Taking videos during game drives

May 11th, 2007, 01:08 PM
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Taking videos during game drives

I have just received today my first digital Handycam Sony DCR-HC37E, basic features but wonderful 40x optical zoom not to be used without a tripod) and NightShotPlus with min 0 lux !!
So I have now to excercise a bit before leaving to Kruger/Sabi Sands in only 4 weeks !!

Does any of you have experience of taking videos during game drives, especially with low light or at night ? Any tips or suggestion for me ?
Fabio is offline  
May 11th, 2007, 01:19 PM
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I have never videoed while on a game drive, but I've been with parties who did. I would caution you to not get so caught up in videoing that you miss the things that go by quickly.

I've been with people who missed a quick look at a snake/rodent/bird/etc. because they were looking through the viewfinder and they couldn't get the animal in their field of view. Sometimes it's quite bumpy as well. So the only advice I'd give is use video sparingly while on a drive.
Favor is offline  
May 11th, 2007, 02:20 PM
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Keep in mind that you will have to edit your videos. That means that you can take a lot and just keep the best pieces in the final version. Practice before you go, especially slow panning. From 10 hours of video I have a nice 20 minute movie and it's more fun to watch than the photos (don't tell my husband!).
Marija is online now  
May 11th, 2007, 02:53 PM
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Favor: thank you ! I wll save some time to enjoy the sightings while NOT taking videos

Marija: we will do both: I will do videos and my son taking pictures !
But during night drives I can forget pictures !

I have more than 10 years experience with Hi8 mm camcorder videos, but now I have to learn how to practice the editing program. I have just downloaded the Picture Motion Browser program from the dvd ! Hope I will have time enough to work on it with fun once back home, then also adding some music, titles etc.... maybe late at night when kids are sleeping.. !!

Fabio is offline  
May 11th, 2007, 06:55 PM
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If you have a tripod, I suggest having two legs on the floor of the vehicle with the third less extended resting on the seat between your legs. Pop your camera on the tripod when you make a sighting. Then use the LCD display to film the action and keep your eye on things. I end up taking a bunch of video at each sighting, which I edit on return. If a sighting is long I will play with the zoom etc to get different shots.
I actually find the camera is wonderful for recording sound, which stills can never do justice to, also when everyone else puts their cameras away, I am still taking great video, particularly of nocturnal animals. I would not use night shot, instead rely on the trackers spotlight or if your camera allows alter the exposure to increase the amount of light you capture. My camera takes video that looks like daylight in heavy dusk.
Do heed the advice of others not to live behind the viewfinder, I think that is equally applicable to still photographers, remember the best video is when somethng is happening.
napamatt is offline  
May 12th, 2007, 04:45 AM
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One of my favorite things to do with my video camera was record some of wonderful stories our guide told us. I would just focus the camera on the campfire or lanterns while he spoke. I also recorded some of the night and early morning sounds doing the same thing...just focus on a lantern, campfire,etc and absorb the sounds. Once you're home the photos are wonderful, but nothing takes me back quicker than hearing the sounds.
Just practice, practice, practice. Try not to pan too much. It makes the viewer nauseous! Of course that's what the editing is for once you're home!
I also filmed using the LCD screen as my viewfinder. That way you can keep your eyes on the action and not feel like you're missing anything. Have fun with it!
Lillipets is offline  
May 12th, 2007, 11:18 AM
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thanks you all

my previous camcorder even did not have the viewfinder but only a large 3" LCD so I got used to it and I will use only the LCD. We did a lot of game videos last year in Etosha Park, but, of course, never by night, only from our own car during daylight !

napamatt, thanks for the tip to have the third leg of the tripod less extended and on the seat !
so you mean that the trackers spotlight combined with a higher light exposure are enough to keep the NightShot off ? That's my major concern !
Fabio is offline  
May 12th, 2007, 11:30 AM
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I know what you mean hearing the sounds once back home !
Cameras and videocameras are completely different, like asking someone: do you prefer the sea or the mountains ?
I aways gave priority to the videocamera in all my trips anywhere to keep the sounds, voices and movements.
I still cannot believe that I could get a video of an entire lioness-springbok killing at Okaukuejo waterhole in Etosha !
In addition we also took more than 600 camera shots !!
Fabio is offline  
May 14th, 2007, 03:58 AM
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A tripod will be almost useless on a game drive, it will just get in the way. Rather get a monopod or a beanbag to steady the camera. I am just in the process of editing my Addo game drives. Very bumpy while moving, but leave the camera running to record the guide and edit in some relevant scenes while he is talking. Also don't forget to film some of the other vehicles driving by, you can edit them in later as transitions between shots. If your camera has a shoe for an external mic, then it is highly recommended.
The editing programs that come with the camera are next to useless. Use Movie maker if you have windows. Or if you want a better option look at Sony Vegas Movie Studio.
shmulb is offline  
May 17th, 2007, 05:10 AM
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The few key things that I've learned over the last few years:

1. Forget about capturing wildlife sounds if you are sharing the car with avid photographers. The continous clap-clap sounds of the camera motordrives will be all you hear afterwards. Try to get a private vehicle. AND SWITCH THE VEHICLE MOTOR OFF! The engine noise will drown out the wildlife sounds.

2. Wind noise - Invest in an external microphone and wind covers. Early mornings are normally best thanks to low winds.

3. General noise reduction - Directional microphones help to capture what is happening in your line of sight and not the noises from the car.

4. Keep the camera still! It is tempting to move it sideways, but resist it! If you MUST, move very slow using the tripod head and not free-hand. The idea is to get a smooth slow swing from left to right or vice versa.

5. Zooming - Avoid if you can, otherwise buy a tripod with zoom capabilities. These products provide smoother zooming than the button on the camera which is not sensitive enough for a smooth zoom. During editing, it is best to remove the zooming frames.

6. Stability - Buy a tripod and positition in on the floor between the seats but forget about it when the car is full of other people. You will cause severe unhappiness in the ranks! It may be better to get a window mount (vertical) and a rail mount (for the pop top rail but ask your operator). The key is you MUST keep the camera STILL when filming. If you shake and rattle the footage is hard to watch afterwards.

7. Cleanliness - clean the lens often! You cannot see a dirty lens during shooting but it will show up on your big screen TV!

8. Learn about the controls. It is easy to shoot in full auto mode, but your images and colors will be much crisper if you experiment with settings such as manual focus, white balance, color balance, steady shot, etc.

9. I disagree about missing the action while filming. In most cases, once your camera is set (using a clamp or tripod) let it roll while you watch the action! Remember, the idea is to kee the camera still and let the wildlife move around in the frame. And reliving the action when back home is magical. It is not uncommon to see details in the video that no-one saw live!
climbhighsleeplow is offline  
May 17th, 2007, 06:45 AM
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If there are two of you sharing a row in a landrover then a tripod is not an issue if used as described.
napamatt is offline  
May 17th, 2007, 01:08 PM
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If you are going to only use the large LCD viewfinder, run it before you go and get battery timings. The large LCD screen uses quite a bit of energy.
Favor is offline  
May 17th, 2007, 11:11 PM
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Fabio said:

"so you mean that the trackers spotlight combined with a higher light exposure are enough to keep the NightShot off ? That's my major concern"

You've gotten some great advice here. I don't know if anyone has addressed this question. I found in SA, the spotlight was enough with a sensitive Sony PD 150 (a few years ago) that I did not need any other light source at night. YMMV.
Clematis1 is offline  
May 18th, 2007, 06:51 AM
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Practise with your camera in low light conditions, just film gradually opening up the aperture to increase light, you should find with a good camera that you can film until its quite dark, then shine a good torch on a close object and see the quality when its quite dark, then compare with the night shot, which gives a green image.
napamatt is offline  
May 18th, 2007, 09:02 AM
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hi, fabio,

do have a look at the current "battle at kruger" thread - not a perfect video, but I bet he was glad he had his camera with him.

regards, ann
annhig is offline  
May 19th, 2007, 05:13 AM
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annhig : what an impressive and incredible video !!!
have you also seen the other video with the cheetah jumped on the open car among petrified tourists ?

napamatt, climbhighsleeplow, shmulb, favor: thank you all very much !! I will make a printout of all your very detailled suggestions !!

I will practice with and without nightshot and then compare !

I have bought a spare battery (very expensive but necessary), so the supplied one lasts 1 and half hour, the second 3 hours !!

The tripod is packed in a very small bag so I will refrain to use it, should the car be full of guests. However I could still use it as "monopod" by extending the three tripod legs only vertically between my legs and not diagonally towards others. It is still better than nothing !

Fabio is offline  
Jun 20th, 2007, 11:34 AM
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Hi all !!

We are back !! Had a wonderful trip !

We were sitting two for each row in the 4x4 land rover so we had enough space also for the tripod. There is a side step inside the car so we placed the tripod right there. My son was taking videos while I took care of pictures. Of course we could use the full 40x optical zoom only when cars was parked with engines off, not while moving around !!
NightShot Plus was never used as only working within a too short distance from subjects. Spot light of trackers were enough to take videos anyway, as said.

Again, Thank you all for your suggestions !!
I will make a trip report within the next few days.
Fabio is offline  
Jun 20th, 2007, 12:16 PM
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Welcome back, Fabio. I'm looking forward to your report!
Marija is online now  
Jun 21st, 2007, 09:58 AM
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Glad the tripod worked out, looking forward to your trip report.
napamatt is offline  
Jun 21st, 2007, 12:52 PM
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hope you can also upload some videos. I have enjoyed vimeo. following is a link to one of our videos:


Kevin from California
stakerk is offline  

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