Make travel video more interesting?

Discussion in 'Amateur Video Production' started by james, Jul 31, 2009.

  1. james

    james Guest

    I shot some video during a recent trips. There are clips of us in the car,
    eating, looking at scenery, getting ready for bed, waking up, etc.

    Somehow, even though the trip was fun, putting these clips together makes a
    boring video.

    How do you make a travel video more interesting?
    james, Jul 31, 2009
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  2. "james" wrote ...
    Interview each other on-camera about the best, worst, funniest,
    etc. moments. You don't necessarily have to use your faces on
    screen, but you can use the audio as a "voice-over" to spice up
    the audio track and give a bit more meaning to the video. Might
    be amusing to see what the kids remember vs. what actually
    happened (on videotape).
    Richard Crowley, Jul 31, 2009
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  3. james

    PTravel Guest

    Travel videos, like any video, should have a story arc, i.e. a beginning,
    middle and end to each sequence, and overall beginning (arrival?
    preparation? research?), middle (you're there) and end (you leave). What's
    your attitude about where you went, and does it come through in the video?

    Pick a recurring theme -- whether it's "wierd pets we encountered," or,
    "expensive art we can't afford," or, "yet another search for a restroom,"
    etc., and work it into the final production. Needless to say, this is not
    something you can pick ahead of time, so stay alert and shoot LOTS and LOTS
    of video as you go.

    To accomplish this, you need to shoot B-roll, i.e. background shots to which
    you can cut for continuity. You also need POV shoots, reaction shots, etc.
    just like any commercial movie.

    Don't rely solely on wide shots. Do close ups and two shots of the "stars."
    Find interesting little details in the environment. Put depth in your shots
    by including foreground elements -- don't just shoot beautiful vistas.

    To the extent that you're able (and it can be difficult with consumer
    cameras) vary depth of field, i.e. the background doesn't always have to be
    in sharp focus.

    Also, it is critical that you concern yourself with pacing. Most amateur
    travel video uses shots that are far too long. For example, the HV20 has a
    10-second timer for shots. I hardly ever use a shot that is more than 4
    seconds, and most of them are in the 3-second range. Mix up your shot
    length, but keep overall pacing in mind.

    Be selective when you edit. Everything doesn't belong in the final
    production. Decide what shots are important, which are redundant, and which
    are unnecessary. Only use the important shots and, once you've selected
    them, go through them again to weed out the chaff.

    When traveling, people are generally more interesting than scenery. You're
    trying to capture the experience of the trip, not a series of postcards.

    Use music (buy local CDs) to set the mood, establish rhythm, define
    atmosphere, etc.

    DON'T use a bunch of special effects. 99.99% of your transitions should
    either be straight dissolves or cuts. However, DO use L- or J-cuts in which
    the sound of the previous or subsequent scene is carried into the shot.

    Practice good hand-held technique to get the steadiest video possible.
    Shaky video looks awful.
    PTravel, Aug 5, 2009
  4. james

    Smarty Guest

    What an absolutely superb primer for videography......

    Clearly this beautifully synopsized set of recommendations can be applied
    for videos beyond those involving travel.

    Thanks for presenting this. I have printed it and have it on the wall as a
    basic "reminder".....

    Smarty, Aug 5, 2009
  5. Very nice piece (although for some other types of videos, I may
    not agree with everything here...;-). I would like to use it, if possible
    (credited, of course), in my Basic Editing Guide, which is here --
    Let me know. Thanks.
    David Ruether, Aug 5, 2009
  6. james

    PTravel Guest

    Of course. Your website is a terrific resource and I'm flattered to be
    PTravel, Aug 6, 2009
  7. Thanks. Let me know how you want to be credited (name only, name
    plus web site, web site only...). I will try to get it included soon.
    --David Ruether
    David Ruether, Aug 6, 2009
  8. Also, what did you mean by, "...two shots of the "stars"...?
    David Ruether, Aug 6, 2009
  9. I "jumped the gun" and gave you credit and also provided your
    travel-video web site address. It is now uploaded, along with
    some additional URLs of possible interest, in section 3)l in the
    guide at, with
    your piece at
    Check it over and see if I got it right. Thanks.
    David Ruether, Aug 6, 2009
  10. james

    PTravel Guest

    Name and website ( would be great, thanks!
    PTravel, Aug 6, 2009
  11. Been a rough day with the web page and links...8^(
    That link should have been --
    David Ruether, Aug 6, 2009
  12. james

    PTravel Guest

    "Stars" refers to those family members or travel partners to whom you're
    always saying, "Wait a second . . . I wanna get a shot of this!"

    "Two shot," means two people in the frame shot from the waist or chest up.

    My wife (close up -- in train station): "I'll ask that conductor when the
    next train will be coming."

    Wide shot: (Wife crossing Gare du Nord train station)

    My wife (two shot -- wife and conductor): "Excuse me, when is the next train

    Conductor (close up): "Cochon Americain, je ne parle pas Anglais. Allez!"

    Conductor (wide shot from behind, walking away)

    Wife (reaction shot): "Did he just call me an American pig?"
    PTravel, Aug 6, 2009
  13. Aaaaah....! ;-) 'Course, various tidbits (including a rewriting of the
    first paragraph and various fixes in indexes in the site) were uploading
    when I saw this, and I didn't have a chance to add a clarifier of some
    sort, like "two shot", or two-shot, or two person shot, or...? ;-) Or,
    leave it - it's jes' fine! ;-) Thanks, again. (Oh, did I get your name,
    from memory, right? At
    BTW, Robert Thrush kindly made a PDF version (minus the latest
    minor changes) which is now at 'Course,
    after all this, I discovered the Sony video tutorials on the Sony site, at,
    but this compliments what I have done (I think...;-) rather than replaces
    it (maybe...;-).
    David Ruether, Aug 6, 2009
  14. james

    james Guest

    How do you make a travel video more interesting?
    It takes an effort to video record something that is not particularly
    interesting like leaving. But in the context of a travel movie the "leaving"
    part seems essential. Otherwise it's like starting a sentence and
    In retrospect there were some recurring themes, it just never occured to me
    to shoot them all at the time.
    Reaction shots are fleeting. Wouldn't you have to ask the star for a second

    Now that I think about it, I also need B-roll of the stars, just smiling (or
    not) into the camera doing nothing. I can use this for voice over character
    intro, or for adding some friendly jokes about them. Once I do that, it may
    be harder to get them to cooperate on the next trip :)
    Good point. I need to do this.
    Good point. That sums up the difference between shooting travel photos and
    travel video.

    Thanks for the tips. It's time to practice.
    james, Aug 7, 2009
  15. james

    PTravel Guest

    It doesn't have to begin with departure. It can begin with arrival. It can
    begin with your first venture out into the new place. The point isn't that
    it has to start with a particular beginning, only that it have one. As for
    it taking an effort, well yes. What did you think? ;) After awhile,
    though, you get to used to it and start thinking in terms of what video you
    need while you're traveling.
    Well, now you'll know for the future. ;)

    I was once in Taormina in Sicily for New Years. It's a poplar vacation spot
    with Italians and there were tons of older ladies walking around in mink
    coats, even though it was unseasonably warm, with temperatures in the 70s.
    I immediately recognized it as kind of quirky and never missed the
    opportunity to shoot an Italian lady in a mink coat. I wound up with a
    pretty funny sequence -- women pushing strollers wearing minks, women
    carrying heavy grocery bags wearing minks, women sweating because they were
    wearing minks, etc. As I said, it's not something for which you can plan --
    you just have to be open to recognizing a visual theme or joke when you
    happen to stumble across it.

    For what it's worth, I have TONS of video of what, at the time, I thought
    would make a good recurring theme, but there weren't enough recurrences to
    use in the video. Typically, to make a 1-hour "family friends" reel, I'll
    shoot 12-14 hours of video. For the short 2-3 minute clips that I put up on
    Youtube, I'll start with 2-3 hours of material.

    Another point: just like Hollywood, don't assume you've got it "in the can."
    Re-shoot scenes when possible so that you have backups in case a shot was
    spoiled by lens flare, drop-out, a dog peeing in the background that you
    didn't notice, etc. This is particularly true when you want to zoom in or
    out, or pan (both technqiues that should be used very, very, VERY
    sparingly). What looks good on the tiny LCD may not look good on 50" HDTV,
    so try multiples of these shots at different speeds.
    No, though I have, on ocassion, told my "star" (my wife), "Say that again?".
    Sometimes, I'll just get the response that I missed, but sometimes it turns
    into a joke -- she said something silly and doesn't want to repeat it and I
    have to cajole it out of her. That, of course, stays in the final video.
    Other times, you can provoke a response. For example, we spent a week or so
    in Prague. Prague, in Czech, is spelled "Praha." I could always crack up
    my wife by saying, "Pra-ha-ha-ha-ha," as if I was laughing. It was just a
    question of picking the time. I found that as we were entering somber
    churches worked best. ;)

    As I said, you need to shoot lots of video, which means shooting your stars
    when the opportunity arises. You realize, don't you, that when you edit you
    don't have to stick to a chronological sequence. You can take a shot of
    your star responding to something completely different that was filmed 10
    minutes earlier and use that as a reaction shot. That's the whole point of
    B-roll -- having something to cut to so that you can maintain continuity.

    Take a look at the opening 20 seconds or so of this for an example of
    cutting together different shots taken out-of-sequence to create a
    continuous scene:

    Yep -- there ya go.
    That's why you never show them the video until it's been completely edited
    and burned to DVD. :)
    Here are a couple of videos that mix it up a little, though they don't
    include stars:

    Absolutely. Unless you're off in some barren wilderness somewhere, the
    people are just as much a part of the experience as the scenery.

    Here is a video that includes people along with the scenery or, more
    accurately, acting against the scenery:

    The hardest part of travel video that includes people and, particularly,
    "stars," is capturing their images without their being conscious of the
    camera. There are a lot of tricks for doing that:

    1. Turn off the tally light (the little red light in front of the camera
    that comes on when you're recording).
    2. Shoot from the waist using the swing-out LCD (which makes you steadier).
    3. Shoot sideways, i.e. fold the LCD flat against the camera body, point
    the camera to your left and watch the screen. No one will no you're
    4. My favorite: do no. 3, above, but use a tripod and then you look
    elsewhere. Here's a video that used that technique:

    PTravel, Aug 7, 2009
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