A new hobby?

Way back in the early mists of time, I took a film appreciation class at Olympia High School. Looking back, I think it was one of the most enjoyable classes I took. I still enjoy watching old movies, and seeing elements that are incorporated into newer movies. One thing I never really did back then was to make my own movies.

Very recently, I came across an ad for a used GoPro Hero 4 Silver for considerably less than the new purchase price. Wow! An opportunity to remember some old stuff, and learn some new stuff. It was an easy decision to buy the ‘new to me’ GoPro camera. It did not take too long to figure out it was a very good thing the camera was so inexpensive, all the accessories to go with it are doing their best to eat up any savings.

Here is my first movie with the GoPro:

I’m using a free linux program to do all the work of putting the various elements together to end up with a short film on YouTube. The software is KDEnlive. There’s a not too steep initial learning curve, and there is a wealth of capability still left to discover and learn.

For the technical details of what I did; there are four visual elements to the movie, an opening still shot for the initial title, a walk around of the bike (not sure yet the film-speak name for that shot) to introduce it, the ride itself, and then the end credit.

The opening title is a Slideshow Clip with one image, on Video track one. Video track two is a Title Clip containing the text of the title, animated to float up. They are joined together with an Addition. Video track three is the introduction to the motorcycle, and it overlaps the opening title by a couple of seconds. The opening title and introduction are joined with a Dissolve. Because I was shuffling around with a chest mounted camera, all the recorded audio from the introduction is removed.

The main clip of the ride is back on Video track two, and overlaps the introduction clip by a couple of seconds. They are also joined by a Dissolve. The recorded audio from this track is retained, since what is a motorcycle movie without engine noise?

Finally, there is the closing credit, which is another Title Clip. The opening title used a transparent background since it was added to the still shot of the house. In the closing credit the transparency is turned off, and a black background is used. The closing credit is back on Video track three, and again overlaps by a few seconds. The two tracks are tied together with another Dissolve.

For the music, I did a Google search for Creative Commons music. Creative Commons music, is music that is free to use, and will not come back to bite you if your movie becomes too popular and you don’t have rights to the musical score you selected. I picked an instrumental selection that came close to matching my feelings when I’m riding, and looped it to have it match the length of the video portion. The score is on Audio track one, and has a three second fade at the very end of the track to match the end of the video.

Once that was all put together, the last step of creation was to Render everything together into the final movie. When the rendering was complete, all that was left was to upload the completed movie file to YouTube under my own channel.

I shot the entire video sequence with the GoPro mounted in a chest harness. For the introduction, I had to hold the camera at a downward position to include the bottom of the motorcycle in the frame. This was definitely not ideal. The camera was bouncy, because I was walking sideways, and I had to walk sideways because the camera was fixed to my body at a 90 degree angle. The chest mount allows for some up and down angle, but no side to side angle. I should have had the camera off my body for that shot, but at this point, I could only hand hold the camera. As jumpy as the chest mount was, hand held would be worse. I will get better with all aspects of this with time and practice, but I also need a better camera mount system for this sort of shot. One YouTube Vlogger has suggested using a short handle mount, and resting the back of the GoPro on your chin. The idea is that your head is fairly steady when you move, and if the camera is on your head, the camera will also be steady. Additionally, your eyes are the viewfinder. So long as your eyes are looking forward, so is your chin.

The chest mount did work very well for the riding portion of the movie. The field of view was a little bit low for the motorcycle windshield. I’ll have to experiment with getting the chest mount a little higher to get a better view over the top of the windshield. In the future, I want to experiment with different camera mount positions. The chest mount is a good start, and gives a nice first person view, but only from the perspective of the motorcycle. I think either swapping to a future helmet mount, or having a second camera would allow for some interesting cuts to different perspectives. Perhaps add a camera mount lower on the motorcycle, to switch around the view a bit.

For no cost areas of improvement, I only need look at the titling. My objective in this first movie was just to get it completed, with a few basic elements included, and with that, I’m happy. But, the titling needs a lot more polish, and that is a matter of practice with the software. KDEnlive is capable of stunning results, all it needs is a good operator. All that costs is time.

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