Video recording devices have evolved quickly during the 21st century. Today it is easier and more affordable than ever to take a video of your travels. There are however still concerns about lighting, battery life, and data storage.
Motion pictures are great to capture animals, artistic performances and sport contests (if and where allowed – some theaters and stadium authorities have rather strict policies and do enforce them), or other interesting events. Overall if you want to capture the ambiance of a place you are at, a video clip is much better than just photos as it includes movement and sound. Video also allows you to record a, say, 360° view much easier than if you have a normal camera.
Half a century ago, it was possible to make amateur films on Super 8 reels which lasted a couple of minutes. The cost per minute was high, the film had to be developed before it could be shown on a projector and there was often no sound at all. By the 1980s, camcorders emerged on the market and video recording became more convenient. Video and sound was recorded on a tape; just connect the camera to a TV and push play to enjoy your recordings.
In the 21st century digital video became the norm and prices for the devices dropped quickly, and phones, tablets and other devices also got video recording capability. Digital video clips can easily be moved to other devices, freeing space on memory cards for new recordings, so the battery level is pretty much the only thing present day video enthusiasts have to keep an eye on. In addition, compared to analog recordings, it’s much easier and affordable to edit digital videos. Even an amateur traveller can now make a professional-looking travel documentary.
Smartphone: Easy to carry, and high resolution with the latest models. Zooming, lighting and sound qualities are however inferior. Sensitive to damage from shocks and water. Battery time and storage space are limited, though this can be alleviated somewhat if you are willing to use data to offload videos and carry around external power banks. Could be used as backup for a more advanced camera.
Digital still camera: Most of the basic automated point-and-click digital cameras now have some motion video capability, but at a lower resolution than their still photographs. A few can do HDTV reasonably well, although the audio is rudimentary at best. There is no photoflash in ‘moving video’ mode, so the photographer will need some other source of illumination. A tripod is also useful to eliminate camera shake.
System camera: Good for zooming, and use together with a telephoto lens.
Action camera: Small and durable cameras particularly usable for extreme sports and stunts. Can often be fastened e.g. on the performers helmet and are often waterproof or come with optional waterproof casing. Many models often have poor built in microphones.
Camcorder: Real video cameras are still available in many sizes and shapes from the huge things that professional crews use to pocket sized things. Traditional consumer camcorders often support changing optical zoom quietly while recording.
360 Camera: Also known as a omnidirectional camera. These cameras capture all angles at once, creating a video that can be viewed from any angle desired. This is ideal for sharing your travel experiences in Virtual Reality or for capturing a panoramic shot with lots of action in all directions. However this type of camera is inferior for most normal uses, as it can’t actually zoom in on a subject and uses a great amount of storage. Thus these make better secondary cameras then primary cameras.
Drones are becoming more and more affordable to the general public and are often equipped with, or are possible to equip with video recorders. They allow you to take photos and videos from perspectives that regular photographers previously could only dream of. In addition to the regulations mentioned below considering photography, there are often additional regulations — varying from country to country — considering the drones themselves. To avoid problems with the authorities, do inform yourself about regulations considering drones (maximum flight altitudes. permits and such) in the country where you intend to use them.
Gimbals are devices that work to keep camera movement stable during movement, and are especially useful while shooting video from a vehicle or on the go. 2 axis gimbals tend to be cheaper and use less energy then 3 axis gimbals, but provide less stabilization. Gimbals come in a variety of different formfactors from Smartphone focused models, to models integrated in a drone.
UV filters can be attached to some camcorders. While they don’t provide a real benefit to digital cameras as they did with film, they do act as protection for your lens, and can potentially save your lens from direct damage if your destination is particularly dirty.
When recording video, keep the camera steady and move the camera slowly, otherwise it may be impossible to watch what you’ve recorded afterwards.
Remember that a minute is a very long time when watching video. Plan well before shooting unless you are going to do extensive editing – which is quite arduous. Also, if you will not be able to recharge your battery before leaving the area (say, you’re on a day trip to a national park) you should be careful with how much you use your camera. It’s extremely frustrating if you can’t record that stunning sunset over a canyon that you may not return to anytime soon just because of an empty battery. Bring a (charged) spare if you have one; best to recharge all batteries immediately before use, as some hold their charge poorly if left on the shelf for months.
If you are away from a steady source of electricity for a longer time, solar chargers and “power packs” with a lot of pre-charged ampere-hours might be an option but will weigh you down. If you know you will be filming for extended periods without being able to recharge, you should buy a camera operating on AA batteries, as opposed to cameras with a battery for that camera type only. Single-use versions of such batteries are available all over the world, and rechargeable AA batteries are also widely available and comparatively cheap. Also, keep in mind that if a custom-made/integrated battery breaks, it may mean a major hassle finding a new one (in particular if the camera is of an old/obscure type) and unless you find one, your camera will be useless.
Storage media isn’t such a problem as it used to be when video cameras were analog; for instance a small 16 GB SD-memory card can usually hold one or two hours of high quality video (naturally, this varies a lot from camera to camera) and much more if you’re recording in inferior quality. It’s also easy to remove videos you don’t need to free up space. However, the fact that memory cards are so small also means they are easy to lose if you’re careless. If you’ve filled a memory card and need to replace it to continue recording, pack it away at some secure place and/or make a backup copy of the video files if you can.
Some people want to keep their video just as it is, others prefer to edit it to make it look professional or just for fun. Your operating system may include a video editing software, which usually include all functions a non-professional video maker would need. Alternatively, there are several editing applications available for free or for a fee. Editing your footage allows you to potentially stabilize shaky recordings, trim unwanted footage, and add text to your video. Some editors also allow for editing metadata such as closed captions, date and time, location, and authorship.
There are a range of channels through which you can publish your videos online, the best known being YouTube.
Various software allows the editing and creation of digital video discs (DVD+-R or +-RW) on laptop or desktop personal computers.
If you have succeeded in shooting a really great video, just like for photos, there are amateur video contests that you could enter.
The string of expensive cameras around a voyager’s neck is bait for theft or other crime; it also makes the traveller very visible as a non-local who may be targeted for various common scams against visitors. It’s best to keep expensive or elaborate equipment properly secured and out of sight when not in use.
All of the usual concerns about travel photography, including over-eager locals who don’t disclose they expect to be paid to appear in a shot until after the images have already been recorded, apply equally to motion video.
Going to dangerous places like slippery stones next to a body of water or even a street with potholes, while at the same time concentrating on what you’re filming and having at least one hand occupied with the video camera can be a recipe for disaster. The steep rocky coastline of Peggy’s Cove, for instance, is infamous for visitors being swept off the rocks into the water by high waves; some have drowned.
Overall recording video while walking is often a bad idea. Watch your step, especially if you’re moving about in the nature or on other uneven surfaces — even the most awesome video clip is probably not worth a sprained ankle (and other injuries and breaking your camera).
Rules regarding regular photography also apply to video recording, possibly even more so. If just taking a photo of something isn’t allowed, then you shouldn’t even think of recording a video of it. If using a drone, check well in advance as to what you are allowed to film and what permits or additional licensing are required. Flying a drone near an airport or over a crowd is almost always a bad idea, even if it’s not illegal in your area.
Video recording is prohibited or bad manners at some stage performances (such as stand-up comedy) and spectator sports, for intellectual property reasons. At large venues where your outstretched arm may obstruct the view of those behind you, filming (especially if it’s your flimsy Megapixel Smartphone camera in a dark space) is a certain social faux-pas and often just not worth it. In particular, taking videos or photos on large tablets (e.g. iPads) is an act almost universally despised by others – not to mention usually a bad idea in and of itself owing to the poor cameras contained in such devices.
Also, when recording video you will be aiming the camera at people for several times longer than when you’re snapping a photo, which makes the possibility higher to annoy someone if you’re filming, say, a street scene. Recording persons without their express permission may be locally regarded as anything from a minor nuisance to a criminal misdemeanor or even an attempt at sorcery or offense to other cultural norms, so tread with caution and read up on your destination before hitting “record”. Even where it’s not technically illegal, law-enforcement, military, governmental personnel, and even some transport workers, maybe understandably reticent to appear on camera.
In some countries there is also the concern that you might be mistaken for a spy if you choose to film certain things or locations. Sure that parade in North Korea is something you’ve just gotta have on tape… But it’s not worth getting accused of espionage for, so always ask. In particular, filming of customs, security or immigration areas in airports is almost universally forbidden, and taking photos or videos of military bases and sensitive industrial sites will undoubtedly attract attention if noticed.