How to make better travel videos (continued)

By Armond Noble
This item appears on page 77 of the September 2010 issue.

To reemphasize what I mentioned in the last issue, promise yourself (with rare exception) to never “zoom” again. Instead, your first shot should be a wide-angle one that “establishes.” Then turn off the camera. Reframe for your medium shot and take it. The shot following that will be the close-up.

A goal (not always accomplished) is for every shot on your video to be good enough to stand alone as a still photograph. Which means you just can’t wave that video camera around willy-nilly.

What adds smoothness to a video are transitions, the way you get from one scene to the next. For example, you’re going down the Amazon in a canoe and aiming the camera at the shore. At some point, tilt the camera down and fill the frame with the river water. The next scene (whatever it may be) follows the “frame filler.”

Or you’re seeing a great many people dressed in orange in a parade. Your next shot could be a close-up of saffron spices (filling the frame), then you tilt the camera up to show the vendor.

If you show someone in profile, always leave more space in the frame in the direction they’re looking. It’s called “leading them.” Do NOT film facial close-ups with your camera in the wide-angle setting. This distorts the subject’s features.

A favorite shot for many is a fruit vendor because the scene is so colorful. But everyone who films it stands in the same place, so the vendor is right in the middle of the picture, facing you. Instead, move to the side of the display; rather than being east/west with the vendor, you are north/south with the display. And frame the scene with the fruit going from close to the camera to far from the camera. It’s called a “recurring theme.”

Here’s a way to do a transition from one city to another. Show a person looking at a map, but do it by shooting over their right shoulder with the map off to the right. Then move the camera in on the map showing the name of the next city. Your following shot would be a roadside sign with the name of the city as you get there.

A transition that can be used each time between cities, separating them in the mind of the viewer, is a three-second shot of the inside of the bus. My favorite place to do that is from the very back row of seats. I like the seat in the middle because of all the legroom.

Once you get in the groove of it, you’ll find yourself looking for “frame fillers” and transition sequences.

Finally, comes the big night when you’re showing your production to friends or your travel club. You “ad-lib” or “wing it” with your narration. Later that night, just before falling asleep, you think of all those things you wish you had said.

Anything worth doing is worth doing well. Before the big night, write a script! Then tape it and listen to it. Some phrases that look fine on paper are clunkers when spoken. Writing for the ear is far different than writing for the eye. The listener cannot go back and dig out the words between the commas, which were between other commas.

You could even let your taped narration be the voice at the program. That way you listen and can touch it up for the next time. I’ve been to dozens of travel presentations and have found taped talks to be the most professional.

I hope this has been of some help. Next month I’ll announce the winners of our cruise line game and give details of the new game and an essay contest.