October 2, 2012
Adventure Cycling’s first annual Bicycle Travel Video Contest is now open, organized in conjunction with World Cycle Videos. Between now and the submission deadline on February 28, 2013, we’ll feature guest blog posts from our volunteer judges with insights and tips for creating inspiring bicycle-travel videos. This week’s post is from Blanche van der Meer.
Making videos of your bicycle holidays is a great way to relive your adventures and share your passion with others, as I found out about four years ago when I made my first slideshows of my bicycle holidays. Soon after, I started filming instead of taking pictures. My cycling passion extended to a passion for filming. Three years ago, I founded World Cycle Videos a bicycle-touring video group on Vimeo, a video-sharing platform. I regularly get questions from group members: How do I make a good video? What camera and editing program do I need? Invariably I answer that good technique and good material alone do not guarantee that you will end up with a good video. On the contrary, I have seen very good videos, shot on simple cameras and edited with free editing programs. But what makes something a good cycle-touring video? I personally think that it demands very little technique but a lot of creativity and passion.
Of course you need technique! You need a camera to film and a video-editing program to edit your film. But nowadays you get high quality film with a simple compact camera or even a mobile phone. And every computer has a standard video-editing program. On an Apple, you can use iMovie; on a Windows computer, use Windows Movie Maker. But, there are even more options out there. If you are new to editing, it will take some time. But just continue, you will see that you’ll improve. For videography, the same rules apply as for photography. The most important is the Rule of Thirds: Divide your image into three sections by placing two horizontal and two vertical lines. Place your subject where the lines intersect. You’ll create depth by placing something in the foreground like a branch or a blade of grass. For good audio, your speaker shouldn’t be more than 50 cm apart. Otherwise, use an external microphone. These are the basic rules. The rest is practice and watching lots of other videos.
Real films are created on paper and are close to the heart of the maker. In fact, a film is a written story, a script that comes to life with a right mix of images, audio, and voice. Your personal creativity determines how well this mix, the film will be. A professional director tipped me once, "Why do you do the things you do? Answer that question in your films!" A film becomes a good film because the viewer and the maker are deeply involved with the subject. So keep your audience in mind and keep your story close to yourself as a person. But how does this work in practice? I‘m not a professional, but I can tell you how my last film came about. It’s not always possible to write a script in advance. You don’t know what you’ll encounter while cycle touring. So on my last trip I bought a small notebook to write down the ideas that popped into my mind while riding. These ideas became the basis for the script and a guideline for the images I had to shoot. We went to Ukraine, a country that we barely knew. Western cyclers barely visit it. There it is, the first storyline: How is cycle touring in Ukraine? I also wove in a sweet childhood memory, that I often watched Russian children's films. This probably created my appeal to countries from the former Soviet Union. The amazing thing was that we encountered a lot of things that fit this childhood memory storyline. Once home, I turned all my notes into a full story on paper. And only then I started editing. Whether it is successful, you must decide for yourself.
And last but not least, a good film needs lots of passion. If you're passionate about something, your passion will affect others. So will your film! Good luck and have fun with the cycle-touring video contest!
BLANCHE VAN DER MEER has been a keen cycle tourer for over ten years, Blanche is the co-organizer of Adventure Cycling's bicycle-travel video contest. She traveled a great part of the world as a backpacker but always felt something was missing. Since discovering that the missing link was traveling by bicycle, she has cycled through almost all of Europe including the Eastern Bloc countries, Cuba, Morocco, Ukraine, Turkey, and Georgia. A few years ago she started making animated slideshows and then videos of her bicycle journeys. She thinks this is a great way to re-enjoy her adventures. Three years ago she also founded the very successful WorldCycle Videos – a video group on Vimeo where cycle tourers can share their passion. WorldCycle Videos gets videos on a daily basis and now has more than 1600 videos divided into 12 regional albums and nearly 1000 members from all over the world. The group can be followed on Twitter and Facebook too.