comrade - I know you're going to get lots of good advice, but, in my view, pro quality sound and a rock steady (but mobile) camera are your number one and two priorities. Modern cameras can handle exposure and focus - but shaky camera work with bad sound will lose your audience very quickly. Thus my suggestions:
Pro camera with built in pro sound:Canon XA10 - about $2000 new, hard to find used
Pro lavalier mics for interviews (x2):Audio-Technica AT831B - about $180 new, $150 used
Pro shotgun omni/cardioid for background sound ("Foley") and run and gun:Azden SGM-2X - about $230 new, $195 used
Pro tripod to hold the camera rock steady:VariZoom VZ-TK75A - $190 new
Dolly, for smooth motion that won't be overused (as a slider might be ;-)):Professional Tripod Dolly - $33 new
Studio lighting kit with black, white and green screens for backdrops & visual effects:2400 watt lighting kit softbox light kit video lighting kit - $206 new
All together, this will cost you about $3000 - and will give you:
- clean pro quality sound without external recorders
- rock solid fixed and dolly shots
- well lit studio shots with soft lighting
- and the ability to use Final Cut to put any backdrop behind your interview subjects that you desire.
This is very close to the setup I have, and it provides a lot of flexibility (I have a prosumer Panasonic TM900
camcorder instead of the pro XA10
, but otherwise it's very similar - tripod, dolly, green screen, soft lights, two lavs and a shotgun mic).
The two things you'll be missing are an on-camera light for run and gun - and the "shallow depth of field" look that large sensor camcorders and DSLRs can give you. That said, as long as you have the skills, this setup will give you what you need to produce a pro quality documentary.
Good luck! Please let us know how it goes,
BillHybrid Camera Revolution