My current video workflow

So this post showed up in my “On This Day” feed on Facebook, and so I thought I should post an updated version. These days I record with 2 GoPro cameras, a Hero 5 Session on my head, and a Hero 5 Black on the front of the boat on a mount made by James I Smith, from North Carolina. James gave me the mount as a gift, which I’m really grateful for. I also managed to snag a legit copy of Final Cut Pro X when it went on sale.

So here’s what I do now after shooting some video.

  1. I make a bluescreen video with my Garmin data overlayed in Garmin VIRB Edit. The procedure I use is detailed in this video
  2. While that is processing, I bring the files from each camera into Final Cut Pro X, and for each camera I make a full duration compound clips to simplify the editing.
  3. Hopefully I will have remembered to clap or otherwise do something distinguishable in front of both the cameras so I can get the two compound clips time synchronized.
  4. I’ll use the transforms to move and clip both compound clips to create a split screen effect.
  5. It’s sometimes a good idea at this point just to leave everything overnight so the VIRB Edit export can finish and so can the creation of FCPX render files. Even my new iMac is pretty sluggish until those files are finished.
  6. I’ll scrub back and forth on the split screen looking for things I want to comment on in the video, and putting in lower third titles. I’ll also look for places where I only want the front view or the back view instead of the split screen, because all the action is happening in front of or behind me. I’ve experimented in the past with making my own transitions using key-frames so the split screen transitions to a single view over a few seconds, and transitions back over a few seconds, but I rarely use it because of all the cutting I do later.
  7. At this point I’ll bring in the blue-screen video above the other clips on the timeline, and apply the Chroma Key effect to it so the other videos below show through. Then I’ll try to time synchronize it – hopefully you can see me pushing the start on my GPS in one of the videos.
  8. Now I’ll make a compound clip of the blue-screen and the two compound clips.
  9. I’ll use the “Blade All” key shortcut and cut out all the bits where I didn’t have anything to point out. I’ll make another pass of cutting and deleting to try to get the video down under 15 minutes, although sometimes I don’t succeed.
  10. I’ll add transitions on all the cuts. I prefer to use the same transition on every cut for consistency, usually one of the simpler ones. I want it to be obvious I’m cutting.
  11. Usually I reduce the volume on the compound clips down to near zero, and try to find some music to put over it. There isn’t a lot of talking during paddle races, and some of it we’d rather not remember afterwards. I prefer bouncy folk music, especially stuff from Genticorum or Great Big Sea or something that sounds like Voyageur music, but I’ve had problems with YouTube and copyright on those songs.
  12. Add title and out-tro titles. In the out-tro, don’t forget to label all the music I used. I should probably have boilerplate asking people to like, subscribe and share like all the pros do.
  13. Export the video to a master file, and then upload to YouTube.

During the off season I’ve been thinking about and experimenting with some things to see if I can improve my videos. Here’s some of the ideas that you might see in this year’s videos:

  • Using motion tracking or a 2 second freeze frame to label the other people in the video. Here‘s a short example of using a freeze frame.
  • Adding a third camera. I’ve only got lower resolution cameras like the Contour, but I’m thinking of sticking it behind me pointing backwards for when the camera up front is missing what’s happening because of my body being in the way.
  • Making a public Dropbox that other paddlers can share their videos so I can include other people’s points of view. The biggest hurdle is finding out if people will actually do this.

Video labeling

I thought it would enhance my video if I could call out people’s names. At first I was looking to use motion tracking to have the labels follow the paddler on the screen. I tried using Motion, which comes with Final Cut Pro X, but it has two problems

  • I have to export a 10 second or shorter clip from Final Cut Pro, bring it into Motion, do the motion tracking, and then bring it back into FCP and fit it back into the right part of the timeline.
  • It really didn’t work very well – I had to keep adding manual key frames and restarting the tracking. In the video here, I actually gave up on adding more manual key frames when I was working on JoAnn’s label which is why it goes off into the weeds.

Then I tried a couple of plugins that would supposedly do the job without having to leave Final Cut Pro X. Both of them had trial modes, so I was able to experiment without paying the $100 they wanted. The first one, EasyTracker, did a pretty good job of tracking, but it crashed FCP several times every time I tried to track, and eventually screwed up the playback window so I couldn’t see anything until I deleted the plugin. The second one, CoreMelt TrackX, was practically useless. I tried putting a polygon over Jim’s bright orange shirt thinking it had pretty good contrast to the water and trees it was in front of, and said to “track forward”, and within a few seconds the polygon was somewhere off to the right of the war canoe that was to his right. Useless.

So then I had a thought – in his highly entertaining “How The Race Was Won” videos, Cosmo Catalano likes to call out riders names by using a freeze frame. He also puts a mask around each rider to emphasize it. He told me once he actually takes a screen shot and brings it into Photoshop to do that. I would prefer not to do that, not least because I don’t have Photoshop. However, FCP has a nice “Freeze Frame” feature that inserts a nice 4 second freeze of the frame at the current playhead position. Here’s what it looks like.

I kind of like this way.

Long Lake Long Boat Regatta 2017 Video

I shot this one in 4K/30fps. 30 frames per second doesn’t capture the motion as well, but I think it does more justice to the amazing scenery. Also, it’s a bit easier to recognize people coming in the other direction – I had real problems with that doing the Lighthouse to Lighthouse video.

As I post this, YouTube is still working on it, so it’s not available in full resolution. If it doesn’t look really sharp, come back later.

It’s such a relief to have a GoPro on the front again. Hopefully, the new rig doesn’t allow in water the way my jury-rigged extra battery did.

Lighthouse to Lighthouse 2017 Video

Unfortunately, I didn’t have a GoPro for the camera on the front of the boat, so I had to go back to my old Contour Roam 3. The Contour has good battery life, but unfortunately, it doesn’t do 1080p at 60fps and it doesn’t have image stabilization. As I found out in this race, it also doesn’t have a good strong mount so it wobbled around a bunch and then flopped over.

On the plus side, I have a new GoPro for the front for next weekend’s race – it arrived at home about the same time I was arriving in Norwalk.

The video is a little on the long side. What can I say? It was a long race and there were a lot of other paddlers to interact with.

By popular demand, I went back to using music. Hopefully, since Great Big Sea is basically broken up they won’t be siccing the YouTube police after me.

I’d appreciate any feedback anybody would like to offer. Are the videos too long? Should I show fewer incidents out on the course? Fewer jump cuts? Keep the cuts, but make each one shorter? And what about the music/no music question?

More camera woes

One of the things I’ve struggled with over the years is that a typical waterproof action camera has a battery life of around 80 minutes, and most of my races and training paddles are longer than that, especially if you want to start the camera when you leave the shore for your warm up and not have to faff around on the start line trying to get it started when you really should be concentrating on the race. I’ve experimented with various ways of providing power from a USB battery pack to various cameras with varying success but they either haven’t worked or they’ve succumbed to water damage.

My newest camera is a GoPro Hero Black 5, which is waterproof without an extra case. It has two openings with waterproof covers, one for the battery and memory card, and one with a USB port and an HDMI port. The USB port can be used for charging or for downloading video. I was assured by people on the GoPro forum that it would be perfectly safe to remove the cover over the ports, plug in a USB cable, and seal around it with one of those silicon putty earplugs they sell to swimmers. I’ve been using it like that all year and it’s been great. With a small USB battery also sealed with silicon putty I’ve had record times over 3 hours with no problems.

However last Thursday was the first time I actually let the camera get fully immersed, rather than just splashed – I was landing in a big surf and the boat flipped over after I jumped out. I didn’t think much of it – the camera seemed fine, although the touch screen was acting a little wonky. I didn’t think much of it – I just figured it didn’t like the water on it and I’d have to remember to disable it next time. I took it home and plugged it into my computer to charge and download the pictures, and then forgot about it.

Until the middle of the night last night, three nights later, when I heard the distinctive sounds a GoPro makes when it’s powering off. That’s odd, I thought, maybe it took this long to fully charge and now it’s shutting off. And then some time later, it happened again. Shit! I got up and stumbled into my office, and discovered it was powered up again. Not wanting to be kept awake all night by this stupid beeping, I took it into another room and removed the battery. That’s when I saw green corrosion on the battery terminals. A very bad sign – that means that water had gotten into the case and into the electrical parts. I’m afraid to power it back in this morning and see if it’s still working. I’ll have to see if it’s too late to properly dry it out and hope it survives.