7 Useful Tips to Help You Make a Totally Awesome Travel Video

This is a guest post by Matti Haapoja on his work submitted to the Videolog.
In this article Matti shares some extremely useful guidelines and numerous tips on how to make a cinematic and awesome travel video with his Panasonic GH4.

Last fall I took a 29 day epic road trip through the west coast of America, along with my wife, brother and friends.  Here are some most essential tips you should consider when planning to make an awesome travel film.

1. Prepare

First off you have to make a plan. We had 29 days and although that seems like a lot of time we had to carefully plan out our trip in order to hit all the amazing places we wanted to see. Don’t be too strict because some places might totally surprise you with how amazing they are, case in point Crater Lake in Oregon. But make sure you have a plan so you don’t waste time on your trip trying to figure out where you should go.


2. Why?

Then you need to figure out why you’re filming because that will dictate a lot of the gear you need and the quality you need to achieve.  For this trip I tried to line up some sponsors who would either donate gear or pay for expenses and then in turn I would include them in the travel video somehow.

But in this case it was way too big of a hassle with not enough return so I decided to shoot just for fun. Personal projects like these can be a great way to showcase your talent and style which helps you in the future to get more jobs doing films you actually like doing and that fit your style of film making. “Wild” has already helped me to land other travel videos that I’m being paid for.


3. Travel light

If you have too much gear it’s going to either stop you from seeing the places you want or make you tired of shooting because its so much work. Keep it simple. I wanted to run really light so all I took with me was a Panasonic GH4 + Metabones adapter, a Sigma 18-35m f1.8, Nikon 85mm 1.8 and a panasonic 12-35 f2.8, Monopod and an ND filter. Remember if it’s your vacation try to relax and enjoy yourself.


4. Don’t get robbed

Unfortunately fate would have it that apparently I had too much gear and in San Francisco my camera bag was stolen from our rental van. Be careful with your gear and don’t leave it in your car! Not even for 15 minutes… After a few days of sulking and being annoyed that footage from Crater Lake, Cannon Beach and Portland was stolen I got back into it and bought just the GH4, Panasonic 12-35mm 2.8 and an ND filter.

I realized that this was a perfect combo for traveling.  Its insanely light and with the OS on the lens and using the EVF on the GH4 I shot everything handheld (except for a few shots at Crater lake which were stolen of course). I was able to walk around comfortably all day with the camera in hand and quickly snag shots almost like I was taking stills. I found it to be a great way to not be overwhelmed with gear and shooting.  It also helped to be stealthy when shooting in cities.


4. Don’t forget who you’re with

Its all about people, characters and stories in the end so don’t forget to capture the people you’re travelling with or the locals if you’re by yourself.

One of the big things to remember is that you don’t want to just capture the beautiful landscapes and places but try and capture people in those environments, their reactions, emotions and culture. Having characters interact with the environment will make your travel video much more interesting.


5. Make sure you have a drone

Okay I did have a drone with me also. I brought along a drone because I wanted some epic shots of all the epic landscapes we were going to. It really elevates the production value of a travel film. I went with the DJI Phantom 2 and GoPro setup (Hero 3 in this case).  Be careful about where you fly your drone though because not all places allow it and the laws can be a bit tricky. Also keep in mind you need an ND filter, which I only found out later. Also a little sun hood for the GoPro will save you from the shadow streaks created by the propellers when flying towards the sun. More info on this HERE.


6. Take your time on the edit

So often with personal projects I don’t take as much time on it because there’s other projects to do that I’m being paid for or it’s just not a priority. But personal projects can take your film-making in the direction of films that you want to make. Clients will often ask you to recreate or make similar films to something you have already created, so a personal project can act as an awesome showcase video .


7. Shine, polish, match and grade!

Don’t rush the colour grade. Travel films are usually shot in tons of different locations with different lighting etc. To keep the video cohesive and consistent make sure you take lots of time on the grade and matching shots. In Wild I tried to take a lot of time matching shots especially between the GH4 and the GoPro footage. I used VisionColor’s Impulz LUT’s for this travel film which worked great because they offer different versions of each LUT for different cameras like the GH4 and GoPro. Then I used curves for contrast and Magic Bullet Colorista to match between shots.


Remember that these are just some tips and not absolute rules.  Do your best to be unique and true to your style!

You can see more of Matti Hapooja’s work at:

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Luca Fortini June 21, 2015

Great advice!
Although I preferred to film everything with my phone
A a bit’ risky experiment :)


Luca Fortini June 21, 2015

Great advice!
Although I preferred to film everything with my iPhone 6
A a bit’ risky experiment :)


Peter O June 23, 2015

Some nice images but it would have been so much better with sound bites so that the viewer got to know the different characters posing in this video.

hug cle June 26, 2015

Your travel video is unfortunately well too ordinary. You don’t play much with the music and there is no sound design. There is no real storytelling. You have a 800$ toy drone but I don’t see the point here. Same for the Gopro on non-drone shots. Seeing your friends is great but it’s just like if you filmed with an iPhone. These are beginners mistakes but they can be fixed.

So I will add these tips if you want to have ambitious advanced-level videos :

-always have a small recorder, like Zoom H2N which is cheap, solid and great for ambient sounds. I prefer it over a standard microphone because your clips are like 3 to 15 secondes, this is not appropriate for building sound effects in post-prod

-always think of what you’ll do of the footage. it can change but if you don’t think of the editing when planning or recording you can have tons of rushs you won’t use. or you will do shitty work and waste what you did because you have no idea of what you’re doing

-you can have a bigger gear, but be sure that you need it (you don’t travel light with a drone btw)

-tripod is a must (<2kg, video head), glidecam can be great especially if you want movement and don't need that much landscape or don't want any. you can't have both though, this is though choice

-use a ND filter (variable) or multiple ND filters (16/64 for example)

-know your DSLR and your lenses before you start travelling

-have enough batteries and storage for your files (especially if you shoot heavy files like RAW)

-if you travel with people, don't film them like you would with your iphone or gopro

-always think of what you could shoot but don't overshoot, take your time

-and yeah, don't get robbed, always be with your gear and someone else, avoid big cities at night, know the places where you go

Vimeo is the place to find the best travel videos. Great inspiration :

These ones show how to use the music to create a storytelling
https://vimeo.com/114426665 (very famous, a masterpiece)
https://vimeo.com/108018156 (I love the music and the color grading)
https://vimeo.com/99503341 (more classical)
https://vimeo.com/117669654 (best storytelling)
https://vimeo.com/130719610 (great use of the drone, reminded me of True Detective landscape phothography)

It's more of an overall comment something that always strikes me with lots of amateur cinematographers is that they know a lot about the tech but their videos are very low quality because they didn't learn enough cinematographic tips and don't know how to use them for good storytelling, or when they do it's just another flat video with the same marketing pattern. Also the content of their videos are neither artistic nor proper documentaries or video reporting. They spend thousands of dollars or euros for something that doesn't worth it when you see the result. I guess it's the prize of the popularization but with internet you have access to everything.

Hopefully travel videos are a great way to perform your eye, know how to have great compositions and lighting, build a storytelling and have control over your editing. You don't even need content, just a point of view like the videomakers I quoted.

Sebastian Wöber Reply
Sebastian Wöber August 27, 2015

Hm, not sure that’s helpful, but thanks for taking the time to share some things. Ideally I’d like to see your own travel film that backs up your tips.

Stephen Herron Reply
Stephen Herron June 27, 2015

Cut the shot at 1:52 with the shadow streaks! Took me out of the piece, just does not work at all

Luc Szczepanski Reply
Luc Szczepanski June 28, 2015

Fantastic, really loved the shots – was so surprised to hear that many of the GH4 shots were handheld!

Raymond Moore Jr. Reply
Raymond Moore Jr. July 1, 2015


franky soubi July 3, 2015

Maybe you Forget to mention that you used anamorphic Lens or adaptator, no?
I don’t have that film look with gh4 and classical lens…
But your work is pretty amazing!

Aragon XXX July 6, 2015

some of the shots are sooooo over exposed

Kenji Sugahara Reply
Kenji Sugahara July 11, 2015

Quick thing- don’t fly at National Parks. They are off limits.

Aaron Finley August 6, 2015

This is just a highlight video, no story you can always spot a wedding videographer.

Alos does this guy buy vimeo views?

Eric Bogan September 18, 2015

I guess we have different ideas on a travel video. While the video you present is well done it looks like a promo for a travel agency or state. The cuts are so quick you can not really experience the locations. I could have done without most of the shots of people. They did not add anything for me.

My personal projects (at this time that is mostly what I do, I used to shot lots of training, motivational and corporate videos) are done for me so I can re-live/experience the emotions and sites from my adventures. The fact that there are other people that like them is a side benefit (and I hope others get something special out of them).

Any who just my two cents.

Jackson Allan December 6, 2016

Some good tips – except for the drone. In the footage provided, the filmmaker was breaking the law and risking a significant fine in nearly all of those drone shots – particularly the shots over crater lake, and what looked like Joshua Tree.

I bought a drone, but the reality is that it cannot be used in the vast majority of travel situations.


– Drones confiscated at the border by most non-European or North American countries. I’ve seen specific stories where people have had them confiscated in Cuba, Guatamala, China, Russia etc.

– In the US, drone use is banned in every national park, near pretty much all major airports, the majority of state parks and forests. That cuts out near everything that is interesting to film anyway.

The color grading on this might look impressive to someone who hasn’t done much in film, but the blacks are crushed to oblivion in a lot of shots. Slapping a LUT on footage doesn’t make one a colorist.

Sethuraman Mohan April 7, 2017

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