This is a guest post by Matti Haapoja. in this article Matti shares some extremely useful guidelines and numerous tips on how to make a cinematic and awesome travel video with his Panasonic GH4.
Last fall I took a 29 day epic road trip through the west coast of America, along with my wife, brother and friends. Here are some most essential tips you should consider when planning to make an awesome travel film.
First off you have to make a plan. We had 29 days and although that seems like a lot of time we had to carefully plan out our trip in order to hit all the amazing places we wanted to see. Don’t be too strict because some places might totally surprise you with how amazing they are, case in point Crater Lake in Oregon. But make sure you have a plan so you don’t waste time on your trip trying to figure out where you should go.
Then you need to figure out why you’re filming because that will dictate a lot of the gear you need and the quality you need to achieve. For this trip I tried to line up some sponsors who would either donate gear or pay for expenses and then in turn I would include them in the travel video somehow.
But in this case it was way too big of a hassle with not enough return so I decided to shoot just for fun. Personal projects like these can be a great way to showcase your talent and style which helps you in the future to get more jobs doing films you actually like doing and that fit your style of film making. “Wild” has already helped me to land other travel videos that I’m being paid for.
3. Travel light
If you have too much gear it’s going to either stop you from seeing the places you want or make you tired of shooting because its so much work. Keep it simple. I wanted to run really light so all I took with me was a Panasonic GH4 + Metabones adapter, a Sigma 18-35m f1.8, Nikon 85mm 1.8 and a panasonic 12-35 f2.8, Monopod and an ND filter. Remember if it’s your vacation try to relax and enjoy yourself.
4. Don’t get robbed
Unfortunately fate would have it that apparently I had too much gear and in San Francisco my camera bag was stolen from our rental van. Be careful with your gear and don’t leave it in your car! Not even for 15 minutes… After a few days of sulking and being annoyed that footage from Crater Lake, Cannon Beach and Portland was stolen I got back into it and bought just the GH4, Panasonic 12-35mm 2.8 and an ND filter.
I realized that this was a perfect combo for traveling. Its insanely light and with the OS on the lens and using the EVF on the GH4 I shot everything handheld (except for a few shots at Crater lake which were stolen of course). I was able to walk around comfortably all day with the camera in hand and quickly snag shots almost like I was taking stills. I found it to be a great way to not be overwhelmed with gear and shooting. It also helped to be stealthy when shooting in cities.
4. Don’t forget who you’re with
Its all about people, characters and stories in the end so don’t forget to capture the people you’re travelling with or the locals if you’re by yourself.
One of the big things to remember is that you don’t want to just capture the beautiful landscapes and places but try and capture people in those environments, their reactions, emotions and culture. Having characters interact with the environment will make your travel video much more interesting.
5. Make sure you have a drone
Okay I did have a drone with me also. I brought along a drone because I wanted some epic shots of all the epic landscapes we were going to. It really elevates the production value of a travel film. I went with the DJI Phantom 2 and GoPro setup (Hero 3 in this case). Be careful about where you fly your drone though because not all places allow it and the laws can be a bit tricky. Also keep in mind you need an ND filter, which I only found out later. Also a little sun hood for the GoPro will save you from the shadow streaks created by the propellers when flying towards the sun. More info on this HERE.
6. Take your time on the edit
So often with personal projects I don’t take as much time on it because there’s other projects to do that I’m being paid for or it’s just not a priority. But personal projects can take your film-making in the direction of films that you want to make. Clients will often ask you to recreate or make similar films to something you have already created, so a personal project can act as an awesome showcase video .
7. Shine, polish, match and grade!
Don’t rush the colour grade. Travel films are usually shot in tons of different locations with different lighting etc. To keep the video cohesive and consistent make sure you take lots of time on the grade and matching shots. In Wild I tried to take a lot of time matching shots especially between the GH4 and the GoPro footage. I used VisionColor’s Impulz LUT’s for this travel film which worked great because they offer different versions of each LUT for different cameras like the GH4 and GoPro. Then I used curves for contrast and Magic Bullet Colorista to match between shots.
Remember that these are just some tips and not absolute rules. Do your best to be unique and true to your style!