Monday, July 26, 2010

How to Make Action Vacation Videos

Used to be a time that you'd dread being invited to someone's house to watch slideshows of their vacation. Nowadays we're subjected to uploads of up-to-the-minute stills and videos of the mundane day-to-day non-vacation whereabouts of our "friends." We've come a long way!

But there's no reason that vacation videos need to be boring.

Thanks to more ubiquitious and affordable videocamera technology and digital editing software, even amateurs now have access to tools that Hollywood moviemakers would have lusted for just a few short decades ago. In other words, you have the capability of turning your real-life adventure vacations into exhilarating movies.

A recent New York Times tutorial, in text and video, shows you how. Even professional videojournalists should pay attention here, since many of the precepts apply to their daily tasks.

In "Making the Video as Good as the Trip," Roy Furchgott set out to shoot his own motorbiking adventure in order to teach himself how to shoot action sequences. Through trial and error, after shooting 12 to 15 hours of video, he managed to stitch together a viable 45-second piece. Which, face it, is about all that most folks have patience to watch.

Lesson one is to plan ahead. "You’ll have to decide what to shoot, where and when, and learn to use your equipment."

After settling on motorcycling, Furchgott had to select an optimal route and time of day (for both photogenic and logistical reasons), and the proper equipment (including a helmet cam and mounts to affix videocams on the bike itself). Camera placement alone took hours of testing. He had to make sure he could capture both establishing shots of himself from remote cameras, but also point-of-view shots which put the audience in the driver's seat. For editing purposes, he also needed closeup cutaways.

It didn't take long to figure out that he needed an extra cameraperson (since, after all, he couldn't drive away from his own camera on a tripod). And of course that entails an extra camera. Which in turn leads to editing challenges when it comes to matching angles and shots.

As you might have surmised, this can really eat into your vacation time!

You should read about his step-by-step travails -- each setback another lesson learned. To maintain energy and pace, he edited each shot to less than three seconds. In order to use his best shots, he ended up cheating a bit on time sequencing, so that unintentionally you can actually see seasons change between shots. Never able to get clear audio because of the wind noise, he ultimately opted to replace natural sound with a high-energy Ventures-style music soundtrack.

In short, Furchgott spent many hours -- not just shooting but mercilessly editing -- to assure that, for 45 seconds, his audience won't get bored.

Have a look:

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