Filmmaking Tips from the Pros

Filmmaking Tips from the Pros

If adventure filming was easy there would be alot more of us out there hanging off clips capturing legendary climbers completing first ascents or holing up at backcountry lodges making magic and calling it our day job.

Unfortunately it’s no walk in the park, hence why the title “Cinematographer” is likely not following your name on any business cards (yet anyway). But that doesn’t mean it’s impossible to capture good footage of yourself and you friends when you are getting after it on the weekends or after work.

We all have to start somewhere, and whether you are still figuring if 2 beeps on your GoPro means it's on or recording- or you are mastering shooting with a DSLR, or prepping to shoot out of a helicopter for the first time, it's always nice to hear from people who have been there and done that.

We connected with a few individuals who capture footage for a living to find out what tips and tricks they have for filmers who are just starting out.

LEO HOORN is a young protege who quickly rose from the intern ranks to Director of Photography for one of the most renowned production companies in the action sports world- Sherpas Cinema. He has travelled to the most remote corners of the globe capturing some of the world’s best athletes on film for companies like The North Face, National Geographic, Audi and many, many more.

He says he finds inspiration for his work from many mediums- from photography, to painting to architecture. They all influence the way he lights, adds colour and composes his image.

"This is the best part of learning, you never know what you may stumble into. You don't need the latest and greatest camera to do good work.

Leo's secrets to success are simple:

Find a mentor: "Mentors are huge, from talking to someone in your local community to people on the internet. People are generally willing to help answer questions you may have. You can learn so much from watching others and the way they work."

Use the internet: "There are so many blogs, online classes and camera tutorials out there. If you have a question you have about gear, lighting or anything in filmmaking its likely someone else has thought about it as well." (Even the pros google "how to….?"every once and awhile)

Pay attention to what you like and don’t like: "Try deconstructing other peoples work, be it a Hollywood film, a photo or someone else's five minute film on the internet to see if you can understand how they achieved their vision. Don't copy it but maybe you can apply some of the techniques to create your own vision."

Experiment. "This is the best part of learning, you never know what you may stumble into. You don't need the latest and greatest camera to do good work. Try things to modify the image and make it work for you. I have crushed glass to a dust and placed it on a filter to defuse the image and ended up shooting a commercial with it. The same goes with lighting there are many affordable materials and fixtures that can be used on your projects you just have to try some out to get the effects you may be looking for."

Pay attention to Light. "Light is so important to make a beautiful image. When I see nice light in the natural environment I love to deconstruct it so I can recreate it with lights or place a subject in a similar situation. Maybe it's the sun bouncing off building windows in a city or a shaded area on a high sun summer day. I try to find ways I can shoot a image in every different natural lighting scenario throughout the day."

JAMIE TANNER grew up on skis and has produced award-winning films in the snow and surf worlds. He believes a successful shoot is one that is planned properly.

“Really think through your whole shot, walk through your movements from the viewpoint of all the actors and finally as the camera operator before you hit record. Once everyone and everything is a well-oiled machine, then you are ready to capture. Like a football team at the line of scrimmage, they all know the play. I can be guilty of recording way to much and then enduring the punishment of going through and watching the ground, the sky and every tree in Canada trying to find the footage you actually want to see. First see it in your mind, then plan it, then grasshopper, you hit record!"

ZOYA LYNCH is an adventure photographer who dabbles in film on the side. She has produced edits for Destination BC, Patagonia and Atomic.

She believes that when you are just starting out there are three simple keys to success:

Light. "The best hours for filming are around sunrise and sunset. This is when the light is soft and golden everything looks more magical."

Communication. "Shooting with friends is the best because most likely you already have an idea of how to get messages across to them. Chances are you have skied, or biked, or surfed (or whatever activity you are shooting) together a lot, so you know their style and ability level. The more clearly you can communicate your goals for each shot to your subject, the more likely that the shot will work out the way you want it to."

Remember to have fun. "A lot of shots don’t work out. Sometimes the most unexpected ones do! Don’t get frustrated if you aren't getting bangers every time. Just keep trying to be creative, experiment with different things and shrug it off when you don’t get what you were looking for. Chances are some cool glimmer of light will catch your eye and you will spend an hour filming it and forget all about your last mistake"

There you have it. Time to watch a few of Leo's videos for inspiration, plan your shoot, wait for some nice light and get after it. Finish things off by sending your footage to ChopShop to edit!

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Stay tuned for Part TWO of this blog post where we get technical with Northfork Industries cinematographer Garrett Van Swearingen.