||How Bruce shoots bike videos!
My typical trail video is around three minutes long. I keep it short so
you can quickly learn what the trail is like. I'll shoot 50 to 80 scenes
on the trail, which adds two to three hours to the riding time. I mix
point-of-view with trailside, overhead, and ground shots. This
multi-camera technique tells you a lot more about the trail than the usual
endless "look down the trail" shots. So I ride with 5 video
cameras. Then in the video editor, I cut each clip down to just a few
seconds each. My goal is not just to avoid boredom -- it's to show you as
much of the trail as I can. Editing takes 4 to 6 hours.
in the year 2000, with a heavy camcorder bolted to the top of my helmet.
Filming was hard work when compared
to today's video technology.
|Did he just say "FIVE cameras?"
||1. GoPro Hero 5, with
Karma grip (gimbel stabilizer)
Point-of-view trail footage, through-the-wheel
shots, and scenes of zipping past the flowers and cactus.
The Point-of-View shot is the workhorse of mountain bike videography. The
Karma smooths out the bumps. I try to limit this classic GoPro footage to
less than 10 seconds at a time. While mostly used for down-the-trail views
as I'm riding, I also take the gimbel off the chest mount to shoot
special-interest shots -- such as a view of the wheel as the
bike rolls along the trail. I avoid having any point-of-view shot fade into
a second point-of-view scene. There must be a clip from another camera
between GoPro sessions.
||2. Mavic Pro drone
Overhead shots, ride-along shots, distance
shots that show the terrain.
The drone adds considerable visual interest to a biking video. While I
really like shots where the drone flies along close to me, these often
aren't possible due to the terrain of the trail. (The software can't track
me if there are lots of very dark objects like junipers, dark boulders, or
harsh shadows. Or it can fly straight into a tree while
"watching" me.) "Moon dust" or fresh snow on the
trail, or gusty wind, may make it impossible to launch or land the drone. Drone shots may be long or short, depending on
the visual interest.
PS - the cell phone is not only part of the drone-controller, it
doubles as a 6th camera to shoot photos for the trail web page.
||3. Iconntechs trailside camera w tripod,
70 degree view angle
Natural-perspective shots as the rider comes
past the camera.
In this case, an adapter allows a GoPro mount to snap onto the top of the
tripod. The various knobs allow me to adjust the camera's tilt where the
terrain is so uneven that the tripod can't compensate. I usually shoot an
approach shot and a ride-away shot, then stitch them together in the final
video. The total time for a ride-by is usually only around 4 seconds.
That's why it takes so many scenes to make a movie.
The camera rides inside its clear case, stuffed inside a fluffy sock in the
gear-net of my backpack. When I set up, I snap the mount onto the
tripod. It's a compromise between protecting the camera and avoiding time
spent fiddling with gear.
||4. Novotechs wide camera, 110 degree view
Low-angle ride-by shots, wider-angle scenes on
turns and structures.
Many scenes need a bit wider angle of view to get more of the
surroundings -- and more of the biker -- into the frame. For example,
sometimes I want to show myself riding all the way around a hairpin turn,
but the trees won't let me move a natural-angle camera back far enough.
This camera setup is also great for low-angle ride-by scenes. I stuff this
whole assembly inside a fluffy sock, and it sits in a quick-access net on
the back of my backpack.
Q: Why use separate cameras?
A: So I don't have to mess with changing settings on the trail. Ride
time is limited. And, in bright sunlight it may be impossible to read the
LCD displays correctly.
||5. GoPro Hero 2, wide-angle camera, 170
Jump-overs, ride-bys in tech terrain, extreme
wide-angle shots, dirt ride-bys.
This great little camera endures a lot of abuse. It's my "dirt
camera." I put it on the ground, then grind it into the
dirt or prop it up with pebbles to set the angle of the shot. Then I turn
it on, ride away and come back flying past the camera. If you see a shot
of my tire going straight over top of the camera, it's this one. I destroyed
three lenses during 2017 when the camera (1) fell over onto rocks in a high
wind, (2) was accidentally smooshed by a bike tire, and (3) was bashed
when my cleat slipped and I fell down a smallish cliff while setting up a shot. These "view upward from the
dirt" wide-angle shots
add a lot of visual interest to a video. The typical scene is 1.5 seconds
riding toward and 1 second riding away.
I shoot at 1080p resolution, 30 frames per second with all
my cameras. Here's why:
(1) I need smaller files. To get 4 seconds of myself riding the trail, I ride away from
the camera, turn the bike around, get up to speed to ride past the camera,
then turn around and go back to turn the camera off. That's around 45
seconds recorded on the SD card. Multiply that by the many scenes I shoot
-- both the scenes I use and the ones I discard. If I were shooting 4K video, I'd
overwhelm the storage capacity of the SD cards and my computer's hard
(2) My viewers will be streaming the video via Facebook or YouTube. So I
use 30 FPS instead of 60 frames per second. Once the MPG video is
compressed and streamed out to the user, there's less blurring and
pixelation when I use fewer frames per second.
||And it all goes in this...
The GoPro and Karma stay on my chest for the entire ride. When not
filming, I pull a half-sock over the camera to protect it from dust and sweat.
Everything else goes into this huge CamelBak. When shooting a scene, I
stash the big backpack behind a bush so it won't show up in the video.
Because I'll be out
on trail for two extra hours, I need extra food and fluids. So making a
video adds about 15 pounds of weight to my ride.
Back-and-forth riding to get the scenes makes the ride a couple of
miles longer. With around 40 sprints to get up to speed for the ride-by scenes,
and I usually come home totally trashed. It's a lot of work to make a
video -- the way I do it.
|A word about editing...
While it takes a couple of hours to
trim the scenes and fine-tune the transitions, a lot of editing time goes
into "balancing" the scenes for the different cameras and
viewing angles. Each camera has its own white-balance quirks, so when shot
with different cameras, the same view may have radically different color
tone and saturation. For example, my GoPro 5 Black tends to shoot with low
contrast compared to the Hero 2. The "5" point-of-view video
looks fine by itself, but when next to a scene shot with the
"2", it looks washed out and colorless. So it needs to be
And even with the same camera, changing the viewing
angle upward or down alters the color balance due to changes in the amount
of sky versus trees versus rock. On a ride-by, shooting toward the sun
makes tree leaves yellow, while filming away from the sun makes trees
appear very dark green. So almost every scene needs to be tweaked to
adjust gamma, color saturation, color intensity, RGB balance, and contrast
-- just so adjacent scenes look like they were shot on the same trail.
I currently use Adobe Elements 15. It allows me to control the transitions
down to a single frame. Some scene transitions are lightning fast, for
example during a rideby, I may mix only the last two frames of the ride-to
with the first two frames of the ride-away. Other transitions are
deliberately long -- for example the switch from "looking at the
scenery at the top" to "back on the trail."
Graphics and titles are easy to stylize, size, position, and fade
in-out in this software. And although the selection of free music is
limited, Adobe will analyze any clip you give it and re-mix the music so
it fits your movie length.
My typical riding video is 3 to 5 minutes. I'll spend about 4 hours
cutting clips, setting transitions, adding titles, plus adjusting the
gamma, contrast, and color tones. After adding a music score, compiling
the video takes about 20 minutes. Watch it once to make sure it all works,
and I'm ready to start uploading!