With an official “touch the Pacific” leg completed (see immediate last post), we wait for the actual trip to begin on September 2. In the interim, we now consider some other prep / planning issues.
Vacation pictures can be Hell.
It was for me an unforgettable episode of The Twilight Zone or Outer Limits, I think. A commentary on how every soul may have its own Hell, this episode showed a young man just after his untimely demise, entering his customized perdition. I do not remember why his eternal destiny was on the negative side, but he must have been a bad boy.
No flames, no pitchforks, no red-suited Mephistopheles. Just a living room, a projector, screen, and a Grandpa and Grandma going through their vacation pictures. “Now we have our 1200 pictures of Old Faithful Geyser.” Sitting for all eternity on a plastic-protected couch, the young man may have wished that eternal punishment was Hellfire-as-advertised. Slides without end, amen.
If it was a commentary on the personalization of Hell, it was also about the dreadful sentence that is a vacation picture show. I am acutely aware of this with my own vacation pictures, and have made some progress against such an indictment, though there’s still a long way for me to go. Some of my improvements might have elevated my shows to limbo, but they may not yet be heavenly.
Editing helps. The six hours of material from our anniversary cruise to Turkey and Israel was cut to 30 minutes, with music added and some nifty transitions, split screens and all that. (For a 4 minute segment of this click Jerusalem / Bethlehem).
Thirty minutes will work ok at parties designed for that purpose, where friends choose to come and know what to expect; at other gatherings, even a half hour with great background music, quick cuts and no tedious pan shots can be a party buzz-kill. Mostly I avoid the words “would you like to see my vacation pictures?” That ranks just above “guess my age” as things not to say to anyone. Ever.
For this 7-week road adventure, how short can the final product be? I’m thinking that even the amount of original material should be minimal. If I take 10 hours of video and cut most of it away, I will wish that I had spent less of the trip looking at the US through a viewfinder!
And around what theme or story should the content hang? Good productions tell a story, versus an endless string of “then we did this, then we did that.” A prior post in this blog discusses traveling with eyes wide open, looking for the story of the road, whether it’s the lay of the land, the flow of history, or just the achievement of crossing ocean to ocean. If we do discover clues to a story, I’d like to tell that in video.
Please comment on possible stories to tell, and your thoughts on time limit! I’m interested in your feedback. My goal would be to produce a 15-20 minute story. This is like the old Name That Tune quiz show on TV… “I can tell that trip story in … 17 minutes!”
We conclude with some tips I gleaned from the helpful book by Steve Stockman How To Shoot Video That Doesn’t Suck. Wisdom here also comes from my own vast experience at watching kind audiences stifle yawns.
- I’ve already made the point about how the whole thing should tell a story, but each shot should tell its own mini-story, even if its incidental: the river was fast, or the campfire was hot or the town was deserted. What does each shot say?
- Moving things are best in video, still landscapes are best in still-photo. Let moving things go across a still screen. Avoid pan shots.
- Did I mention already that the whole thing should be short? Yes, of course, but each shot should be, too. Best shots are 3 to 5 seconds tops. Twitter, PowerPoint and Facebook may have ruined deep and thoughtful communication, but to hold an audience in this era requires short eloquent bursts.
- Frame shots creatively, differently. Avoid subjects right in the center, take small shots of the same subject from high, low, behind or front.
- Edit a final product with some music, alternating between video and the best still photos. Maybe also some sound tricks, like starting the sound for the next scene before your picture switches there. Like the movies!
So it’s time to play Tame That Vid! Shortest time for effectively telling the story wins the game! Ready? “I can produce a delightful, compelling, eternally rewarding picture story of a 7-week cross-country trip in….”