The vast world of travel video is a rapidly growing industry. It used to be that if you wanted to record video you’d need a heavy VHS camcorder and a great deal of upper body strength. Today, you have more recording options than countries to explore and each branch has become specific to varying skill sets and needs. Here’s a quick rundown on what to consider if you want to get into travel video and are wondering where to start.
One of the biggest things we’ve learned about travel video is that good audio is key. The average viewer will gladly suffer through ten minutes of blurry nonsense if it has solid audio, whereas they will click away in under a couple of seconds if they can’t hear what’s going on. The first big purchase for our travel video kit was the Rode II shotgun mic. This super versatile mic sits right on top of our camera and is powered by a single 9 volt battery. It cuts down the rumble of wind, picks up subjects from over 30 yards away, and gives a strong clear sound to our videos. Many video bloggers swear by wireless lavalier “lav” (lapel microphone) mics as well. The trade off is that occasionally the lav signal can interfere with any other sound equipment (only important if you’re filming something like a set of a big shows like in Vegas) and they require you to attach the microphone to your subject. The shotgun mic is simply point and shoot.
When it comes to cameras, the first thing to consider is what your travel style is like. Are you active with emphasis on extreme sports or water activities? Are you always on the move and need a quick way to capture the organic moments? Perhaps you like to plan ahead and have a set itinerary. Maybe you want more control over your videos? In our experience, the most common families of video device can be separated into four categories: sport, DSLR, camcorder, and phone.
For the Active Traveler:
Our recommendation – GoPro HERO Black or Nikon COOLPIX AW110
The most common and obvious choice for sport recording is the GoPro. A GoPro kit will retail between $400 to $600, depending on setup and add ons. This versatile camera has more gizmos and customization options than any other comparable camera in its class. We know some video bloggers who only use a GoPro to fuel their YouTube channels. These devices are compact, waterproof, rugged, and can attach to aerial drones. The trade off is quality and versatility in image. No matter how HD a camera claims to be, image quality will always boil down to sensor size and controls. A GoPro can take you really far in life for a modest sum. However, it’s true proving ground is in sunny, outdoor, and fast paced moments.
For the Renaissance Traveler:
Our recommendation – Canon EOS Rebel T4i or Canon 5D Mark III
If you want a camera that allows you control of every aspect, a DSLR might be for you. The beauty of the DSLR is in its large sensor size and myriad of controls. From manual focus to adjustable FPS (frames per second) and aperture, the sky is the limit with a DSLR.
DSLRs have the added charm of being more low profile. It’s significantly harder to tell if someone if filming with a DSLR than when they pull out a large camcorder. This has the nice touch of putting subjects as ease for interviews or even drawing attention away from zealous border guards and sensitive security areas.
A DSLR doubles as a great camera and can allow for a lot of customization. For any blogger whose travel style is constantly changing, this is a great option. The trade off is that is a big investment. A solid DSLR camera runs upwards of $2000 for a good body and lens. The great news is that you can later play with different lenses, adding great breadth to your video quality. The learning curve is also pretty steep. Unless you’re already familiar with ISO and FPS settings it can take some time to really get to know your DSLR and how to film with it. The pay off is well worth it though.
For the Solo Traveler:
Our recommendation – Canon Vixia HF G20 or Canon Vixia HF R50
One of the best parts of a point-and-shoot camcorder is that it is so simple to use. Our first camera was a Canon Vixia HV30. It retailed for $400 and all we had to do was turn it on. For any solo travelers, a camcorder is a sweet option as it offers to bear the brunt of the work load. DSLRs are amazing, but they require someone to man the helm in order to keep focusing and changing the lighting. If you prefer to film yourself with arm outstretched or by setting the camera on a ledge and jumping in the frame, it can be hard to argue with such an easy camera. The trade off comes in control. If you really want to add that artistic edge in your storytelling or to master the illusive bokeh effect (subject in focus with the background all blurry) then you’re fairly limited. Most high-end camcorders run between $500 to $1500 depending on what you want and offer a range of high quality footage.
For the Quick Draw Traveler:
Our recommendation – The iPhone 5s
If you are wanting to dip your toe into travel video and aren’t ready to drop the cash on a huge equipment run, you’re in luck. The cameras on most smart phones now record at a better quality than most of the cameras I first started using eight years ago. The ease and versatility of an iPhone is really incredible. While you won’t get the crisp image of a camera with a larger sensor, it doesn’t really matter for most videos. The majority of travel videos are watched on a cropped YouTube screen anyhow so quality doesn’t start to betray you until your videos get blown up to full screen. You can get away with a lot by using some cool visual tricks too. The iPhone now records at 120 frames per second, lending itself to some super smooth slow motion video. Not to mention the slick autofocus and slim size allow you to get some amazing panning shots and impromptu videos.
Over all, the most important parts of video are really in finding your own personal style of storytelling. Are your videos going to focus more on capturing large sensor, high HD images? Or will you highlight your personal narrative and storytelling? Once you can identify what works for you it is much easier to determine the right equipment for your style.
Author Bio: Chris Staudinger and Tawny Clark, better known in the travel blogging community as Captain and Clark. Tawny Clark and Chris Staudinger met on the summit of Kilimanjaro, courted in South Korea, got engaged at the Taj Mahal, and most recently were married at a Bavarian theme town in their home state of Washington. Their passions are travel, adventure, and storytelling. It’s their goal to inspire, excited, and encourage others to get out and explore this beautiful world. Video will be one of the things they talk about in the TBEX Athens Saturday morning keynote with Paula Froelich.