» Learning curve (++*) Pressing record is easy. But conceiving a plot, focusing scenes, capturing details, and editing it all into a cohesive film? That’s hard.
*(+) = Low effort, low risk (+++++) = Get a lesson and life insurance
» Get a camera that suits your budget and ambition. It should shoot HD 1080i, have a good internal microphone, and be light and compact—you’re more likely to capture an amazing moment if your camera is always at the ready. Sony’s HDR-XR520 ($1,000; sony.com) has a 240GB hard drive, which is great for extended treks. Pack a zip-top bag or shower cap to protect it from rain.
» Build your story around the trip’s core moments. Each short film (10 to 15 minutes) should have two primary scenes that anchor the narrative. The rest of your movie should help set up and support those moments.
» Vary the shots—talking heads and endless landscapes get boring, fast. Combine wide- and medium-angle trail shots with close-ups of feet, eyes, and even fingers as they adjust pack straps or start a stove. Edited together, they’ll make more compelling scenes.
» Keep the camera rolling. Without enough footage, your audience can’t take in the scene. Keep your lens trained on your subjects for at least five seconds before and after they complete their motions, to avoid jarring cuts.
» Master the time-lapse. In fast-moving weather or during sunrise or sunset, stabilize your camera, press record, and stand back for 10 minutes. Speed it up while editing for a dramatic effect.
» Edit like a pro. Learn Final Cut Pro ($300; apple.com). With the industry standard in editing software, you’ll have the most control over video, audio, and effects.
» Take a class. Join Michael Brown on a film-school expedition (seracfilms.com).