How To Film Great Stock Footage for Documentaries

Documentary filmmakers often cannot get all of the actual footage they need to complete their documentaries, so stock footage and stock photos are often used. You must remember that stock footage is generally nondescript in nature. This means that the footage is not specific events. It is also not used to provide a specific visual representation of an event that actually happened.

Unlike other footage, you need not concern yourself with the film format since documentaries are often collages of footages combined into one film.

Step 1: Choose a Subject

When choosing a subject to film stock footage for documentaries, there are several factors that you have to consider. Unlike other stock footage libraries, those used in documentaries do not necessarily have to be specific events or persons. So, when you choose a subject for stock footage for documentaries, choose a general event that is socially and culturally relevant. Also, you must take into consideration other subjects like the behavior of animals and people. Researching and watching different documentaries will give you a clear view of some of the common general topics in a documentary.

Step 2: Schedule Your Shoot

Scheduling your shoot on a specific time of day or date can essentially give you a big advantage when filming your stock footage for documentaries. For one, you should consider the amount of light you will need to film your footage. If you do not have the appropriate lighting equipment, then utilizing natural light is the cheapest and easiest way to achieve the same effect. Since most documentaries often focus on social or cultural events, scheduling your shoot to go with an event is essential. For example, if you choose to film birds migrating, then you need to schedule your shoot on the days when birds are actually migrating.

Step 3: Use a Tight Shot

When filming stock footage for documentaries, a tight shot or focus shot is often used since it provides focus to a specific event or person. To do this, you need to zoom in your camera to your subject. However, it is important that you do not forget to include the appropriate head room and nose room in your tight shot. A head room is just the space between the top part of your scene and your camera frame, while nose room is the distance between the scene and the left or right frame of your camera.

Step 4: Shoot Using a Mid Shot

A mid shot is another important tool when filming stock footage for documentaries. Mid shots provide you with both the subject matter and its background. This type of shot is great if your subject matter is about a people and how they interact. However, you can use a mid shot for events, landscapes, monuments, landmarks and other types of subject matter.

Step 5: Use a Wide Shot

Although wide shots are not commonly used in documentaries, it is a great way to show an encompassing view of your subject. Make use of the wide shot tool in your video camcorder to do this. When using a wide shot, make sure that you make most of the backdrop of your subject. If your subject is the landscape itself, then ensure that you have a focal point so it is easier for you to centralize your wide shot.