These days anyone can get a cheap camera and film pretty much anything they want. But taking a video camera in the field, and getting a top-notch production are two very different things. So what needs to be done to get the best video, and get TV quality results? Here are 3 essential tips to help you when you hit the woods this season!
Although I’m not an expert by any means, there are a few simple things I’ve learned over the years (some from real pro’s like Jimmy Sites, and Heartland Bowhunter) that have really helped me. Here are some of the biggies!
1. QUALITY GEAR: Good quality gear does not cost an arm and a leg anymore, but what is good enough? First, a 1080 HD camera is plenty good for quality shots. I’d go with a prosumer vs. a consumer model. These are slightly better than your standard handicams, but aren’t too expensive compared to the higher-end pro models. I use a Canon Vixia HF G10 with a hotshoe shotgun mic. This was around $1000 and is a good bang for your buck (even though discontinued there are similar models). DSLR cameras are another option, but more expensive and somewhat limiting and bulky in my opinion. A good mic is critical, but even without a shotgun mic, the internal mic on many cameras is pretty good and you may get away with that in certain situations. Also, try a good camera arm with a fluid head. There are a lot of good camera arms out there (Muddy, 4th Arrow, etc), but a good fluid head is key to getting steady shots (try Manfroto). There’s nothing that screams amature more that a jerky pan, and a fluid head makes it, .. well fluid and smooth. When selecting a camera, pay attention to optical zoom vs. digital. You want a camera with a lot of optical zoom, that won’t degrade and pixelate your image, which happens with digital zoom. A good point of view camera can really help you get cool shots easily (like a gopro or tactacam) and offer an extra angle for your shots to help with editing later. With my gopro, I can also take some slow motion shots I cannot with my main camera, and put together some cool time lapse scenes. These can add a lot of dynamics and professional touch to your video.
2. Extra Attention to Stealth: When carrying extra gear, there is greater chance to make noise, be seen, and possibly be scented, so extra precaution is necessary. “Hang em High” is not just a Clint Eastwood classic, but a must when hanging treestands. Pay attention to find trees with extra limbs to help breakup your form and disguise added motion you will make when filming. And yes, go higher too!. With extra gear, means more chance of noise. Let me say, you WILL make more noise, it’s unavoidable. Make sure to silence this new gear or you will bust many hunts and ruin many opportunities. Good products like Buck Bumper solve this
problem and allow for deadly silence. Scent can also increase. Whether due to an extra man (camera man), or if solo just from lugging around more weighty gear, you will perspire more and therefore stink more. I carry some scentless wet wipes in my truck and hunting bag, and wipe off regularly to keep scent at a minimum.
3. Video Savvy: There’s only so much you can fix in post, and much of the quality of the video depends on the person taking the video in the first place. As a rule of thumb, I use an auto white balance unless the colors look completely off. Try to get wide, middle, and tight shots of your hunting area, and as many B roll shots as possible. Look for interesting angles and magical moments that happen in the woods, and capture as many of these as possible. This way, when editing later you will have a lot of options, and won’t be wishing you had more to choose from. A great technique to try is a rack focus. This is where you focus on one object in the shot, and then shift the focus to another object in front or behind. Get creative with this to make your videos stand out from the pack. Also, think about and even write down the shots you want to get ahead of time, so you can focus on this when in the field and won’t forget anything. It takes effort, but can be well worth it in the end.
Once you get the shots, editing becomes an artform. I use Final Cut Pro X, and many use Adobe Premiere Pro. Both are good, but do some research on what will best fit your budget. When it comes to these programs, put in the effort and get tutorials online (many on youtube) to help learn tricks and effects to make your videos stand out. Don’t get too crazy though, the point is to tell the story, not show how many cool effects you can add to your video. A pinch here and there will add to the story, too much is just a distraction though, so beware. And I will say again, your focus should be on telling a good story with your video. DO NOT tell what happens before you show (a HUGE mistake many outdoor shows make). Let the viewer come along and experience the hunt, just like you did for best effect and a top notch video.
There are many things that can make a great video, but starting with these few simple tips will get you on your way to having a pro-level production!
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