I spent 2.5 years traveling the world and am off on another 6 - 18 month adventure shortly. This round, I've considered filming a travel documentary based on my overseas experiences. I've been into photography for ~15 years and have spent plenty of time in the darkroom and more recently transitioned to digital. I'd like to try my hand at film now but am having a hard time figuring out what I'll need to film a decent documentary. I've spent countless hours researching already, but need to start buying equipment soon as I head out in less than a month. If possible I'd like to keep my spend <$4k CDN, but do have some flexibility.
#1 Camcorder - I looked at prosumer cameras like the HVRA1U & HD1000U but decided they're too big and bulky for travel. Plus, there is the potential for issues at immigration as I'd rather not be seen as a journalist. I've read that it may be best to stick to HDV / Mini-DV format - what's a good camera that will give me the manual flexibility to begin learning proper videographer skills? I read great things about the Canon HV20 when it came out as a camcorder that would fit my needs - is the HV40 the best current iteration for my needs or is there a comparable Sony / Panasonic worth looking at?
#2 Laptop - Looks like Mac is the way to go with Final Cut Pro. I've read all sorts of conflicting information with respect to which model of Macbook Pro I should get though. I figure when it comes down to editing I can get an external monitor, so screen size isn't necessarily a deciding factor, and smaller is better when it comes to travel. The 17" is also plenty expensive. I've read that the 13" can't run all the features in FCP because it doesn't have a dedicated video card - which would guide me towards the 15". Will the 15" do for me? I've read some stuff about the firewire port being an issue - presumably because people want 2 FW ports so they can import video from their camera directly to an external HD?
#3 External HD - I haven't played around with much video editing software in the past, but I know storage is always a big factor. What should I be looking at for an external HD to pair with the Macbook Pro.
#4 Tripod, Lights, Mic (external sound necessary?) - Any budget / compact recommendations for these accessories? Any other must-haves for filming. Content is going to have to play a larger part than quality in my documentary but I'd still like to aim for a reasonable quality!
#5 Workflow - Can anyone give me any hints / tips for how I should approach my filming, storage, import, editing and output. I know I have a ton to learn about FCP and I'll make tons of mistakes along the way, but any helpful newbie hints would be appreciated!!!
Sorry for the long post - but I'd really appreciate any help you can offer as it's a rather complicated endeavour to jump into with such short lead-time!!