Tolga Basol, a professional motion designer and filmmaker, has been on the road for years now. Currently, Tolga is slowly making his way from Central America back to the US before heading out into the world again.
How to make the best motorcycle video you can, what does Tolga’s video equipment look like, and what are his top tips for aspiring adventure motorcycling video creators? We decided to find out.
Tolga, you've been on the road for years now. How has your video making changed throughout all your travels?
I had worked in the professional media industry from 2002 to 2014 as a motion designer and filmmaker, so I was quite familiar with filming and any post-production process. When I got my first motorcycle back in 2002, I started experimenting by filming motorcycle-related short videos. The idea was to have fun combining my new passion with my profession.
Since 2014, trying to do the same thing on a long journey was a steep learning curve, as I did not have the comfort of a studio with a workstation or higher end cameras and stabilizers. Those disadvantages helped me to improve my workflow, adapting to any location and circumstances, especially on a motorcycle, without spending too much time for each shot. Basically, I became a one-man production studio.
What equipment do you use?
As I prefer to ride backroads during my travels, I intend to be as light as possible when it comes to what I carry on my motorcycle. It makes life, riding, and packing easier if you have less stuff. That is why I have been using Panasonic cameras because of their small size, low weight, and superb video quality.
Currently, I own a GH5 along with a 12-60 mm, 42.5mm and a 7.5 mm lens. The GH5 has amazing on-body image stabilization which works well together with the optical image stabilization with select Panasonic lenses. Extremely useful for run-and-gun situations. That is mainly for filming and some photography work.
I also carry a Mavic Pro for aerial shots, but I am not happy with its quality. On the other hand, it’s a good sacrifice for its mobility and ease of use.
For rider’s POV and action cam shots, I am using the SENA 10C for quite a long time now. Much easier to operate, and low-profile compared to a GoPro.
I also carry a carbon fiber tripod and external SSD drives along with my 2014 MacBook Pro.
Some folks say that documenting your travels, especially as extensively as you do, takes away from the experience.
Actually, I’m not really documenting my whole trip. I am usually doing a bit of planning on locations and routes beforehand, then I go to a town nearby and spend quite some time around that area while I enjoy riding and producing some content.
You can see that my Instagram account is mostly motorcycle travel photos, and I keep the rest of my experience private to myself and friends. I do not enjoy publishing or sharing all the tiny details of my travels, I think doing that does take away from the experience a bit and I am trying to avoid that.
At the same time, I enjoy it that way. I guess everyone has different expectations for a journey; mine is to create some artistic content about motorcycles and motorcycle travel in order to inspire people and enjoy the whole experience whilst doing it.
I also like to take my time spending many months in a single country. That helps to discover more and meet new people. Rushing from A to B is not my thing, but not many people have time to do that at a very slow pace.
That being said, there are moments where you just want to ride and don’t want to stop to take a shot. Especially when conditions get tougher…but those are usually the cool spots where I should be filming.
You're a professional filmmaker - but do you think riders with no background in that can still make great riding videos?
Absolutely. It’s all about how you see and express yourself and everything around you. Watching documentaries, movies, or any type of good content will help to improve and of course, lots of practice and experimenting.
A great video does not have to have high video quality or amazing compositions. It all depends on the story and the feeling in my experience. Compact digital cameras have amazing features these days and they are quite cheap.
What would be your advice to riders who are starting to make videos of their travels?
Avoid long GoPro or action shots or cutting/editing them together. Trying to use different angles for each take would expand the way you see around. I would also suggest getting a small tripod and use it on the ground, trees, rocks, whatever you have around. Trying to create depth with whatever available at the moment also helps to improve create motion.
Planning a shot always helps: background, the location of sun, obstacles or shadows, etc.
What's the biggest mistake amateur filmmakers make, and how to correct it?
I think people are focusing on the equipment aspect of it way too much. A good story will always be interesting, even if it is only filmed with an iPhone. So my suggestion would be to focus on the storytelling part first and then step up to better equipment, composition, lighting and audio-related improvements. Internet is filled with tons of information about filmmaking. The usual mistake I see is again, long GoPro shots in an edit.
What program do you use to process your videos?
I use the Adobe's software as well as Maxon Cinema4D, Final Cut Pro, and some other node-based compositing software. My video workflow changes according to the project depending on the post-production process I will be doing. Usually, I prefer Adobe Premiere to edit videos as it integrates all well with Adobe After Effects and Cinema4D. After the editing in Premiere, I transfer my timeline to After Effects and start working on the color correction and grading process. But if it is just an editing project I tend to use Final Cut Pro as its proxy system works really flawlessly.
What is the optimum motorcycle video length?
I’m sure there must be a study somewhere about people’s attention spans on videos on different mediums. In this digital millennial age, everything flows quite fast - like fast food - so I prefer to keep them quite short, between a minute or two. I was producing 10-12 min. full episodes a couple of years ago, but the shorter videos I have produced proved to get much more views. It also depends on your medium a lot: I have longer videos and documentary on my YouTube channel, but I prefer to post and produce short ones for Instagram or Facebook.