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Advice for beginning videographer

Tried to make some videos - again - on my last activation, but - again - failed to get some quality footage. Video is shaky, I record audio separately using my Sony Dictaphone (DVR), but that also doesn’t sound great (although better than my phone’s microphone) and I find that I need extra hands when climbing to hold everything. I’m also so busy with the equipment that I find I can’t spontaneously talk into the camera anymore.

My phone is a 5 year old model without video stabilization and video quality is so-so. I have a DSLR (Canon EOS 750D) which takes good video, but it’s heavy and you can’t walk and film with it (again, shaky video). Also the angle is not that wide for scenery shots. For indoor use on a tripod it’s fine, especially with an external lavalier mike, so I can’t complain.

Do you really need a GoPro to get some stable action video? Unfortunately I don’t have money to buy one. So how to improve things? Maybe a gimbal will be a good, intermediate solution, they can be had for under US$100? Or some other type of selfie stick or tripod? Or in the worst case, buy a more modern phone, because I read they nowadays always have video stabilization (although I have my doubts that they will do a terrific job). My phones usually cost less than US$200, so it will be difficult to find something with good specs for that price.

In any case, I’m looking for something I can hang around my neck, or hang from my backpack strap, so I will have my hands free when I need to climb. I also need to be able to walk and shoot and make pan shots of scenery.

So all you YouTubers and other SOTA climber, give me some tips and hints, please. What works for you and how do you go about making videos of your activations? I might not be able to emulate your way of doing things, but it is sure inspiring to read about it. Cheers.

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I’m just a year into my video journey, and wanted to share some thoughts. I started creating activation videos a little over year ago, and started using what I had…which was a few year old Samsung phone. When starting to create videos, I noticed stabilization was an issue and needed to be improved. After downloading videos from phone, I began utilizing stabilization options within the video editing software (iMovie for first videos, and now use free DaVinci Resolve). There are limits to what stabilization will do, but it helps. I also try to limit motion as much as possible when filming…there is a certain way to walk and take video to help limit motion as well. (-: I don’t have a gimble, but that would help. I’ve used the Ulanzi MT-16 to hold phone, attach external mic, etc. and have liked. Have only used a tripod a few time on shorter hikes. I recently purchased and started using a GoPro… am getting familiar with and used for last 2 videos. When using a phone, having the least amount of movement
and then video editing stabilization is important.

For audio, a cheap lavalier is what I started with, and either plugged into phone or recorded backup audio with Sony recorder. I pretty quickly bought a cheaper external mic (Movo, and now use Diety) that has a wind cover “dead cat”. This helped cut out wind noise and improve audio, but adds to the setup. I’m trying to do lighter setup with GoPro, but will likely need same audio setup to cut wind noise (or try cheap foam cover for GoPro?). I still use the lavalier attached to Sony recorder depending on what I’m doing, or as backup audio. I’ve previously used these external mics to record QSO’s, and have recorded a few times using radio audio sent straight to Sony recorder.

Much to learn and try out for sure… 73 James WA7JNJ

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I use:
GoPro hero9
Lens Mod
Media Mod
GoPro selfie stick with built in tripod

The lens mod plus very clever software turns the gopro into a steadycam. It’s incredible to use. Turning the camera upside down has no effect on the output!

The media mod adds a much improved directional external mic. with wind reduction. It also adds hot shoes for additional lights etc.

The selfie stick is jointed in three places, versatile and contains a tiny tripod in its base.

I also have a GoPro session, which is a tiny cube. It works really well, but is sensitive to wind noise.

I sometimes use a drone. I plan on using this more over the summer.
The Lonely Mountain - Mount Keen from Glen Tanar. A bike & hike. - YouTube

In terms of talking, walking, filming and operating a radio at the same time - practice makes perfect, or in my case less worse than I was when I started filming SOTA 12 months ago…
https://youtube.com/channel/UC5QimXRvJ72gABQ2dGj_9Jw

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Somebody made a time lapse video of their ascent once. I’m not sure if the GoPro type camera was adaptive and figured out how often to take a photo based on distance travelled or if was just one shot every 30secs. Anyway I enjoyed watching the ascent in “silly time”. So I’d like to see more time lapse shots like that.

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Not wishing to hijack this legitimate thread but here is “silly” way to get up Helvelyn

Rocket Man

Paul

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Challenge accepted.

I came across this video again the other day. Impressive! The French chap who invented this technology is in hospital, having crashed his at the weekend.

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Here my version of the “silly” way down from Kühgrat in HB0
Starting at minute 10

Still filmed on my Zoom Q4n and then stabilized using Microsoft Hyperlapse (which was given away as free licences for some time).

Now I use a DJI Osmo Action cam and the video quality with the build in stabilisation is just so much better. For audio I just drop my phone with the Audio Recorder App next to the 817nd and if it is windy I just tug it in the radio bag. No lavalier mic needed as this breaks the water sealing of the camera.

Even my sub 200€ Motorola Play G7 had decent video stabilisation so there is constant improvements also in that range.
If you don’t want to invest in a cam or motor gimbal a selfie stick can help to stabilize the camera. Or 3D printing a hand-grip would already make a difference.

Looking forward to SOTA videos from BX

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Here’s a few pointers to get you started based on my experience of running a YouTube channel for the past couple of years or so:-

I think the important part is to get the audio right. People will forgive “less than optimal” video to some degree but poor audio with lots of wind noise is extremely annoying.

Too much kit to list in full but here is a suggested starting point if you are on a budget:-

  • Decent lapel mic with a good windshield - I use a Rode SmartLav+ connected to my phone which has an audio recording app on it (might be able to use a lapel mic with your existing audio recorder?). I sync up the video to the audio in post.

  • Phone cameras are getting really good these days, even on budget phones. I’ve filmed entire videos on my phone (which is definitely not top of the range).

  • If you want a dedicated camera, even cheap cameras can give acceptable results. I use a CamPark action camera (which is available dirt cheap on eBay) for some of my filming. I have a waterproof case for it which makes it pretty much indestructible but audio is unusable & the image quality isn’t as good while in the waterproof case so I use it outside of the case unless the weather is bad.

  • Get a tripod! It doesn’t have to be an expensive one as you are likely only going to support a small camera (or maybe even your phone).

Others have suggested a selfi-stick, which you will probably need if you want to film as you walk. I personally prefer to stop & film segments with the camera mounted on a tripod to keep it steady. I certainly film the segments where I am set up on the summit with a tripod.

Obviously cheap cameras aren’t the best but you said you were on a budget. The above is what I got away with when I was starting.

Other more expensive equipment that I use if you want to blow your budget:-

  • Sony VG20 camera - I probably wouldn’t buy this if starting out now as it’s far to big & heavy. Having said that, I have had some really good results with mine. At one point it was a popular camera with the semi-professional market (such as wedding videographers) before 4k became a big thing. By the way, you don’t need to film in 4k. I currently film all of my content in 1080p.

  • Small camcorder - I use a Panasonic HDC-SD90 for most of my content (now discontinued but there are plenty of other similar options to be had for not too much money). No good for use on a selfi-stick & not waterproof if it’s pouring with rain but it gives better quality video than the action camera.

  • DJI Pocket 2 - extremely good camera, especially if I need something light whilst on the go. Unfortunately it’s damn expensive & not waterproof. Get it with the “do it all handle” which allows you to connect DJI’s wireless mic directly to the camera & you’ve got a great portable video setup (if only it was waterproof)!

Final tip…think about your thumbnails! You will need photos to use with your thumbnails. Ideally your video camera will need to double up as a stills camera with a timer function. You may choose to use your phone for this but then you need to find a way of mounting your phone on the tripod.

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I’ve found the stabilization in my phone camera has been sufficient. I did get a cheap ($10) tripod to use with an older point and shoot camera that doesn’t have any stabilization, but that camera only comes out at the top. If your phone doesn’t work well in motion, you may just have to stop walking when shooting with it. For audio I’ve just been using the built in microphone. Seems to be good enough.

I think my next purchase will be a mic with one of those fuzzy wind covers.

ham_bitious youtube (AA6XA and KN6REU)

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I’m not fond of most image stabilization built into cameras because of the quality hit that is involved.

If you are really serious about videography, good post production software is really helpful. I am fortunate enough to have After Effects available to me along with the rest of the Adobe suite in Creative Cloud. I don’t know what that runs at the base level but it is really good stuff.

There are two basic ways to stabilize video. The best way is to shoot at a higher resolution than you composite at. Say shoot at 2k (2,720x1,530) and then composite in high def (1920x1080). This allows you to use a tracker to move the shot around to stabilize it without any loss of quality.

Shooting large also allows for a certain amount of panning, tilting and zooming on what would otherwise be static, lock-off shots, again with no loss of quality. You can put the camera on a tripod and still get some motion in post.

I realize that this is probably too much information, but, basically as we say in Hollywood: fix it in post. This means you don’t have to carry a lot of gear up the mountain, you can fix stuff and enhance it in the edit bay (your home computer). So my suggestion is to look into software solutions.

HTH
KG6MZS

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Wow, thanks for all the replies, tips and advice! I didn’t expect so many detailed replies, but they did help a lot. I will comment to each of you below, but I first want to get to my outcome.

Maybe I’m using the selfie stick in the wrong way, because the top-heavy end made my videos even more unstable than when I hand-held it.

And…I do want to invest in a cam/phone/gimbal, but the means are not there right now. It’s either a GoPro or paying off the mortgage. COVID has reduced my income by a quarter and that was the part used for saving &having fun. So no extra money to save right now, but we’re getting by and I know how to be frugal. Furthermore salaries here in Taiwan aren’t that high compared to the western world and everything is more expensive because we live on an island. A GoPro that retails for USD300 in the States will cost USD400 here. Not complaining at all: we live a good life here, but with several limitations.

The only thing that really worries me is that my ham piggy bank is down to its last US$100. :face_with_diagonal_mouth:

Since a GoPro or similar is out of reach, and a new phone is unnecessary I decided to check out gimbals again. I researched what is on the market and how they could fit in my SOTA activations and then found a seller on our local eBay clone selling a surplus batch of DJI OM4SE gimbals (the older model) for…USD70 per piece. I bought one and hopefully it will arrive by the end of this week. I can share the use of this gimbal with my daughter, who is in drama class, because I don’t like spending money on things that only I can use (transceivers excluded). So a win-win purchase, but let’s first see how it works out. At least DJI gimbals are regarded as the best and I hope this gimbal will not turn out a lemon.

So there you have it. Going to do an activation this Sunday, but I’m not promising anything.

@WA7JNJ - I am learning Shotcut on Linux as my video editor and it does do software stabilization, but the results are only mediocre. My thought is that the better the original video is the less you have to edit. BTW, I like your YT videos. You’ve got a new subscriber.

@MM0EFI - You are right that with practice you will improve. I checked your earlier videos and the improvement is noticeable. Right now I’m concentrating too much on the technical aspects of the filming, so the content suffers. Once I got everything settled I’ll definitely improve. Love your videos. Wish I could visit Scotland again.

@M0GQC - You are absolutely right that audio is key. I already invested in that with a cheap but decent lavalier mike and a Boya boom mike, so I’m fine there. Thankfully these wired mikes are not expensive. Thanks for the tip about CamPark cameras, I didn’t know that brand, because they don’t sell much here in Taiwan. At least they are in my budget, so maybe later.

Maybe a tip for you: I make thumbnails with VLC from the video footage I shoot and they are pretty decent. I really like your channel and was already subscribed. Keep it up.

@AA6XA - your channel has a new subscriber. I do have a tripod, but I want some more action shots, like panning, walking, etc. Even though the tripod is cheap and light I still want to carry as little as possible. You are lucky to have a companion to help you carry thing, hi hi.

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Okay, that is new perspective for me: I always thought that the better the original material, the less post production needed, hence better quality. But it makes sense when you talk about carrying equipment, of course. I’ll check if my phone can record higher than high definition, because it does allow for more flexible panning and tilting, so thank you for that tip. 73

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Excellent point & you are absolutely right. Personally I like to frame my thumbnail photos slightly differently to my video footage, which is why I generally like to take the thumbnail photos separately. Having said that, I have used shots taken from the video footage in the past…usually if I manage to lose or accidentally delete the photos!

As someone else said, if you film in higher quality than you need it will give you the option of stabilising, zoom, pan, tilt etc in post. This can be a very powerful tool to have & is probably something to look into once I get a more powerful computer which can handle the higher quality video footage!

Personally I don’t do this because I have a couple of issues with it:-

  • My editing computer isn’t particularly fast. It copes fine with 1080p from any of my cameras but gives up the ghost if I try to edit anything filmed at 2.7k or more. I need a more powerful computer if I want to do that.

  • Most of my cameras are fairly old & have a max resolution of 1920x1080, which kind of buggers that plan!

  • Filming in higher resolution will use a lot more space on your SD cards & editing computer. It will also take longer to transfer the files.

  • It probably isn’t a particularly cheap option (due to the need for higher quality cameras, needing larger/more SD cards & more computing power to edit it).

  • I find the editing process a bit tedious. I’d rather be out playing radio than editing hours of video footage of me playing radio! For this reason, I try to get it right in camera to give myself the minimum amount of work possible when it comes to editing it later, although I do accept that there are a lot of benefits to filming in higher resolution & doing more in post.

Maybe something to look into at a later date.

Thanks for the kind words.

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This is how modern cell phones do video stabilization (or at least how mine does it).

Have fun with video. It might take a few videos to figure out what you want. Two important things:

Using phone or camera, never take video in portrait / verticle (unless it’s for phone only). Always shoot in landscape / horizontal.

  • When panning scenery, go very slow and steady.
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You ask a question on here and you get six different answers, all correct!

I hope you have fun creating and experimenting. :slightly_smiling_face:

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Before I comment, a disclaimer - I have hardly ever used video gear, but back in the dark ages I did a lot of filming with Super-8!

Most of the replies have been about equipment, which is fair enough, but really to be effective you need to consider what and how you are filming. So many videos are a pain to watch. Excessive and too rapid panning and zooming, jittery motion shots, shots that are too brief for the viewer to take in detail, excessive use of wide angle which just makes the scenery look small, these are just a few of the bad habits that ruin a video. My favourite hate is the use of selfy sticks and image stabilisation which gives a perfect mug shot while the rest of the world jitters and jives around the photographer!

The first rule is to let the camera tell the story. Hold it still or use a tripod or monopod (or improvise with a walking pole) and let the viewer see, not glimpse, what you want them to see. Zoom or pan slowly, the viewer takes time to absorb a still, with movement it takes longer. Don’t film while walking, a jitter fest might look good in a carefully scripted action movie, otherwise it just looks amateurish and ineffective. Take time with your shots, remember that the viewers are slow to take in a scene.

I hope this is a help, though it barely scratches the surface of a complex subject.

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Brian, The first rule is to remember that the average attention span of a YouTube viewer is around 2 mins 30 secs. You are on point with your views though. The difficulty lies in achieving all of that! I’d love to be able to do telephoto shots or nearby snow and ice covered mountains, with spindrift whipping over corniced edges, but there’s no way I’d be able to afford or to carry that gear. What I do is a balance of time, kit, my ability and creativity, oh and activating a summit, not forgetting weather!

Mo and I love mountain cinematography and make a point of taking in two or three such movies a year at the cinema. We have watched some great films over the years. I find it inspirational.

Cheers for the chat today on 40m. :slightly_smiling_face:

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@MM0EFI Better get six different answers than non at all, right? They all helped me a step further in my endeavour and I’m all the happier for it.

I got my DJI OM4 gimble in, only two days before my next activation, so not much time to learn how to use it. But I already love it. @G8ADD was right that you do need some sort of a storyboard to make a video appealing and I already thought of one to document my activation. Unfortunately my plans fell apart (read my report here), so it was a bit of improvising and hurrying to get things done, but in the end I got enough footage for a complete video. I tried a lot of different methods, angles and viewpoints and some worked, some not. It is actually possible to walk and film at the same time with a gimble, but you need to adapt your pace and way of walking.

Things I learned sofar:

  • the DJI gimble app is slow to start up, but works smoother than my other phone camera apps.
  • better stick to 1080p HD. The quality of my phone’s cameras are not up to par for 4k.
  • the OM4’s joystick is incredibly sensitive and you can make really smooth pan shots with it.
  • constantly check your autofocus and exposure and lock it.
  • I still need to bring my selfie stick, which is handier in some situations.
  • better bring a second (older) phone for navigation/logging.
  • the attached tripod is very stable, but strong winds are still a problem when filming stationary.

My son looked at the image quality of my footage and said I really needed a new phone, but I could have his old iPhone once he had saved enough for a new one. So sweet!!! But…is not going to happen. Phones can last many years nowadays, so no need to replace it just because it is old technology. To me the quality is good enough.

Busy with the editing (which is also a new thing to learn) right now, but I hope to get it done soon. Stay tuned.

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Another thumbs up for the GoPro. It’s light and several batteries can be carried. It’s difficult to get the right length of video where it’s not too short or too long so that people click off and do something else.

Experiment and find what works best for you. Good luck and looking forward to seeing some of your footage.

73 Chris M0RSF

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