Anyone with a smartphone is a potential filmmaker these days, and a holiday video is a lot cooler than a conventional photo album. But a great trip does not necessarily make a great video – unless you stick to some basic rules. Here are seven tips to make your holiday video worthy of an Oscar.
Preparation: Get to know your equipment before the holiday. Does your device have enough memory? How long can it run on battery power? Cameraman Christian Ludwig advises against acquiring too much new equipment for a trip. “You might not know well enough how to operate it. This can cost you time and make the others frustrated.”
Also, if you have a video camera, make sure it’s compatible with the editing program on your computer.
Plot: A good holiday video should tell a story, so think about your narrative ahead of time and what images will help to tell the story. You might not immediately think about filming yourself packing your suitcase or the drive to the airport, for example, but images like this can help set the scene for your journey.
Hans Ernst of Videoaktiv magazine says: “What is always good is if a child is the commentator, describing the sightseeing attractions.” As to technique, the filmmaker must think about the length of each scene. If they are too long, the film can get boring; too short, and it can be challenging for the viewer to keep up.
Stability: You want steady images, not herky-jerky ones that can destroy even the awesome beauty of the Grand Canyon. If you don’t want to pack a tripod, then practise your most steady, stable stance, advises Constanze Clauss of the German photography industry association DGPh: “Feet spread apart at hip width, arms kept at an angle close to the body.”
A further possibility is placing the camera on a flat surface, such as a wall. Be sparing about using your zoom function, as this can often lead to a shaky picture.
Format: When you’re back home, you’ll be grateful to yourself if you have done all your filming in the same format. The horizontal format corresponds to people’s natural field of vision, and is also best suited to viewing on a TV screen. But if the video is meant only for viewing on a smartphone, then a vertical format can work as well.
Lighting: If possible, do your filming under fairly constant lighting conditions, and always avoid bright backlight. The brighter the backlight, the more the objects up front appear dark, or even in silhouette.
Perspective: This is where you can experiment and be creative. Changing the perspective or angles can make a scene more interesting. Filming while in motion can also be effective, but be careful. “You should move slowly, and when panning with the camera, think very consciously about where the scene starts and where it ends,” advises Clauss.
Sound: “Sound is half the film,” says cameraman Christian Ludwig. Bad sound can ruin the entire film. If the sound is important for a scene, then get up close to the source, and otherwise try to filter out any other sounds. Otherwise, you can edit in some music to the video material. But beware: if the material is to be shown on the Internet, then you can’t use copyright-protected music.