Episode Summary:

In part two of our ongoing series, From Field Biologist to Filmmaker, I talk about the next stage of my transition into a full-time filmmaker. One of the most difficult, but also fun decisions to make when preparing to begin shooting for a documentary is what type of camera to use. Having virtually zero production experience when I started shooting for my first film Scavenger Hunt, I learned a lot of hard lessons when first getting started. By sharing some of these mistakes here in this episode, hopefully I can help other aspiring wildlife filmmakers get an easier start than I did!

I go over lots of options to consider when purchasing a video camera, including the pros and cons of DSLR filmmaking and some of the newest camera options that are worth considering. I also talk about the first video camera that I bought before starting to shoot for my film Scavenger Hunt, and why it was basically obsolete just a few years later.

I also get into some basic shooting techniques for capturing the most important scenes in a documentary – action-based sequences. These can be the most difficult scenes to capture – scenes in which the action is unfolding as you are shooting – but they are also the most important in telling a compelling story. I provide a few helpful tricks to consider when preparing for this type of shoot.

And lastly we talk about the importance of capturing high quality audio. Audio quality is critically important for your documentary film, and it can be especially tricky to record – especially during those important action scenes when you’re operating as a one-person crew. I provide a few tips and gear recommendations that will allow you to capture crystal clear audio regardless of the conditions.

It really means a lot to hear feedback on an episode like this in which I am sharing some of my filmmaking knowledge. It you have thoughts or feedback on this episode – please don’t hesitate to leave a comment below. I’ll do my best to respond to any questions that are posed.


Watch Scavenger Hunt – my first documentary film about the recovery of the California condor, which is referenced in this episode.

The International Documentary Association – lots of great resources for documentary filmmakers.

No Film School – great articles and gear reviews from a DIY perspective.

DSLR Video Shooter – gear reviews with a focus on DSLR video shooting.

The Black Magic Pocket Camera – amazing features for under 1K.

Magic Lantern – get additional video features for your Canon DSLR

The Zoom H1 – a tiny field recorder that fits in the pocket of your subject.

The ATR3350 lavalier mic – inexpensive wired lav with great sound quality.


Listen to this episode here:

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *