Howdy. It sounds like you



It sounds like you’re in for an awesome trip. However, the camera you’re bringing might give you difficulties later on.

Over and over, I’ve seen people come to this forum with problems related to their DVD camcorders.

Basically, the format the the DVD camcorders uses to store video is a pain in the neck to edit. Editing it will almost always give you reduced image quality. One poster here said they found a way to convert the DVD files to .avi clips, so check your manual to see if this is possible. If not, you might want to exchange your camera (if you still can) and get one that records onto MiniDV. The MiniDV format is basically the industry standard for editing and getting the highest quality video. Your editing will be just as easy (it might be a little long to dump all the video onto your PC initially, but worth it), and your finished results will look much better.

Having said that, regardless of your camera, there are some tips to making a finished video, and some of them start before you ever get on the plane.

1. What’s your story? Your finished video should tell a story. It’s been proven countless times that people lose interest in watching an hour of random vacation footage, but if you edit your footage to tell a story, people will be drawn in. Maybe your story will be abut the people you’re helping. Maybe the story will focus on one of your team members overcoming some personal trial.

Come up with a few ideas, and here’s the important part, storyboard them. Basically, write a rough idea of where you want your video to go, and then draw some pictures depicting what you want to capture. They don’t have to be good pictures. Believe me, the last storyboard I drew for a production had stick figures and basic shapes. But this will give you a blueprint, so you know what shots to look for when you get out into the field.

Also, be open to changing your storyboard ideas. You might have planned to tell one story, but something totally amazing happened in the field, and now you want to rewrite your story around it. Be willing to change plans, but if you do change plans, make sure you know what you need to film to make the new plan work. Lay out a new storyboard. (FWIW, I’ve seen storyboards that were very advanced wall-sized bulletin boards and I’ve seen storyboards that were plain paper notebooks. I’m guessing that going into the mission field, you should probably try the latter).

2. Pack plenty of supplies! One standard battery and two or three tapes won’t get you through almost a month in Africa. Bring LOTS of big batteries (you can buy batteries super cheap on eBay). For three weeks, have at least 10 hours of recordable media available. Honestly, I’d buy as many tapes (or DVD’s if you can’t get a MiniDV camera) as you can fit in your bag. You can always return the ones you don’t use when you get back, or hold them for another day. But I wouldn’t expect to find gear for your American NTSC camera over where most of the world uses PAL.

3. Make sure you’ve got the power! Since I mentioned batteries, I should also point out that it would be prudent to look into buying one of those "international power inverters" so you can convert the American plug on your camera’s battery charger into whatever foreign outlets you might have. Considering the stability of power in third world countries, bring a surge protector too, just to be safe.

4. Know your priority. Obviously, if your role on this mission trip is to roll video, then you should be doing that most of the time. If you have another role to perform, make sure that you’re not slacking off on your job to go filming. Be the epitome of helpfulness either way. Aside from being a good witness, it will also make people more comfortable when you do have the ol’ camera out. They’ll see you as a friend, not as the videographer they avoid with all their power.

5. Know thy camcorder. I don’t know why I waited till point 5 to bring this up. This is really the fundamental base of videography. IF you don’t know how to use your camera, you’re going to get poor pictures, and sloppy footage. Know how to set up and use the manual settings. If your camera has manual focus, exposure, shutter speed, and/or white balance, know what all of these do, and know how to change these settings with one eye closed and the other looking into the viewfinder. IF you’re spending all your time in the field trying to wrangle your camcorder into working, you’ll miss the best shots.

6. Think ahead. What will you need? Will you need lighting? Will you need a rain cover for filming in wet situations? Will you need an underwater enclosure? Wide angle adapter? What filters will you need for the lens? Etc, etc… Before you leave your home to head to the airport, know exactly where your camera will be every hour of your trip, and bring what you need to get the most out of it. If you can think of a situation that you’ll encounter, but you don’t know what you might need to get the most out of your shot, come post it here, and all of us wise guy know-it-all types will do what we can to make up some legitimate sounding answers for ya! πŸ˜€

7. Keep is short! If you draw up a storyboard and film what you need, editing will be a snap. You’ll just upload your video onto the PC, and splice in the parts. Just remember, don’t linger on any one clip for too long. Stay on it long enough to set the mood you need, and then move on to the next clip. Watch TV and look for how often they cut from one shot to the next. Get a stopwatch and look for the longest amount of time they spend on any one clip in a standard TV show. You’ll be surprised how many cuts there are. Use different angles, and switch between shots to keep the viewer’s attentions.

And don’t make the video longer than you need to! If you can tell your story in 10 minutes, do that. If you can tell your story in no less than 45, do that. But if you can tell your story in 10 minutes, don’t drag it on for 45 minutes just because you can. If after telling your 10 minute story, you (and others) still want to see more, I smell a sequel! πŸ™‚ Personally, I would much rather watch 3 10 minute videos than one 30 minute video. Even if they’re all just a continuation of one another. It breaks it up, so you can stretch, and mentally digest info.

8. Don’t be transition happy. When you open up your video editor, you’ll see that there are 50,000 different transitions. Horizontal wipes, vertical wipes, 3D fly-ins, etc, etc…

When I edit a professional video, I usually use only two transitions, the cut and the dissolve. And cuts are the vast majority of them!

Again, watch TV. On almost all television shows (the sort you and I watch and are mentally attuned to seeing), they almost never use transitions. It’s almost entirely cuts. During music, or to make a statement, sometimes they’ll do a dissolve, but most of the time, a well timed cut is all they use.

So leave the fancy pants transitions off if you want to put together a really professional looking piece. If you have to use them, only use them one or two times, and it had better be WELL justified.

9. Save early, save often. When you’re editing, make sure you save your work every so often, so if something happens, you won’t lose it all.

10. Have fun! It’s going to be an incredible mission trip. Enjoy it, and the service you’ll provide. Document the trip, and put together a video that shows that the trip was worth it. Maybe it will be a video used next time to convince others to join. You just never know.

Let us know if you have any other questions. Welcome to the board, and Godspeed on your mission trip!

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