Alpha 7C Playground

How to Compose Your Travel Video Shots

by Clarissa Cindy

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How to Compose Your Travel Video Shots

 Being aware of the surroundings of your subject and knowing how to frame it with only the necessary props and background colours can make all the difference in your travel videos.”

Here’s what you’ll need

What you need

1. Your Alpha 7C   2. FE 24mm F2.8 G (SEL24F28G)   3. FE 40mm F2.5 G (SEL40F25G)   4. FE 50mm F2.5 G (SEL50F25G)   5. FE 85mm F1.4 GM (SEL85F14GM)   6. Variable ND Filter

Cherry Blossom by the Sea - BTS

 

 

Video file
Video Name
Cherry Blossom by the Sea by Clarissaa Cindy

Shot with Alpha 7C

Most often than not, I don’t get to determine what colours I will shoot at a travel destination. Every location has its own charm and colour characteristics. But it doesn’t mean I’m not in control of what I want to feature in the video frame. Using different focal lengths and moving around to find a different angle to compose the shot are some of the techniques that I use to deliver a strong narrative.

Here are some things I keep in mind when using colour and composition to tell a story in my videos.

 

1. Framing according to colour

The first thing I do before pressing the record button is to determine the key element in a scene. Let’s say the key element in this scene is a pink Cherry Blossom. When I frame the shot, I have the option of filming the Cherry Blossom trees with the background or getting a close-up with only the Cherry Blossom itself.

 

In this case, since the background of the Cherry Blossom tree is the blue sea and cloudy blue sky, both colours go well with the pink of the Cherry Blossoms, creating this blue and pink colour combination. But let’s say the cloud was a bit grey and the sea was muddy, instead of doing the same thing, I would try to fill the screen with only the Cherry Blossom itself to get the pink colour to be the main colour of the scene.

Having a basic understanding of colour theory such as how complementary colours work also helps you to frame your scene according to colour.

 

2. Framing the main subject

When coming up with an image composition for the main visual interest, I like to find something that I can use as a foreground element rather than capture the subject in the frame as it is.

 

In the screengrab above, I took a picture of the bridge – the main visual interest from behind surrounding Cherry Blossom branches, thus creating a “frame”. Doing so gives my shot more depth and directs the viewer’s eye to focus on the bridge. This frame can be anything that is near your camera, but it can be overused and feel forced in many cases, so it’s best to do it carefully.

 

That said, here are some important factors to consider. 

  • Does it match the main subject’s colour? 
  • Does it distract the viewer from the main subject?
  • More importantly, does it add value to the narrative of your video?

In my case, since the theme of my film is 'Spring blooming by the sea’, the Cherry Blossom frame supplemented my main visual interest with an element of Spring’s arrival.

I also like to shoot from a variety of angles, this is where the tiltable LCD screen of the Alpha 7C helps a lot in getting the shot that I want.

 

In addition, the Rule of Thirds grid on the Alpha 7C helps me to position the main visual interest at the centre or at the intersection of the lines, which naturally makes the shot look more balanced and directs the viewer's eye to the main visual interest. I always turn on the Rule of Thirds grid to make framing much easier.

 

3. Showing a sense of scale

Adding scale to a scene can be as simple as putting objects with contrasting size differences in one frame. One of my favourite ways to show a sense of scale is to film myself from far away, making it look like I’m a tiny person in a big world.

 

By doing so, it forms the establishing shot that helps the viewer to better visualise how big the place actually is.

 

This also works well when you want to film crowds, showing your viewers the ambience of a location without showing any faces in the frame since faces are almost unrecognisable from that distance.

 

About Color Grading

Framing for colour and paying attention to the composition of my shots is 80% of the work done for me. The remaining 20% is where colour grading comes into play.

I view colour grading as a powerful way to stylise and bind all of your footage together at the end – the “secret sauce” to your filming style. I like to colour grade my footage to give off a bright and dreamy feel, as this style works for what I shoot.

 

To get that bright and dreamy tone, I usually tune the colour to be a little more pastel-like but still give the main colour a slight punch in vibrance. The key here is to not oversaturate the image.

 

I shoot all of my footage in the S-Log2 picture profile, which gives me enough flexibility to colour grade in post. I found that this worked perfectly with the Alpha 7C's newly updated colour science, giving me vibrant colours to start as the base. According to experience, my Alpha 7C handles the S-Log 2 colour profile better than my other camera, the Alpha 7 III. I have my own LUT (Lookup Table) and usually, it takes me some time to tweak it in order to achieve smoother colour gradients. However, I noticed that the colour gradient is much smoother on the Alpha 7C, speeding up my colour grading process significantly.

 

Applying your newfound knowledge

Although colour grading, gaining an understanding of colour combinations and composing your shots can be challenging at first, you’ll find that it helps to make your travel videos more impactful when you get all the technicalities down. For practice, you can try your hand at shooting three videos, each applying one of the three aspects of colour and composition that I shared – “Framing according to colour”, “Framing the main subject”, and “Showing a sense of scale”. Have fun!

 

Video file
Video Name
How to Compose Your Travel Video Shots - BTS

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