Take pro kayak videos with these tips – Jackson Kayak Tip of the Week

Jackson Kayak Tip of the Week

Just like you want to be able to be able to present an assortment of baits to fish, you need to have multiple camera angles when shooting a video. Photo Jonathan Leavitt
Just like you want to be able to be able to present an assortment of baits to fish, you need to have multiple camera angles when shooting pro kayak videos. Photo Jonathan Leavitt

By Jonathan Leavitt

Every kayak angler can put a video together for social media or online viewing, especially with cameras  more affordable and editing software available that is beginner friendly. I would say, however, out of a 100 random fishing videos, less than 10-percent are professional quality.

If you asked the authors of the other 90-percent about the quality of their efforts, they are typically proud, thinking their videos are top notch. There are a few reasons behind this false reality. First, creating a video is a ton of work, no matter what the quality of the final product, and people are rightfully proud of what they created. Second, the author of the video lived the moment they are retelling through their video.

What’s at play is the videographers literally relive the emotions and excitement they felt while filming when re-watching the video. It is extremely hard to stir those same emotions in an outside viewer. The situation is similar to when coworkers show you pictures of their kids. They are excited and proud, but you don't have that same emotional connection with their children and continue to view the pictures out of politeness.

The trick to producing pro kayak videos is to tell a story and get the viewer emotionally involved. How do we do this?

One of the most common mistakes is people make a video that is too long. We live in a society that values instant gratification and lacks patience. One of the first things I look at when clicking on a YouTube video is how long it is. If I see 10-15 minutes on the counter, more than likely I'm not watching it or it better "hook" me in the first couple minutes.

If I see under 5 minutes for the video length,  I am much more likely to give it a chance. Any video over 5 minutes should be reserved for product testimonials, informative videos, or once in a lifetime fish (I'm talking about trophy fish). A typical "action packed" video will get lots more views if you keep it under 5 minutes. Under 3 minutes is ideal.

Another common mistake is adding text in the video. Text can be and is distracting. Let your shots and editing tell the story. The less text you have, the more professional your video is going to look. Using text in video is like having to explain the punch line. If it has to be explained, then it probably doesn't need to be in the video. If you do use text make sure you have conformity with font, color, size and location throughout the video.

Dialog or talking in the video is an art. It takes lots of practice to be comfortable speaking on camera. Dialog should always be approached with a less is more attitude. Try to cram as much info into as little time as possible without sounding rushed or incoherent. If your video is a "how to" or product review, then dialog is a necessary addition. With an action or hero-type video, voiceover can be along the same lines as text in a video — distracting, and more than likely not needed.

Building a video from one trip is incredibly difficult. It requires pre-planned shots (shot list), multiple camera angles, and lots of luck. Second only to a shot list, B-roll is what separates the great videos from the okay videos. One thing I always do while on the water is to keep building a B-roll library.

Look at the top-viewed videos, they almost all use B-roll to help build the story. It can be as simple as putting your camera up in a tree and paddling underneath it, or placing your camera on the deck of the boat while you're changing lures. Most action cameras are Wi-Fi enabled so it is easy to set up the camera and leave it on stand by. Underwater shots are also a cool and underused form of b-roll that offer a glimpse into the fish’s world. Just remember that even though the camera is waterproof, it will still sink!

Here's the extreme difference between backlighting and frontlighting. Photo John Leavitt
Here’s the extreme difference between backlighting and frontlighting. Photo John Leavitt

Multiple cameras makes creating a video much easier, but you can create the illusion of multiple cameras even if you only have one by using multiple angles on your boat. I use Railblaza’s StarPort system and booms. Railblaza’s StarPort system is a low profile rugged mount that allows me to quickly change the location of my cameras while on the water.

Out on the water our only light source is the sun. I cannot stress how important it is to know where your light source is, especially for hero shots. Simply turning your boat so the sun is lighting you and the fish from the front will dramatically increase the quality of your shot. A fish of a lifetime can be quickly ruined with the sun at your back!

Battery life of action cameras can be very short and trying to edit clips that are 10-15 minutes long can take an eternity and quickly eat up memory cards. The wide angle of action cameras allows for a lot of room for error. If I am in a fishy area, I will keep the cameras close to me. When I get a bite I can quickly turn them on and swing them out into position to catch the action. My typical set up is I have one camera on me and one camera on either side of the boat as close to the water line as I can get.

Putting cameras close to the water line allows a "in your face" action shot of fighting the fish. Have the camera that is filming the fight of the fish set to 120fps, which allows you the ability to create crisp slow motion shots in your editing software.

Leavitt has water level cameras on either side of his seat, a camera on his Action Hat and a couple more bow-mounted cameras in order to get the video he needs to create his story. Photo John Leavitt
Leavitt has water level cameras on either side of his seat, a camera on his Action Hat and a couple more bow-mounted cameras in order to get the video he needs to create his story. Photo John Leavitt

Whenever I have a camera on me, I am trying to show emotion or play to the camera. Viewers want to connect emotionally with what they are watching. Sometimes it takes some overly dramatic actions to portray emotion through film. I know it may feel silly while you're doing it, but it will look drastically better rather than a robotic unemotional look.

I want to stress that I am in no way the end all, say all when it comes to fishing videos. The points made her are approaches that have helped me create captivating stories through my videos.

Creating fishing videos is an art, and just like a painting, not everybody is going to like your creation. One thing that has made me exponentially better is asking for feedback to whoever is willing to give it. The trick is to have a thick skin and find somebody who is going to give you better feedback than “it’s good.”

Finally, don’t take feedback personally. Instead, focus on the input from the objective viewer and use this perspective to help you identify sequences in your video that may make sense to you, but do not translate well to the outside viewer.

Next time you will make the story clearer and the video better.