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Fast Foreword: The Editor's Column, Winter 2020

By Tom White

Dear Readers,

Welcome to our Tech Issue!

Over much of 2019, we reached out to the documentary community to gauge your tools of the trade: What are your favorite brands and models of production gear and post-production software programs? Why? What do you look for when considering your primary camera? Why do you prefer prime lenses to zoom lenses—and vice versa? Do you buy, rent or share your gear? What is your budget for equipment acquisition over the next year?  

And we asked questions about you—demographic information, the stage in your career, your artistic role in documentary making.

The results of the survey—taken in two parts over several months—yielded both a rich portrait of our community and a robust narrative about the optimal tools for making your best work. This was our first foray into the byzantine world of survey development and data analysis on this scale, and we would like to extend a hearty thanks to Caty Borum Chattoo and her stellar team at the Center for Media and Social Impact at American University for doing the heavy lifting and providing sage and patient counsel along this oftentimes challenging trek.

And our work to serve you with useful and valuable information about the best gear for your storytelling practice will continue. To complement the report on the tech survey in this issue, production sound master Alan Barker shares his wisdom on observational sound, and breaks down his recommendations for criteria for assessing the best headphones, mics, boom poles and recorders. And on the post-production side, Matthew Carey talks to two experts in digital media workflow—editor Doug Blush and Matt Radecki, co-founder of the post house Different by Design—about what filmmakers need to know about the editing process, from aspect ratio to frame rate to sound design to security. And for our regular Inside Out feature, filmmaker Rita Baghdadi shares the essential accessories that enable her cinematographic prowess.

Looking ahead, the Documentary magazine team will continue to ramp up our tech-specific content. We will reach out to you about the tools you used for specific shooting scenarios in your work, the optimal kits you assemble, the line item-by-line item specifics of budgeting for equipment, the low-down in deliverables for SVOD platforms, and a host of other articles that will optimize your creative decision-making in your documentary practice.

Yours in actuality,

Tom White