When you want to shoot a decent travel video on vacation, you may face plenty of challenges. They won’t only make the vacation less enjoyable, but also the footage won’t turn out as you wanted. Filmmaker Brandon Li lists four most common problems of making travel videos and gives practical solutions to overcome them.
Brandon’s tips will help you on several aspects. First, you’ll plan your shooting better. Second, you’ll return from a vacation with great footage you’ll turn into an interesting and engaging travel movie. And last but not least – you’ll enjoy the vacation more.
Over the past couple of years, Brandon has visited many countries and plenty of travel videos. He’s probably faced most of the problems one could face when trying to balance great footage and actually having a rest. These are, according to him, four problems people could face most often, and some of the clever ways to solve them.
1. Not enough motion
The first problem of many travel movies is there’s not enough motion within the actual shots. There are transitions between them, but the frames themselves tend to be dull. This is not strange, since the things we see and shoot on vacation are mainly static – landscapes, buildings, sunsets, museums and so on. These are some of the ways to make the shots like this more engaging and dynamic:
- Create a timelapse
- Drone shots
- Use a handheld gimbal and walk
- Shoot from a moving vehicle
- Look for signs of life around the buildings and other static objects – don’t only film the building, but also capture the birds and/or people around them to add dynamics to the footage.
2. Lack of story
When I think of the travel videos I’ve seen, this is probably the most common problem. No matter how beautiful the shots are, there’s no story, no logical sequence of events and no “flow.” To overcome this, think about the following:
- Have your movie have a defined beginning and the end. You don’t have to literally film the moments of arrival and coming back home, of course. But shoot something that denotes the beginning: the moment of opening the hotel room’s window for the first time and seeing the city/landscape, the moment you step into the sea for the first time, and so on. For the ending, sunsets are usually a logical (and most common) idea, but of course – feel free to be creative.
- Arrange the clips from day to night, not in the actual order as they happened. This looks more logical to the viewers.
- Add voice-over or narration if they fit. You can use the voice of someone reciting a poem if it fits the concept, or use your own voice to tell the story. Many videos contain the voice of Alan Watts, but Brandon suggests avoiding it if it doesn’t really fit since it’s become a bit of a cliché.
If the purpose of your journey is to make a film, then it’s great if you spend almost all the time with the camera. However, if you’re there to get some rest, you can actually ruin the vacation for yourself and the others because you hang out more with the camera than with them.
But worry not, you can make a praiseworthy travel video and casually sip cocktails from a coconut at a beach if you limit yourself to this:
- Shoot only when the light is best (at dawn, sunset, and dusk). This way you’ll get the best light for the video, and the remaining of the day for yourself. But I have to add – if you want to sneak out for some night shots, do it. But no need to do it every evening.
- If you are only traveling for a day or weekend and want to shoot something on the way, think about the light. Will the sights you’re seeing look better now, or in the low light on your way home? This way, you can shoot only while going in one direction, and rest in the other.
4) Too much gear
Related to the previous problem – it’s reasonable that you don’t wanna miss a thing. But If you have a lot of gear and want to shoot as much as possible, you’ll overburden yourself. Instead of carrying tons of gear around, plan shooting like this:
- Only bring the gear for what you intend to shoot. This may require some planning, but it’s definitely easier than carrying tons of stuff around for hours. Brandon gives an example for the lenses – you can use zoom lenses during the day because there is more light. If you want to get some night shots, bring only the fast prime lenses, and leave the zooms behind. You can also challenge yourself and bring only one lens, and see what you can get with it.
Even as someone who shoots only photos, I found myself in some of these problems, and I’ll definitely pay more attention to it my next vacation. I found Brandon’s advice really useful, and I hope you did too.
[4 Practical Tips for Better Travel Videos | Brandon Li]