I have always been one to document everything. Even before phones had cameras, I would keep a digital camera in my purse and take pictures all the time. So when it comes to travel, I want to capture every moment! Whether you’re on a long weekend trip to the mountains or a big European adventure, I’m dishing on how YOU can create a cinematic travel video on your phone and capture memories that will last a lifetime. I’m also sharing my very first travel video from my trip to Europe in 2016.
1. DON’T STRESS
As I’ve gotten older and become a more experienced traveler, I’ve come to value the art of slower travel. My first time leaving the United States, I visited 5 countries in 3 weeks. Whew! It was a whirlwind where I saw and experienced so much, but I was completely exhausted for my last 5 days in London. I enjoy finding the perfect photo or the most creative video shot, but when you’re constantly bouncing from one activity to the next, all of your time is spent capturing instead of experiencing. Now, I make a conscious effort to leave space in my schedule so that taking photos and video enhances my experience instead of hijacking it.
Side note: Slow for me is probably still pretty fast paced for others! Find your perfect pace and what you need to enjoy the trip most. That might mean splitting up from those you are traveling with every now and then, but that’s okay. It might even mean traveling solo, and that’s okay too!
2. GET INSPIRATION
Head over to YouTube and watch a few (or a lot) of videos from other travelers! Try searches like “cinematic travel video” or “travel vlog.” You could even get more specific and add your upcoming destination like “cinematic travel video Spain” or the type of travel you’re interested in like “solo female travel vlog Paris” or “adventure travel video Thailand.” The Blonde Abroad’s video from her trip to Morroco is great for inspiration! She has such a variety of compositions – stationary, wide angle, close up, her in the frame, and cityscapes. I also love Brooke Saward’s video from Vancouver that mixes vlog type selfie shots with sweeping cinematic landscapes. After you escape from the travel video YouTube wormhole, write down what you liked and didn’t like about the videos you watched. Keep that list and let it guide you moving forward.
3. PRACTICE AT HOME
If you only take away one thing from this post, let it be this step! PRACTICE! AND THEN PRACTICE SOME MORE! If you wait until you’ve arrived at your destination to use your newfound videography knowledge, you will feel overwhelmed. There’s also a much larger chance that you’ll get back home, watch the footage, and think, “Oh, I really wish I had done it this way.” Instead, find any excuse to create a video. Do you have a family birthday gathering coming up? What about a music festival weekend with friends? If nothing comes to mind, try a “day in the life” style video. Even if you think your cubicle job isn’t exciting enough for a video, that’s not really what the exercise is about. It’s about experimenting with different angles, movements, and editing styles. When you’re comfortable with your equipment and your style, documenting your trip will feel like second nature.
4. KEEP IT STEADY
No one likes a shaky video, so keep your phone or camera as steady as possible. I use a gimbal for my iPhone, and it’s a total game changer! A gimbal is a motorized stabilizer for your phone. With the push of a button, your phone can capture cinematic pans and zooms as smooth as butter! There are so many tutorials on gimbal movements and how to use one, but this one by Matti Haapoja is one of my favorites. Don’t worry if you’re not ready to spend the money on a gimbal just yet. There are still ways to achieve steady video without one. The first way to let the subject of the shot do the moving. Maybe there are children playing soccer, flowers blowing in the breeze, or you walking down the street. Just set your phone or camera somewhere flat, press record, and leave it stationary. If you do need your phone or camera to move, hold it close to your chest while keeping your elbows tight by your side, and let your torso or legs do the moving.
5. CHANGE IT UP
Drone shots are awesome and all, but travel videos that are only slow motion, wide angle, drone shots are pretty boring to me. Challenge yourself to find new angles, even shooting the same subject 3 or 4 different ways. Here are a few options to try:
- Wide angle pan – That just means the camera moves slowly from left to right or bottom to top.
- Timelapse – A scene like a busy highway at night or a sunrise is filmed for an extended period of time, then sped up in editing.
- Macro – Focus on small details like flowers or steaming tea pouring out the spout of a teapot.
- Intentional blur – Begin the shot with everything in a blur before slowly adjusting to bring your subject into focus.
- Get low – Lower the camera close to the ground and follow someone’s feet or point it upward for an entirely different view that you wouldn’t even be able to experience without the camera.
- You – Don’t get too caught up in taking the video that you forget to hop in the frame every now and then. Traveling solo? Don’t let that stop you! Embrace the tripod! But that’s a post for another day.
6. CUT IT DOWN
While you want more than enough clips to choose from and enough length for each clip, steer clear of piecing your clips together, uncut, and calling it a day. The more selfie-style vlog clips you have, the longer your video will be, but keep an upbeat pace for all your other clips. The last thing you want is for someone to watch it can get bored 2 minutes in. I usually add every video I have into the timeline, delete the ones I don’t like, and cut the ones that remain down to the best parts. Before finalizing cuts, I like to do a couple of things first.
7. SLOW IT DOWN
There’s something about slow-motion video that just feels ethereal and cinematic. I slow my clips down to 50% of their original speed, but feel free to play with it and see what works best for your clips and your style!
8. ADD MUSIC
The music you choose plays a huge part in setting the tone of your travel video. Was your trip relaxed and mellow or exciting and upbeat? Your music should match! If your video is just for you and your family, use any song your little heart desires. However, if you plan to upload and share it on YouTube or Vimeo, choose a royalty-free song. If you don’t have a license or rights to use someone else’s song in your video, it could get taken down. But have no fear! There are so many great options on Sound Cloud.
WHAT I USE
- iPhone X – I use my Nikon DSLR for photography, but I found that it was too large and heavy to capture steady video.
- Filmic Pro app – This app affords you so much more control over specifics like frame rate and aspect ratio. Get acquainted with all the features of the app with this awesome tutorial! Below are the settings I use:
- 2.39:1 aspect ratio – Just like watching a widescreen movie on your TV at home, this aspect ratio will give your travel videos that same cinematic effect.
- 4k 2160p resolution – If your phone can shoot in 4K, why not?
- 60 fps frame rate – This allows you to slow the footage down in editing without the footage looking choppy.
- “Save to Camera Roll” turned off – I prefer to copy footage directly from the app to my computer.
- Zhiyun Smooth-Q Gimbal – This gadget was definitely worth the price for me.
- Adobe Premiere Pro – I started out editing in iMovie before graduating to Premiere Pro. There’s a learning curve for sure!
MY TRAVEL VIDEOS
I’m still working on editing a few videos from New York, Thailand, and Iceland as well as setting up a YouTube channel, so keep an eye out for those soon! In the meantime, take a look at my first travel video from 2016!