It wasn’t long ago that I started developing an interest in filming my hunts and started laying down footage from my own adventures. I guess you could say that outdoor television and hunting DVDs sold me on the fact that…’I can buy a camera and do that myself’! It all started, for me, with just a simple video camera mounted on my bow. I had a blast recording squirrels, birds, deer and other forest dwellers in their natural habitat and undisturbed state. It wasn’t professional, high quality footage with great audio, but it was mine. These were my adventures on film and I could do anything with them or show them to anyone I wanted. Taking that footage back home and watching it on my computer or TV was and still is a blast. I didn’t have to harvest something that day to be excited about reviewing the footage. Just being able to enjoy the outdoors and then play it back to enjoy it again is something I love to do and something I enjoy sharing with my kids. I began playing around with the footage and editing it with some simple software to show my friends and family and I even got up enough nerve to upload some of those videos to YouTube. It was just another fun and interesting way to share my adventures. Simply learning and experimenting with filming my hunts landed me the opportunity to meet our producer, Mike Price, and eventually join the team here at SVO. My arsenal of camera gear for filming my own hunts has grown from one small HD camera mounted on my bow to a ‘prosumer’ style camera running off of a camera arm or tripod and a couple of second presence POV (point of view) cameras. I told my wife that I was buying these cameras not only for hunting, but for family events and to help ‘saver the memories as our children grew’. (Pretty slick huh?) Now most of our ‘family’ cameras are wrapped in camo and have multiple adapters for tree arms, fluid heads, tripods and other filming platforms. Heck, some of my older tripods have even been painted or taped to help me stay concealed while using them in the field. LOL
Wanna Buy A Camera?
First and foremost, it’s important to have a good Full HD video camera. I’m not going to recommend that everyone who wants to do this run out and spend $1,500 on camera gear. For one, that’s not in everyone’s budget and for two, it’s simply not necessary to spend that kind of money to have a decent filming setup. There are many affordable cameras on the market now that will record in Full HD. Finding a camera that will record in Full HD is the easy part. Finding a camera that will record in Full HD and record good audio is a different story. Audio is very important to filming your hunt. If the audience can’t hear what you’re saying during your interviews or hear that turkey gobble from just over the ridge, it (to me) takes the emotion and excitement out of the footage. During post production, video can be edited or ‘fixed’ to an extent, but if you have poor audio, even the best footage becomes basically useless for television. Do some research before purchasing a camera. Make sure there are options for using some form of external mic (wireless or shotgun) and you’ll be happy you did. It’s also important that your camera has the ability for you to use manual focus. Leaves, branches, twigs, blades of grass and anything else between you and your target will quickly grab the attention of your auto focus and your footage will not turn out the way you desired. It takes some practice, but once you get the manual focus down with your equipment, your footage will be exciting to watch.
Camera Mounting Options
The next thing I would recommend is to think about how you hunt. Are you mostly a treestand hunter? Do you mostly hunt out of box or ground blinds? Do you run & gun or spot & stalk? Do you hunt with other people who would be willing to film for you and you for them? Answering these simple questions will allow you to make your next gear purchase much easier. I’m talking about mounting options for your camera. Cameras can be mounted on a lot of different things. Camera arms for treestand setups, tripods for blinds or spot and stalk hunting or even camera ‘shelves’ for your gun or bow are readily available for purchase. Finding the right gear that fits your hunting style is the most important thing. I do highly recommend some form of camera stabilization. Trying to film freehand simply results in ‘herky-jerky’ footage that no one can hardly sit through without getting dizzy or changing the channel. Very few people have the steady hand it takes to not shake when that big buck is close or jerk when they’re surprised by the shot going off.
Protect Your Investment
After you have your main setup, the next most important thing is how you’re going to safely and securely pack your gear back to your favorite honey hole. Carrying camera gear along with our already full packs of calls, scents, extra clothing, etc. just adds more weight and takes up space. Securing your expensive camera gear is important to successfully filming your hunts over and over again. Be careful not to pack things to tightly. You may inadvertently turn something on and waste precious battery life or even storage space on your SD card. Just make sure you have a system and that you practice with your setup time and time again before you hit the woods. I can quietly get everything out of my packs and setup my camera arm, camera, shotgun mic and second presence cameras without a light in the mornings and when tearing down in the evenings. That’s important especially since these animals we hunt are already hard to kill.
Get Fancy With It & Be Creative
If you still have some coin in your pocket after your purchases of a camera, mounting system and pack, it’s time to start thinking about a second presence camera. This is usually a single or multiple set of cameras that are placed around your hunting setup. I personally like and utilize the GoPro series of cameras. These POV (point of view) cameras are great for second angles of the hunter’s setup or facing where the hunter expects that game will come from or go to. POVs around decoys are awesome and can produce some amazing footage as well. Having these second angles to add to your footage really brings the viewer into your setup with you and simply can add some really cool shots to your final production. Back in the day, hunting teams would have to shoot ‘re-creates’ to add to their final production cuts. That’s why on some of the older hunting shows you’ll see guys pull their bows back with fewer arrows in the quiver, or they’re suddenly not wearing binoculars or a range finder, or they’re even shooting an arrow with a field tip on it instead of a broadhead. I’ve seen several mistakes in these re-creates by some of the top production teams in the industry. Having these multiple angles simply eliminates the need to go back and re-create shots. They capture everything from the emotion of the hunter to the reaction of the animal in real time just as it happened. They’re simply awesome to have and can be mounted in many different ways. Most of the POV cameras can be controlled by your smart phone or a separate remote. I know the GoPro Hero 3 series remote can control up to fifty (50), that’s right…fifty (50) different GoPro cameras. That’s a lot of angles and a lot of footage. J
Accessorize For Greater Success
Some accessories can be purchased later down the road if you really get serious about filming your hunts. I for one self-film some of my hunts and having a one arm/hand operation for my setup is key to my success playing both cameraman and hunter. A LANC controller or zoom remote can be added to certain cameras. This allows the cameraman or hunter to have all the controls of the camera by simply using his/her thumb. I can power on/off the camera, record, zoom and focus all with a single hand operation. Not to mention the minimal movement that is required to do all this with one hand instead of two. This becomes especially important when hunting from the ground down at eye level with our targeted game. Not all cameras support these types of remote control so before you purchase your camera, check on this option as well if you’re interested. There are a ton of accessories out there for outdoor filming so be creative and try something that you haven’t seen before. It just might turn out really cool and land you on the ‘Film Your Hunt’ segment on SVOutdoors this fall!
WOW! That was a lot of information and this has turned out to be a very long blog. I didn’t even touch on the world of DSLR cameras, but I think for the sake of this post, it wasn’t necessary. Sorry, but I can talk for hours about this stuff so after covering the equipment suggestions in this blog, come back next time and I’ll cover some tips and ideas for capturing footage that you can use to make an exciting hunt and tell your story. Until then…
Shoot ‘em straight!