Confucius say… Man who ride bike, must first invent wheel
Oh, I get it. You’re wondering how a statement like this is in any way relevant to this post. Well, let me tell you a story. This is a story of how I came to find myself in that swamp, looking at those alligators and wondering exactly how it was that I got here. Mind you, I’m not complaining, I’m just acknowledging that although I’ve got nine more months before the trip begins, I’m going to need every day to prepare.
In the beginning
I’ve done two long motorcycle trips over the past 5 years, but I was feeling anxious, and it it seemed that it was time to plan another, even longer trip. For this trip, I started out with a vision to ride my motorcycle to a number of amazing places on Earth, and to learn other cultures, eat some wild and exotic food, and to have some fun along the way. It was just a few days after my decision to go on this trip that all of the planning and other tasks started to come into focus, and so the more I thought about the trip, the more I got the feeling that I would need a wide array of skills, most of which were beyond the skills needed to simply ride the motorcycle.
Sounds like a lot of work, so what do I need to learn?
First up, I would need to know how to create blog posts, and to do that, I needed to know how to take pictures and videos, and to organize them into folders, with filenames and metadata that make it easy to build the posts. I’d need to manipulate the video, audio and stills, rendering them to the Internet, or including them in galleries that display them by cycleing through them, one after another. I’d need to become an expert in how to manage maps in my PC, and also in the GPS itself. I’d also need to become an expert in drone flying, if I was going to get those truly great shots that tell a truly great story.
And, after I captured all of these pictures, audio files, and video clips, I would need to be able to quickly, and consistently build video files that I could embed in the Blog, so that all of those that read the blog enjoy what they’re reading, and are living vicariously through my story, and my pictures and video.
The building of these video files is time consuming, and the objective is to build a narrative or story by using only the bare minimum of what’s needed, and transitioning from one sequence to the next; All for the sake of telling a good story visually, and through words.
The tools of the trade
Last time I blogged about a trip was in the summer of 2016. I crossed the US on my 2015 BMW R1200 GS Adventure, rode almost 9000 miles over 50 days, and visited about 26 states or so. It was an awesome trip, and throughout the trip, I was writing blog posts which included video, pictures and text. At that time, I was using a program called Nero to edit and render the video.
I’m certainly not a video editor, and so I was never really sure how to determine the quality of my editing program, but I assumed that it was a reasonable product. There was a learning curve with Nero, but over time, I figured it out, and I was able to render the videos for YouTube, inserting links to these videos in the Blog posts that I was writing each day. Each video would take hours to generate. Sometimes a video of only 5 minutes could take up to 3 hours to generate. It seemed that everything took a long time, and even the process of posting the video to YouTube was manual, time consuming and generally a pain in the ass.
I get by with a little help from my friends
So, about 1 month ago, while at the Horizon’s unlimited travelers event in Stecoah/Robinsville, NC, I met a guy who is a professional photographer, who also has skills in video editing. His name is Chris Smith, and I sat with him for a couple of hours over the course of the weekend. Chris is a wealth of knowledge, and he shared openly, and always with a smile. Chris told me several things about fliming and taking pictures while on a motorcycle trip. Everything really resonated with me, and so I began working on his pearls of wisdom immediately upon returning to Indian Land, after the meeting.
First off, Chris told me that, in his opinion, the best Photo and Video editing software for the mass market, consumer level was Adobe Premiere Elements, and Adobe Photoshop Elements was held in even higher regard for editing photos. He said, “You really need to use these programs, they’re the best, and they’re not too hard to learn”. So, I set out to buy me some Adobe. But, being that I worked in Silicon valley for 20 or more years, and being that Adobe HQ was in San Jose, it seemed like I might be able to get a little help from my friends. And so, I checked in with Frank Wiebe, who works at Adobe, and happens to have a really cool job title about being a chief scientist or something like that. Frank and I worked together before, and he’s an old friend, and a good friend. So, I called Frank, and as if by magic, a few days later, he had hooked me up with Friends and Family discounts for the two products that I needed.
So, I now had the s/w in my possession, which lead me to the next thing that Chris had shared with me. Chris and I had been talking about drones and he said that he’s got a few drones from DJI, the world leader in drone technology, and he suggested that I might buy one of these drones. But the drones in question were anywhere from $700 to more than $1500, depending on the model and equipment level.
While at the meeting, I had also heard of a website that sells heavily discounted stuff, much of which seems to be clones of the original products. So, being the kind of guy that I am, I instead of buying the “real drone”, I went to Wish.com, and found an awesome deal for a drone clone, which had the model number SG700. For the life of me, I can’t tell you what it’s a clone of, but it’s a clone and it only cost me $60. The drone looks a whole lot like one of the DJI drones, but to be honest, it’s a quad copter, and most of them look the same anyway. So, I ordered the drone, and waited 3 weeks for delivery from China. Once I got it, and charged the battery, I was able to start flying immediately.
The problem with clones
Drone Clones from China have a few virtues, and a few annoying little problems. For sure, the manuals for these clones are garbage. So, you’ve got to rely on other means to get to understand how to operate the drone, but they also have the problem of not being nearly as good as the top of the line drones from DJI. So, I fiddled with this drone for about a week before I concluded that it is simply too unreliable, and too erratic to be able to rely on it while on the road. And so, as a good old fashioned American Consumer, I did what I should have done in the first place, and I purchased a new DJI, Mavic Air drone.
After looking at all of the videos, and the literature available on line, I’m expecting this thing to be a remarkable piece of technology, which should be both reliable, and easy to use. So, I expect the drone to arrive on Friday, and in the meantime, I set out to learn how to edit video.
Video Editing tutorials (YouTube, of course)
The Adobe Premiere Elements 2018 program is known for being a world class tool, but there are other versions as well. In addition to the Elements Premiere version, there are professional versions and Cloud-based, subscription versions. Both of these have more capabilities than the version that I have, but remember, I’m a novice, and I’m not looking for complexity, I’m looking for ease of use.
So, over the past week, I’ve probably spent about 10 hours watching tutorial videos, and another 10 hours playing with the software, trying different things. So, after putting in about 20 hours of work, I’m ready to show off my first video.
What’s in the demo video?
Please remember, the intention of this video is as a demonstration of what I learned, and what the tool can do. The idea was never to show a finished product, but rather to illustrate the quality of the s/w, and how easy it was (relatively speaking) to get up and running, with the ability to produce high-quality videos. The following Demonstration Video includes the following capabilities being demonstrated
- Opening sequence, freeze frame, introduce text over, and then unfreeze video
- Spicing one video into segments, removing wasted footage, and transitioning between clips
- Text appearing and disappearing over video
- Smiley faces appearing and disappearing over video
- Time-lapse, where I speed up, and then slow down the video in order to save the viewer time.
Throughout the video, you’ll see all of these techniques. No doubt, you’ll say to yourself… What a moron this guy is. Any moron could have done that! But, I would defend myself by saying that not any moron could do this, it takes a special kind of moron, and that’s me.
And so, the video below is based on some footage that I shot using a Sena Prism Action Camera, mounted on my helmet, and linked to my audio communicator for audio/voice capture. The video was shot at Rawhyde Adventures Training facility in Castaic, CA. I attended this class just before I headed off to Patagonia, in 2014.
So, here’s the video,
Some other examples of videos from the Mavic Air
In an effort to see what’s possible with this new drone, I started searching YouTube for examples of footage that was shot using a Mavic Air.
Demo footage of the Boomerang and Asteroid effects (in 4K)
Toward the end of the video, you’ll see the Asteroid capability. It’s really remarkable.
Footage of Iceland
Interesting examples, self-described as “The Best Footage” from the Mavic Air
In this video, you’ll seem some interesting video editing, and you can’t help but be impressed with the footage of the cave and the fire.
Mavic Air capabilities description
You’ll see one of the many videos on YouTube that simply talk about this drone, as a new product release. It’s interesting how many folks take so very much time to write up, and film these video reviews. I’ve found it very helpful in making my buying decision.