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9 Outdoor Filming Tips

Top techniques for making great films...

Professional film makers take a lifetime to perfect and refine their trade, but that does not mean there aren’t a few shortcuts along the way.

 

If you’ve recently got your hands on a nice new action camcorder or often find yourself behind the lens then read these simple yet effective filming tips to help you capture the moment and make some amazing edits. Action!


1. Framing

Close up GoPro image from above of woman climbing rock face

Andi Tilmann:GoPro

Unless you can afford additional screens, most modern action camcorders can be a little bit ‘point-and-hope’. It’s only when you get them home you realise you’ve cut all your friends heads off. Yes, the brilliantly wide angled lens will be really forgiving, but nothing sets up your shoot like a well framed opener.

Utilise the often free apps to check the framing on your smartphone or tablet as much as possible, but be cautious of their battery zapping potential.


2. Discover Your Favourite Angles (Then Change Them)

Image of riding bikes down a mountain from riders' perspective taken with a GoPro

Andi Tilmann:GoPro

The great thing about HD action cameras is the amount of places they can be fastened to, strapped around and flung from. This has given rise to some pretty innovative angles that have blown a hole in outdoor filmmaking. However, just because you like the view from the side of your forks as you thrash downhill, or the look of your own face as you carve powder, does not mean that they should feature in every edit.

 

Innovation is great, repetition is less so. Get yourself a good range of poles and mounts then think about ways of breaking the rules. Nothing will make your piece stand out like a ‘how did you get that?’ moment.


3. Multi-Cam

Two images of a skier trans-versing through powdered snow at different angles

Unless we are talking about a seriously high-stakes move, consider repeating the same action and filming it from a number of different angles. When it comes to the edit, these multiple angles can get patched together to create one, real time movement.

 

This is a really effective way of showing off something special. Just be careful of things changing within the camera’s field of vision; such as spectators, weather conditions and lighting, not to mention adding or removing a layer. Nothing will ruin your carefully choreographed montage more than a jacket vanishing mid-air.


4. Fog Reduction

Image of anti-fog camera insert pads

Action cameras are great for… well action. But the thing about action is that sometimes it can get a bit hot and sweaty. One of the cheapest and most effective accessories you can get for your camera is an anti-fog insert. These little pads absorb atmospheric moisture trapped inside the housing and avoid condensation forming on the lens.

 

Take it from someone who almost drowned (several times) attempting to master underwater photography; only to develop 36 images of fog. Not advisable.


5. Charge And Chargers

Image of battery pack in black

Charging your batteries may seem obvious, but you would be amazed at how frequently a shoot is cut short because somebody forgot to charge up the day before. There really is no excuse for this and when everyone has made the effort to go out and film, it goes without saying that the first round at the pub will be on you. You can find out how to stay powered up, miles from a plug socket with our batteries and chargers buying guide.

 

You can always consider investing in a few extra batteries. They are worth their weight and are actually quite reasonably priced. Have two or three fully charged and you will find yourself capturing everything that moves.


6. Memory

Image of camera memory cards

Along the same lines of running out of battery, is running out of memory. SD cards are inexcusably light and easy to carry so make sure you have more than enough spare. You can absolutely guarantee that the same day you run out of space will be the same day you see the perfect sunset ending to your film. The person who carries the extra memory will casually get out their spare, film this moment, use it to close their edit and trump your piece every time. Do not let this happen.


7. Fail To Plan, Plan To Fail

Image of notebook containing ideas and plans

When you watch a film or TV, the one thing that is never apparent is the amount of planning involved. This is of course a good thing, as a well-planned, well executed edit will be seamlessly entertaining. Bad planning makes for bad movies, so make sure you do your homework. Before you head out think about the kinds of shots you want, who you want to be in them and how they nestle into the bigger picture.

 

Another useful thing to do is to talk to your friends about what they feel like doing. You may have visions, but they will no doubt have ideas too. A rough storyboard is a great way to avoid faff, save time and concentrate your efforts on the filming (and fun).


8. Film Lots - Then Film More

Close up from behind image of kayaker / canoeist paddling at speed

It may feel like you are pushing play a lot, but you can bet the moment you get home you will wish you had done it more. That’s not just more of the action, but the filler too. These GV’s (general views) are the glue that hold together the piece and will provide visual variety. The walk in, chatter, landscapes; all of these are part of the shoot and are ignored at your peril. You may not use all of it in one particular edit, but it will form the beginnings of an image archive that will be worth its weight in gold.


9. It's All in the Edit (Sort Of)

Close up of computer screen with mouse hovering over 'Export' button

A keen eye and a desire to film are crucial, but another important skill is the ability to edit. The good news is that modern editing software is incredibly intuitive and easy to pick up. What’s more is that there is probably a free version on your computer, ready for you to get stuck into right now.

 

When editing think about some form of storyline. This can be really simple, but it gives the piece a sense of logic. Finally, pick a great piece of music. Do your research and choose a song from an emerging artist, if you get it right then not only will you have a great film, but you will also get credit for being a musical visionary, you clever thing.

 

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