How To Be A Better Videographer: Behind the Scenes at H.S. Video

Editor’s Note: Although Jimmy Estes of Omaha, Arkansas, a videographer for Hunter’s Specialties, is never seen in front of the camera, he hunts just as intensely as the members of the Hunter’s Specialties Pro Staff he’s videoing. “When I get the shot with my camera, I’m as successful as the hunter who gets the shot with his bow or rifle,” Estes says. Since so many hunters watch H.S. Videos and also enjoy shooting their own videos, this week, Estes will step in front of the camera and tell us about the life of a Hunter’s Specialties’ videographer and how to shoot the best video footage.

Question: Jimmy, when you’re sitting in a blind with the person you’re filming, where do you sit, and where does the hunter sit?
Estes: I prefer to set my camera to the right side of the blind and a little back from the hunter I’m videoing (generally Rick White of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, a Hunter’s Specialties’ Pro Staff member). The camera viewfinder is on the left-hand side of the camera. This way, I can look at the viewfinder to see the image and the animal coming in and whisper to the hunter at the same time.

Sometimes when I’m set-up accurately, I can zoom back, and the viewer will be able to see both White and the animal while the animal’s coming into range. If White wants to say something before or after taking the shot, I’ll only have to zoom back to get his comment.

Question: How do you get your camera, tree arm and all the gear required to film a hunt in the tree with you?
Estes: I always wear a Hunter Safety System Tree Harness when I climb up and down the tree, and while I’m in the tree. If I fall, I want to ensure I don’t get hurt. Once I’m in the tree, I let a heavy-duty rope with big clips on it down from my tree stand. Rick hooks all my gear (camera, tree arm, pack and my other equipment) to the hooks, and I pull the equipment up into the tree. Once I have all my equipment in the tree with me, Rick climbs into the tree and pulls up his pack, containing his bow or gun. Rick holds up my tree arm while I attach it to the tree.

Question: What’s a tree arm?
Estes: This is the tree tripod I use to mount my camera that holds the camera still and allows me to swivel and move my camera in any direction from which the deer may come.

Question: What tree arm do you use?
Estes: I use Heartland Bowhunters aluminum HB Sniper Pro Professional Tree Arm System. The tree base and tree arm cost from $700 to $900. The head (the device attached to the camera) costs from $300 to $2,000, depending on which one you choose. We use Miller heads, which cost between $1,200 and $1,300. We have over $2,000 invested in our arm and head, but you can buy tree arms and heads for less than $500 each.

Question: What does your camera cost?
Estes: My base camera cost about $3,500, and my audio system cost about $1,000, which includes a wireless microphone and a good shotgun microphone. If you add the total cost of my camera, arms and accessories, I’ve got more than $10,000 invested in my camera gear.

Question: How do you protect your camera in the wind, rain and sleet?
Estes: If the weather’s really bad with lots of wind and rain, we don’t hunt. However, if there’s rain or snow without wind, we’ll use Hunter’s Specialties Tree Stand Umbrella/Ground Blind. You may buy after-market camera raincoats, but we’ve found that the Hunter’s Specialties Tree Stand Umbrella/Ground Blind provides us with all the protection we need.

Question: Jimmy, when the weather’s snowing or raining, how do you get your camera to the tree stand and in the tree without its being harmed?
Estes: We’ll use a Hunter’s Specialties’ Scent-Safe Blind Bag or a large umbrella.

Question: What advice would you give to someone who wants to become a professional outdoor videographer?
Estes: Learn all you can about your camera, learn how to edit your footage, build a quality video of which you’re extremely proud filled with highlight footage of animals, hunts and hunters, and then send the video to companies that produce outdoor TV shows and/or videos. It’s a tough industry to break into, but if you’ve got a good video and are willing to work hard and become part of a team, then you can get into this outdoor videoing business.

Question: Jimmy how many days during the year do you actually spend in the woods running a camera?
Estes: I spend 160 days per year in the woods.

Question: Counting travel days, how many days out of the year are you on the road?
Estes: Between 185 and 190 days.

Question: What do you like about videoing for H.S. Video?
Estes: There are no surprises. I’ve videoed all the Hunter’s Specialties’ pros. Although they all have unique personalities, it’s easy to work with all of them. The Hunter’s Specialties’ pros are professionals and understand their jobs on video hunts. I like being part of a winning team with a history of great video and TV production.