How To Record Better Vacation Videos

How To Record Better Vacation Videos

Next time you go on vacation, go prepared to record a better vacation video.

As a kid, I remember going over to my uncle Frank’s house and watching slide carousels filled with Kodachrome slides of vacations their family had been on. We didn’t even have vacation video back then. Usually Uncle Frank would narrate the slideshow by saying things like “there’s the boys feeding the seagulls again” with the infrequent interruption of his wife, Aunt Claudia, chiming in with “Those seagulls made a mess on my car!”, or “wasn’t that a lovely day at the beach?”. I of course, wasn’t there and didn’t care too much about any of what they had to say. I was mostly interested in seeing people I knew and seeing photos with funny looking shots of my cousins giving uncle Frank bunny ears.vacation video

Today we wouldn’t dream of recording a vacation on Kodachrome slides when we can fit hours of HD video on a tiny memory card using any number of advanced camera systems form cell phones to drones to ultra durable GoPro action cams.

Today’s vacation videos are enough to make us all envious of where others have been and feel the urge to take out a second mortgage to go have the same adventure. We don’t have to go sit on the cold hard floor at Uncle Frank’s house either, we can watch these videos from anywhere, anytime, but with so many amazing vacation videos out there, how do you get anyone to watch yours?

That’s where this post comes in. We want to share our top tips on how to shoot and make better vacation videos. While you’re packing up the sunscreen and passports, be sure to pack your video gear so you can share your fun with the world.

video editing equipment for explainer videos

Find The Story

This is the first tip on our list because we think it’s the most important one. Many vacation videos are a series of chronological shots taken throughout your adventures. This is a good start, but not nearly as engaging as telling a story. You can start out the story by filming the pre-trip planning. Build the anticipation here using the tempo of the music and shot length. Show the passports, the luggage being packed, and interview your buddy Jeff, who’s never been Scuba Diving and is terrified of sharks. Capture some emotion so when that shark shows up in the video, the viewer is connected to Jeff and senses the intensity of the moment.

vacation videos

When you move from scene to scene, show different people in their best and worst states and interview them about the scenes you catch them in. To nail the story line you really have to plan it out in advance as much as possible. Think through what vibe you want your video to capture. Is it a chill video that would be set to Bob Marley music, or is it an intense adventure of epic proportions that needs a bit more dramatic background music? Planning it out will help you get the shots you need to make a killer vacation video.

Plan Your Shots

The less than ideal way to shoot a vacation video is to randomly film things throughout the day from whatever perspective and angle you happen to be at in the moment. This is how most people shoot their videos. A better approach is to know beforehand what story you want to tell with your video and then when the right scenes come up to match the story you’re tying to tell, you will pause and set up the perfect shot with the right angle and perspective.

Shoot Only What You Plan To Use

There may be many scenes that pop up that you didn’t expect or think about during your story-boarding. That just means your vacation is going well. Take these shots if you think you can fit them into the story of the vacay or even if they’re things you want to capture but not put in the highlight video.

Frame Your Shots

Once you know that you’ve got a good scene for your story, you should frame your shot. You need to select a main focal point, a background and for some shots – a foreground. The focal point should be a person or animal that’s part of your story. The background should capture the distinct scenery of wherever you are on vacation.

back/foreground vacation video shots

The foreground can be whatever is in the line of the shot that can partially block the scene. This could be a flower, a plant, a rock, or part of a building. The foreground isn’t necessary, but it can add depth and interest to your shot. You can use the foreground to block part of the scene and use a panning motion to reveal the subject of the shot in a more dramatic way if that’s the style you’re going for.

Vary Your Shot Length

A movie is a bit like a novel. The story unfolds and rises to a peak and then declines. The length of your shots is a bit like a sentence. Longer shots lead to a slower tempo and tone while shorter shots build suspense and raise the intensity level. The length of your shots should vary throughout the video depending on what feelings you’re trying to elicit in the viewers. A peaceful day reading a book and sipping a cold drink at the beach will be better suited to long smooth shots while a mountain biking excursion down the side of a mountain probably demands more short and intense shots. You be the judge, but know that shot length will impact the end tone of your vacation video.

Shoot People, Not Scenery

Think about why you’re shooting vacation video in the first place—to remember what you did while you were there.

The Grand Canyon will probably look exactly the same 10 years from now.  In case it doesn’t, thousands of great photographers have already shot it better than you can.  What makes your vacation video special is that you took grandma and the kids to see the Grand Canyon – and remember that awesome hairdo sister sally had on that trip? Spectacular!

vaction video

“But the view is incredible!” you say.  It is – in real life.  Not so much on someone else’s screen. Video of the rain forest looks great in a theater, pretty good in 4K on your 60” flat screen, and like any other blurry set of trees on your iPhone.  Unless you’re shooting with professional gear, best to go easy on the scenery shots and use them for sweeping transitions between shots of people.

Use the scenery as background to shots of people doing things and your videos will be much more engaging.

Change It Up With Some Interviews

Video is an incredible medium to capture who people are in certain situations. It can be so much more fun to look back on a family vacation video and see how cute the kids sounded when they talked about seeing Mickey Mouse rather than just seeing the photo or video of them standing next to him. This footage is also great to have for the wedding video you’ll be putting together in about 20 years. Capturing emotions and feelings about key events before, during, and after the vacation will be great pieces to fit around and tell the story of your epic vacation and make the chunk of cash you spent to be there so much more worth it when you look back at video down the road.

Don’t Record Everything

Editing Your Video

Once you return home and recuperate for a day or two, you can begin post production of your vacation video. When you plan your vacation video up front and script the story you want to tell with the video, you can more easily film the right shots to match each scene in the story and not too many extras. If that’s you, then your post-edit will be much easier. If you didn’t follow our advice to be selective of what shots you film, you’ll now be wading through hours upon hours of footage that would put the entire family to sleep.

Upload and Organize Your Footage

The first step of the edit is to cut out all the clips you don’t want and only keep the clips you do want in the editing software. This will help keep things clean and organized.

Once you get your stage organized, you’ll want to order your clips by chronology of the final video and start laying them down track by track. Each clip will need to be motion stabilized, cropped, angle adjusted, color corrected, and transitioned. This can take a lot of time to get right and many free or entry level video editing software programs don’t even allow for much granularity in this process. Don’t worry too much if you can’t do these steps, but if you can – they will make the final product look much more professional.

Animation and Effects

Next you’ll want to add any text, animation, or graphics to the video. If you want to add dates, locations, names of people, or events, you can go crazy and be as creative as you want, but we find it best to use simple text with smooth and clean animations, but it will depend on the feeling you’re trying to evoke.

If you want to get fancy, you can add a good intro and outro to your video with some animations and sound effects. This is optional and often a fade in from black or white is just as effective.

Once you get the video dialed in, you can start working through the audio. Ensure all the volume levels are stable throughout and work to remove any unwanted background noise, or artifacts.

(Learn more about getting great audio edits in this article we wrote.)

Camera Gear

People frequently ask what the best camera is to shoot vacation videos. The best camera is usually the one you have with you when you need it. Most frequently this means you’ll be shooting with your phone camera. This used to mean poor quality video, but with newer phones, you can get amazingly great footage.

(Learn how to shoot better video with your cell phone here.)

Other cameras you may want to bring on your vacation to capture all the action are adventure cameras like the GoPro that goes in a waterproof and mountable case. This will let you film all the fun of you flying out of the raft into the rapids or diving off that massive cliff into the lake. Drone cameras can also get you some incredible shots and unique perspectives.

Regardless of what cameras you bring, be sure to remember all the memory cards, batteries, microphone attachments, and other accessories. With some good planning and careful framing of your vacation video shots, you’ll have a viral vacation video worth watching over and over again.

Now get out there and make some memories!

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