34 Comments

  1. Lee Hughes
    October 27, 2009 @ 12:30 pm

    You just read my mind….

    I was just looking at cameras to film with..

    Although I was going to go for the Sony one you mentioned..

    I am now thinking of getting the Canon 7d..

    I was worried about space.. carrying the sony (although small) and a canon 400d with lenses would just be annoying! So am looking into getting the two in one.. camera and video camera, still have to do a lot of research but I need to trade my canon 400d in to get a camera with a higher ISO.

    Good post! I would like to see more like this 🙂

    Cheers Tom

    Reply

    • Tom Allen
      October 27, 2009 @ 1:28 pm

      Glad you found it useful. I wouldn't worry about space – you're going to be fully-loaded anyway, and if you're serious about the photo/film aspect of the trip, it's worth the extra weight.

      I generally carry a Nikon DSLR with 3 lenses as well as the Sony with its lens adapter, external mic, spare batteries, chargers, ND and polarizing filters, fluid-head tripod and handlebar mount. That's about 7kg of extra stuff!

      The Canon 7D looks cool, but I'd worry about a) audio quality and b) battery life. Could be good for the occasional special shot, with the right lens, I guess. Remember also that broadcasters and festival panels are very fussy about format – highly compressed MPG isn't ideal.

      Reply

  2. Kevin
    October 27, 2009 @ 12:38 pm

    A subject I’ve been studying a lot in the past 8 months, although I do have a background in this sort of stuff I think you’ve written a coprehensive guide for people starting from scratch (and also a few tips in there for people like myself)

    Reply

  3. Lee Hughes
    October 27, 2009 @ 1:35 pm

    Yeah, I still have a lot of research to do really. Audio should be fine as there is an add on mic which I can attach..Battery life, I can going to get a battery grip so I can add more batteries to the camera and also carry more 1800mAh batteries which means I should be able to shot for about 10 hours (rough drunk work out last night 😉 )I have a solar charger which can charge these no probs..

    Still a lot of things to research but it's nice to know that you carried all that.. eases my mind a little.

    Still haven't even thought of film festivals anything..

    Are entering one?

    Reply

  4. Mark Kalch
    October 27, 2009 @ 1:48 pm

    Brilliant post Tom. Thanks. This has helped me out no end. Cheers mate.

    Reply

  5. Dan Martin
    October 30, 2009 @ 9:08 am

    Could have done with this 5years ago. Bugger. Still there's always the next trip!

    Reply

  6. alastair
    October 30, 2009 @ 9:29 am

    really, really good post. Thank you.

    I think the Canon 7D or new 5D MkII has good potential for hybrid uses. True, you need an external mic, but with that you can then make some nice stuff, eg:

    Reply

  7. Lee Hughes
    October 30, 2009 @ 9:35 am

    Think am set on the 7D now with the GoPro HD hero for more active stuff 😀

    this is with the 7d

    thanks again Tom

    Reply

  8. Tom Allen
    October 30, 2009 @ 10:35 am

    Thanks guys!

    I'm planning on upgrading my DSLR body to a Nikon D90 which also has this video-shooting malarkey on it. I won't be ditching the Sony A1 because I need the DV format for the future doc, but it will be interesting to supplement it with some shots with the ultra-wide lens and the 50mm f1.8 prime, which produce fabulous images. Thanks Lee for making me think twice about it!

    It'll also be nice to have a backup for when the Sony cops out – it's already full of sand…

    As for film festivals, that's a very long way off, but the answer is Yes, Hopefully…

    Reply

  9. Lee Hughes
    October 30, 2009 @ 12:15 pm

    what lenses do you use Tom?

    I think am set on the 7D now and just looking into lenses.. I already have the canon 10-22mm… currently looking at the Canon EF 50mm f/1.2 and maybe something else…

    Reply

  10. Tom Allen
    October 30, 2009 @ 2:04 pm

    For what it's worth, I'm with Kev, and I wouldn't take a DSLR to make a doc any more than I'd use a camcorder to take stills for printing.

    Anyway, regarding lenses, I'm a Nikon user so I can't recommend anything specific for Canon. However I will say that my 10-20mm ultrawide is by far my favourite lens. The 50mm f/1.8 is tiny, light and incredibly useful as well. If money were no object I'd have a fast 28mm or 35mm prime as well. I bought a 18-200mm superzoom in Dubai but hardly ever use it – thinking of selling it now.

    One more thing – the ultrawide's trump card is that you can get really close to stuff. It's not so much for fitting massive landscapes in the frame. Have a look at this – the lens was about 10cm from the subject and my face was in the sand:

    <img src="http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2474/3569558404_cd6981bd7d_m.jpg&quot; width="178" height="240" alt="The journey of a hermit crab" />

    Reply

  11. Kevin Shannon
    October 30, 2009 @ 1:35 pm

    I've studied the tech side to video quite extensively and wouldn't really recommend the 7D for a large project like yours Lee. Only seems to be good for short clips. Yes, the video on vimeo was shot using it but that's a promo vid to show how good the camera is. Perfect conditions and slow movements. I you want to film yourself riding etc how will this camera handle it? It is a good camera to use for wildlife, scenery shots etc, but these are generally filler shots within the documentary. Just my thoughts.

    Reply

  12. Lee Hughes
    October 30, 2009 @ 4:06 pm

    Good to get a discussion going..

    I think am missing something here though, it's probably down to my lack of experience and knowledge in this area though..

    If the 7D looks great in short films then what is stopping it in longer films? I have seen videos of no setup or prep and just hitting the streets with it and getting amazing results..

    Thanks for the lens info Tom.. Nice to know what other people like 🙂

    Reply

  13. Nick
    October 31, 2009 @ 8:50 pm

    Brilliant stuff! Really useful. Thanks.

    I've always used SLR's + a pocketable compact for stills but am very very new to video. I just picked up a dead cheap Samsung camcorder just to get the feel for it and see how the whole process works. Steep learning curve.

    On the SLR lens front I'm pretty much with Tom – I think a good quality ultra wide is great for both landscape and portrait.

    Also for all round good quality and reasonableness ultra-fast 'normal' lenses – (speaking Nikon) the 50mm f.18 is around £100 and the newer 35mm f1.8 is around £170. I think these are almost the ultimate travel lens – great in low light and very unobtrusive. I'd guess Canon do something around this price too.

    I think the superzoom has it's place but depends on your style, image quality needs and how many lenses you can afford to carry.

    Not sure on the whole using still camera to video or vice versa – never really done it so can't comment but the combined video/still concept is a growing one which I imagine will become pretty much the norm over the next few years for consumer cameras.

    Reply

  14. @worldbiking
    November 1, 2009 @ 8:37 pm

    Thanks Tom. We've just bought a video camera and I've been putting off using it because I had no idea where to start. Your guide has pointed me in the right direction.

    Reply

  15. Tom Allen
    December 4, 2009 @ 10:29 am

    Thanks for all the comments! Glad to be of some use…

    I guess the main drawbacks of the current crop of DSLR video is the delay between action and 'live' view, lack of viewfinder, sub-optimal handling characteristics, no auto-focus, and no optical stabilization. You can get great stuff with these cameras, but only I am sure with a *lot* of practice operating them, and usually I've seen them mounted on big stabilizing rigs shooting stuff where there isn't much demanding focusing to do.

    I would still only use one as a secondary video camera, until the technology starts maturing sufficiently.

    Reply

  16. Robertjan
    January 21, 2010 @ 11:57 am

    Just linked to this article from the website of the World Cyclist club of the Netherlands (http://www.wereldfietser.nl/). Might link to one of your shared videos on the World Cyclist group on Vimeo as well (http://www.vimeo.com/groups/wereldfietser/videos)…

    Reply

    • Tom Allen
      February 4, 2010 @ 2:50 pm

      Thank you Robertjan. Hope to have more videos online soon!

      Reply

      • WorldCycleVideo
        December 4, 2010 @ 2:46 pm

        We hope too Tom. It has beean already one year since you hoped for more video’s about cycle touring. It is about time! :>

        Reply

  17. Bicycle Touring Resources from Ride Earth - GoBicycleTouring.info
    November 2, 2010 @ 6:12 pm

    […] helpful post is How to Film Your Solo Expedition.  Here you’ll learn not just camera techniques, but also how to tell the story of a bicycle […]

    Reply

  18. Glenn Charles
    December 3, 2010 @ 2:38 pm

    Thanks for the great post. As an adventure traveler well versed in the art of shooting stills, the whole video game is completely overwhelming to me. With that said, I have added video to my next adventure leg and will use your tips to help me out.

    Safe Travels,

    Glenn

    Reply

  19. Paul Simms
    April 30, 2011 @ 12:09 pm

    Very enlightening article. I shot my own movies as a skydiver cameraman, so hope the transition to cycle movie god will be painless?

    Reply

  20. Tor Ivan Boine
    December 11, 2011 @ 7:46 pm

    great read! I´m planning a biketrip and want to film it as well. Looking for a decent camera. But it´s hard since I have no clue what I should look for in a camera. external mic is obvious. Any thoughts?

    And how is the practical part of filming when you´re solo?

    Reply

    • Tom
      December 12, 2011 @ 11:09 am

      Good questions. I’ll publish a blog post shortly with my thoughts, since it’s worth going into more detail.

      Reply

  21. Patrick
    September 19, 2012 @ 11:22 pm

    Tom, this is just the thing. Next spring I’m planning to head out on a perimeter trip of the U.S. on my bike. I just bought Nikon’s new D600 and will be getting a 16-35mm and a 50mm prime for it. I’m also considering a GoPro for on-the-bike footage. Anyway, I took a documentary film class in college and loved it. Your guideline here has reminded me a lot of my final project for that class and will undoubtedly be something I return to again and again. Thank you so much!

    Reply

    • Tom
      September 20, 2012 @ 8:53 am

      Glad you found it useful, Patrick. Have you considered a telephoto lens for long shots? That can really help in the edit when you want to break out of POV/actuality.

      I’ve just published a Q&A on the finished feature doc which might also be useful to you.

      Reply

  22. Bob Nally
    April 21, 2013 @ 3:21 am

    Great web site Tom, I’ve been working my through it and have found it very useful resource. My partner and I are intending to start our first bike trip through Europe next year after backpacking Asia this year.

    I’ve been a keen documentary camera man for some years now and intend to film as much of our travels as I can. Over the years I’ve owned many cameras and realised some time ago you can have the best equipment with you but if it doesn’t suit your situation you won’t use it as much as you’d like.

    If this helps anyone I’d like to share my experience with using a DSLR for video as I can see a few people were very interested in one. I currently have a Canon 60d with a sigma 17-70 lens. Back home I loved this camera but whilst backpacking I’ve started to run into a few problems. My number one concern has been weight. To capture those fleeting moments (mother and baby kangaroo running across our path) you need to have your camera ready to go at a moments notice. I will try to have the camera on my neck strap but can’t manage this for long periods and need my hands free for a lot of scrambling. My second concern is a lack of autofocus. For the times when I might be pointing the camera at my self or filming one handed riding a bike I really miss this feature. There are a few ‘stills for video’ that have this now. I’ve also discovered when everything you own needs to squash down into one backpack every inch counts. Having a reasonably protective case for camera and lens does take up a good proportion of this space.

    I appreciate having a great stills and video camera in one and whilst travelling have no intention of carrying two separate devices. So to continue my travels I have started to look around for a smaller more compact camera. I have been impressed with the Lumix FZ200. Very good quality stills, nice zoom range, very light (compared to what I have now) and it even has a mic input. I’ve tested the autofocus in store and again was impressed with the results. I might have found my perfect travelling camera.

    My advice to anyone wanting to film their adventures. Make it as easy for yourself as you can. You’ll get so much more footage and most importantly enjoy doing it (and as Tom said, get a good microphone).

    Reply

  23. Jay Guess
    October 19, 2013 @ 3:29 am

    Great advice – load of great tips which we are going to put into good use on our up coming family world tour.

    Reply

    • Tom Allen
      October 21, 2013 @ 6:11 am

      Safe roads! Looking forward to seeing the result 🙂

      Reply

  24. Filming your bikepacking trip | Trails and Tours - Bikepacking
    December 1, 2013 @ 12:53 pm

    […] a journey’s flow for good footage is not for everyone. But if the idea inspires you, Tom has some expert advice here. In fact, he has almost a dozen articles on the topic (scroll down this page) – some perhaps […]

    Reply

  25. Brian Kwong
    December 2, 2013 @ 5:30 pm

    Hey Tom, planning my bike trip to Japan! Would love to capture this journey and tell a story.

    Its 2013 now, what equipment would you recommend for light weight, great battery life and with all the other good stuff? I only got a GoPro hero 3. Thanks Tom and talk soon!

    Brian

    Reply

  26. Michael
    July 8, 2014 @ 11:43 pm

    Hi Tom!

    Thank you very much for sharing tips from your solo filmmaking experience.

    I would like to learn more about this subject and I was wonder if there were any books, articles, etc that you found particularly helpful in shooting your first documentary?

    Cheers,
    Michael

    Reply

  27. Shubhang kamavisdar
    September 25, 2014 @ 11:32 am

    Sir i am planning to do same stuff like this i an amateur in this thing so can u pls help out

    Reply

    • Tom Allen
      September 25, 2014 @ 8:04 pm

      What would you like to know?

      Reply

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