Making better kayaking videos with minimal effort

I have been making video for around 20 years now, and making video professionally for around 15. I have to confess that I am not big on filming my own kayaking adventures, preferring instead to leave that to others on the trip and focus on my own paddling. However I have produced kayaking videos in a professional capacity as promos for coaching and kayak companies, which has involved taking cumbersome camera gear out onto the river.

The biggest difference between a professional and the results that they get when compared to an amateur mainly lies in the time taken and the gear hassle a pro will put up with. To get good shots involves blood, sweat, and tears. Frankly put, making a video to a professional standard is actually a complete pain in the backside, but we put up with all the hassle because we are employed to get excellent results.

An amateur does not have pressure from a client to do this and instead simply wants to get a good record of their day out. Having said this there are many paddlers out there who would like to get better results. For younger paddlers having a trust fund or a parent to buy a swanky £6k or more camera for them is also not on the cards, and most full time employed dads wouldn’t be spending that sort of money on a camera to film their kayaking adventures with either.

Most paddlers are equipped with GoPro’s or other equivalent cameras. The GoPro is generally popular due to the abundance of mounts and the overall quality that it now produces. There are many ways in which you can get much more from your GoPro, particularly if it is a Hero3 or Hero3+ Black Edition. It would take me a long time to go into each of the ways you can set up these cameras, and I will save it for another time. For this article I will focus on a few other thoughts for helping you to improve things.

Something that sets out a professional production from an amateur one is often the sheer variety of shots and angles that are captured. This is not a luxury that is often afforded to kayakers on a day out, particularly sea kayakers and surf kayakers. So what can you do if you are extremely limited by your camera angle?

Here are two videos I made while experimenting with a rear kayak mount based up a Scotty fishing rod mount. These are all made with only one basic camera angle.

Here is a further video I made while testing out a helmet pole mount using two angles.

The first rule of thumb that I can offer for single view videos is that you should be keeping them short. No 20 minute long head cam videos! You need to be fairly ruthless about what you will keep in, and what you will leave out. You should be aiming to present a flavour of your day, not the entire thing!

Pick a theme. The Tawe video was just a general day out on the river, but I chose the music with care, while the Usk video was focussing on the big waves, and I textured it with some additional basic sound design, with an occasional insert of a very wonky bank side shot taken from one of the other paddlers! I will cover to the subject of using mates as camera operators in a future piece.

Don’t just pick any old music simply because it is popular at the moment. Pick a tune based upon feel and mood. Nothing says that you haven’t given your video any effort or thought than simply using the same popular tune that every other paddling video has!

Cut to the music beats and keep it consistent. A viewers mind will synch to the beat of the music and cutting to those beats in a consistent way allows the viewer to be engaged more.

If you can inject some variety into your shots, by all means do so, but keep those helmet cam shots to a bare minimum, using them only to add some spice. Just like spices in food a little goes a long way, but too much will overpower things.

Lastly you will have to give your edit some thought. Rushing things and slapping them together will not get you the results you desire, so a small amount of patience is required. I added a slight retro style grade to my picture in the videos above, but that’s because I often like to play about with stuff like that.

I have much more to write and say on the subject of improving video, including bank side camera positioning and making the most of all those modes on your GoPro, but I will cover them in future articles. For now simply making a few small tweaks to the way that you approach your videos can make all the difference to the end result.

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