Maintaining Image Quality With Your Documentary

Capturing moments in life, and all that plays into making the moment true to its existence, can be nearly impossible when shooting with a camera. You can only get so much from so many different angles using even the best high-end cameras. This was paramount when shooting my latest documentary, SEADRIFT vs. The Big Guy.

When I decided to direct this documentary, my original premise was to follow the story of Jeff McAdams, a funny, larger-than-life character who decided to tackle the Texas Water Safari. Arguably the toughest canoe race in the world, it’s a non-stop, 260-mile race with a 100-hour deadline. However, the story I originally set out to capture, was not what I ended up shooting.

Logistically, covering a canoe race of this magnitude was a difficult task, and we used a number of different cameras to enhance the storytelling. By the end of the shoot, we had used a total of 25 cameras in 17 varieties. Our equipment list included the JVC GY-HMQ10 4K compact handheld camcorder, traditional HD camcorders, DSLRs, and sunglass camera systems. We even relied on iPhones when one competitor pulled a surprise marriage proposal and an iPad when Jeff was laid up in bed after back surgery.

Maintaining Image Quality

I know what you are thinking. Image quality could never be consistent when using such a variety of cameras and you are right. With so many sources, color matching was definitely a challenge in post. Even with color correction, the finished product was not consistent. Had this been a documentary on butterflies, for example, the lack of perfect accuracy would have hindered the experience, but this is a story about human triumph.

When making a documentary, I am telling a story, a story that moves people. The audience will forgive images that are slightly different as long as general tones are similar. The audience is whom I always make my films for, not for the technical critics.

What makes this documentary compelling is emotion and I had to capture that the best way possible. Sometimes all I have at the time is an DSLR and sometimes I get lucky enough to use a 4K camera. I am known in the industry as an High Definition purist. There is a good amount of truth to that. I desire to capture the very best images possible with the highest quality tools.

Ultimately, I am a content purist. I care about the whole package and content is king. If the only way I can give my audience the thrill of battling through the Texas Water Safari from inside a canoe is a Go Pro camera, then Go Pro is my tool. It is not about compromising technology, it is about not compromising the story.

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Randall Dark co-founded DarkMania Productions. Prior to DarkMania, Randall founded HD Vision in New York City. He received The Pioneer Award in recognition of extraordinary contributions to high definition. He is a member of the Television Arts and Sciences Academy and is one of a select few members of the Consumer Electronics Association’s Academy of Digital Pioneers, a group recognized for their efforts implementing Digital Television in the United States. Follow Randall P. Dark here @WeAreDarkMania and Facebook.com/DARKmaniaPro

Comments

  1. says

    hey Jason this is Olivia and I was wondering since you are the author of many film making books I would like to know is documentary film making process that can help me forward my career and get into the doors of many film company such as lions gate, paramount or warnerbros. If not can you direct me down that avenue so that I can be familiar with the process . thanks and best regards

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