04 Tips for making great travel videos – Podcast interview with Cailin O’Neil

by Heather Cowper on January 22, 2012

In Podcast 4 I’m talking to Travel Blogger and Videographer, Cailin O’Neil from Travel Yourself about how to make great Travel Videos. We talk about how Cailin got started with video and what you need in terms of equipment and approach if you’re new to video making. We cover how to edit your travel videos, tips for interviewing people you meet, how to find music that won’t get you banned from Youtube and how to upload and market your video online.

Link to audio file

Cailin O'Neil from Travel Yourself Photo: Cailin O'Neil

Cailin O'Neil from Travel Yourself

Notes on how to make great travel videos

How Cailin got into video

When Cailin when she was a little kid she wanted to be an actress but then she took a video course and realised that she also enjoyed being behind the camera. Cailin majored in film at university and then started working on freelance film jobs – in between jobs she would travel and so it made sense to put the travel and film-making together. Just like some people might take their camera everywhere, Cailin travels everywhere with a video camera and films anything that she finds interesting, then when she gets home she tries to put it all together in a video. Cailin prefers video to writing as with video you can see and hear for yourself what’s going on in a destination and form your own opinion – so a video can give more dimensions than just writing could. Not everyone is a great writer and through video you can appeal to many different people who enjoy visual medium or audio over reading.

Who is video blogging good for?

Cailin believes that video is not necessarily for everyone and if you don’t have the personality or the interest in video then you shouldn’t feel you need to do it. However for Cailin and other video bloggers it’s the best way to share their travel experiences and as Youtube is the largest search engine after Google, video can also help get your videos and blog noticed.

Cailin enjoys video as she can act as a goofball and share more of herself and well as sharing the destination – in a video people see you as you are and you can be more natural. Travel Yourself uses different styles of video, although Cailin has recently been making short overview videos such as San Francisco, Paris and London in a minute (see the example below). In this style of video she packs a lot of information into a short space of time but she also does anything also from spa to restaurant reviews and making videos of things as they happen.

Hope you enjoy the video below from Cailin O’Neil – London in a Minute

If you can’t see the video above, catch it on my blog here

What is the right length for an internet video?

Most videos for internet consumption are short, around 2-3 minutes, as people viewing over the internet tend to have a short attention spans. However, Cailin feels that a video should be as long it takes to take the message across, so long as it engages you right through to the end. You may have a 1 minute video that is too long or a ten minute video that leaves you wanting more. Another reason to keep videos relatively short is the need to be able to download them quickly – internet availability and speed can limit the  ability of people to consume video on the move which also means that it’s easier to watch relatively short videos. I personally find that when I start watching a video I’m checking how long it is and make a decision after the first minute whether to keep watching to the end – if it’s more than 3 minutes it would have to be very good to keep me watching, although in Caitlin’s view it would be just that the video was not good enough to keep your attention.

What equipment do you need to start?

Sanyo Xacti HD1010

Sanyo Xacti HD1010

Making good travel videos is not only about the equipment you have but also about the skills to use the equipment in the right way. When you’re starting out there are many cheap or free options, for instance many point-and-shoot cameras have a video option, you can use a small inexpensive camera such as the Flip or Kodak Playsport or you could use the video option on a smartphone such as the iPhone. Anything that fits your budget is a good place to start and then you can play around with making videos and then invest in more expensive equipment once you know what you’re doing.

Cailin shoots her videos on a Sanyo Xacti HD1010 video camera which is a small hand held video camera and she pairs this with a an external microphone  – a Sennheiser MKE400 that sits on top of the camera. Many video makers are using DSLR cameras these days which are more expensive but the quality is very high and you can use different lenses which enables you to play with focus and depth of field and produce more artistic videos. However the DSLRs can cost you serious amounts of money unless you are a keen photographer and already have one.

When buying a video camera it’s also important to consider the audio which can really improve the professionalism of the video – so you should always look for a camera that has an external audio input to enable to to attatch an external microphone, rather than relying on the camera’s internal microphone. Some of the cheaper small cameras don’t have an audio input which will limit your audio quality.

How should a beginner get started?

If you’re a beginner going out to buy a camera it’s good to talk to as many people as possible and go into camera stores to try and work out what’s the best equipment for you. There are also forums on Facebook that you can join to find out more about travel video – contact Cailin if you’re interested in joining the Facebook Travel Video Group. You don’t need to wait until you go travelling to start making video – get out in your own town and practice making short videos.

Some travel video makers might take a planned approach to their video making, such as Lisa Lubin of LLWorldTour and Kelly Ferro of Tripfilms who might plan what they are going out to film or set up interviews in advance. Others like Cailin and Mike Corey from Kick the Grind will go out and film things as they happen. Cailin likes to make video more organically as she doesn’t always know who she will meet or what will happen that she might want to video. However, if you have a specific thing you want to film then it does pay to do some planning, otherwise you might miss out key things.

Cailin Cailin O'Neil from Travel Yourself in Berlin Photo: Cailin O'Neil in Berlin Photo: MyBloggingJourney.com

Cailin O'Neil from Travel Yourself in Berlin

What kind of shots do you need?

If you are interviewing you need to not only film the interview but also some separate reaction shots or shots of the interview from a distance. You’ll also need some filler shots, such as the hand reaching for the cup of tea or the close up of you drinking it, or of the iconic places in the destination that you’re filming. You need to think about the shots that tell the story and that you’ll need once you start editing the film. As you get more experienced you get used to thinking about the story as you film. A good way to get ideas is to look at other peoples’ travel videos on Youtube and work out how they were filmed.

Cailin recommends not zooming or using pan (side to side) or tilt (up and down) shots too much. If you need to film a close-up of a subject it’s better to zoom in before you hit the record button than zoom within the shot. Too many motion shots can be uncomfortable for people to watch as they may be shaky or make the viewer feel queazy.  To get the best effect and avoid shaky shots you should also use a tripod or if you don’t have one use a Gorillapod to wrap around things and keep your camera steady. If you don’t have either of these available to you, you could just rest your camera on a ledge or flat surface to keep it steady. Even with a good camera, the shot can appear pixelated if you pan or move too quickly. Although it’s fun and temping to pan and zoom, it can make the finished video harder to watch.

Instead, you can bring variety to the video by shooting from different angles with high shots, low shots, close and far away shots. For instance, if you are filming people walking down the street, you might put the camera at foot level, or if you are filming a monument or building you might try to film it from above.

You also need to be aware of the audio that you are capturing. For instance a noisy crowded bar or a windy outdoor situation may not be the best place to film an interview or yourself speaking to camera. In these situations it may be better to add a voiceover afterwards instead or the poor audio quality will spoil the video. You can minimise wind noise by using a wind sock or ‘Dead cat’ over your microphone and also use a good quality external microphone.

Cailin O'Neil in Iceland Photo: Cailin O'Neil

Cailin O'Neil in Iceland

Tips for video interviews

Cailin sometimes includes interviews in her videos but they’re usually not planned. To improve the interview you need to make the person feel comfortable and perhaps give them an idea of the questions you’re going to ask ahead of time. You might have a chat before you start the camera rolling, but don’t ask too may of the exact questions you’ll use in the interview as when you ask them a second time in front of the camera the answers will never be as fresh.

Many people making travel videos don’t feel comfortable in front of the camera, but it will make the video a lot more engaging if you can get in front of the camera.  Although Cailin enjoys appearing in her own videos, sometimes when she is filming on her own she gets nervous because people are watching her talking to camera – it’s just something she has learned to get over after her time as a tour guide when she got used to talking to large groups of people. When filming alone Cailin sometimes films from arm’s length using an retractable X-shot camera extender or a Quik Pod which only cost her around $25. You can always quickly review the video and do it again if it didn’t work the first time.

Tips for better video editing

Sometimes Cailin looks at other people’s videos and feels that their editing of different shots is not quick enough and it can feel boring for those used to watching a lot of internet videos with short attention spans. When you film you should hold your shot for 10 seconds but then only use 2-3 seconds of that when you’re editing. Once you have finished editing a video and it’s ready to upload you should go away for an hour and then come back to it with a fresh eye to see if there are any further editing improvements you need to make. The ideal length of shot to use when editing will depend on a lot of different factors. For instance if you have background music, you may want to edit your shots to match the tempo or you may need to edit around the action in the video. If you have a lot of static shots you may want to keep them shorter while if you have a shot of someone making pizza that may be longer.

Cailin suggests adding a couple of seconds of black at the beginning of the video in case the video is still uploading and someone misses the start of the video. You should also add a slide at the beginning with details of your website so that people can find it afterwards and a slide at the end with your website and any credits for music or those who have helped with the video.

When you are starting out there are usually free video editing software options already on your computer, such as iMovie for Mac and Windows Movie Maker for PC. If you want to upgrade, another programme that Cailin and I have used is Sony Vegas. Cailin now edits on Final Cut Pro 7 for Mac which is a video editing software commonly used by professional film-makers – professionals also use Avid and Adobe Premiere although these options can be expensive. Cailin is thinking of moving to the recently released Final Cut X which has a much more affordable price at around £200 or $300. We recommend starting with free or inexpensive editing software and then move up when you need more features. One advantage of the more expensive software packages is that you can do multi-track editing which is not available on the more basic packages.  For instance, you may want to to film an interview and then overlay some cutaway shots without breaking up the audio which is easy to do on multi-track software but less easy to do in single track editing software.

With video editing, practice makes perfect – when you start you could start with a single shot or string 2 or 3 shots together and then use more advanced editing techniques as you become more experienced. If you’re not sure whether you’re ready to put your videos online, you can always ask the opinions of your friends and family.

Adding music to your video

You should never use copyright music on videos that you will be putting on the internet – otherwise you may have a successful video on Youtube and then one day it gets taken down, losing all your views. Cailin uses music on her videos from a musician friend who has given her permission to use his music. There are many websites to find Royalty Free music – this means that you have the licence to use it in your video, but you may have to pay for this licence or it may be given freely. If the music is licenced to use at no cost then you would normally need to credit it in your video, whereas if you need to pay then you normally would not need to be credited.Vimeo Music Store has started offering music to use on videos for $1.99 per track. A site that I use regularly to find Royalty Free music that can be downloaded at no cost is Musicalley.com and you’ll find more ideas for where to find Royalty free music on my article about How to find free music for your videos and podcasts. There are also sites that professionals use to buy the music for their sole use but this could cost $200 per track. It can take a long time searching through different tracks to find the right music but it’s worth finding the right music as it can really add to your video.

You may also want to add a voice-over track after you’ve edited your video shots together. When she started out Cailin would record straight into her laptop but now she has a Snowball microphone for better audio quality.

Cailin O'Neil from Travel Yourself in Barcelona Photo: Cailin O'Neil

Cailin O'Neil from Travel Yourself in Barcelona

How to market your travel video

Youtube is considered the No 1 place to upload your video once you have finished editing it although there are plenty of other options too. Vimeo is also a popular video hosting site as you can upload longer and higher quality videos but there is a limit to how much you can upload each week with the free account and the Pro version will allow you to upload more. Cailin also uploads to Tripfilms and I upload my videos to Tripfilms and Nat Geo Adventure – other options are multi-author blogs like Traveldudes or forums such as TBEX – Cailin uploads her videos anywhere she thinks people will watch them. Once the video is uploaded to a video hosting site you can take the embed code and add it to your blog post so that the video can be watched from the blog page.

By uploading your videos to a number of different places Cailin finds that  videos can be found easily by the search engines when people are searching for keyword terms that you have used in your video title and tags. All Cailin’s videos appear in a blog post at Travel Yourself and she hopes that the information in the blog post will make people want to watch the video. The video is also like a bonus that adds value to the blog post for the readers – by adding a description of the video and some photographs you can give people a more complete package. Once you have your videos online and include them in your blog posts you can use Social Media to promote them just the same ways as any other of your blog content – you can add them to Stumble and the more active you are on Youtube the more quickly you will build up your subscriber base.

Filming with iPads and iPhones

Cailin has also used her iPad to film and edit videos when she was doing a trip across Canada with her friend Candice from Candicedoestheworld.com. Each day she filmed with the iPad using the inbuilt video camera and then edited her video diary using the version of iMovie that comes with the iPad. This way Cailin managed to film and edit a short video each day, filming what they did and the Delta hotels where they stayed.  She could make short basic videos and add naration although iMovie didn’t work so well when she tried to add text or still images. You can also film and edit on the iPhone and iPod Touch although this is more fiddly due to the small screen. Cailin also mentioned Vagabond3  who film many of their videos on an i-Phones – you can see an example of their Mobile videos here.

I hope you enjoy the Cailin’s video below filmed with her iPad of her Canada trip

If you can’t view Cailin’s video above, view it on my blog here


Both Cailin and I agreed that it takes a lot longer to produce a video than a normal blog post – you can spend around 8 hours to make a short video which is just 2 minutes long where it would be much less time to produce a blog post. However, as with anything, the more you stick at it the more successful you will be. We think it’s worth trying to add video making to your blogging to add variety to what you are doing and give something visual for your readers to enjoy.

Where you can find more of Cailin’s blogging and videos

You can find Cailin O’Neil’s blog at Travel Yourself and her videos are also on Youtube  and on Twitter she’s @CailinONeil

… and of course my travel videos are either on my travel website at Heather on her travels or on my Youtube Channel

Some of the links included in the notes are affiliate links – you have no obligation to buy through them but if you choose to it will help support this blog

This article is originally published at My Blogging Journey. You’ll also find lots of great travel stories, videos and podcasts at our travel blog at Heather on her travels

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