Videography tips from Scouting’s black-and-white film era

In the age of Smartphones and GoPros, the concept of documenting Scouting adventures in video format isn’t a novel idea.

But in the 1930s, capturing troop meetings and outdoor activities posed a bit more challenge. (Think heavy 16-millimeter-film cameras using portable projectors and screens to show footage.) FilmProjector

Yet, even with these technical hurdles, Scouters and Scouts of the era realized that showing Scouting on film was not only a way document activities, but also a way to help recruit more boys to the movement.

In the April 1930 issue of Scouting — viewed in the Scouting magazine digital archives — the column “Motion Pictures in Scout Work,” by Allan A. Carpenter, examines the value of capturing Scouting on film. The article also points out some timeless cinematography tips that GoPro-wearing Scouts can use today to help make excellent videos.

In the days of the 1930s Scout, recording film meant lugging around a heavy (and bulky) camera equipped with 16-millimeter film. To playback the footage, Scouts would use a portable projector and, oftentimes, a “screen” created by a white sheet. According to the Scouting article, “these cameras can be easily carried and easily operated.”

Run out of film? Too bad. No extra memory card could help you in a pinch. And sound? Forget about it. “Talking films” were just hitting the big screens in Hollywood at the beginning of the decade.

(Cost-wise, the film cost $.06 per foot. A camera cost about $250 and a portable projector would set you back about $275.)

Yet these black-and-white, blurry, bumpy films became a hit among troops looking to have “records showing the history of the activities of the Troop or Patrol of boys.” This could be “done better with the motion picture.”

Some of the tips for recording excellent Scouting films still stand true today, including:

  • Use a plot or story to help hold viewers’ interest, keeping them engaged from start to finish.
  • “If a picture has no other feature than entertainment, then it should be clever.”
  • Use these films to help show the development of an activity. Bring the activity to life for viewers.
  • Show these films at meetings, recruitment activities and in the community not only to draw interest to your pack, troop or crew, but to show others what Scouting is all about.

Does your pack, troop or crew record Scouting activities on video? Do you keep a YouTube channel for your unit? Share your video-filming tips in the comments.

Plus, take a look at last year’s Golden Eagle Awards to watch five stellar YouTube videos documenting Eagle Scout projects across the nation. You’ll also find even more video tips and suggestions.


About Aaron Derr 468 Articles
Aaron Derr is the senior editor of Scout Life and Scouting magazines, and also a former Cubmaster and Scouts BSA volunteer.