Adventures in Chile: How to make the perfect travel video

From literally freezing for a shot of the Atacama’s starry skies to riding through the world’s driest desert, two Finnish filmmakers go to extremes for the camera. 

“Keeping people interested in a video for longer than five minutes is extremely hard; it has to be something totally out-of-this-world to be able to keep the viewer engaged even for ten minutes,” Julius Koskela tells This is Chile.
Joonas Virtanen agrees. “If a person sees that a video’s running time is more than five minutes, they’re going to be like, ‘no way.’”
The pair should know – they’ve just come back from a week-long trip to the Atacama Desert, where they produced one of the best travel videos we’ve seen in a long time.
Armed with bikes, sandboards, camping gear, and cameras, the Finnish filmmakers teamed up to produce Sand, Sweat and Stars in Atacama Desert, the third installment of Virtanen’s Chile Travelogue series.
It runs for 3:29 minutes, but don’t be fooled by its sunny soundtrack, sandboarding antics, and snappy running time – a lot of work was put into it, and many boundaries were pushed in its filming.
Take the stunning timelapse scene of the starry Atacama skies reflected in a desert lake. For photographer and videographer Koskela, who was carrying a significantly lighter sleeping bag than his compatriot, capturing that shot made for a long night.
“For a shot like that it’s not enough to be there for half an hour after sunset, you’ve got to be there all night,” he said. “I could sleep for three hours and then my sleeping bag would be totally frozen, so I had to move around inside to break off all the ice.”
“But it was totally worth it. Yes I was cold, but looking up I thought, ‘Wow, I can do this for one night.’ Besides we reached minus 40 degrees last winter in my town.”
Aside from keeping it short and having a Finnish resilience to the cold, the pair advise camera buffs to travel in packs.
“When I travel with people who aren’t camera enthusiasts I’m always lagging behind because I want to find the right angles,” says Virtanen. “With this we wanted to go to a place and just take our time with photography and videography.”
Koskela agrees: “This kind of stuff it takes time. You have to plan things, you have to stay there on the spot for hours.”
The pair plan on continuing their collaboration with another project, this time about the Chilean capital, where they are both studying on exchange.
“Stay tuned,” Koskela says, “there are going to be a lot of photos and videos as I make my way across the country. The next project I want to do is about surfing in Pichilemu, I’m going to spend over a month in Patagonia doing a documentary, and I’m also going to go to Easter Island to work with locals who want to do a shoot about the legends of the island.”
For his part, Virtanen is going to travel Southern Chile before heading north again for Peru and Bolivia. But while he will be publishing content along the way, the best may be still to come. Virtanen says he’s itching to “do something special” with his Chilean footage when he heads home and has access to the editing equipment of a design company who co-founded, Contrast.
You can see Virtanen’s work on his website and more of his short films on his Vimeo account. To follow Koskela’s travels through Chile, head to his photography blog.
We’ll be featuring the photos from Virtanen and Koskela’s trip to Atacama on our Facebook page and Twitter account over the coming week – make sure you check it out and have your say.
Which brings us to the final piece of Finnish travel film philosophy for the week: put it out there.
“It’s a lot more meaningful to do this stuff when you have people commenting on it, liking it, criticizing it, whatever, but still being into it,” says Koskela. “It makes you want to do the next one, it fuels the motivation.”
By Joe Hinchliffe