CMH Galena 2015 Thoughts

I finally finished the Team G15 video for the CMH Heli-ski trip. Now that I’m done with it, I wanted to post a few thoughts about the experience.

First, some thoughts on the movie:

  • At nearly 20 minutes, it is still too long. I should have removed more the flat light footage.
  • I also should have cut more of the shaky footage. I tried to get around it by using the iMovie image stabilization, and slowing things down. Sometimes this worked ok, but for the most part the iMovie image stabilization is crap – it introduces a lot of ‘wavy-ness’ that is almost as bad ask the camera shake. However, I was really impressed with how well the GoPro (Hero 3) took out camera shake, even before importing it into iMovie.
  • While, I timed the cuts to the music, I could have done it a little tighter, and having a roll cut capability (DaVinci resolve has it, iMovie doesn’t) would have been really useful in fine tuning the sections of footage to use for a certain length of music.
  • Picking the right music is really important to set the mood. While I wanted a lot of up-tempo music to drive the music, I think that maybe I went a bit overboard.
  • I need more storage space on the laptop. I came back from the trip with 6+ hours of footage, weighing in at roughly 128GB. Once cutting most of the truly bad footage from iMovie, I got the iMovie library/project down to about 65GB. Which is still a lot to try to backup or move around.
  • I should have spent some more time evening out the volume levels between different sections – especially in transitions between voices and songs.
  • Prior to going on the trip, I had made a list of shots that I wanted to get. I think I got about 20% of them. I ended up doing mostly GoPro helmet footage. I think you really need a variety of shooting angles, it really helps add interest.
  • I liked having 1 section per skier, similar to how many professional ski videos are organized. However, I was left with a fair amount of footage that didn’t really fit that mold: Tucker’s 1M ft ceremony, the avalanche, and the hiking. I should have put more thought into tying it all together.
  • I should have recorded some interview footage – especially for the avalanche. I think it would have really helped make the different sections more cohesive, and provide more of a story. Right now, in the current form, there really isn’t much of story. I think this deficiency is proven by the fact that the average view length is 6 minutes on a 20 minute video. Most people just couldn’t get interested in a bunch of footage about someone they probably don’t know very well. Adding the interviews would have helped viewers know the skiers and be more interested in their footage.

Now some thoughts on the process of shooting footage.

  • I didn’t really learn about trying to limit scenes/cuts to about 10 seconds or less, until after the trip. Knowing that ahead of time would have really changed my shooting strategy. I think I would have done a lot more stop and shoot uphill, as skiers approach footage. I also would have tried to get more people/cameras involved, so I had more angles recorded for all events.
  • Shooting with a tag-team GoPro approach didn’t work as well as I hoped. What I tried was to have the first skier point their GoPro behind, to film the second skier, and have the 2nd skier point their GoPro forward at the first skier, so that I’d be able to switch between the view points while editing. Unless there are significant terrain cues, the viewer can’t tell that the two viewpoints are related. Having both GoPro’s pointed forward worked better, but still suffered from similar issues. I think in the future, I should try 2 or 3 GoPro cameras tracking the skier, and maybe have have a GoPro on the skier.
  • If the light is flat, just don’t shoot. Wait until there is good light. Skiing is a world of white on white, so contrast is essential.
  • Next time (if  there is one) I want to try getting the GoPro closer and lower to the skier, especially in the powder. I want better visibility of the rooster-tail of snow behind the skier.
  • I should have done more pole mounted shots, like in the Revelstoke video. These shots are a little harder to do, because you have to keep track of 2 things: where you’re skiing, and where the camera is pointed. With the helmet mounted camera, you just ski at the skier. However, with the pole mount, the shooting angle is way more flexible on the fly – its very easy to switch between front, back, left, right on a moment’s notice. The main thing that prevented me from using the pole mount on the Heli trip is that the logistics were difficult. With the helmet mount, you just climb into the helicopter. With the pole mount, the pole has to go into the equipment basket outside of the helicopter. So, some sort of quick mount is required. Trying to use the screw swivel at the base of the GoPro seemed like a good way to drop a screw. Plus, it means using a ski pole without a basket. I’ll need to find a good size extension arm and a decent quick release system to make this a reality.

Comments on iMovie and editing.

  • At first I really liked the magnetic timeline (i.e., it doesn’t let you have gaps in the timeline). For short videos, its handy. For longer ones, like this one, I need a better way to group sections together. Putting gaps in the timeline might be one way to do it.
  • After seeing a video by Dave Dougdale on editing an interview, I am convinced that having meta-data editing (i.e. tagging of sections of clips) would be extremely useful. iMovie does not have this feature. Final Cut Pro does. I haven’t quite figured out if DaVinci Resolve has it.
  • At a bare minimum, I was able to organize footage by day and cinematographer/camera, using iMove events. If it wasn’t for that, finding footage would have been a nightmare.
  • I wish iMovie had a roll cut. I do a lot of videos set to music, and I think a roll cut would be very useful. So that, once you’ve set the length of a clip, you can fine tune which portion of a clip is used.
  • I wish iMovie volume adjustments were easier. Maybe I’m missing some keyboard short cuts for up/down on volume or something, but it is really hard to dial in the volume adjustment.
  • I absolutely hate how you have to deal with backing up iMovie libraries/projects. You can’t just copy an iMovie library (with Finder or the command line) to another disk and expect to start editing. You have to copy everything from within iMovie to another library. In other words, you can’t treat the iMovie library file as a portable thing, like you would a word document, or just about anything else in the computer world. Yuck. To make it worse, iMovie does not display where projects (i.e. a timeline) is located. So, once you’ve copied it within iMovie, you’re not sure which one is on which disk. Double Yuck.
  • You are probably going to spend 10-50x more time in your editor, than shooting footage. Use a good one, and learn it well.