HOW TO SHOOT A TRIP
By Damon Evans
My old passports are some of the most prized possessions I have. I’m on my 3rd one, which means I have two that have holes punched in them by the government indicating they are expired. But what makes them special are the pages and pages of cool stamps from distant lands and the memories they stir up. My country count is getting up near 50, though I haven’t broken through that barrier just yet.
What took me to these far-flung places was the fact that I know my way around a video camera and various organizations saw fit to send me out there to gather up footage and bring back stories to inform, invigorate and inspire people to get involved with making the world a better place.
In that time, I’ve developed some habits that help me be successful and I thought they would be helpful to anyone going out on such a trip so I’ve packaged them up in this list of Top 12 Tips for Shooting a Trip. I’ll list them below, but you really need to watch the video to get all the goods.
Tip 1: Be Informed
Make sure you find out everything you can about the place you’re going. What will your transportation be? What will your lodging be? What will the weather be? What will you likely encounter? The answers to these questions help you make decisions regarding what equipment to bring. I usually do a Skype call with the onsite people to get as much of a picture in my head as possible.
Tip 2: Be Inspective
Make a checklist of all the gear you plan to take. I always forget something if I don't employ a checklist. As you're thinking about the trip and things come to your mind about what to take, put it on your checklist, so when you get to the point of packing you can check that every little piece of the camera is there. There’s nothing worse than traveling halfway around the world and discovering you don’t have memory cards.
Tip 3: Be Indestructible
This means with your footage. There are all kinds of ways your footage can get lost or corrupted. You want to be redundant or as I like to say: Be indestructible. That means every night I'm taking the footage from the camera and backing it up onto at least one other backup drive.
Tip 4: Be In Control
When I start a trip, I let the people I'm with know what we're trying to achieve with the footage. This way no one will be surprised when you start poking your camera in their business.
Tip 5: Be In Motion
Shoot “on-the-go” footage. When I get to editing, I lean heavily upon “on-the-go” shots, like driving in a car, getting out of a car and walking into a village. Don't be afraid to roll camera before the main event begins and have these shots available to bring energy to the edit.
Tip 6 - Be Invisible
Most often you need to be a “fly on the wall.” Don’t insert yourself into the action, stay quiet, be stealthy, and move around the scene shooting different angles. Wide angles, closeups, side angles, high angles, low angles, etc. But do this without distracting the subjects of your scene.
Tip 7: Be Intrusive
This is the opposite of being invisible. At times, you need to intrude into the moment and create opportunities for yourself. If you miss a moment (like a hug), ask the people to do it again. If there’s something you find yourself hoping will happen, just make it happen and move on.
Tip 8: Be Inventive
Look for creative angles wherever you're filming. After you’ve filmed all your standard angles, if there’s still time, get inventive. Find the unusual shots of the people and scenery. These types of shots add so much character to your video.
Tip 9: Be Inquisitive
Don’t be afraid to pull people aside to ask, ‘What's going on behind you?’ You don't want to interrupt something happening that's important, but when you have an opportunity, be inquisitive, and you'll get some powerful in-the-moment responses.
Tip 10: Be In Their Face
I spend a lot of time shooting close-ups of children. Kids around the world will hold your stare for a long time because you are an anomaly to them. So I usually get really close-up, frame them on one side (rule of thirds), and have a staring contest. If they look really serious, I try and get them to smile or laugh. Those shots are so helpful in editing, and they really engage your audience's emotions.
Tip 11: Be Introverted
Prepare to miss out on some fun times. You have work to do when you get back to your hotel at night and everybody wants to go to dinner. Even if you're extroverted and want to have fun, you have to prepare for the next day. Download and back up your footage, put your batteries on charge, and clean up your gear. You've got to be a little bit introverted just to get the results you need.
Tip 12: Be In the Moment
You should be continually checking your sound, lighting, framing and focus. It takes constant vigilance. There’s no "set it and forget it." Something can get bumped. You’ve got to just keep checking on your shot.
Good luck with your shoot! Please share your final video with me when it’s ready (use the Facebook link below) and I’ll look forward to seeing how you applied these tips.