Ten tips for making a holiday video that people actually want to watch

2015-02-18 09:04 - Natalie Roos
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Remember when your family members would return from a week in Mauritius or a ski trip to Switzerland and force you to watch hours of shaky, boring footage of their holiday? Terrible shots of your cousins hiding their faces, your aunt covering the lens with her hand and about 120 minutes of boring shots panning across beaches with your uncle narrating in the background? His riveting script including classic lines like “here we are on the beach (long pause) this is the palm tree (long pause) it’s very hot…” etc.

I mean, it was enough to put you off tropical islands altogether!

Thankfully, those dark days of family documentary hours are behind us. With the invention of super high quality phone cameras, GoPro’s and small digital video cameras, combined with the magic of Final Cut Pro and iMovie, even amateurs can cut their hours of boring holiday footage down to a pretty exciting clip. If you really don’t know your Mac book from your Big Mac, you could always spend a couple of hundred rands on a professional editing job, which could turn your holiday into high quality destination video.

I’ve been playing around with my travel videos for a couple of months now and I like to think that each one gets a little bit better. Once you’ve got the hang of the kinds of shots that make for an easy edit and have a basic grasp of an editing programme (I use iMovie because it’s super easy), the Travel Channel is just a few great videos away.

 Here are my top ten tips for making a holiday video that people actually want to watch.

 1. Shoot, shoot, shoot!

Don’t only get your camera out once you’ve arrived at your destination. Shoot your entire process - the packing, getting your passport stamped (maybe do this on the sly as officials can sometimes get a bit tense about it), finding your seat on the plane. This will help you to tell a story, rather than just cutting together a series of clips of your destination. Film your entire journey and you’ve already got a built-in narrative.

2. Get shots of yourself in there

Your family and followers like you (well, hopefully) and so they want to see you! I always say that if I wanted to see what Athens looks like I could just Google it. But I want to see you in Athens. What you did, what you ate, the rain falling on your shoes. You need to be part of your story.

 If you’re travelling solo, there are a lot of easy ways to get yourself into your shots. While they seem to be universally frowned upon, selfie sticks are actually very useful. Put your camera down on the ground and film yourself walking in front of it. Get shots of yourself in mirrors and reflective windows. Be inventive!

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3. Get the scenery in there

Having said that, we need to see at least some of the scenery too! Get a few shots of where you’re staying and don’t forget to film the people around you. Ask a local if they can give you a wave into the camera, or ask a parent if you can get a shot of their cute kid. These all help you to tell the story of your trip and your destination. Just remember to always ask locals before you film them, since you can never be too sure about what is and isn’t acceptable in a different culture - plus, it’s just basic respect. 

4. Get interesting angles

 If you’ve got a GoPro, this will be easily. Place it at the bottom of the pool and film yourself swimming above it. Strap it to your head when you go hiking, extend your selfie stick and spin 360 degrees. Sure, some of the shots might end up on the digital so-called “cutting room floor”, but you’re bound to get one or two good ones in there. It’s always the shots you think are going to be useless that end up being in your video. Also don’t be afraid to get close-ups shots. It’s a good idea to use a combination of long, establishing shots (the outside of your hotel, the beach), mid-shots and close-ups.

5. Film every shot for at least 5 seconds

Once you’ve lined up your shot, make sure that you lock it, keeping a steady shot for at least 5 seconds. This will help you when you’re editing, and anything shorter than that doesn’t really give you much wiggle room if you need to cut the shot down. Of course you can keep rolling for much longer, but don’t go any shorter or you’ll likely have to throw that clip out.

6. Download and backup as you go

You could be on a speedboat and a huge wave crashes into the boat and your camera gets flung from the boat or you could forget your bag in a taxi or a monkey could run right up to you and snatch it from your grip - I mean, anything could happen! Remember to backup and download all your footage as go so you don’t lose any of your precious moments. I normally travel with my laptop, but if you don’t feel like the hassle, then keep a flash drive with you and ask any photo shop or even the hotel to download and save your footage onto your flash. It’s totally worth the effort!

7. Keep the camera moving

Static shots are nice for really wide shots, but it’s more interesting to keep the camera moving just slightly when you film. It’s also easier to edit that way. Don’t go wild, but keep your arm slowly panning as you shoot.

8. Edit it down to no longer than 2-3 minutes

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but no one really want to see more than two or three minutes of your holiday. Any more than that and the jealousy starts to take over. You can alway keep a longer edit for yourself, but especially if you plan on sharing your video online, 2:30 minutes is the ideal length. It’s enough to give a good overview of your trip, especially if you keep your shots short and punchy, which brings me to my next point.

9. Edit clips to the same length: 1 sec, 3 sec, or 5 sec each

When you’re editing, try to keep your shots more or less the same length. It depends on your subject matter, so if you had an action-packed skiing holiday, one second clips make for a good, fast-paced film. If your holiday was a romantic trip to Italy, 3 or 5 second shots will set the pace for a dreamy and romantic video. Cutting them all down to the same length gives the video a real tempo, which keeps viewers interested in what’s coming next.

10. Choose a good track

Chances are, you don’t have a very good mic on your camera or a professional voice-over studio at home, so rather just put a song over the whole video. Choose something that works well with the destination and if possible, even a local musician. If you’re uploading it to YouTube, you won’t be able to monetise your video, so if you’re hoping to go viral, find a track on a site like The Music Bed, where you can buy licensed tracks.

So if I had to summarise the keys to a great holiday video, I’d say interesting shots, keep it short and make sure you have a great track.

Here’s are two videos I made of two separate trips to Reunion Island. I’ve edited them in 1 second clips and I used songs that I don’t have a license for.

But if you had to remember just three things, these are the most important:

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