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The Vietnamese Filmmaker Turning Travelogues Into Cinematic Spectacles

Kop Dinh is a professional travel videographer whose YouTube channel has become a trusted online platform among young viewers thanks to carefully crafted videos showcasing Vietnam’s famed places of interest. The channel is also a great place for aspiring videographers to learn more about the trade thanks to its guides on filmmaking techniques and video editing, as well as equipment recommendation for both amateurs and pros.

Read the article in Vietnamese here.

Started way back in 2016, when travel videos on YouTube weren’t really a thing in Vietnam. Guided by the simple goal to record what he saw and experienced on his trips, Kop Dinh created a YouTube channel. Using the only companion, a small GoPro, Kop Dinh made his own vlog to chronicle in the most honest way the many wonders he went through while traveling. Slowly but surely, these wondrous footages began to receive a lot of support from viewers online to the point that the newfound videographer even became a trailblazer for many other like-minded young Vietnamese who want to dabble in filmmaking.

Kop Dinh impresses viewers with a variety of breathtaking shots that look like something out of a movie trailer. Image is taken from Kop Dinh’s video titled Drive to Phú Yên.

In an interview with Saigoneer, The young filmmaker shared in Vietnamese about the road towards finding his own style, the many challenges that he had to face during the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as his upcoming plans:

When did you start developing your YouTube page into a travel channel?

I don’t think that my channel is purely about traveling and I myself am not really a YouTuber. In reality, I want to become a videographer specialized in travel content. Traveling is not about portraying things through rose-tinted glasses. At first, I didn’t intend on doing this for long, because at that time I was still traveling for fun. After I bought my own camera, I thought that it would be a waste not use it, so I started researching the inner workings of videography. Having graduated from the Ho Chi Minh City University of Fine Arts and worked in advertising for some time, I felt my intuition for this craft is fairly good. After that, I shared some videos taken on my trips on some Facebook groups and received a lot of positive reactions. Slowly people started asking more questions about filming, like how to achieve this or that color or how to prevent shaking. As I didn’t have a lot of time to answer all of them, I’ve decided to make a short video on how to do some basic editing. That was the premise for those better, more invested videos after.

Kop Dinh often uploads videos sharing his experience in filmmaking for a wide range of viewers from amateurs to professionals.

Before the videos reached such a level of widespread support today, have you ever felt tired when making videos takes so much time and effort?

Making travel content just to get more views or only making lists of tourist attractions might boost your channel’s growth quicker, but it’s also a double-edged sword: today you get a bunch of followers, and the next day those same followers are the ones leaving rude comments on your channel. I make clean, non-clickbait content, with the intention to educate so my channel’s growth can be slow. At first, I did go on a hiatus that lasted two or three months simply because I just can’t see the benefit in this and it’s too time-consuming. Yet a lot of my viewers are still very passionate, oftentimes asking me questions as well as being supportive. Thanks to that, I’ve managed to regain my motivation to continue making my videos. After some time, my product’s quality became better, and viewers really appreciated that because I wasn’t a professional from the get-go, but rather started from scratch. People get inspired by this kind of thing. I don't shy away from telling others about the mistakes I had. Because to me, when I’ve managed to overcome them, then it becomes a lesson worth sharing.

Kop Dinh prefers peaceful, unknown places. Each province’s unique culture and spectacular scenery are shown in their full glory through his camera lens.

Among your creations, which one is your proudest brainchild? Can you share the process of making it?

That would definitely be Bình Định đất võ hào kiệt (Binh Dinh, the Land of Martial Arts Legends) because this was the video that I’ve invested the most into. The whole trip only started because I got invited to go there by a friend. Usually, when you go somewhere, it’s natural to find some basic information about the place through Google or reading travel reviews. But these places are way too commercial for my taste. We have many destinations with beautiful stories and sceneries behind them that only locals know of. For example, mentions of Quy Nhon will elicit the name Ky Co Beach, the Cham towers, or the famous sand dunes. Thanks to a friend, I got to know about a morning seafood market and wood-fired fishing villages where the sun pierces through the smoke, making a perfect view. And then you have Ben Do Bridge with mountains and the sea in the distances as if subjects in an ink wash painting. There isn’t any tourism service here, people visit only to see the views and enjoy the beauty of life.

That time, I only went for leisure but luckily there were many really interesting places. On a return trip, I decided to expand my project’s scope to the whole province. I was lucky enough to learn of Binh Dinh’s history with its famous martial arts schools and old craft villages that span generations. Upon returning from the trip, it took over half a month to make the video because animating the historical scenes was very time-consuming. I even got help from a friend who’s a pro at 2D drawings.

Did you encounter any difficulties in weaving historical elements in the video?

I have a big passion for history, I’ve seen many types of travel videos made by others on beautiful sceneries or famous trade villages. The Binh Dịnh video was the first time I brought historical elements into a video but it surprisingly was very well-received. The problem with Vietnam’s history is that sometimes there are details that are sensitive in nature, and require some in-depth research as well as good understanding. So I’m extremely selective about my materials, prioritizing inspirational stories instead of seeking to cover everything.

The video Bình Định đất võ hào kiệt is a major creative investment with elaborate 3D effects. Besides familiar top-down shots of the beach, Kop Dinh also weaved cultural and historical elements into this cinematic work.

Do you think that you’re too daring in embarking on projects that are very challenging or rarely done before?

I mean, people will remember you as the first to do something new. I know a lot of scenic places that are still relatively untouched. Some places aren’t so prominent on the tourist trail, yet when they appear in a video, people really connect with them. There are difficulties but mostly external. For example, 2020 was complicated by the whole COVID-19 pandemic, my plans got delayed because I missed the time frame between February and March, which would have been perfect for filming. Doing everything by myself also comes with limitations. But then again it does have some charm because if the channel goes bigger with a huge crew, it might start to appear commercialized. My style right now is more personal, it isn’t diluted by external influences and doesn’t have that corporate feeling to it.

In the future, will you focus on educational videos or introduce more destinations?

In the future, I want to put my attention on making products that are more cinematic in nature like the Binh Dinh video. I would love to visit all 63 provinces of Vietnam, each accompanied by a high-value video highlighting its history and local culture. Regarding the instructional videos, I won’t stop making them, but I also won’t make too many.

Kop Dinh wishes to explore all 63 provinces of Vietnam and produce videos about each province’s culture and history.

Do you plan to collaborate with other YouTubers? What’s your roadmap for developing the channel in 2021?

I haven’t considered other collaborations. Because to collaborate, we have to be fairly similar in style, but I haven’t found anyone like that yet. Before the pandemic, I did receive some invitations to collaborate from international friends, but sadly they’re all canceled for obvious reasons.

Now, I will make sure to prioritize the quality of my destination feature videos. I don’t want my products to look half-baked; to me, a good travel video needs to be able to deliver a story. My next stop for exploration might be Soc Trang-Tra Vinh. I'm very fascinated by Khmer culture and epics, as well as the festivals over there. The scenery isn't too spectacular but it meshes pretty well together in the big picture. I also plan to focus on lesser-known provinces like Ninh Thuan, Phu Yen and Quang Binh. In central Vietnam, the local scenery and history are very diverse and rich for exploring. Nam Dinh is also on my list because my parents’ hometown is there.

Have a look at Kop Dinh's video on Quy Nhon below:

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