The Basics of Self-Filming Hunts

Posted by admin On February - 23 - 2012

Guest Post: I recently received an email from a fan asking for advice on self-filming their hunts. Immediately I started typing a return email thinking I had the answers at the tips of my fingers. That was a mistake. I really needed to think about it in order to correctly summarize the different aspects of self-filming.

After some thought, I identified three major aspects that are foundational to self-filming: equipment, knowledge of that equipment, and the execution of its use. Obviously if you wanted to, you could probably come up with more defined and specific niches, but if a newbie needed a starting point, these three foundational pieces would be a good place to begin.

First you need the gear and as we all know, if you’re going to spend your hard earned money on anything it might as well be hunting gear. Against my wife’s wishes, that’s where most of my money goes. The basics include a camera, camera arm or tripod, and editing software. With these three pieces you can now make your own hunting films. Of course there is an endless list of accessories for your camera and other gear that you may want, or need, for that matter. Instead of listing all those I’m just going to comment on the things I use. As always I encourage you to do your own research beyond just my likes and dislikes to figure out what will work best for you.

I consistently use two cameras. My main camera is a Cannon Vixia HF M40. The Vixia catches the main action – a deer sneaking towards me, a turkey responding to my call, any important dialogue, and hopefully, the good Lord willing, the moment of truth…the shot.

My secondary camera is a GoPro HD Hero. The GoPro is for secondary footage that may or may not be useful in the final edited film. My Vixia goes on the tripod or camera arm while the GoPro has multiple mounts and is very versatile. It can be mounted on the body, bow, gun or in the tree to show angles that would otherwise not be captured by your main camera. There are many people who use multiple GoPros or similar cameras at once. I am not one of those people….yet.

The Cannon HF M40 has a large viewing screen which is of utmost importance during the shot. Attempting to shoot an animal with both weapon and camera at the same time is not always the easiest of tasks, but having a larger viewing screen on your camera offers a definite advantage. Conversely, the GoPro has no screen and most of the time you don’t know where its focused. Heck when its on my head, sometimes I don’t even know if its on! That’s why its sole purpose, in my opinion, is as a second camera angle. Sometimes you hit a homerun with it but its not dependable enough to ensure you’ll capture all the action.

The other important feature I would look for in a camera is how easily and quickly you are able to switch from auto to manual focus. Hunting situations change quickly and so will your need to focus your camera. There are few worse things than getting awesome footage of that branch at 5-yards while your target is at 20-yards and out of focus.

As far as camera arms go, Motion Camera Arms is our “go to” company. They are also one of our sponsors. Their products are lightweight, versatile, smooth, and very affordable. I could not be happier representing another camera arm.  Northeast Archers has done many reviews on their arm that you can check out on our YouTube page or website.

Editing software is your next necessity, that is, if you have any thought of showing your hunts to friends and family. You’ll need to reduce your footage down to something watchable. No one wants to watch your 12-hour hunt!  Get it cut down and get to the good stuff. I have a PC and use Sony Vegas Movie Studio which is affordable and easy to use. It has served me well for two years and has all the features any amateur to mid-level filmmaker will need. If you’re in the Apple world, IMovie, which comes with the computer, will be more than enough in the beginning.

Your gear list will no doubt grow as you improve your filming skills. Microphones, filters, more advanced software, the list goes on and on. Keep in mind that being a self-filming hunter, you and you alone will have to carry all of this stuff in and out of the woods, so choose wisely.

The second aspect focuses on building your knowledge and familiarity with your gear. As a hunter you know your quarry is not apt to give you much time to make a shot, and that’s just with your weapon. Logic says that learning how to operate your cameras in the field is not the place and will lead to missed opportunities and poor quality footage. Just as we take the time to sight in our bows or guns, you need to put in the same preseason effort with your camera and other filming equipment. That extra time might ensure you catch that trophy you just double-lunged on film to show your buddy over and over and over again.

The third aspect is in the execution. You must carry extra equipment. You must take more time getting ready. As a result, you must be willing to make your hunt more difficult. Not only is it necessary to be stealthy in the stand or blind yourself, now you must move a camera along with you too. It will no doubt get you busted more often than you are used to. The beauty of bringing the camera along is obvious and being able to capture some of life’s most important memories and share them with family and friends is a wonderful payoff. I’ve found its worth the extra work it takes to film your own hunt.

Northeast Archers primarily self-films for the simple reason that we have limited time in the woods. None of us are willing to offer or would ask each other to spend that precious time solely as a camera man. There were multiple days this past season in which all three of us were in the woods together, in separate trees, all self-filming. We hunt first and film second. It’s just how we roll.

I could go on for hours on this topic and if you have any questions feel free to email us and ask away. I hope this article gave a good intro into the world of self-filming. It’s a blast that I encourage you to try.

By Rob Wrobel with Chris Ward
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