All your Toughest Documentary Questions Answered by the Experts.
Learn how to make the right choices.
Everyday, Videomaker receives dozens of questions from readers eager to learn the best video shooting and production techniques. But the most common questions come from budding documentarians, specific questions about how to turn their pie-in-the-sky dreams into documented reality.
Videomaker’s complete documentary series is now available. These four DVDs cover every aspect of the documentary process, from the first faltering steps to the final polishes. We heard your laments, and we answered. These tutorials answer the most frequently asked documentary questions received from Videomaker readers. In addition to comprehensive video segments, each DVD is packed with bonus features, so you get multiple best-selling eDocs absolutely free with every purchase.
The series includes the following titles:
Documentary Production: Story-Telling
Documentary Production: The Shoot
Documentary Production: Funding
Documentary Production: Crew and Equipment
Purchase the entire series — Save $60!
Documentary Production: Storytelling
Don’t make the common mistake of thinking you can point a camera at the street and by pure luck the next “King of Kong” or “Thin Blue Line” will unfold right before your eyes. The truth is that great documentaries don’t just happen; they’re meticulously crafted. At the heart of every good documentary, there’s a story aching to be told. Find your story and your documentary will fall into place; this DVD guide can help.
- Story Basics – This segment will show you the elements you need to build a compelling story that will move your audience to laugh and cry and applaud. Learn how to weave a narrative using theatrical principles like theme, character and dramatic arc.
- Story Structure – Once you’re satisfied that you’ve found a subject with story potential, how do you make it all hold together? Here’s how to turn a jumble of unscripted, real-life events into a coherent, three-act story.
- The Approach – Learn about the different genres of documentary and find out which approach best fits your ideas.
- Researching the Story – What questions should you ask to get your interviewees to reveal their hidden depths? Where can you find the best background info to give your documentary some context? Learn all that and more!
- Finding the Story – Sometimes the story that you set out to tell is different from the one you end up finding. After watching this segment, you’ll recognize the best possible story when you see it in any subject.
- Controlling Time – If your doc drags, your audience will fall asleep. But if it rushes ahead, they won’t have time to absorb anything it says. In this segment, you’ll learn how to strike a balance between excitement and education.
- Audio Compression
- Creating Characters
- Depth of Field
- 3 Point Lighting
- Video Editing Planning
Documentary Production: Funding
Unfortunately, that’s the stage where too many would-be documentarians start to falter. Because this isn’t why they got into filmmaking! Finding funding for a documentary is no fun – it’s tedious and confusing and who knows where to start? After all, you’re a filmmaker, not an accountant! How am I supposed to do this, you ask yourself. Don’t panic! Fundraising doesn’t need to be a chore; Videomaker’s “Documentary Funding” DVD will break it down for you, so you’ll know exactly where to go for funds, what to say, and how to get them.
- Funding Sources – We’ll help you find the right places to look for cash, so you won’t waste your time barking up the wrong tree. This section reviews sources like grants, foundations and private individuals.
- The Prospectus – Make investors feel safe that investing in your film is the right decision when you present them with a polished prospectus. We’ll show you how to put together a compelling cover letter, a glowing film description, and a flattering but honest demo reel.
- The Budget – The most important question when raising funds is, how much do you need? Get a realistic idea of how much money you’ll need to stage a professional production and where you can trim costs without hurting the quality of your final product.
- The Fund-Raising Plan – Learn how you can stage banquets, auctions, online events and other ways to convince the public to pitch in a few dollars. We’ll show you how to leverage public relations to get the word out, hold screenings to attract interest and pitch your idea to the public via the Internet.
- The Demo Reel – Probably the most important part of your pitch package, the demo reel is what shows investors your real potential. You don’t have much time to make a good impression, so we’ll teach you how to choose the best footage and graphics to make a big impact on your viewer.
- The Pitch – This is the part you’ve been dreading. Are you really going to have to get up in front of a room of potential investors and – gasp! – talk about your project? We’ll show you how to research, prepare and present your pitch so you can have the confidence you need to succeed.
- Dynamite Demos
- Submitting to Festivals
- Keeping Your Client Happy
- Video Scopes
- Taking it to the Screen
Documentary Production: Equipment and Crew
You might have an idea for the best documentary ever. You might even have the talent and drive to pull it off. But you can still be sabotaged by an unqualified crew or inadequate equipment. There’s no reason that should happen when you can follow just a few simple guidelines for selecting the best crews and equipment. Videomaker‘s Documentary Production: Equipment and Crew will show you exactly what you need to look for to make sure that you surround yourself with the people and gear that will help you to succeed.
- Choosing a Camera – How can you make sure that you find the video camera that works best for your shoot? Learn about quality optics, battery technology, inputs and outputs, recording media, and controls.
- Choosing Audio Gear – Audiences are consistently less forgiving of poor sound than anything else in a movie. In this segment, we’ll teach you about mic features like pickup pattern and frequency response, as well as wireless capabilities and design, so you’ll know how to assemble an outstanding audio kit.
- Choosing Lighting Gear – We’ll show you how to light up your production properly, so that the audience will clearly see your stars. Understand fixture designs and lamp types better after you watch this comprehensive introduction. If that’s not enough, we’ll also teach you how to select the best equipment for blocking, diffusing or reflecting light.
- Essential Accessories – Before you head out, review this helpful segment to learn about all the essential equipment that you won’t believe you forgot to remember. From tripods and sleds to dollies and arm and vest systems, we’ll introduce you to all the stabilizing gear you’ll need when you’re out in the field.
- Finding Crews – A crew needs to understand how to get the best audio, how to light a scene properly, and where to focus the camera for the best shots. We’ll show you how to recruit an energetic, knowledgeable crew who will be as committed to your video’s excellence as you are. Learn what to look for when you hire your crew, where to seek out potential crew members and how to figure out how many helpers you’ll need.
- Working with Crews – You have to have good interpersonal skills to make sure that your crew knows exactly what they need to do and, more importantly, that they want to do it right. In this segment, we’ll show you some simple ways that you can make sure your crew stays focused and energized, so that they’ll be just as committed to finishing a great video as you are.
- Composition Tips for 16:9
- Handheld Shooting
- Lighting Gels
- Lighting Technology
- Understanding Digital Video architecture
Documentary Production: The Shoot
This is the most fun part of the process, but it’s also the most demanding. Don’t let all your hard work go to pieces when you pick up a camera. Videomaker is here to help you through every step of the process with Documentary Production: The Shoot, your essential guide to the practical nuts-and-bolts of shooting out in the field. From setting up your microphone to conducting an interview, there are plenty of considerations to keep in mind as you’re shooting your video. This DVD will help you master them all.
- Getting Location Access – A documentary is more than just talking heads; you need to shoot some on-location footage to really bring your audience into the story. We’ll teach you exactly how to convince the right people to give you the right permission ahead of time.
- Preparing for Interviews – Interviews are the lifeblood of a good documentary, but getting a good interview response starts long before your interviewee even enters the room. Learn how to prepare the interview room so that it looks great on video and helps to communicate the same themes you want to capture from your interviewee’s words.
- Directing Interviews – Getting good interview footage is all about asking the right questions. Get interviewees to share all the intimate thoughts and shocking revelations that make for a riveting documentary!
- Capturing B-Roll – Interviews fill your documentary with facts and stories, but where’s the action? We’ll show you how to how B-roll that compliments your documentary’s theme and keeps your audience hooked.
- Common Lighting Setups – Poor lighting has more potential to ruin a documentary than improve it. Keep your documentary looking good with these easy-to-understand lighting arrangements preferred by the professionals.
- Field Sound Recording – Sound problems can turn any documentary shoot into an absolute grind, but we’ll show you easy ways to avoid these snarly snags. You’ll learn the proper way to use microphones, how to monitor sound and how to use field mixers.
- The Divine Proportion
- Fix it in Post
- Moving Performances
- Time Control
- Videography Essentials