sticks just isn't feasible in all documentary sitiations and I can't think of a time where a dolly would add anything but frustration, hours, and loss of shots. Even the glidecam will be used little to nada but it's easier hauled than the other stuff and better used in reality situations. Being that it's an African trip, you may elect to leave the glidecam behind as well. Less is more in these situations. You just need a good camera, a pocket full of batteries and a pocket full of discs. Lighting can be handled by simple mobile LEDs. You can get everything you need audio-wise with a simple Rode shotgun. Remaining mobile at all times is what will gain you shots galore.