TIPS ON FILMING YOUR OWN HUNT AND KNOWING WHEN TO HIRE A PRODUCER
BY JORDAN BUDD - RUNNINGWATERMEDIA.COM
By now a lot of you have booked your fall hunts. Whether a trip of a lifetime or the yearly buddy hunt, you want to document the adventure. But where to start? In this article I’m diving into self filming your hunt. Breaking down what camera you’ll want, extra gear you’ll need, basic shots you’ll need for a story, editing equipment and some things to consider before committing. I’m confident by the end you’ll know if you want to do it yourself, or hire a professional.
First things first, what kind of film do you want? A well flowing story, some highlight shots, or maybe just the kill shot? If you’re only wanting to capture the kill shot or a few highlights of the hunt then your better off picking up a GoPro type camera and/or a point and shoot camera. For the sake of this article we’ll be focusing on a well flowing hunt story. One that follows and captures all of your experiences during the hunt, whether difficulties or successes. This one is much tougher to accomplish by yourself. A tripod and fluid head are going to be a must haves for self-filming. I recommend a carbon fiber tripod to help with both weight and sound. I’ve used a Silk 624 and 634 a lot with great luck. Manfrotto and Gitzo are also good brands for carbon fiber tripods. Manfrotto makes good fluid heads in a variety of sizes, including packable sizes and weights. A budget fluid head I have used a bit is the Benro S2 head, which for 80$ is a great head.
I don’t want to go down the camera rabbit hole too far, that’s an article all in its own. But I’ll touch on some cameras that I have used and things to look for. If you already have a camera that shoots HD video then you’re probably set. However if you want to upgrade, or newly purchase, here’s a few things to look for. You’ll want to shoot in at least high definition (HD), which is 1920x1080 pixels. You shouldn’t have trouble finding an HD camera these days. A large push you’ll see from camera companies is 4K shooting ability. While 4K has its advantages, I personally wouldn’t recommend it for the average do it yourself-er. 4K video is 3840 × 2160 pixels, double the resolution for standard HD. Where I see this becoming an issue is during post production when your trying to play or edit the video. Your computer is going to need extra horse power to handle the extra resolution at any kind of smooth pace. Without the proper equipped computer, editing or playback can be a nightmare with standard HD, let alone 4K, and can leave you frustrated.
Another consideration for camera selection is do you want a DSLR type camera, or a camcorder type? A DSLR/Mirrorless setup will let you interchange the lenses and are able to shoot high quality still photos. A camcorder, in my opinion, offers the best option for someone wanting a large zoom range for the weight and a camera that’s fairly “hands off”. Meaning you basically push the record button and roll. If you’re wanting a more creative style with a shallow depth of field and good photos, definitely go with a DSLR/Mirrorless style. I ran a Canon 60D for a long time before upgrading to the Sony A7s2. I now run the Sony A7s2 and A73. I feel Canon’s are very durable and user friendly, so something like the 80D or 6D, with an 18-135mm or 24-105mm lens can get you going quickly with a solid camera that won’t break the bank.
While all cameras will have an automatic feature I can’t recommend enough learning how to use the manual, or semi-manual, settings. Familiarize yourself with different white balance settings, accessing audio levels, the menu systems and buttons/dials on the camera. I won’t go into detail on the settings, but when shooting in manual be sure that your shutter speed is always at least double the frame rate. For example, shooting a frame rate of 30FPS needs to have at least a shutter speed of 1/60th. If the shutter speed goes lower than that you can get a “ghosting” type of affect with moving objects. Lastly for this section I’ll touch on audio. Good audio is a large factor, especially in the high winds that come with the cool places we go. In my opinion, if you’re doing things yourself, a good shotgun microphone with a wind screen is the way to go. Some say never film without wireless lavaliere mics, but if you’re by yourself I don’t agree. You can’t be hunting with your camera headphones on monitoring your audio. It’s just not realistic. If you would like the lavaliere audio, a good option is to run a splitter on your camera so one audio channel records the lavaliere and other channel records the shotgun mic. If you rely on your lavaliere and run out of batteries, you will be left with no audio. Rode makes a shotgun microphone called the Micro, and with a wind screen that little mic is hard to beat for the price.
I’ll quickly touch on card space, battery management and charging, especially for backcountry and backpack hunters. One reason to familiarize yourself with your camera is to figure out the battery life. External conditions will impact battery life such as cold weather, so you’ll want to consider that on your trip. With my Canon camera I could liberally expect to go through two batteries per day and I always carried at least three. My Sony camera eats batteries faster, so if I’m filming a lot I can go through three batteries per day easily. So to charge on the go, I purchased some after market batteries and a USB charger off of Amazon for fairly cheap. The USB charger allows me to charge my camera batteries with a portable charger if no electricity is available. I use the Dark Energy Poseidon and Anker chargers for portable power. They also charge my cell phone and InReach/GPS so they are dual purpose. For memory cards I try not to go any less than 64GB and I always have an extra with me. I’ve started using 128GB cards and rarely do I fill one up on a five day hunt.
Now you have your camera and you’re headed out on the hunt. Since you just dropped your mortgage payment on a camera, you want to take care of it and make sure it doesn’t get banged up. In my experience a camera that goes into a pack doesn’t come out that often, whereas an easily accessible camera gets used more. Helping the issue is a little piece of gear called the Capture Clip from Peak Design. It’s a little mount that goes onto your backpack shoulder strap that your camera clips into. When I need to throw the camera in my pack, I simply wrap it in a jacket and in the pack it goes. Putting it in a case seems like a good idea, but when you’re tired, cold and in a hurry the camera almost never goes in the case. As you start capturing the trip, the best advice I can give is film everything. Film more than you think you’ll use of walking in, glassing, camp, animals, landscapes, etc. You can always skip using a video clip, but if you don’t press record you’ll simply never have it.
I go into self-filmed trips keeping in mind some cool shots I’d like to try but for the most part I’m going with the flow, as hunting is unpredictable. As you pack up your backpack, setting up camp, walking to a stand or leaving camp in a vehicle, it’s important to take an extra minute and get some shots. As a rule of thumb you’ll want to film in ten second clips, or more. It’s easy to get in a hurry and cut a clip short, but once your back at home looking at the footage you’ll usually wish you had more to work with. To be sure you are capturing every sequence or scene to its full potential, always shoot a wide, a mid and a tight shot for every scene. As an example, if your setting a tent up you’ll want a wide shot showing the entire tent with some backdrop. For the mid range shot you’ll shift position slightly and maybe only have the tent fill the frame while maybe only your legs come in and out of the frame. Finally for the tight shot you could capture, the famous, pounding in the tent stakes. Between those three shots, the viewers will get a good sense of what you are doing. Don’t be afraid to take multiple wide, mid and tight shots but at a minimum shoot for one of each.
Transition shots are another thing you’ll need to capture. Those shots take you from one place or scene to the other without jumping. You don’t want to have yourself putting a backpack on and then have yourself sitting on a glassing point, as there’s no sense of moving locations. This goes back to our wide, mid and tight shots showing you walking up the hill or up a trail. The viewers will then get a sense of travel and a passing of time. Another popular transition shot is a time-lapse. A time-lapse shows a passing of time and is easy to accomplish. The “correct” way to shoot a time-lapse is taking a series of photos and stitching them together into a video clip. If you're doing it that way, you’ll need an intervalometer shutter release to control how many photos are taken in a certain amount of time. I try not to take any less than 400 photos for a time-lapse because that number at 30 frames per second gets you about 13 seconds of time-lapse video, which hits our ten second mark with some extra room. While that is technically the correct way, and uses the least amount of memory card space and probably battery life, you can also take a long video and ramp up the speed in post production. That’s the simplest and least technical way to accomplish a time-lapse.
Now you have returned from your hunt and you want to put it all together. As I stated above, it’s going to take a certain kind of computer system to run footage smoothly. In my opinion, Apple MacBooks and iMacs will run a video editing software better out of the box than any other. That is actually how I got started with all of my film editing. For a video editing software I recommend Adobe Premiere Pro. Adobe runs their software on a subscription basis for “x” amount per month, which lets you continuously receive updates. They have a few different subscription options, some give you access to more Adobe programs like Lightroom and Photoshop for photos. Other noteworthy programs are Bridge, a file management tool, and After Affects, a video graphic building software. Another popular software among Apple users is Final Cut Pro X, for 300$ in the app store. Another thing that will help with organization, and your computer speed, is to work off of an external hard drive. A couple of 4TB hard drives, one for a backup, will hold a ton of footage and will keep your computers internal hard drive free. A huge plus if your computer crashes.
I know we’ve burned through a lot of information, but I hope this helps for your next adventure. If it’s an overload and more than you’d like to take on I recommend hiring a professional videographer, if the trip allows. Self-filming can be done and done well, but it’s going to take some commitment and extra time. I can’t count how many times I have chose to skip filming a scene because it would take some extra time and effort, then in the end I was kicking myself. Having a dedicated video producer with you allows you do the hunting and not have to worry about if the camera batteries are charged or not. It also saves on extra time taken to get the shots you need. A good producer will film things as they happen and will probably capture things that you just couldn’t have if self-filming.
Some are going to be intrigued with self-filming and take on the challenge. To those I encourage to give it heck. Filming a hunt is a difficult task but it’s rewarding as you share with friends and family for decades to come.