Most people are visual learners; I include myself in the group. I’ve often spent loads of time looking at an auto repair manual, only to discover a 5-minute YouTube clip that teaches me exactly what I needed to do, in a quarter of the time. This is why I’ll show you how to shoot better travel videos.
We’re now past 4 billion video views a day on YouTube. People overwhelmingly prefer video to reading.
Infographics have also become hugely popular. No need to read a boring five-page report when an infographic tells you what you need to know at a glance.
Lately, I’ve experimented with video because it’s such an important communication channel. If your audience is mostly composed of visual learners (likely), it makes sense that you try to maximize that channel.
If a picture is worth a thousand words, then video is priceless!
This past week, I took my iPod Touch around town to shoot video. Since I have iMovie, and app for movie editing, I thought I’d give producing video a shot. My plan was to record some video, do some light editing, and voilà! Instant YouTube masterpiece.
Except, it’s not as easy as one may think. Truth is, It’s not that complicated to shoot interesting video. You only need to follow a few cues to do it right.
I recorded video one morning as I went along, hoping to play with iMovie and edit it into some semblance of mildly interesting video.
Unlike writing, where adding and reshaping text is easy, the only way you can make video the way you want it is to be on location and shoot it the way you want it to look like. Unless you want to go back and shoot again, it’s best to get all the footage you need during the same visit.
I’ve learned the hard way, but they were good lessons to be learned. Here are my 13.5 tips to help you shoot better travel videos.
13.5 Tips for Better Travel Videos
Tip #1 – Do Different Takes – Edit Later: Easily applies to photography as well. Where I was recording this video, I once saw someone with a very fancy-looking camera (looked like a tourist to me), walk around La Merced Church and snap one pic of the church, turn around and leave. Maybe he had a lot of confidence in his photography skills. Maybe he had found the perfect angle and spot to take the perfect shot.
For the rest of us, it won’t be nearly that easy. What works up-close for one scene may need an overall shot for another. Shoot the same scene from different angles. Those different angles will work well for a change of pace shot when you’re editing later.
Tip #2 – Avoid Sidebars – Use Landscape Mode: This is specifically for iPhone, iPods, and other devices that add sidebars when you shoot in vertical mode.
Tip #3 – Mind Reflections and Shadows: Watch out for reflections when shooting in front of windows and mirrors, so you don’t get inadvertently included in the shot. Also, just like in photography, try to shoot subjects when they’re illuminated from the front. When the light source is behind the subject, shadows tend to obscure detail and color.
Tip #4 – Pan Smoothly: This one takes some practice. Don’t pan too fast (detail is lost) or too slow (as boring as watching paint dry). Keep this in mind for Tip #7.
Tip #5 – Use Angles to Tell a Story: I did two takes of the church’s entrance, but the second one (mother and daughter heading to church) was far more interesting. Recorded it completely by chance, because I had not thought of a storyline for the video I was shooting. Knowing what you’re trying to achieve greatly helps your approach to shooting.
Tip #6 – Steady Camera – Lean Against Wall: If you have a tripod, using it is a no-brainer. Since I had a handheld camera (iPod), steadying my shot was a little harder. Use walls, poles, cars… anything that can help you create a steadier shot.
Tip #7 – Have Starting/Ending Point for Pans: Panning with the camera is a great way to give the viewer a layout of the surroundings. Pick a starting point and slowly pan towards a designated stopping point. I didn’t choose a starting point for my pan and the fountain ended up being my end point completely by accident.
Tip #8 – Frame Opening Shot for Segment: Think of you video as segments with an overall theme or idea. Start each new segment with a static, opening shot, to cue the viewer that you’re showing a sub-topic. They are the equivalent of sub-headings on a post.
Tip #9 – Avoid Quick Cuts Between Scenery & Subjects: It’s easy to get distracted and aim in different directions depending on where the action is. Settle on an overall scene where the action is contained, or follow a specific subject. Going back and forth quickly between both can be disorienting to the viewer.
Tip #10 – Zoom-in/Pan to Show Actual Location: If you’re going to focus on a specific building or place within an area, start with an overall shot then zoom-in on location, or start panning from a recognizable landmark towards your actual location you want to focus on. It gives viewers a sense of where your story is heading.
Tip #11 – Plan Story You Want to Tell Before Shooting: It’s easier to know what story you want to tell and what to record when you know your “script” ahead of time. I started recording the bakery where I buy my bread every week, which morphed into recording nearby landmarks. It would’ve been much easier to film and edit if I had picked a theme before shooting. Possible stories I could’ve told:
“Morning mass at La Merced Church”
“History of Arco Santa Catalina”
“Guatemalan bakery items”
“Breakfast at La Merced Plaza”
Possibilities are endless. The scenery could have been the focus or the backdrop, depending on what story I wanted to tell. Random video recording rarely make a good story.
Tip #12 – Don’t Disorient Viewer (Unless for Effect): Crazy camera movements and panning distract and confuse the viewer. Don’t use them unless they’re intended to achieve that effect.
Tip #13 – Take Static Footage of Entrances: Good stock footage is important, as you can add other video segments later that build on a story. Sometimes stock footage alone allows you to tell a story.
And that’s it!
Share your favorite video-taking tips below and check out UnwireMe TV,
my brand new YouTube Channel.