In the Studio

Earlier this evening, we shot the second segment of video for my Foundry Tradesmen video project. It was exciting to create something of my own. In my day job, I work in Information Technology and at my current job I wear a lot of different I.T. hats. One of the things that I do, is support teachers and students involved in video production.

I recommend audio and video equipment. I help with questions on software and hardware requirements for video editing applications. I provide training and support. I specify computers that will meet the requirements for specific audio and video editing suites. I’m involved supporting teachers and students involved in our Broadcast Journalism programs. My work however, doesn’t allow me many opportunities to create or edit content on my own. I mainly just swoop in when there are problems, get them resolved, and go on my way.

When I found out about the Foundry Tradesmen program and read that they would accept video submissions, I figured this program would be a great excuse to make a video. Foundry had already defined the project but, it was up to me to bring it to life.

Foundry Tradesmen Studio Still Image

We did a two camera shoot in an interview style format. The camera angles are supposed to give you an idea of what the final product of this imagined interview would look like and also give you a behind the scenes look at the studio production. I hope the final result is believable.

I think the biggest part of what I had to do for the shoot tonight was coordination. I needed to get my cast, crew and props all to be in the same place at the same time. All the people involved in the production are family and friends, who all have other full time responsibilities. I want to thank everyone who’s helped me with this project. I wouldn’t be able to pull this off without you.

Foundry Tradesmen Studio Still Image

The thing I was most worried about was my performance. I’m not an actor but, I hope I managed to fake it tonight. I guess that’s really what makes a great actor, the ability to fake it and have people believe your not faking it.

I’m not ready to reveal any more of the details on what my video is all about other than what I’ve already shared so you’ll just have to wait for the premiere. πŸ™‚

Video Captured

Earlier today we recorded the first footage for my Foundry Tradesmen video entry. The footage we recorded today was for the intro and the conclusion of the video. We shot the video outdoors in a local park adjacent to a bike trail. The shoot was a family affair, with myself and my daughter as the talent and my wife was kind enough to play the roll of camerawoman.

We shot the video using the Canon XH G1s. This is a high quality HDV camera. It’s funny because it uses tapes. In the world of smartphones that can shoot HD video, it’s weird to use a camera that still uses tapes for recording. I setup the camera at a lower aperture because I wanted a shallower depth-of-field. I had plenty of light entering the lens at the lower aperture so I engaged the ND filter on the camera. For those of you who are not familiar with photography, the ND or neutral density filter is a glass filter you attach to your camera to reduce the overall light intensity. In the Canon XH G1s and other higher-end video cameras these filters are built-in to the video camera and you can engage them by simply moving a lever.

When I imported the footage to my computer tonight, I noticed it looked grainy. My guess is that the light conditions changed enough from when we setup the camera to it’s final position that the amount of light was too low. Grainy video is common on consumer cameras in lower light conditions. The video isn’t unusable but I wish it had turned out better. If I had more time, I would probably reshoot this segment. If I had a bigger budget, I would buy the Neat Video noise reduction filter. I’ve read that it can do wonders to clean up video noise.

Still Image from Video

Since my crew was small, I used two Sony UWP Series wireless lavalier microphones. The wireless microphones allowed my daughter and I to move about freely in the shot without a wired connection to the video camera. The wireless lavalier mics are the kind that you clip to your clothing. They are very small in size and with some strategic placement and careful clothing choices we were able to completely hide the microphones in the shot. There was a gentle breeze blowing today and we did pickup a little wind noise in the audio but, I should be able to tame that in post-production. That’s just a fancy way of saying, I’m going to adjust the sound on my computer so you can’t hear any wind noise.

You might be wondering why I went through all the trouble to use wireless microphones. You might ask, “Why didn’t you just use the microphone built-in to your video camera?” For those of you who are new to shooting video, I offer you these two very basic tips for shooting more professional looking video.

Tip 1: Use a tripod.
While films such as the Blair Witch Project have made it to the big screen without a single tripod used during the production, that’s not the norm. You simply can’t hold a camera still with just two hands and certainly not for long periods of time. So unless you have an expensive steadycam type device your best bet is to use a tripod.

Tip 2: Get your microphone off the camera and close to your talent.
Nothing sounds more amateur than hollow distant sounding audio. Even the best built-in camera microphones will not do a good job picking up soft sounds from a distance. Plus the built-in mic is going to pickup all the unwanted sounds between the camera an your subject.

Overall, we shot about 12 takes. The perfectionist in me would have shot a few more takes but I think we got what we needed. It was fun shooting the video and I love the other actress and of course the crew. πŸ™‚

Location Scouting

Earlier this evening after I got off work, I decided to stop by a local park to scout out some locations to shoot part of my video. I didn’t really find an ideal location at this park but I did take some photos and got some ideas for other elements I might add to the video.

They recently added a dirt jump bike park at this park so I spent some time taking photos of some of the riders. The sunset shot shows some bikers in silhouette at the top of the tallest hill in the bike park. I couldn’t see a thing through the viewfinder because of the sun but I just snapped the picture and got lucky. The second shot is a “sweet jump” a caught on camera. The last shot in the gallery of the bike path is inspiration for a possible shot in the video.

Time to Write

A few years ago, I had an idea for a film so I looked into writing scripts and screenplays. I was mainly focused on the technical aspects, the terminology and the proper formatting that’s supposed to be used when writing a script. I skimmed a few sample scripts I found online and looked at some of the commercial software packages. I figured out the basics but, since I wasn’t too serious about actually writing the script, I wasn’t going to spend any money on software that’s basically a word processor. I did however, find someone that had built a series of macros that worked with Microsoft Word to help you properly format a script. I started using that to get some of my ideas down on paper and see what it was like.

Fast forward to today. Since, I’m going to be creating this video for the Foundry Tradesmen program, I think it will be best if I get my thoughts all sorted out on paper before trying to shoot anything. I know I’ll have to go through a few revisions and it’s easier to do that on the computer instead of shooting and reshooting. I looked around online for Word templates again and while I found some, I wasn’t thrilled with them.

Final Draft is the industry standard when it comes to screenwriting software applications but it has a price tag and I’m on a budget. I remembered that I had seen an alternative to Final Draft somewhere but I couldn’t quite remember what it was called. Google to the rescue again and I found Celtx.

Celtx comes in a couple different versions. Celtx Plus sells for $14.99 however the basic version of Celtx is free. I downloaded the free version and started exploring the app. Overall, the application seems solid, feature rich and easy to use. Celtx is more than just a word processor for scripts and screenplays. It has modules for just about everything you would need – storyboards, productions schedules, calendars, and more. You can also keep track of your characters, actors, crew, props and just about anything you can think of that would be relevant to film or video production.

There is also a paid service that will connect Celtx to the cloud allowing you to collaborate with others on a project. I didn’t test any of those features since I’m basically a one man shop on this project. So if your looking to write an episode of your favorite sitcom, creating a documentary on the life of a Triathlete, or just goofing off like me, take a look at Celtx. You can’t beat the price.

Getting Started

Yesterday, I went out with a couple of my friends to take some still images I plan to use as B-Roll for my film. My friend Kathleen took some photos of me and Dan riding our bikes on a couple local bike paths. I’m not quite sure how I’ll use these photos in the final production just yet but it’s a start. Here’s a few of the better photos.

We also shot a few seconds of video just to test out the video capabilities of Kathleen’s Canon Rebel T2i. We didn’t do anything special with the settings. After figuring out how to shoot video on the camera it was just point and shoot.

Watch the video on YouTube if you want to see the full 1080p version. Ooooh! There was really no reason to post this video, other than to prove that we mixed a little fun into our photo shoot. Thanks to Kathleen for taking the photos and video for me.

I’m going to do this!

So I’ve been starting to think about getting out and riding again. It’s not that I haven’t been riding, it’s just that I haven’t rode a 1 hp bike in quite awhile. I’m talking about a bicycle, 1 hp = human-powered. The only bike I’ve been riding lately, is my 1300 horsepower Yamaha FJR.

I’ve been researching bikes online and I’ve test rode a few at some local bike shops. I’ve got a 17 year-old Univega rigid steel mountain bike that I inherited from my Dad. It’s not in great shape because I haven’t rode it in years nor have I ever really done anything to maintain it. I could probably fix it or have it tuned-up and ride it again but I’m interested in getting something new.

I’ve never bought a bike before. Aside from the Univega, the only bikes I’ve ever owned were purchased by my parents when I was a kid. I’ve been thinking about buying a hybrid because I really don’t think I’ll be doing anything too crazy but then again I don’t want to be afraid to jump a curb or ride off the pavement. I grew up riding my bikes anywhere they would take me and I never thought about needing a specific type of bike for the streets versus dirt. Some of my favorite riding as a kid was off the pavement.

Several days ago (9-Feb-2012) I was researching more bikes online, something I’ve spent many hours on now. I saw a post on bikeforums.net about Salsa Fargo which led me to the Salsa website. After checking out all their bikes, I was interested in the Salsa Casseroll based on it’s description as being a relaxed road bike. Searching Google led me to a review of the Casseroll done by Arleigh Jenkins, a.k.a. BikeShopGirl. After reading her review of the Casseroll, I started poking around more on Arleigh’s blog. Arleigh is an advocate for women in cycling but that doesn’t mean she doesn’t have great content for boys and girls alike. At the time, the most recent post on Arleigh’s blog was titled, Get a Bike for Free – Ride Your Bike – Report About It. That post titleΒ  was intriguing considering it started with “Get a Bike for Free”. So, I continued reading and found out that this company called Foundry Cycles was giving away 5 bikes to people who would be willing to spend a year acting as ambassadors for the brand. Foundry wants people to take their bikes, to races, local events, bike shops, coffee shops, etc. Basically, they want you to talk to people about their bikes. I think this would be a really great way to get a bike, and more importantly commit to riding.

This led me to start researching Foundry Cycles. I’m cautious about things I read on the Internet and I’d never even heard of Foundry Cycles. I started by checking out their website and when I exhausted all the links there, I checked out everything they had on Facebook. I quickly figured out that Foundry was a new brand from Quality Bicycle Products or QBP. So that let me to the QBP website where I investigated the parent company further. I wasn’t familiar with QBP but I was familiar with a couple of their other bands – Salsa and Surly. I also found some information about the Foundry lineup at MTBR, in their coverage of Interbike 2011.

That was about it, I went back to my research on hybrid bikes and didn’t give Foundry much more thought. Then a couple days ago, I mentioned the Foundry Tradesmen program to my wife. She’s probably sick of hearing me talk about bikes by now but thankfully, she still listens to me ramble on. Later, I mentioned the program to a few friends and received some encouragement to give it a try. I’ve got an idea for a video that I can submit as my entry so I’m going to start working on that.

I don’t have any idea what will happen but, even if I don’t get selected, it will still be fun to create the video. I work supporting technology and I’ve started to specialize in video editing and broadcasting. The problem is, while I recommend equipment, configure computers, setup cameras, and other studio gear, I don’t really ever get to create any of my own content. The last time I created something in the video medium was 1995.

So I’ve decided to give this a try. I hope Foundry Cycles will like my video and people will vote for me because I think I’m a good candidate and because I think it would be a great way to spend a year reintroducing myself to bicycling.