Travel guide's videos offer window on world
By Chris Oliver
Advertiser Staff Writer
In Cairo's bustling street markets, spice baskets, alabaster pots, papyrus, produce and cotton goods jam the sidewalks. Brick ovens are cooking flatbreads; goats wander freely around busy outdoor cafes.
Threading through these streets, a Hawaii tour group is heading by bus to the Pyramids at Giza, where they're met by camels and their handlers. It's the first day of their trip, but the Hawaii folks don't miss a beat. How else should one approach the remaining Wonder of the Ancient World?
If you'd like a quick virtual vacation, tour guide and videographer Dennis Callan has it captured on film as part of his short travel videos on Egypt at tourvideos.com.
The site, which is free, contains more than 500 of Callan's videos: mini travelogues and practical guides covering his group tours to Europe, Asia and the Americas.
"I make them educational and entertaining with a special emphasis on history, art, architecture, design, culture and modern life," Callan said.
They're also fun. Shooting home video riding a camel might be tricky for most of us but Callan records it professionally for his site.
As travel guide and president of the Hawaii Geographic Society, Callan has led groups on more than 60 tours. He began shooting videos in the 1980s when the first small 8-mm movie cameras came on the market; today he uses a High Definition Sony FX1.
Callan also presents "World Traveler," a weekly program on [0xd6]lelo public access channel 53.
Want to see your itinerary on a tour? Click on your destination and you'll find hotels, the neighborhood , day to day activities, even the clothes you might need.
During spring and summer months, Callan takes four to five groups each year to destinations in Europe, Asia and the Americas. Comfortable hotels, efficient public transport and walking tours, in Callan's estimation, are the best ways to experience a city.
"Over the years, the tours have revealed what groups most enjoy on vacation," he said. "And this helps focus my video content."
EARLY YOUTUBE HIT
When YouTube came online, Callan began uploading short versions of "World Traveler" to the Internet, quickly establishing more than 2 million hits. But to make his videos easier to find, he launched his own Web site, tourvideos.com, last fall. Site traffic is slowly increasing, he said.
Callan does all the video production himself: shooting, editing, writing the narratives , polishing and adding audio. On any trip, he might shoot up to five hours of video, condensing it into multiple short segments for online.
"It can take up to three months to edit a three-week trip," he said. Eventually, he hopes to produce longer travel DVDs for sale and guides for the iPhone and iPod.
"It's turned into a lifetime project for me," Callan said. "I've embraced the digital age. I never imagined I would have a world audience; it's thrilling."
HOW TO SHOOT TRAVEL VIDEOS
Callan offers these tips:
Move carefully: They are called movies for a reason — but move the camera smoothly. A good formula: Hold still on a scene for 2 seconds, then pan for several seconds, hold it at the end for 2 seconds, then stop the shot. Rotate your upper body, feet planted like a tripod, use two hands with elbows resting on ribs. No shooting while walking. No long pans. For variety, hold the camera completely still on many shots, especially when subjects are moving within the frame.
Look: Keep the camera turned on; this reminds you to look for interesting scenes and to be ready to shoot.
Get the light right: Sunny midday scenes are great but don't include bright and dark subjects in a single frame — video can't handle contrast. Twilight is the magic time for lighting, with a mix of street and shop lights and the deep blue sky.
Talk: Have someone occasionally talk to the camera with an external microphone if possible, or close to the on-camera microphone in a quiet place.
You can add more narration later when you edit.
Edit: Don't show anyone raw footage. We are all sophisticated, impatient viewers. Cut, cut, cut. In-camera edits can save editing time later by shooting short takes of three or four seconds.
OK, now you're an expert, and you, too, can go large on YouTube!