In June of 1999, Kathi and I took a Globus tour of Italy – their “Italian Mosaic.” Before leaving for the trip, I borrowed a Steadicam Jr. from a good friend in Los Angeles who is a film editor. I wanted to use it with my home video camera to shoot better quality home movies while on this “once in a lifetime” trip. The Steadicam Jr stabilizes the camera and completely eliminates any shaking.
The 21-day (with two extensions) trip was absolutely wonderful! The group of about 25 people on the tour all meshed nicely and the food, the sights, the art, were fantastic. I shot hours of video, some of it while actually walking down the streets of Rome, Florence, Venice, and Naples. The Steadicam Jr produced smooth shots that seemed to “float.” And in Venice, I proposed to Kathi at sunset in a gondola on the Grand Canal. We purhased our wedding rings in the gold market of Florence.
Returning to the US, I viewed the video I had shot with the Steadicam and quickly realized that it would be perfect for watching while walking on our treadmill. A few tests confirmed my idea – the “virtual walks” could give you the impression that you were actually “walking” the streets of these beautiful European cities and could make the time spent on the treadmill pass quickly.
Having recently retired from a career in teaching Television Production, and having just celebrated our marriage, I proposed another idea to my new wife: We would form a tv production company which would purchase professional equipment and film “Treadmill Virtual Walks” of European cities. We would then sell these virtual walks on the Internet.
Kathi immediately agreed and we got busy with the details. We formed a corporation, researched equipment, purchased it, along with the rights to music suitable for accompanying these walks.
In addition to the “virtual walks” which we would shoot with Steadicam equipment, we also decided to take a tripod and shoot more traditional travel video footage. We planned on editing this footage into our “Armchair Travel Videos” which, accompanied by classical music, we would also sell on the Internet. Our objective was to come back from a 2 week shoot in a European city with two totally different types of footage, which could then be edited into two totally different types of travel videos.
We set off to Venice on our first professional “shoot” in April of 2001. We stayed in the Marconi Hotel overlooking the Rialto Bridge and the Grand Canal. We had excellent weather and worked hard. Awake and on the street by 7 AM each morning, we shot treadmill walks while the streets were empty and then returned to our hotel for breakfast. After breakfast, we returned to the streets for more shooting. We shot most days until well into the night. Venice is absolutely incredible! If you’ve never been to Venice, you must go. You’ll never regret it.
Returning home after 10 long days of shooting in Venice, we rested for one month. In June we left for 2 weeks of filming in London. I promised Kathi we wouldn’t work so hard in London, that any rain days would be “days off” for us.
It didn’t rain a single day while we were in London. We filmed virtual walks in Hyde Park, along the canal in Little Venice, and on the Hampstead Heath, among others. At the end of two weeks shooting, we were exhausted.
We got on the plane and flew directly to Rome for two more weeks of filming! And it didn’t rain a single day in Rome! We filmed virtual walks along the Via Veneto, the Appian Way outside Rome, and a walk in Pincio Gardens. At the end of a month of filming we returned to the US vowing never to commit to such an exhausting schedule again.
Soon after we returned from Rome, I received a call from my film editor friend in Los Angeles. He was editing Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen’s feature “When In Rome” and needed some night scenes of Rome. Did I have any night time scenes which they could purchase?
Weeks later they did purchase a number of my night scenes and used them in the movie. And that’s how we got into the business of selling stock footage of Rome, Venice, and London to television networks and production houses.
In October of 2003, we returned to London. This time we concentrated on filming in the villages outside of London. We filmed virtual walks in the Darent River Valley, in Otford, in Canterbury, in Salisbury, and some in London, along with the usual tripod shots.
Today we are busy selling our “Treadmill Virtual Walks” of Venice, Rome, and London on Ebay and on our own websites: www.treadmillwalks.com, www.fitnesswalks.com, and www.europeanwalks.com.
In addition, we sell European stock footage of Rome, Venice, and London on our websites: www.europeanstockfootage.com and www.romestockfootage.com. Our footage has been used in commercials and documentaries on the History Channel and the new ABC TV series, “Life of Luxury,” starring George Hamilton.
In May of 2005 we will return to Italy for a three week shoot. This time we’ll be shooting High Definition (HD) stock footage of Rome, the Amalfi Coast, Pompeii, and the Isle of Capri. We will sell this HD stock footage on our newest website: www.hdeuropeanstockfootage.com.
Life is good.
About the author
My wife Kathi and I own a video production company that focuses on European travel. In addition to our Virtual Walks Series, we also shoot stock footage of Rome, Venice, and London which we sell to television networks and production houses around the world.