Your eye and your mind are the most lethal weapons to shoot and edit a beautiful vacation video, according to expert Brandon Mattingly. Choosing the right content and learning how to shoot and edit a beautiful vacation video can make all the difference. Many of us long to create vacation videos that people want to watch. Whether it is just our family members or an online audience getting it right makes all the difference. But how to shoot and edit a beautiful vacation video eludes many of us.
I sought out a professional to get advice on techniques, editing and content to learn how to shoot and edit vacation video to create something magical. Brandon has been creating videos since he was in middle school. As a professional videographer he knows what it takes to create a video worth watching and sharing, and luckily he was willing to share his advice on the subject.
The assumption with all of Brandon’s advice is that filming is being done with an iphone.
Below is our interview:
Sheri: What is your philosophy about shooting video and growing into a better videographer?
Brandon: I’m a big believer in the notion that the biggest way to improve your video is to improve yourself. Gear isn’t the enemy, but it’s also not the hero to making a good video. There are some tools that will make your execution easier, but the quality of the video hinges first and foremost on your storytelling ability and having a certain point-of-view. Film, like all other art forms, are birthed out of great ideas that can be executed upon by knowing the craft. Give me the best paints and brushes in the world, but my painting will look like crap compared to a Rembrandt painting. All that said, there are a couple things you can grab that might be a quick fix to common technical “errors” in making a video.
Sheri: What do you think constitutes good content for video? I am always overwhelmed by how to shoot interesting video. I am so used to thinking about photography it is hard for me to switch to moving objects.
Brandon: Personally, I like videos that have a point-of-view on a specific story or subject. If you are on a long vacation trip, perhaps you can spend your time planning to create a small vignette video of one specific place or person. Long video montages of locations are cool and all, but each of those videos kinda all feel the same after a bit. Here’s an example of a simple, thoughtful piece that was shot on an iPhone of the Tokyo Metro when Gareth Pon visited Japan. He could have filmed the bustling streets and all the tourist go-to spots, but rather, he sat on the train just people watching a creative a beautiful, rhythmic visual poem of how people use this transit system in their everyday life. Quite simple execution, but a spark of creative genius. In summary, try finding a moment in time on your trip that you can capture and share your experience to the world. Focus on quality over quantity.
Sheri: As a cinematographer how do you make choices about content?
Brandon: This sort of relates to the last question but I can elaborate a little more. When I consider making a video, all my decision-making is filtered through the all-important story. Before you press record or make an edit, ask yourself the question “Is this helping tell my story or is this just a pretty picture?” Deciding between the two is always a struggle because I like making pretty pictures, but I need to continually discipline myself to take the right picture.
Sheri: So many people take videos of their vacations but then find they are disappointed with the results (this definitely includes me). What equipment would you recommend for people interested in taking videos of their vacations or for blogging?
Brandon: Probably the first thing that people may want to add to there kit is a tripod for their iPhone. Shaky video can be a creative choice, but 99% it’s just poor camera work. To solve this, there are two things I’d suggest. First grab a tripod like this tripod + this mount for your phone. Use it to make perfectly still shots by putting on a flat surface Second, learn how to hold the camera steady. I know this sounds like a no brainer, but I see people messing this up all the time. Don’t hold your camera with fully extended arms – your arms will be more shaky and so will your video. Try keeping your elbows tucked in to your side. Bonus Tip: If you want to do a moving handheld shot, walk with your knees bent almost like a marching band. It’s call “heel-toe” because your feet glide smoothly from the back of your heel to the front of your foot. You may look a little funky to onlookers, but your end shot will be much smoother.
Sheri: What type of editing software do you think is best for people who are just hobbyists?
Brandon: iMovie on your phone works great. It will probably get done everything you need to. The next step would be something like iMovie for desktop, a little more in-depth. Sometime focusing on a phone for a long edit can get tiring haha! If you want to really get deep into editing, I’d say you should get Adobe Premiere on your computer. It’s a big jump, but anything in between will only feel like a mild improvement from iMovie.
Sheri: What are some basics of editing to make videos look more professional?
Brandon: An old teacher of mine drilled this concept into my head about storytelling and specifically editing… “Cut the crap.” Does this shot need to be more that 5 seconds long? If so, it better be the best shot ever or a very purposeful creative pause. If not, move on and continue to engage your audience into the progression of the story.
Sheri: How long do you think videos should be for blogs,Vimeo or Youtube?
Brandon: Video duration should be as long as it take to get the point of your story across. No more, no less. Cut the crap, but make sure the audience has time to catch on to what you’re trying to say. I need a good reason to watch a vacation video over 2 minutes though. If you haven’t hooked me in the first 5-20 seconds I (and many others) may just move on.
Sheri: What trends do you see in video now for vloggers?
Brandon: I’m not sure if I can speak to this really well as I don’t follow vloggers too closely. Drones seem to be all the rave, but I think they get overused. Go watch a well made movie and you can count on a single hand how many helicopter (drone) shots are used. They are great tools to establish context, but if you are using 5 drone shots in a row, you may be doing something wrong.
Sheri: I would definitely have to agree with this. Drones are good for showing an overall view but you lose the details, which to me are what give feeling to the video. Honestly we don’t travel for overall views, we travel for the individual experience on the ground, with the people, the buildings or with nature.
Sheri: If you could buy only one piece of pro-equipment/software what would you buy?
Brandon: If you don’t have editing software to edit your video, start there because you’ll be unable to finish videos without it. For iPhone filming, I’d recommend to buy the app Filmic Pro. It will allow you to control your exposure, white balance and focus with much more control. Shooting on auto is nice, but it can often be detrimental to your image.
Personally, I’d skip all the online comparisons of this camera to that camera. In a recent roundtable discussion between all the 2017 Oscar nominated Cinematographers, the topic of shooting on film or digital came up. During that point in the discussion, Rodger Deakins, recent Oscar winner for Best Cinematography with Blade Runner 2049, said “I’d shoot on an iPhone and I wouldn’t complain…it’s what in the frame.” To his point there are several feature films that are hitting theaters around the world that have been shot on an iPhone including “Unsane” by Steven Soderberg being released March 23, 2018. Gear can help, a lot, but don’t let it become a substitute for good storytelling. It’s been said, “The best camera is the one you have with you.”
Sheri: Cinematography has been a passion of yours for a long time, what inspires you?
Brandon: From classic feature films to thoughtfully created commercial pieces, video has kept the gaze of my passion for a long time because of how it’s composed of multiple art forms. It uses photography, music, animation, design, writing, acting and, most uniquely, time to immerse the audience into a point of view. To me, it feels like my most real way to have people see what I see and feel what I feel.
Sheri: What have been some of your favorite videos you have shot over the years?
Brandon: A personal video I shot recently I really enjoyed. The video was just my 2 month old daughter and my wife playing together on our couch. It was a moment in time that I wanted to capture the joyful and delicate essence of this stage in our family. There is no story arc, but I like how it’s just a small slice of life that feels precious and simple. It’s my family, so obviously I’m biased! https://vimeo.com/252754206
Brandon has been working professionally for the past four years but has been creating videos since he was in middle school. I have known Brandon for 15 years watching him follow his passion and turn it into a profession. It was an honor to interview him.
Brandon create my website. You can find out more about him and see more of his work on his site. I found a lot of inspiration on his site, hopefully you will too. Please follow him on Instagram for more inspiration.
To see more of the possibilities of shooting vlogs, travel films, and short films with iPhones check out the collection of films on Moment Lens’s website. They are a smartphone lens manufacturer that shows how to much the limit of your iPhone to create amazing films. He works in house for Vandeavor in Chicago.
Hopefully you feel as inspired as I do to start shooting and editing beautiful vacation videos! I would love to see some of your videos, or answer any questions you may have, so leave a note or link in the comments!