Hey everyone! I've been using video cameras for many years now so here are some tips which I want to share with you! Many of these I learned the hard way, so I hope by sharing these you can try and avoid the same mistakes I made.
Batteries that come with the video camera usually don't last long at all. The one that came with my Canon HFS21 only lasts an hour, definitely not good enough for a whole day of filming! I strongly suggest you buy a bigger battery, the one I bought lasts 4-5 hours. Genuine batteries from your camera manufacturer will cost a lot but are guaranteed to work. If you have time feel free to investigate generic brand batteries, just make sure you match your video camera model exactly with the product. Nothing is worse than running out of battery in the middle of the day!
2. Conserve your battery
The LCD screen will drain the most battery so try not to use it all the time. Turn off the camera when not filming for awhile. If you're moving between short places shut the screen then open it agains when you're ready.
3. Try to avoid low light
Unfortunately video cameras still don't work well in low light. Even Hollywood movies require special lighting for night scenes! Think back in a movie of a inside car conversation at night, it's lit up just enough whilst maintaining that night feel!
Of course when travelling you're not going to be carrying that sort of equipment! So if you are filming a person at night try and make them lit up from a nearby light source such as a streetlight. Some cameras have a video light built in, just be aware these drain the battery more and only work at a short distance.
You won't have any lighting control when filming large landmarks at night such as London Bridge or the Eiffel Tower. But usually it's not a problem as they are usually well lit with beautiful night lights that add to their beauty.
4. Steady your shots
Filming whilst walking rarely works well unless your video camera has really good image stabilization. Otherwise when you watch it later on a big screen you'll quickly feel nauseous! If you're using your new video camera for the first time I suggest you start with still shots, stand still and just film! Get a feel for the camera! It's better to have many well composed still shots and string them together as compared to one big LONG clip that tries to capture everything in one go.
5. Increase your shot variety
I like to film a number of shots at each location, an establishing shot (outside a church for example), cutaway shots (nearby traffic, birds, animals) and of course the main shots inside your location. Try a low or high angle! Having different shots to choose from makes editing your final video much easier and more fun! It also adds a more cinematic feel!
6. Use commentary at your discretion
Whilst it is tempting to narrate whilst filming, it becomes very difficult if not impossible to edit out later if you decide later you want the shot to have ambient audio only. What I mean by narrating is saying things like "And this is London Eye, what a beauty! And over here you can see the queue is veryyyy long!"
Consider doing your narration or reflection in a separate shot! Or keep quiet when filming. It's your call really, just something to be aware of as it's easy to get carried away when you're on holiday AND filming.
7. Backup your recordings!
You should definitely backup your recordings throughout your trip in case your camera gets stolen or goes for a swim. :dodgy:
I personally make a backup to my laptop which I bring along on my trips. If its a really memorable recording then making another backup on an External HDD would be a good idea too. That way if you lose your video camera you will still have those memories recorded. The recordings are usually more valuable than the camera itself as they're not replaceable once gone unless you back up!
8. Enjoy yourself
Finally, don't be a slave to the video camera. You need to enjoy the moment too. If you're traveling with someone, take turns filming things and each other. Keep it fun! You don't have to film everything! Just the highlights!
When I get home I'll post some examples illustrating these. Questions and discussion of your own tips welcome!