The 'Double A-Roll'
You've probably heard of A-Roll (interviews, conversations) and B-Roll (scenery, action). These aren't very accurate names, not least of all because they implies A-Roll is better than B-Roll. We think footage that shows drama is usually more interesting than the footage that tells you about the drama.
We like to think there's a third type of footage though, what we like to call 'Double A-Roll', this is without a doubt, better than A, or B Roll. In a nutshell AA-Roll is the money shot, the 'once in a blue moon', 'hen's tooth', 'Mr Tom buying a round of drinks' footage. This is the gold standard, five star, money shot that has TV executives explode in their comfy swivel chairs.
It doesn't have to be action, it can be an argument, a couple of lines of comedic genius or the impulsive reaction to the unexpected. But often we are indeed talking about action.
In Adventure, sadly we can't predict when this will happen, let alone be ready to film it. We can however maximise our chances of it occurring, make damn sure it looks as good as possible when it does happen and we can film all the necessary stuff afterwards to make it as useable as possible.
How to Get Double A-Roll
There are two ways of doing this. Firstly you can always be filming, or always be a button press away from filming. Secondly you can massage your circumstance of it happening, we're not saying fake it, we just mean think about how your plans will influence the outcome of your adventure. You're already doing this in part by going on a ridiculous long journey in an unsuitable vehicle, how else can you shake things up a bit? Drive the whole way exclusively on unpaved roads? Get your vehicle across a river on a boat you've built yourself? See who can jump their car the furthest?
How to up Your Chances of Getting Some
Obviously, you can't tell when lightening is going to strike, but you can go a long way to make sure you're ready when it does.
Be ready to shoot; have charged batteries and space on your media cards (with spares to hand), have a fast camera accessible with settings set to auto, have a gopro mounted somewhere it can capture the most likely action - but still be somewhere you can turn it on when needed.
Leave your camera on; When the going gets sticky leave your camera rolling (but make sure you've got spare batteries and cards to swap out).
Practice using kit; Get used to using your kit and all the key functions, until you are able to shoot 'blind', train your team-mates the basics too.
Keep good company; Ride with others who will be shooting too, not only will they help motivate you but you can share tips and get great coverage.
Have a Run & Gun camera; DSLRs and pro video rigs are great, but having something that powers up fast and shoots adequately under most conditions will be more useful when the shit hits the fan than something that shoots beautiful footage but takes valuable seconds to setup.
Hopefully with all these boxes ticked you will up your chances of not just capturing those rare moments but maybe even getting them from a couple of angles.
How to make it Look Good
If the footage is awesome, the audience will forgive a bit of camera-shake or sub-optimum composition. That said, the better any footage looks the happier the editors (and audiences) will be.
Once you hit record, don't stop; Even when it looks like everything's over, keep rolling.
Check your settings; As soon as your rolling check your settings and audio, so you know what you're getting is good.
Get yourself in a good position; Find somewhere you can cover the action without moving yourself or the camera too much, where you can hold the camera pretty steady.
Pull out your B Camera; If you can, get out another camera out (or get a team-mate to).
What to Shoot After the Action
Once the high drama has gone down there's still work to be done. Now's the time to build the story around that footage. At the very least you need an explanation of what has happened and why, along with some b-roll that helps tell the story, but wherever possible you should try to cover off all this:
Explain what has happened; A rundown of what you've just shot, what was happening before you turned the camera on, why you think it happened and how this will affect your plans. If the cameras missed anything, explain what they missed. Then shoot the B-roll to back it up.
Shoot the aftermath; Fill the gaps around the action and story, eg if you were caught in a thunderstorm and a tree landed on your bike, shoot the tree, shoot the crushed bike, shoot some similar standing trees, get some establishing shots to show where you are. Get a few angles.
Interview witnesses; If a lot went down or happened quickly it helps to get a second point of view. Interview your team-mates or any passers by, get some opinions in with your facts (this especially helps if there was any contention about what happened).
Say what happens next; How are you going to fix the situation? Will you do anything to stop it happening again? Make sure you say how it's made you feel.
If it's not possible to do this right after the event, do it as soon as possible. It's good to do it when the thoughts and emotions are still warm and the stains are still fresh.