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Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Travel With Still+Video

Tips for better technical and creative results shooting video with your DSLR

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The year 2009 will go down in history books as a revolutionary one for photography. It ended the era when stills were stills and video was video, and never the twain would meet. Shooting professional-looking video with hybrid DSLRs has come of age. In 2010, we’ve seen the release of even more impressive hybrid cameras.

Having great tools doesn’t translate into great results, however—unless we know how to technically and creatively use them. Video has a grammar different from still photography that needs to be understood to take full advantage of the new hybrid equipment.

A four-day Travel Channel Academy Video Boot Camp at the network’s headquarters in Chevy Chase, Maryland, led by veteran producers Michael Rosenblum and Lisa Lambden, aided in my quest to understand what components make up a great travel video. This comprehensive course covers everything from shooting to editing and, most importantly, the art of storytelling.

I put the following tips to the test in Thailand, one of the world’s most exotic travel destinations, using the 12.3-megapixel, DX-format Nikon D300S that shoots 720 HD video.

STORYTELLING
Any travel editor will tell you: “A destination isn’t a story.” It’s important to delve into specific aspects of a location to make a travel video interesting. It could be the food, the art, the architecture, the culture—there are countless possibilities. It doesn’t have to be exclusive to the subject, it just has to be the focus.

Once you have an idea of what you want to shoot, concentrate on the building blocks of video storytelling. When possible, shoot five basic, 10-second shots of each scene, whatever scene that is. For instance, in Chiang Mai, Thailand, I shot the Northern Folk Dance and Music Performance at the Khum Khantoke Restaurant by doing a wide shot as an establishing shot, a close-up of the performers’ hands, a close-up of their faces, a side shot and then an over-the-shoulder shot from a guest’s point of view (POV). I paused the camera between each take. As you’ll find out when editing, 10-second shots give you enough footage for video transitions such as cross dissolves. The results are clean, dynamic clips that are easy to edit together. It’s a waste of valuable CF card space to “spray and pray,” panning and shooting everything. It’s also a nightmare to edit. There’s a time and a place for pans, tilts, zooms and so on, but they shouldn’t be the default shots we turn to.

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