Action Cams – Making that film

Written by on 21st March 2014
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So you’ve picked the camera, figured out where to mount it for best results, now it’s time to make that movie. Here are eight simple tips to get the most out of the camera and make the best edit possible.

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The Settings

Every camera comes with a ton of still and video settings, we’re talking just video here, forget the stills angle for now.

First up for stuff in the water, all surfing stuff, set the camera on the widest possible setting, especially if there is even a whiff of a barrel.

Anthony Walsh shooting at 720p 60fps.

Next up decide on the quality, this usually comes down to what you are going to do with it, and how good your computer is. 1080p is the best for quality, then 720, we are talking about these two because these are 16:9 formats the 960p is a more standard 4:3 format, which whilst is good for quality doesn’t fit so well on platforms like youtube and Vimeo.

1080p produces a bigger file size and requires more processing power to edit than 720. This may seem minor, but when you’re editing a large clip on a five year old laptop it is worth considering. With the final product if it’s just going to be on Vimeo, and you’re not a pro, I’d stick with 720p for ease, but if you have the power and time go 1080, at least then you have it in the best possible quality.

Ian Battrick at 960p.

Next is frame rate, it is best to decide whether to film in NTSC frame rates or PAL, the two actually work together fine when mixed, and only a trained eye may see the difference, especially if this isn’t a pro production. But strictly speaking PAL normal frame rate is 25fps thus then use slow mo 50fps and NTSC 30fps and slow mo 60fps. Now everything is watched online it doesn’t matter so much. I always go for the NTSC frame rate and leave it at that. There is also the argument for that cinematic look you should film at the old film rate of 24fps, which is true, but we’re splitting hairs for the average home GoPro clip.

So choose which way you’re going to go and film all surf slow mo at 60/50 and full wide then the corresponding frame rate for all standard footage. Now if you have the very latest action cam, there are options now to go to 120fps, which is worth doing, it will provide even smoother footage and make those pits look just a little bit longer.

That brings us nicely onto memory cards, I have a rule, go big, if you have the cash by a good 32gb card, do check online for compatibility though, some cards do not work so well. But it’s always best to have plenty of storage.

Angles

No matter what sort of film you’re making, if it’s for yourself, for your mates or you want to drop it on YouTube for a million hits then you have got to vary your angles. The previous article on mounts is worth a big read, but don’t just stick to one of them. Each of them has pluses and minuses, and should be used under different circumstances. So mix it up, action footage all filmed from one angle with a GoPro is dull, simple as.

Next film some establishing shots, even with a super wide angle lens, scenics and lineups look cool, so make sure you film plenty. If you’re away from home, film street scenes, the driving the flight even, it all give you options when it comes to editing.
The worst possible situation you can ever be in is when you get home, all you have is some surfing and some boring scenics, even if you son’t use them, film them, the odd second here and there turns an average clip into and oscar contender.

Also explore the time-lapse option if you have it on your action cam, don’t overdo it though.

Log those clips after every session

It’s boring, it takes time to do, but once you’re in your editing program, it makes life so much easier. Watch your clips back as a whole, on the computer and note down when the best bits happen and what happened. It just means once you start editing you’re not constantly trailing through the clips, you can go straight to the one you want.

Storyboard

OK we’re not in Hollywood, and if you’re making a quick edit of your latest session down Croyde you may think this utterly pointless, but it will pay off. You also don’t have to draw, just a simple list will do the trick, map the clip out in your head and on paper, it really speeds things up and you’ll end up with a better production. It also helps tell stories, if you’re making a trip from your latest surf holiday, make a tale out of it. Plan it form leaving home right through to the end. Even if it’s just a session, give it a beginning middle and end and you’ll be styling.

Editing software

This usually comes down to what computer system you have, Macs come with iTunes PCs with their own windows editor. Both are good and capable of making really good clips. If you want to get more serious, and both of these basics allow a good level of seriousness, then look at the Final Cut programs for Mac and Adobe Premier for PC.

Music

Now this is a tricky one, no matter who you are from a teenager in a bedroom to a full blown production company you should have clearance for every tune you use from the record company. So from here on in we assume you have.

Always have a track or three ready to use. It’s much easier to edit to music than ad it afterwards. So pick a track you like, then drop it into the timeline. You have your basic storyboard, now drop the clips in the rough order, untrimmed and have a rough play through, usually at this point you will see if a track will for or not. If it obviously doesn’t get it out and try another.

The final edit

You have your music, you have a rough layout of the clips you want to use now it’s time to trim and tweak.

One of the most important things to think about is clip length, this may be dictated by a tune you want to use, but always have one thing in the back of your head, shorter is always better. Therefore if its a clip you’re going to release to the world use only killer footage no filler, I know it’s hard to leave out that one cuttie you like, but if it doesn’t cut it or is too much like another one drop it. You’ll thank me later and you’ll get more people watching the clip.

Avoid fades or swipes for transitions, you don’t see them in the movies, so don’t use them, make cuts between clips hard, but sympathetic by using the right clips together.

Although we talked stroyboarding, don’t be afraid to move clips around if sequences are just not working. Tinker with it, it will take you hours, but will be worth it.

Finally get other people to view the edit in process, once you’ve been chained to a computer for hours, you need a fresh set of eyes, in fact several, and they will help make the final edit that much better. Take on any words of advice, but also stick to your creative guns if need be and tell them to get lost.

This is a sick all round edit, not all action cam but quite a bit int here combined with regular footage, and although quite long, it works.

Another epic all go pro clip.

This is also mostly shot on just a GoPro.

These tips are based on you releasing a little production to a wider audience of friends or the world wide web, but if you’re making a clip for yourself to check out your surfing, then discard everything, make it as long as you want, we never get board of ourselves ripping.

Output

Finally getting it out there. Basically you’re either going to keep it as a Quicktime file on your computer or you’re going to throw it up online. Which means you’ll have a YouTube or Vimeo account, both have the pluses and minuses, just get an account and in most editing programs there will be an option to upload directly to your account. I always say go for the best quality, even though it will take a little time to get it uploaded.

At the end of it all it’s all about having fun and putting together a movie that you’re going to look back on and enjoy with mates most of the time, so don’t take it all too seriously.

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