Another wild thought about video workflow

So in the past, I talked about combining video from two cameras with the VIRB overlay (GPS and heart rate data) and how complex it is. Well, I’m about to throw another complexity into it, because now I have three cameras and I don’t just want to split the screen for the whole duration. This means I’d need to go through VIRB Edit three times to put the overlay on each video (and maybe a couple more times if I want to use split screen for some of them), which is incredibly time consuming.

But then I thought, why do I need to do this? Why don’t I just make a VIRB overlay over a solid color, and then use a Chroma-key (aka “green screen” although it’s not necessarily green) to composite that with each clip as needed in iMovie? Sliding stuff back and forth to match up time lines isn’t that hard in iMovie, and VIRB Edit sucks as a video editor. Hmmm. Even better, I found I can use ffmpeg to generate the “background” solid color clip of the desired resolution and color.

The only problem is that iMovie no longer has Chroma-key. It used to, but then they took it out when they made it “more user friendly”. And I suspect that going back to iMovie 9 for this would mean I could no longer use the current iMovie.

I know you can do Chroma-key in ffmpeg, but I’m not sure how you’d match up the start times since I never start my cameras and the GPS at exactly the same time.

Maybe it’s time to start looking at third party software?

Posted in Kayaking, Photography and other Art, Revelation | Leave a comment

What is the secret of balance?

Every time I “move up” to a new tippier (and hopefully faster) boat, there is a huge learning curve. The first time I paddled the Thunderbolt, two ducks paddled past and their wake nearly dumped me. The first time I tried to race the V10 Sport, I nearly dumped reaching for the start button on my GPS, and I gave up halfway round the course because there was a tiny little swell from the side and it was making me nervous. These days, I consider both of those boats pretty stable (although I did fall in at the Canadian Surfski Championships and then repeatedly at Blackburn in the V10 Sport).

Two years ago, I bought a Think Legend and I found it extremely tippy. I just couldn’t get on with it – I got some miles in it but I never felt like I was getting better. Although I did use it in two races on the canal – and nearly fell in on the 180 degree turns at each end. Also, I couldn’t remount it. It was something about the high narrow side walls on the cockpit, I think.

Last year I gave away the Legend and bought a V12. Immediately I found it easier to learn than the Legend, but still pretty unstable. But it looked and felt like an Epic ski, so I figured I’d be able to remount it – and sure enough, I could. Last year I paddled nearly 300km in it. So far this year I’ve paddled 200km in it. I still feel pretty squirrelly in it. Leaving the dock, it’s an act of faith when I let go and go to make my first stroke that I’ll get to apply power before I fall in. As a matter of fact, one day I set the offset on my paddle wrong so when I went to apply power there was no resistance against my pull and I fell in. Every time I cross even the wakes of another paddler I feel uncertain, and hitting an actual power boat wake will mean my heart rate spikes up about 20 beats per minute and I’ll have to stop paddling to brace at least some of the time. This is unfortunate because I really wanted to use this boat for the Round the Mountain race in 4 weeks, and the first 25 minutes of the race is across a lake with waves that used to make me nervous in the Thunderbolt. That’s one reason to find somebody’s wake to ride for that part of the race – it gives you a tiny bit of reduction of the waves.

I wish I could recall what it took to get comfortable in my previous boats so I could see how much progress I am making in this one. If I end up not being able to use this for Round The Mountain, I’ll be forced to use my V10 Sport. And there are two drawbacks to this:

  1. The V12 has an over-stern rudder, which might be handy in some of the shallower sections. The under-stern rudder of the V10 Sport could hit a submerged rock and either jam or damage the rudder, or knock me out of the boat.
  2. The V12 is “performance” layup, as well as being a bit of a clapped out old beater, so I don’t have to worry so much about damaging it. The V10 Sport is “ultra” layup which is quite light, but very fragile. There is a down slope in the portage where I’ve dropped my boat in the past – an “ultra” layup boat could easily get a hole or a crack if dropped on that slope.

On the other hand, the V10 Sport is light and I’ve been pretty fast in it. So if I can avoid dropping it and smacking it on a rock, it could be good.

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Video camera battery life sucks, and this is what I did about it

Most action cameras I’ve looked at (GoPro, VIRB, etc) all have battery life somewhere between an hour and an hour and a half. Unfortunately, most of my kayak races are somewhere between 1:40 and 2:00 hours long, and plus you have to start the camera before you get in your boat, so you end up either rushing back to shore to start it after your warm-up, or you start it before your warm up and miss the last half hour or more of the race.

This is the Polaroid XS100.xs100 It’s a very nice action camera, except just like the others it has lousy battery life. I got one for a present, and was very impressed with the picture quality. It’s not as light as a GoPro, so I didn’t think I’d want to wear it on a headstrap, but mounted on the boat it did well recording some of the shorter races. But the battery ran out on the Canadian Surfski Champs, which is a bit longer race. So I decided to do something about it.

This is the cover on the back.IMG_0868. It covers the back of the camera where the USB charging port and the SD card slot live.

Here is the back without the cover. IMG_0869.

Note the curious bump on the cover that fits into the USB port. I have no idea why they put it there, but it’s kind of handy for my purposes.

The first thing I did was buy a second cover from Polaroid. I wasn’t sure if this was going to work, and I didn’t want a useless camera if it didn’t. The second thing I did was buy some waterproof USB batteries and some Sugru. Sugru is amazing stuff – it’s like plasticine, but it hardens into a waterproof rubber.

The next thing I did was drill out that bump I mentioned, and a bit more, so I could slide a USB charging cable through the hole. I “Sugru-ed” around the hole to seal it up. I did the same with the cap on one of the waterproof batteries.IMG_0870IMG_0871.

If I’m really careful, I can wiggle the cap and cover back on without disturbing the Sugru and wrecking the seal.IMG_0872IMG_0873 The battery is now semi-permanently zip tied to the side of the camera. The camera is on a Panavise suction cup mount which I can move from boat to boat. I tested it and I get more than 5 hours video with a 32GB microSD card. More than enough for any race I plan to do.

Posted in Geekery, Kayaking, Revelation | 2 Comments

My video work flow kinda sucks

So today I used two video cameras (and of course my Garmin Forerunner 920XT GPS and heart rate monitor). Trying to make a video from all that is kind of a pain in the ass.

  1. Use ffmpeg to assemble the multiple files from one camera into a single file – this was required when I was going directly to VIRB Edit but I might be able to skip this when I’m doing my current step 2
  2. Bring both files into iMovie. Use iMovie to try to synchronize the two clips, but still get the half a second or so off. (If anybody has a better way of doing this, please let me know). Make a split-screen in iMovie. Since the battery life on the new camera sucks, there is a section at the end with only one camera, so break the clip and switch back to non-split screen. Export.
  3. Bring the new file into Garmin VIRB Edit. Overlay the GPS/Heart Rate data (what they call “GMetrix”) on the video. Try as best I can to match up the place where I can see myself hit the start button on the Forerunner with the beginning of the “GMetrix”, get it within half a second or so, and call it done. Export.
  4. Bring the exported file into iMovie again, and use iMovie to cut it into highlights and add titles. I’ve tried doing this step in VIRB Edit and it’s pretty horrible. Export to YouTube and/or another file.

The worst part is those “Export” parts. Exporting from iMovie takes over an hour. Exporting from VIRB Edit takes over 3 hours. No idea why it takes so long. So obviously I’m looking for anything that could eliminate a step or allow me to do stuff in parallel.

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Alas, poor Thunderbolt, I knew him well

Paddling today on the river, about 3km downstream of where I last saw him, I came across the trashed carcass of my poor old Thunderbolt.
IMG_0857

The poor thing is completely trashed. There is no way it can be fixed. It’s also full of hundreds of pounds of silt, so any attempt to drag it off the river bank and over to the other side of the river to some place where it could be recovered (like the RIT Gosnell Boathouse, which is about a hundred meters away and does have a couple of motor boats) would just cause it to sink like a stone. I should probably go and scrape off the “Baycreek Racing” stickers though, just so no blame for this disaster accrues to Bay Creek.

On the other hand, in the picture you can see a strip of duct tape leading from the side of the cockpit and a tangle of debris under the boat. That strip of tape is the last thing holding on that “tangle of debris”, which is a half-skirt and the tie down bungies from the back deck, and more importantly, the thing to which I attached my GPS. I pulled it out and the GPS was there! Pressing the power button showed the Garmin logo briefly and then it shut off, indicating that it was working but the battery was dead. After I got it home and put it in the charger, it uploaded the data from the fateful day I lost it. It appears to be working perfectly. Anybody want to buy a Garmin Forerunner 920XT?

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