One of the best Xmas present I got this year was from Valentina: through a friend she managed to hire Film Director Craig McCall for a one-to-one session with me! Craig and I went through some of the past videos I made and he gave me few tips on editing, cutting and story telling. Here my 5 top learnings that I have tried to use for the video “Norway Husky Safari”.
1. Focus more on the characters’ emotions, less on the landscapes
Our previous videos were very much about the location, landscape and geographical aspects. Similarly, the voice-over was also focused on providing historical and geographical information about those places rather than sharing the actual experience. Craig suggested to focus on people’s feelings, emotions and reactions. The experience itself is what engages and make you want to keep watching the video! These are the personal and unique parts that make the actual difference from any other video. To be able to do so, he recommended to (i) remove the voice-over to force the attention on the characters and (ii) ask more random questions especially in unusual moments eg. under stress or busy doing something else. Craig suggested that waking up people always gets the best out of them (…or the worst…depending who you are waking up ;-)…despite some swearing involved it was actually very funny! Another thing we did was to interview everyone at the end of the trip (the scenes with the red background). Not sure if this comes across but there are some spontaneous and funny comments related to previous situations/moments. E.g. check out when Valentina gives us her feeling about Kirkenes or Daniele talking how to drive a sled.
2. Shoot every scene from different angles and mix various shots
This advice actually came from the video “Mongolia” where Craig noticed that there were too many mid-shots. His advice was to vary close-ups, mid-shots and wide-shots. In order to have this variety of footage, the trick is to shoot every scene from 3 different angles. In Norway we tried to do that shooting the sleds from different angles (close-up to the dogs, mid-shot to the driver, etc.) as well as when we were cooking the meat on the fire (close-up on the fire vs. mid-shots on the people waiting for the food).
3. Understand the key unique aspects of every location
Craig was walking in my living room and asked me what made the room distinctive. He pointed out our collection of Lonely Planet: all blue and clear sign we love traveling! In a fictional shooting a close-up of the blue books and then moving to other part of the room could have been the first scene. This would have helped the viewer understanding the begging of the story. When we were in Norway we spent most of our time in two particular locations: the Norwegian tundra and the cabin in the wilderness. Both of them were very homogeneous. In the tundra we focused on what was so distinctive for us: the snow and the dogs. The dogs were “easy” character to shoot but to highlight the importance of the snow (always present but difficult to emphasize) we filmed us playing with snowballs. Similarly in the cabin we tried to focus on what made the cabin so unique: the fire and the candles, which were the vital point of the cabin in absence of electricity and running water. Again, not sure if our effort produced the perfect results, but this is something always worth trying.
4. Improve the audio quality
In the previous videos we always had the problem of background noise, especially the wind. We knew that in Norway most of the interesting scenes would have been filmed outdoor and that could have been an issue. First suggestion from Craig was to buy a mic with a dead kitten to minimize the problem of the wind. This seemed to have worked well as the audio of the outdoor footage is significantly improved. His second suggestion was to buy a lapel mic. This worked less, probably due to the quality of the mic I bought (the voice sounds a bit metallic). So this is deffo something we need to address for improvement.
5. The audio should start before the following scene to make the video flow better
This trick allows the viewer to hear the audio (music, voice or background noise) of the next scene a few seconds before the scenes is actually shown. This is brilliant idea that seems obvious in retrospect. Good thing is that it was easy to implement in the editing phase of the Norway video.