I have decided I want to make documentaries and have bought an HG10 to learn the basics. I have a 15 year background in photography and have mainly specialized in documentary/reportage. For the past 3 years I have worked in theatre as a tour manager/line producer. My intention is to build a portfolio with the camera to further a career in broadcast.
A primary influence on what I expect to be doing at the moment are some of the docs made for Dispatches in Iraq and Afganistan with a one-person crew. I'm not expecting to end up in a warzone soon but a low-key approach with minimum kit has always produced my favourite photographs. Many of these films lacked "production value" due to the extreme limitations of the situation - but they made up for it in grit. A secondary factor is that whilst I learn field sound, who wants to be my DP and whilst I futz with camera settings, who wants to op my sound?! Until I've nailed the basics, I'm a one woman show.
So far, mainly I've learnt that I've a lot to learn - especially the necessity for grip that I became so good at avoiding with stills. I have also run into some limitations with equipment and would appreciate advice for a work around.
My intention was to quickly add a shotgun mic, a wireless lav, a wide angle lens and a fluid head tripod to a pared down kit. The hood and filter holder were nabbed from a rarely used medium format outfit. Then I came slightly unstuck:
A major factor in the choice of camera was the mic in and phone out connectors. To my amazement, there is no gain control whatsoever on the camera which unless I'm mistaken reduces monitoring to an exercise in wearing oversized cans for the sake of it.
It seems I've a couple of options, an under-camera mini mixer like the Beachtek or to record sound separately. Initially I was dead against separate sound as it would make slating everything necessary...I now wonder if this is totally true for close shooting where the on camera mic could still be used for scratch sound - and how much hassle it is in real world conditions anyhow. I do understand that the audio is as important as the footage.
Internet wisdom states that AF is only acceptable in "run and gun" situations because the jerky nature of it is distracting to viewers. The cringeworthy footage my father shot of us as kids on his Video 8 reinforces this belief in me and my stills experience was that AF on anything less than a pro camera was too unreliable to guarantee the shot in fast moving situations.
The HG10 has "manual focus" in the form of a Kinder Surprise multicontroller. It can be set just fine in static situations where I can focus and then recompose. It provides hopeless feedback though and the "focus assist" is only any use when the subject is in the centre of the frame.
When I was younger and shot SLRs I used to love fast lenses and selective focus but more recently, I've relied on hyperfocal focussing 90% of the time. The HG10 has no depth of field scale and whilst I could work one out, aperture info is only displayed in Av mode and I've found myself using Cine mode most of the time. I confess I have no idea what Cine mode is but it makes the mid range colours sing. Is there a way of using a hyperfocal type method of focusing here?
Prior to purchase, I decided that a DOF adaptor was unnecessary for my needs as it would not add significance to the story for the most part. Partly since learning about the importance of B roll and establishing shots, my mind has changed though I still feel I could do without....however - if one would enable me more accurate focus in day to day stuff - with the lens at f8-11 my mind could be changed. I would build my own as the prices are extortionate!
Finally - perhaps the silliest question - how do you practise and hone the skills needed? I understand that first I make some shorts and then I make something longer than then I win Sundance or something - but how do you practise cameracraft and sound in particular before you are confident to even make a short? With photography, it was easy - you went to your local high street and took pictures of people going about daily life. I quickly learnt to handle cameras confidently, defuse the occasional misunderstanding and perhaps more importantly that that, learn to do it in a manner where I was virtually unnoticed. This was helped by moving to rangefinder gear. A shotgun mic, even on a small camera, is about as subtle as a 300mm f2.8 and that's around the point where the public and worse, police start hassling.
Thank you for your advice.