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.

Long Lake Long Boat Regatta 2017

I’ve done this race a bunch of times, and it remains one of my favorites. The Adirondacks are gorgeous this time of year, the weather is usually pretty good, and I love the new two-pronged course they’ve been using for the last couple of years.

This year, the weather was the best it’s ever been. The sun was bright, not a cloud in the sky, no wind, and temperatures that were warm but not hot at race time. Also, there was a bit of fall color in the trees. Just perfect.

Unfortunately, some people I know didn’t show. Todd, John, and Mike all stayed home in Rochester. Adirondack transplants Doug and Roger didn’t show. However, there were plenty of people I knew and several I didn’t. In unlimited kayak, as well as Jim and Royal there was a guy in an ICF sprint boat, as well as a couple in V10Ls, his was a GT and hers was an Ultra. Another guy had a Stellar SR18 but and it looks like he registered in unlimited class although he was probably eligible for touring. Eric, the guy I unsuccessfully chased last year was also in his touring class Epic 18x. They started the touring class boats in the first wave, so I wasn’t going to get a rematch with Eric, which was too bad because I’m pretty sure I’m faster this year. So, as usual, I figured I was probably going to finish about fourth or fifth in unlimited and I just hoped I would make a good showing against the strangers.

When we lined up for the second wave, there was a lot of lineup creep. Over on the right side, people were about two boat lengths in front of the line. I was hanging back anticipating that Brian would get people to move back, but when he told people to move back and they barely budged, I moved up level with them. I believe in rules, but I’m also not a sucker. I heard him give a number of seconds to the start but didn’t hear the number, so I started my GPS just in case it was a small number. After 15 seconds I heard “30 seconds”, and then 30 seconds after that, I heard “15 seconds”, so my GPS was reading 1 minute about when the gun went off.

At the start, I immediately latched onto the wake of the C-2 that started right beside me. I heard a war canoe on my left say “go right, Epic” but I don’t think he was talking to me. Maybe the video will show that (Update: it was the guy in the V10L GT). Under the bridge, the war canoes finally got up to speed and started passing us. One passed to my immediate left. Its wake threw off the C-2 and I went to the C-2’s right and passed them. I was getting a good ride from the war canoes wake, although I was working pretty hard to stay with them. There was another war canoe to my left and just slightly ahead of me – I was trying to stay far enough ahead on the first war canoes wake so I wasn’t getting thrown around by the second war canoe’s wake. Ahead of both war canoes and to the left, I could see the lead pack of Jim, Royal, and the ICF guy. I guess I’d left the two V10Ls behind, although I had no idea how far.

Things stayed like that for about a kilometer. I had initial fantasies of being pulled up to the lead pack of kayaks in this wake, but it didn’t happen like that. The second war canoe (can I just call them wcs? I’m getting tired of typing out “war canoe”) got close enough to the first one that his wake was throwing me around a bit, and I dropped off the first wc’s wake and got on the second, but I couldn’t hold him for long. Soon I was on my own, just as we were starting to pass the first wave boats.

Rounding the first turn boat, I didn’t think to look back to see where the two V10Ls were, but I didn’t see them coming in the other direction afterward so I should have known they were close. Unfortunately, I’d just discovered that my drink system wasn’t working right and I could only get a small sip after providing a lot of suction. On a hot day, that’s not ideal, and it was distracting. On the way back to the bridge, there were lots of boat wakes. I could see well up ahead that Jim and Royal were still pretty close together, but the ICF guy was tucked into the wake of the last wc and they were having to turn into every boat wake as they hit it. I was trying to figure out if I was getting closer or further away – I thought maybe they were fading or having problems with the wakes.

Just before the bridge, I decided I really needed a drink and I stopped to fiddle with my drink system. It didn’t help. Then coming under the bridge I picked up a weed on my bow. So much for catching the ICF boat. Fortunately, there were still boat wakes around so I cleared it after a bit. But maybe a kilometer after the bridge I grabbed my drink hose for one of those “high suction and low return” sips, and I felt a tap on my stern. It was the black V10L GT. No idea how long he’d been there, but obviously stopping to fiddle with my drink hose had been a big mistake. He came through, and I glommed onto his stern wake.

On his wake, sometimes I thought I was working too hard and other times I thought I was recovering. My heart rate was in the high 150s and then down into the mid 140s. I couldn’t figure it out. About a minute from the second turn, I could see that this C-4 we were catching was on a collision course. We were on the inside line to the buoy and we had the right of way, and I kept wondering why they weren’t steering away. As a matter of fact, they looked like they were on a line that would take them inside the turn buoy, not around it. We got closer and closer, and suddenly it became apparent that they had absolutely no intention of turning away – as they got so close that the people paddling on our side of their boat couldn’t get their paddles in the water without hitting us, the sternsman yelled “keep paddling” at them. Their boat gave the V10L a small push on his stern, steering him briefly to the right. I had to go the long way around them to the left. I was livid. I swore at them something fierce for deliberately interfering with another race (ie ours). Then out of breath from swearing at them, I had to sprint up to the stern wake of the V10L just in time for the turn. He turned sharper than me, so I had to sprint back up again. Then stupidly I decided I needed another sip of drink, losing me the wake and forcing a third sprint. I was pretty beat. That was about when my heart rate monitor decided to show numbers in the 80-90 range, which I knew was about 80 beats per minute too low. It’s done this before, so I figured it would work itself out and sure enough, it was soon back in the more believable 150-160 range (although I did get some more glitches later on). It was as much as I could do to hold on to the wake and try to recover a bit. But at least at the turn, I was able to see the woman in the V10L was far behind us.

I stayed in his stern wake most of the way home. With probably 2 km to go, he tried to outfox me. He slowed right down, causing me to pull out to his left side wake. I grabbed my drink hose to take a sip rather than be forced to take the lead, so he sprinted off to the right. He would have gotten away from me too, but for some reason, he veered left in front of me, and I was able to get back on. He tried a similar move with about 500 meters to go, but this time I tried to sprint side by side with him and he got away. I really didn’t have anything left for the sprint. Official results aren’t up, but I’m sure he got 30 seconds or more on me. (Update: Official results are up, he got me by 21 seconds. And I was 3:41 faster than Eric!)

And even though the conditions change and the length of the race changes depending on where they decide to anchor the turn boats, I’m extremely happy with the fact that I’m about 14 minutes faster this year than last, and my average speed went from 10.5 km/hr to 10.9 km/hr. Next year I’m going to break 11.

I took a quick look at the video from my two GoPros, and I think it’s going to be a good movie. Watch this space.