I feel I’ve got my High Definition kit down to the bare minimum and would like to share the gear list I use for exploring travel destinations by foot. This kit is suitable for anyone wishing to produce High Definition video with two broadcast quality audio sources, suitable for such situations as interviews.
The camera bag featured, I bought in Japan, and is just big enough to hold the xf and gear listed. I got it deliberately for this reason. I have found when traveling, Parkinson’s law can relate to space as it does to time. If you have a big bag…you will find junk to fill it with!
From the picture above, from top left working clockwise, the kit includes:
Buddhist Temple, Chengdu, China
* Pen and note pad
* Fluffer dust remover
* In ear head phones
* Sennheiser ew100g2 Radio Mic Kit
* Rode ‘dead cat’ fluffy wind shield
* Rode NTG1 shotgun mic
* short xlr lead for on camera
* long (2 mtr) xlr lead for interviews
* Velbon C-400 Tripod
* True ‘e-professional’ camera case
* Rotolight on camera light
* Sunscreen and lip balm for ol’ whitey
* Canon XF100 HD video camera
* Two batteries for Canon XF100
* cleaning mitt (shoe shine cloth from the Yanggakdo Hotel, Pyongyang, DPRK)
* leatherman multi-tool, blade, screwdriver and bottle opener
* polarising filter for filming on water, through glass or on snow
not in picture
* Canon SX230 HS still camera that doubles as my 2nd video camera
* 2 x canon batteries for SX230 HS
* 12 x rechargeable AA batteries
* 2 x 32gb 60mb/s compact flash cards for XF100
* 1 x 8 gb grade 6 SDHC card for SX230 HS
Overlander.tv just clocked 11 Million views on youtube! Pretty amazing really. But I suppose not as amazing as youtube’s stats themselves. Last year YouTube had more than 1 trillion views or almost 140 views for every person on Earth! At the moment more than one hour of video is uploaded to YouTube every second!
I got involved in video in the mid 1990′s, when digital video cameras introduced broadcast quality images at consumer prices. From the very start it was about telling stories and documenting my travels. My first trip being with my brother through the Aussie Outback. We had a simple effective plan of attack, visit the local pubs and find people to interview. Looking back on the clip below, it’s great to see a lot of my family involved. Dad as the farmer, Andrew and friend as sheepdogs, Stephen as the waiter.
I could see the potential of the internet early on and set up one of Australia’s first video sites in 2001. It was a little bit too early, with bandwith speeds meaning the video quality and image size wasn’t really conducive with a great viewing experience.
There were tricks I used to help give the appearance of online video, such as by using flash animation in the project below commissioned by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation in August 2003
I joined youtube in Feb 2006. Back then I was posting to blip.tv as they were hosting more professional content and youtube was more about bedroom vloggers, which at the time I saw as amateur. I remember the day I joined, youtube was getting a lot of press in the Australian media and I thought I’ve got to at least reserve the overlander channel name. In November 2006 google bought youtube for $1.65 Billion. I was made one of the first Australian youtube partners which meant I got a little bit of promotion, but at the time I derided the whole youtube vlogging genre. I didn’t see much skill in people sitting in their bedrooms ranting into a camera!
Boy how that has changed! I now understand how vlogging has changed the whole media landscape. Viewers now want to be engaged, they want honesty and opinion. Even though I didn’t like vlogging at the time, looking back, my most successful film, ‘The Way’, due to the circumstances of filming, was vlogging!. In ‘The Way’ I walked the Camino de Santiago, all 760 kms lugging 17 kilograms of camera gear. I wanted to be completely honest with what I felt along the way. What I found fascinating is how my struggle, my personal journey has resonated with viewers. And it seems the harder I did it, such as the day I said I was just sick of it all, the more people enjoyed it.
So my ideas on vlogging changed. I realised this raw personalized form of filmmaking could move people. So I started watching the innovators at the time Nalts and Ze Frank. I even gave it a go myself, trying to mimic the wide eyed machine gun delivery of Ze Frank.
Which brings me to where I am today. After more than 15 years producing videos I now want to get back to the rawest, most barebones productions I can make! I’ve been living on the road since July 2011 and I dont want to spend days editing ‘masterpieces’ I just want to capture some of the things I see while traveling, preferably with a local person as a guide, and just keep it really lo-fi and punk! And this has been a big leap, to unlearn, to put myself in front of the camera and see if I can master audio-visual storytelling as a presenter. The video below was my first attempt, walking and talking, one take, trying to engage.
With the advent of cheap DSLR cameras anyone now can capture amazing imagery. Anyone can now afford the tools to make films. And this is wonderful. But for me, I want to move away from bigger and brighter and better. I want to return to the essence of good filmmaking, a bloody good yarn, plain and simple!
What do you think, is a good story enough, or do viewers also expect fancy production values?
It was at that moment, surrounded by an angry gang of taxi drivers, at a Port City in Borneo, that I realised I had brought this situation on myself. I realised I could continue this stupid game of who is right and who is wrong, to stand their in the searing tropical heat, still loaded with my backpack. To let that anger energy surge through my body, like a crazed warrior of old. To take this destructive path to it’s bitter end, out of pure pigheadedness, or…. to walk away. To accept what is, not what I want, but what is.
After 10 months of traveling South East Asia, of deciding this will be my lifestyle until I have filmed the whole world, this was one of my biggest lessons. That in the end, it is all a game, there is nothing worth getting angry about. That wherever you are, everything you know, you think, you believe, all stems from your own upbringing, your own culture. And that to survive, in another culture, you must forget all that is known, all those silly little rules of etiquette and manners, and just observe.
“Do not be assertive, but adjust to the object, and you shall find a way around or through it. If nothing within you stays rigid, outward things will disclose themselves.
Empty your mind, be formless. Shapeless, like water. Water can flow or it can crash. Be water, my friend.”
What makes a person want to leave their home country and explore the world? I have asked many expats this question and the answers tend to be the same. The search for something better, the feeling there is more to life than what they grew up with. For myself, I can’t explain my obsession with needing to see the world. And it is an obsession, that takes over everything; career, relationships, all the rules of the game, such as saving for one’s retirement. I just know that ever since I was a child I’ve felt the need to experience the world, with my own two eyes, to try and understand how things work from my own perspective.
“It is a feeling of relief, almost of pleasure, at knowing yourself at last genuinely down and out. You have talked so often of going to the dogs – and well, here are the dogs, and you have reached them, and you can stand it. It takes off a lot of anxiety.”
George Orwell, Down and Out in Paris and London
The biggest fear for me was how would I survive, if I don’t work the 9 to 5, climb the ladder of promotion. And I suppose what I have realised is that no one has any certainty in anything! And what is the point of doing some shitty job you don’t like just because you have an unfounded fear that if you don’t you will end up in poverty? One of the great skills one learns on the road is the ability to adapt. I’ve found it is always good to have a plan B, as things don’t always go as expected. This is such a valuable lesson in life and work; to be flexible and ready to change plans at a moment’s notice, when circumstances demand such versatility.
I’ve met a lot of fascinating people on the road, digital nomads making money from all kinds of ways and means. Playing the stock market, online gambling. I remember one in particular, an young English lad, not quite 25. He did all the right things, went to uni, paid it off with part time jobs and when his study was finished, the golden job at the end of the road was no where to be found. He felt cheated by the system, and without many options found a way, via his interest in online poker, to escape the depressed UK job market. He studied the top players, researched their earnings and then in a leap of faith he moved to Chang Mai to set up an international gambling den made up of other online forum members keen on an overseas adventure. A mansion and swimming pool, a maid and motorbike, a motley crew of Westerners found they were making more money than they had ever dreamed of, for one quarter the cost of living in their own countries. “I felt I was cheating the system, I just could not believe things could be so good” confessed the young Yorkshire lad.
“To destroy a man, give him everything he desires”
What would happen if you didn’t have to do anything, if you didn’t have to work, you didn’t have to raise children? If you had complete and utter freedom. I tried this! I cut myself loose from the bounds of my own community, making a home in the borneo jungle. I lived the life of a bohemian artist imbibing in a chaotically destructive lifestyle. I became the wild man of Borneo and my work reflected this. Nothing was holding me back, no one was stopping me from doing exactly as I pleased.
Excess, Decadence! The rise and fall of the Roman empire, the french nobility before the revolution!
I looked into my heart of darkness, and there was a void, an empty space. I was bored with doing whatever I wanted, I needed some meaning. Instead of looking in, I needed to look out!
“People are out there doing bad things to each other. That’s because they’ve been dehumanised. It’s time to take the humanity back into the center of the ring and follow that for a time. Greed, it ain’t going anywhere. They should have that in a big billboard across Times Square. Without people you’re nothing.”
There is nothing better than arriving in a strange town, and having a passionate stranger give you a tour. Technology, the internet provides the introductory letter of old. When it works, there is a joy in sharing something people enjoy. I suppose this shallow pleasure is the meaning in my trip now. It’s not delivering babies or nursing orphans, but I’m following my passion and who knows where that will lead. Teenagers want to save the world, adults want to find a way to live in it!
I still have my dark moments about my nomadic lifestyle decision, I still have fears that Im going backwards, that one day I will just become that strange bearded homeless man on the periphery of society, unable to reconcile human behaviour with human ideals. I still wonder whether the world really is as dangerous as they say. So far, so good. My belief still holds true that wherever I go, I will find good people willing to meet up with a traveling man, wanting to document their story. The journey continues…..
In this article I wish to discuss the options I am exploring with regard to increasing my revenue from video related activities as I travel the world. My original plan of relying on an increase in youtube adsense income, due to increased video turnout, has not come to fruition. So to keep the travel show on the road, I have to explore other options.
I’ve written a few of these articles now, both on overlander.tv and other travel sites, where I give people advice on how I manage to travel and make money.
It’s funny but whenever I decide to write these articles, I always get chastised by my mother! She can’t understand why, with all the hard work and trial and error I’ve gone through to establish a career in the precarious arena of independent filmmaking, I would want to share my hard won secrets!
But for me, the sites I value the most in my own research, are those that cut the bullshit and are completely honest in their articles. I’d like to mention two that I regularly check up on, will video for food is the best resource for information on the changes in the online video landscape and nerdy nomad offers a great insight into how to make money online as you travel. “and I will try to express myself in some mode of life or art as freely as I can, and as wholly as I can, using for my defence the only arms I allow myself to use . . . silence, exile, and cunning.” James Joyce, in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
So here goes, some brainstorming on the possible directions I may consider in order to keep the overlander boat floating merrily on the seven seas.
* 1. Set up a 2nd youtube channel to increase adsense revenue. Tourism bodies around the world pay big money to promote their countries to the world. Unfortunately many of these campaigns get lost in the pure mass of video being released ever day. My idea is to set up one youtube channel that features all the tourism videos from around the world. The idea being to give viewers one location to see what the world has to offer. In theory it is a great idea, but in practise a little more difficult. Recent changes on youtube has reduced adsense revenue and written copyright permission must be gained from each country. I will persevere with the idea, but it is a slow riping fruit, so will explore quicker money making options first.
* 2. Set up a charity or cyber beg. Many film projects have gotten off the ground from funds raised on cyber begging sites like kick-starter and indiegogo. And many a ‘charity’ has raised funds for some worthy cause by traveling the world. Personally, I feel very uncomfortable with both concepts. Why the hell should anyone give money to help me travel the world. What do they get out of it? And if I did feel the need to raise money for some cause, why the need to travel the world to do it. Why not just raised funds at home? BUT maybe I need to forgo my uneasy feeling about raising funds with cyber begging sites and explore this option!
* 3. Sell Stock Footage I have a video production friend from New Zealand who makes a nice little side income by selling stock footage on sites like artbeats, alwayshd and footagebank. I’ve avoided this one, it involves shooting video in a way different from my current style (i.e. no handheld footage) Another longterm money earner that I would prefer to not have to do. It would mean changing my whole shooting style.
* 4. Sell dvd’s on amazon with createspace. As an Australian, the only way to get access to the American masses who use Amazon, is to set up an account with createspace but they take a hell of a cut. This is an option also used with success by my New Zealand mate. An option worth trying OR I could explore throwing money into online advertising to direct more traffic to my video downloads on my own website, thus keeping all profits for myself.
* 5. Produce video business profiles while travelling One of my main sources of income in Australia involved producing business video profiles. Without a work visa, I can’t offer a service in many of the countries I visit. But there is no reason I can’t sell a product online in these countries. This product could be charging a business to list on my website and youtube channel. And if that does involve filming at the business, this ‘service’ could be offered free. The benefit for business is they get high search ranking in google for their video because of my channel’s following and my SEO knowledge.
This option is a quick way to make money BUT requires time to market to business and more video production on top of the growing pile of videos I’m yet to complete. It is also less lucrative overseas than in Australia given currency and wage differences.
* 6. Branded Content, business ads. I could sell 30 second slots in my videos whereby as with the video business profile idea, business only pay for the listing, not the service. This would be an easy idea to implement, but may not always be easy given the nature of my content. My videos are not straight out tourism profiles of an area, and it doesn’t interest me to do ‘bog standard’ tourism videos.
* 7. Approach television for travel program funding. Despite my belief that online video is the future, television is still where the money is. I could approach Australian stations ABC and SBS or the travel channel with a travel show concept. This would most likely mean not being able to continue to broadcast footage on youtube and may involve some ‘pigeonholing’ of format. Worth exploring but not feasible as a one man operation. Television likes big crews, particularly the Australian funding bodies which would be involved in the deal.
* 8. Set up a global video business profile network. This is the idea I like the most. Because basically it involves me using my expertise in business profile video production, to help other producers around the world make money. I’ve already explored this idea with a Malaysian video producer, and have other video production friends around the world keen to be involved. I believe I have cracked the code on what works with regard to online video business profiles and I have devised a system that will allow any producer to copy this format. The benefit for business is they also know from the output what type of video they will end up with. Bookings would be made through a single website, prices would be determined on a country by country basis, in agreement with the local producers, and a 20% fee would be added to help maintain the website and cover marketing costs. This concept has already been explored in America, but not in a way that producers name their price. With my concept, everyone wins out.
Looking through the long list of possibilities, the options I have decided to explore RIGHT NOW are; the branded content idea, whereby business can feature a 30 second ad both in my videos and on my channel, and the global business profile video network. I like both these ideas because once they are set up, sales can be done online, I don’t have to do much extra work and they both represent good opportunities for future growth as they become more widely known. The 2nd option also gives me the opportunity to meet other producers as I travel, as happened in Ipoh.
So there you go, all my ideas laid out on the table!
One may ask why give away your secrets, with the chance others could copy them!
Well I have a belief that a lot of the problems in the world are due to a fear of scarcity of resources. That fear leads to people being greedy, hoarding things for themselves.
Now maybe there are too many people in the world, or maybe there are too many at the top of the tree not willing to share the fat around. Whatever the true story, I don’t want to play that fear game, I’m not going to make my life miserable now, to hoard for an unknown future, for who really knows which of us will even make ‘old bones’!
So for video producers, young or old, who also have a desire to travel, feel free to borrow, modify and test any original ideas you get from my own experimentation with exploring ways to make money with video. And if you do have great success, send me a note, love to hear how it all goes.
I recently took a three day trip deep into the Borneo jungle. The trip involved travel in traditional boat and some jungle trekking. All I could take with me was what I could carry on my back. Given the tropical heat and high likelihood of torrential rain I decided I would only take what I could fit in my 30 litre hypergear waterproof backpack.
Here is a breakdown of all my gear:
*Canon XF100 HD video camera
*Canon SX230HS digital stills camera
*Rode NTG1 shotgun mic and sennheiser ew100g2 radio mic
*Rotolight on camera led light ( runs on 3 AA batteries)
* 3 x canon batteries for xf100
* 2 x canon batteries for sx230
* 2 x xlr leads, one for mic on camera, one longer lead for interviews
* 12 x rechargeable AA batteries
* polarizing filter for xf100
* 2 x 32gb 60mb/s compact flash cards for xf100
* 1 x 8 gb grade 6 SDHC card for SX230hs
* small soft case for radio mic
* small notepad and pen
* in-ear headphones
* Hypergear waterproof camera case
* HyperGear 30 lt waterproof backpack Clothing
* sarong (doubles as towel)
* mosquito net
* Hiking boots
* Akubra Overlander Hat
* board shorts
* hiking pants with zip off legs (pants and shorts in one)
* long sleeve quick dry shirt
* short sleeve shirt
* 2 socks
* 2 jocks
* plastic throw over waterproof poncho Toiletries
* Insect repellant
* toothbrush and toothpaste
* dental floss
* soap and container
* toilet paper roll
* band aids and antiseptic cream
A tripod would have been handy, but I decided to not take one. The one time I needed a tripod I sat the camera on a plastic drum we took on the expedition.
The XF100 is the smallest broadcast quality High Definition camera in the world weighing in at 1 kg without accessories. I find it quite a liberating camera to use. I did a bit of jungle trekking with the xf100 on this trip whereby I just had it swung over my shoulder. We had to traverse some fairly thick jungle on inclined slippery slopes. I can’t imagine lugging anything bigger, it was difficult enough staying upright with just the xf! I also found the xf’s infra-red feature handy on this trip, using it at night around the campfire for some shots. I did a mix of both infra-red footage and night footage using my rotolight on camera light. The nice wide throw of the rotolight also came in handy around camp as can be seen below.
The xf100 allows users to set custom picture presets which determine the look of images captures. After months of experimentation I’ve chosen the Cine.F preset as the one I like the best. It gives a nice film like contrast as can be seen here
The SX230hs is a great little point and shoot digital camera which also has some manual features. I’ve found the HD video footage out of the SX230 to be amazing and have started using it as a 2nd camera for set ups such as where I want to record a close up of the food I’m eating (I just mount it on a mini tripod). I have a hypergear underwater case which allows me to use the sx underwater. I can even whitebalance the camera for underwater shots and on this trip I used the sx to get shots over the side of the boat and to show how clear the water was with some diving shots. The sx also has a GPS function whereby one can log the location of photos, and bring up maps of locations on a computer. This is an amazing feature but I’ve found it to be a bit flaky, sometimes not working and a huge drain on the battery when the GPS logging is engaged.
I use two professional mics, which allow me to set up a number of interview situations; I can do a sit down interview with the rode ntg1 whereby I just hold the mic and ask questions, I can mic up talent with the radio mic and allow them to explain something when I film them or I can wear the radio mic and ask questions from behind the camera, capturing my talents audio with the on camera rode ntg1.
So this is pretty much your bare bones broadcast quality production kit for a one man team. I found this kit gave me enough battery life and enough recording space to last the whole trip. I estimate the weight to be around the 10 kg mark.
In the darkest deepest jungles of Borneo, I met a shaman of the headhunter Iban tribe. I handed him my camera, and through a translator, asked him to make my video look like cinematic film.
He opened the LCD, went to the custom preset menu, and after a flurry of button pushing, handed me back my camera with a toothless grin. This is the Shaman’s custom film preset….enjoy!!
No colour correction in post, daylight shots -6db, indoor shots +12db. XF100, Cine.F preset
Producing videos on the road requires the minimum of gear. When I travel I must carry all my gear myself. On the ‘El Camino’ in Spain, I walked 750km with 17 kilograms of gear. On my last trip overseas, I think I was lugging close to 30 Kilograms, including laptop.
Here is a list of my current backpack filmmaking kit:
I am currently using the Canon XH-A1. I like this camera because it has a 20x lens, a great optical stabilizer and despite it’s small size, has the same imaging sensor as the more expensive XL-H1.
For my style of filming, I like a camera that doesn’t look expensive and allows me to get candid ‘street shots’ without detection, verite style. I’ve looked at reviews of various HDV 1/3 chip cameras, and all are fairly similar in picture quality. For me the Canon wins out mainly on the strength of it’s class winning huge zoom.
I also use a hoodman for the LCD monitor, and my custom made shoulderlander, so I can rest the camera on my shoulder and get nice steady shots.
High Definition requires quite a bit of computer grunt, at least 2 GB of RAM. I’ve been a mac man since 1998, when Apple revolutionized video editing by bringing out the imac, the first computer built from the ground up to handle firewire loading of video footage. I have an Apple Mac Book Pro and edit with Final Cut Pro Studio.
My travel kit also includes one shotgun microphone (Sennheiser ME 66), one lapel wireless mic (Sennheiser EW100 G2) and one lightweight tripod (Velbon CX-686)
This influences my filming style, I don’t have a proper fluid head tripod, so I tend to avoid pan (panoramic) shots, or do them from the shoulder.
The Sennheiser is a great mic, but stands out like dog’s balls, not something you always want to do when filming in the rough end of town! A smaller Rode mic may be more appropriate for those purchasing a new kit.
To the untrained eye, 1/3 chip mini dv or HDV cameras capture footage that looks the same as their more expensive 1/2 chip big brothers. But where they do fall down is in scenes of high contrast. To avoid this problem, I travel with a small light kit, the paglight C6.
Finally, one of my most important piece of kit I travel with is my old Akubra Cowboy Hat. Seriously, sometimes I believe wearing my Hat has saved me from being mugged, people don’t know how to take a guy traveling round the world in a huge hat! It gives me a crocodile hunter-like mystique.
Overlander.tv is an ambitious project whereby Filmmaker Mark Shea will attempt to travel the world, alone, and film, edit and broadcast online, short mini docs, from different locales. Backpack Filmmaking is:
-lightweight broadcast quality gear that can fit in a backpack
-one person crew, one person doing it all. sourcing stories, conducting interviews, filming footage, editing stories and preparing for online screening.
-quick story turnaround, short and sweet educational portraits of people and places
-character based studies ‘meet the locals’, real people, real stories
-premise that the internet is the medium of the future, and that where possible, videos are offered free to all, with income generated by sponsorship, acquisition and advertising.
-projects edited ‘on the road’ using laptop computers
-totally independent, no censorship, but family friendly. Films must be genuine and honest, must not pander to advertisers, but please the viewer and use humor to laugh off difficulties.
- Work on the premise that, despite cultural differences, we are all one big family. We never insult or poke fun at those we interview, the joke is only ever on us, and we always search out the positive where possible.
-Honesty in filmmaking means a filmmaker must not be afraid to express their innermost feelings, fears and desires, regardless of ridicule.
-Strong focus on positive environmental stories around the globe
-Where possible use indigenous music and musicians for the soundtrack.
-Have a ‘lucky’ filmmaker’s Hat, the more ridiculous the better. A real icebreaker when meeting new people.
Ever had a dream to just travel the world?
On July 24th 2011 Aussie Filmmaker Mark Shea set off on a new journey with the goal to travel to each continent and make a living on the road.
Mark's motivation is to show that wherever he goes, He will find good people, passionate enough about where they live to show him round. To inform, entertain and inspire, learning about culture, customs and beliefs.
Exploring the new international world of Digital Nomadism Mark will produce videos while on the road, using lightweight High Definition equipment, and aims to survive solely on passive income made from his online ventures.
Countries visited so far:
*Indonesia *Singapore *Malaysia *Brunei *Philippines *Hong Kong *Japan *South Korea *North Korea *China *Laos *Cambodia *Thailand Mark has been travelling for 664 days 23 hours 22 minutes 37 seconds