Tip #1360: Tips for Filming Undercover

… for Random Weirdness

Tip #1360: Tips for Filming Undercover

Larry Jordan – LarryJordan.com

Plan what you are going to do – then leave yourself options.

(Image courtesy ÓMKÃR ÑAÍDU, Pexels.com.

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This article, written by Jourdan Aldredge, first appeared in PremiumBeat.com. This is a summary.

Just as in great investigative journalism, documentary filmmaking is about filming the very things that powerful people and subjects want to have filmed the least. That means, for those interested in careers as documentarians, that you’ll need to get used to filming undercover and undetected.

Research and Have a Plan. From my own experience working in documentary filmmaking—usually as a one man “Shreditor” (shooter, producer, editor)—you’ll often find yourself in situations that can be best described as “gray areas” in regards to whether you should be filming or not. Regardless of how you find yourself in one of these incognito or gray areas, your best bet is simply to do your research and have a plan.

The Right Tools for the Job. The trick is to find a camera, gear, and setup that will allow you the most flexibility to record with as little impact as possible, while still striving for quality footage, solid recording time, and enough dynamic range to work in a variety of lighting situations.

Inconspicuous Filming Techniques. Another popular technique for many documentary filmmakers looking to remain undercover is to shoot with many of the popular DSLR or mirrorless cameras that can often pass as simple photography cameras.

DIY Equipment and Hidden Cameras. I wouldn’t recommend using any of these cameras or methods as your primary means of documentary filmmaking. But, if you’re ever in a pinch and want to really stretch just how undercover you can go, these will certainly help you remain undetected.

Be Ready to Record and Improvise. I’ve personally found that the best shots come from spontaneous situations and from simply being quick on-the-draw, so to speak. Working on projects where you need to remain out of sight will stretch you even further to really push what your focus, gear, and expertise can handle.


This article has several videos illustrating its points, additional links for more resources and lots of additional detail.

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