June 20, 2013

Tech Thursdays: Break Out Your Inner Video Artist On Vacation

Welcome to Tech Thursdays, penned by Miguel, tech expert and our Airport Operations Supervisor in San Jose, California. This month’s topic touches on some great tips to help you maximize video to capture those special vacation moments.

It’s amazing that innovations in digital cameras and mobile devices are allowing a majority of travelers capture a moment or an event in high quality video.  Yet most videos become barely watchable for one reason or another.  I have friends that think the price of their equipment will magically give them the best results.  Of course, they get disappointed as they haphazardly point and press the record button.  As a former broadcast TV producer, I tend to use a critical eye and ear when I watch videos shot and produced by others.  In short, I tend to nitpick.

For the traveling videographers, (that’s you), know the equipment you’re using to shoot the video.  Whether it’s a phone, tablet, iPad, digital camera or an actual video camera, learn its features and limitations.  Please don’t do it five minutes before you need it.  I usually prepare several days ahead.

Check out these easy tips to point you to the right direction:

  1. Why am I shooting this video? The final destination of your video should dictate your approach.  You should know if you’re shooting it for a quick post on a social site like Facebook or Vine or if you plan to use the video to edit as part of a bigger piece later.
  2. Am I shooting mostly day or night shots; indoors or outdoors? This alone can be a heartbreaker if you’re not prepared.
  3. How loud or quiet will it be? One of the keys to good video is good audio.  I can stand a so-so video with good audio more than a great video with bad or no audio.

After answering the questions, check the manual, practice and shoot test videos.  The great thing about today’s storage media is that you can easily delete them without worrying about quality degradation unlike the videotapes of old.  So, shoot practice videos at different times, locations and situations.  Think about where you are traveling and what video situations you might encounter.  Don’t forget that video is a data monster when it comes to storage. Buy two or three of the largest storage cards you can afford.

Older could be better

Have a two or four-year old camera?  Don’t discard it just yet.  I discovered that some of the older digital cameras make for better video cameras.  My old Nikon Coolpix L110, for example, shoots higher quality videos than my newer, more expensive Canon G11.  This is because the G11 was mainly designed to shoot great images whereas the L110 was designed to be more of an all-in-one picture and video camera.  Again, review your camera’s settings.  You might be pleasantly surprised as I was to know that you won’t need to buy a new video gear for your next trip.  The little review time you invest can save you money.

Go for big

Most digital cameras will give you video settings from VGA to 720p or 1080p at times.  Go for the best quality you can get with what you have.  I know that it will eat up your memory faster but you will also get the best resolution.  Without getting too geeky, various editing software, devices and video sites will apply some form of compression to run and play your video.  Think of it as taking two steps down.  So, if your video is shot at a yucky quality level (technical term), the compression will make it yuckier.  Nobody wants to see that.

Steady as she goes…

The best and worst aspect of today’s video devices is that they’re small and very light.  The size and weight usually results in shaky video because the slightest movement of the video shooter is magnified in the video.  The quick answer is “don’t move” but, as we all know, that’s easier said than done.  A tripod is always a good tool but it might be cumbersome to carry plus it’s not always practical.  Here’s what you can do to minimize the shake:

  1. Keep your arms close to your body like you’re reading a book.  Don’t extend as if you’re giving the camera away.  Less distance yields better stability.
  2. Use walls, trees or railings to brace yourself.  Put your back against them so that you don’t sway.
  3. Don’t breathe.  This is an old videographer’s trick to get a good steady shot.  This no-breathing technique is usually used when videographers are trying to capture a long zoom in/out or a long pan left/right of a scene without a tripod.  But as Mr. Miyagi said, “Don’t forget to breathe” after the shot.

It’s all about the sound.

As I’ve mentioned, good video relies on good audio.  Unfortunately, consumer-level cameras won’t give you too many options to remedy this.  The good news is mobile devices like the iPad, iPhone and Android devices have microphones accessories available that you can try.  The best suggestion I can make is to test the audio quality that your video device is capturing.  I pretended that I was going to a hill-side retreat somewhere and ran a mic test.  The video below will show you how I tested three microphone options for my iPad.

As always, my goal is to help travelers take advantage of their tech gadgets while they’re enjoying the Jetblue experience.  If you have any questions or suggestions, don’t hesitate to leave your questions in the comments section here. I can’t promise I have all the answers but I will sure try.

Be sure to check out more travel tips and share your own with SoFly!

Read Miguel’s previous columnslearn more about Miguel and stay tuned for the next edition of Tech Thursdays!

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