How To Film Your Next Vacation

Creative Commons License photo credit: CraigSnedeker

Today I am pleased to share with everyone an incredibly useful guest post by videographer extraordinaire, Brian Searl. Brian is the Founder & CEO of Insider Perks, a media company focused on producing amazing travel videos. Brian was good enough to agree to help us with an important part of the travel experience that most of us can’t seem to master- making quality videos. I’ve already put his tips to use and my videos improved immediately. I’m sure that you will have the same success preserving your own memories.

Sounds like an easy proposal. What could be more simple than packing the family video camera and recording all the best moments of your upcoming trip to Disney World? All you have to do is point and press the little red button and you’re done. Not so fast, at least if you want videos that don’t give your family a migraine due to all the spinning and with audio no one can hear. Here are some best practices for giving your own personal vacation video that semi-professional touch that you and your family will enjoy for a lifetime.

The first thing I need to point out is editing.  If you do not want to touch an editor like iMovie or some other kind of computer software, then you need to pay close attention to these tips. If you have already used one, think you can learn one or have a friend who is a video genius then you can probably skip some of this advice. Yes, I just told some of you to ignore me.

The most important thing to understand is that shooting a good vacation video is easy. If you have a decent video camera and can manage to hold your hand steady, then you are already halfway there. What you must make sure not to do is try to film everything.  I understand that you are extremely worried about missing your child’s first hug with Mickey Mouse, but does it really matter if the camera is swinging wildly around in 360 degree circles and causing nausea?  First rule:  DO NOT move the camera.  Find a shot, press record and hold it for at least five seconds and preferably 10 if you plan to edit later.

Think about what you want to film on the airplane ride or on the drive to your destination. Of course, you don’t know exactly what’s going to happen or which moments are going to be special, but with just a little planning, you can transform your videos. Use the example above.  If you are headed to Disney World with your children for the first time, one of your goals is to film them meeting all the characters. So don’t get distracted with recording every waking moment of them running through the park and waiting in line for the rides. The same advice can be applied to almost any travel situation.

Make sure your audio is good. The built in microphones on consumer camcorders are not usually high quality, the effect of which is magnified in a travel destination such as Disney World. If you stop by a local electronics store prior to your trip, you can purchase a decent external microphone for the camera for less than $20. It may seem like a small detail, but the viewing experience and, more importantly, the memories evoked by the video, will be that much more special. As an example, the travel video will be much more memorable if, rather than just filming your child meeting Mickey Mouse, you are also able to hear them say hello and carry on that first conversation.

Buy a camera with enough space.  Stay away from cameras that have built in flash memory. Yes, that is my personal opinion and I’m not saying there is anything wrong with these cameras, but with flash only, there is a decent chance you will run out of space if you ever want to record anything in HD. Additionally, these cameras require you to purchase extra flash memory if you want to save all your previous video which can quickly get very expensive. Instead, invest in a good camera with a hard drive or learn first how to transfer your old videos off the flash drive so you can delete them and film more.

I’m not going to cover editing in this short blog post but I will say this: If you can take a few minutes to learn a program such as iMovie on a Mac or Windows Movie Maker on a PC, then your memories and video quality will be infinitely better. These programs are extremely user friendly and by using them, you will be much happier with the end result.

When you return home from your trip, share your videos with friends and family on a video sharing site like YouTube where you can embed them into your own personal blog or website if you have one.  For some inspiration before your trip, check out video sharing site TripFilms or even some of the more professional
travel videos from Insider Perks.  A quick and simple search through YouTube can also yield a wealth of information, especially some worst practices of what not to do.

Video is one of the best ways to make a memory last and one that will stay with you forever. If you follow these and other best practices then your chances decrease dramatically of getting home, hooking up the camcorder and finding out that the priceless Mickey hug was out of focus.

By: Brian Searl

Brian Searl is the Founder & CEO of Insider Perks, as well as a freelance writer for several publications. He writes a regular column here called Unbalanced Travel and you can find him on Twitter or find Insider Perks on Facebook and YouTube.

6 thoughts on “How To Film Your Next Vacation”

  1. I find holding the camera still to be the hardest part of things, especially as I notice that I want to use the camera to just slowly (jittery most of the time) pan and “take in the feeling of a place.” I guess I need to work on this. Maybe I’ll rig up some sort of parrot tripod for my shoulder.

    I will second your tip about the external memory. I got one that uses the same cards as my digital still camera so I can just bring a stack and swap as needed.

    1. Thanks for your comments Andrew.. Here’s a tip that might help you:

      Instead of putting your hand through the strap provided on the side of the camera, sit the camera flat on the open palm of your hand. While this isn’t a good strategy for general use, it does work much better for many people in the types of panning shots you describe.

      1. Yep. It will help reduce horizontal shake, which accounts for pretty much half of the stabilization problems most people have with filming.

        Also, you can make a cheap monopod simply by resting your camera on a walking stick. Works well.

        (former film student, speaking)

  2. I found that when I had an old HDD video camera, it was quite easy to keep steady, even when walking or running around. (Taped some running around a maze once, and it went well.)

    Now that I’ve got a DSLR with great video (Canon 7D), I find it a lot harder to keep still while moving. I think it’ll come down to practice, but since most still cameras now have decent video options, do you have any advice?

  3. Brian, love your work and nice to see you here on Matt Long’s landlopers site. Great job encouraging the ordinary traveler on making their own video magic

  4. Good tips. I’ve made videos that I later regret wasting my time doing.. I just can’t keep my hand steady. I guess I have to practice more!

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