Start with a palette first. When planning their shoot, the GoPro team starts with color first, to make sure there’s enough visual variety to ‘cleanse the palette,’ then they pick the locations from there.
Efficient shooting. There’s some good production tips, but my favorite is their use of the 80/20 rule. The example Ryan gives is a 10 pitch rock climb in Zion. They had three days to shoot the climbers. Rather than start at the bottom and hope they have great light and weather at the dramatic top, they started at the top first then got whatever extra shots they had time for.
Using portals. Portals are the signature GoPro transition or wipe where the lens gets obscured from dirt or water and cuts to another scene. Ryan has some great breakdowns and uses of the specific transition, along with how to edit eight storylines into a cohesive video.
Be sure to read the whole article for a lot more insight into GoPro’s production.
Drones are in the news again, this time for the nuisance they caused during the wildfire blazing across the highway in San Bernardino County. Five hobby drones were spotted circling the area, forcing firefighting copters to dump their fire retardants and land early.
While the drone pilots are trying to be located and some are calling for criminal prosecution, I think what this really highlights is the void in clear rules, processes, and education about what you can and can’t do with a drone.
If I try to picture myself at the scene of the fire with a drone, the sky might be clear so I’d think it’s ok to send up a drone to get some footage. Little do I know the sky is clear because firefighting copters aren’t coming to the area due to the hazard of the drone. I’m sure the majority of drone pilots are not out to impede firefighting abilities. They just don’t know that they are.
Now apparently two of the drones did chase or fly near helicopters. They are morons that should be held criminally liable.
But I feel the vast majority of drone operators don’t want to get in the way. They just don’t know.
Some groups are trying to educate pilots with programs like Know Before you Fly. While it does a good job presenting the information out there for different types of shooters, it can only do so much because the governing bodies like the FAA have no clear processes, training, or forms for staying in compliance.
I’m about to get more into drone shooting and I’d love to keep everything legit. But when I look into getting my company approved by the FAA for film production, I find I have to petition for exemption under Section 333. I don’t think you could make up a more bureaucratic sounding title. If you follow the instructions, there isn’t even a form you fill out. You file your petition via a comment on a post at regulations.gov. Yes, a comment, which they reiterate in their PDF instructions. Then you wait 120 days. It’s not even clear what you’re supposed to put in this comment, so if you mess up time to wait another four months.
So is your average drone hobbiest that spends a few hundred bucks for a drone going to go through this hassle? No. I’m a professional and I don’t even fully understand what I’m supposed to do or what I am and am not allowed to do with a drone.
But if clear guidelines were established with what you can and can’t do with a drone and provided as a pamphlet with the drone, I’m sure most users would stay in compliance.
The forest service has started a campaign to educate drone users to stay away from forest fires so they can do there job. It’s still the wild west of drone flying and there’s a lot to be sorted out.
Way, way back in 2008 I was home from school for a few weeks when I caught an ad for a national BattleBots competition happening in Miami. BattleBots was one of my favorite shows growing up, so my mind was blown when checked it out and found out that even though the show ended, the competitions were still happening. Not only that, but it wasn’t just adults that were competing. High school kids were building impressive robots and duking it out in the arena.
This instantly seemed like a cool doc – follow some students around as they navigate their teenage years while building metal smashing robots. But I wanted to go beyond just the fights you see in the arena, I wanted to look at the design process, the construction of the robot, and what happens in between the fights when you have 20 minutes to fix your robot before the next match.
When I graduated the following year I was looking for a project to do and this seemed like the perfect fit. So I spent a year following different kids and teams around, culminating in the 2010 national competition. That’s Bots High.
It was a huge learning process and as I look back at the film there’s a million things I would have done differently. It’s flawed. It wasn’t the indie darling I had hoped for, but it’s a fun, innocent look at kids building robots and being kids.
It’s incredible how much technology has changed in just five years, and fun to imagine how much different it would be with the tools available today.
This was shot before DSLRs were viable filmmaking tools. Before GoPros. Before drones.
I used Kickstarter to help raise funds, but this was in the early days before Zach Braff and Veronica Mars made it a household name, so it took a lot of explaining to people how this crazy site worked.
Fast forward to 2015. Thanks to the persistence of BattleBots creators Greg Munson and Trey Roski, BattleBots is back on TV, primetime on ABC. As if that wasn’t exciting enough, a good number of people from Bots High are competing on the show.
In the real life universe of robot building, Bots High is the closest thing to their origin story.
Boy genius Will Bales is one of the main characters in Bots High, along with teammates Alex Mattaway and Tyler Bond. Together they created Fluffy, the not very cuddly robot that occasionally bursts into flames from its own power. The film follows Will and his school as they try to build bigger, faster, and more powerful robots while combating procrastination and the lure of helping the opposing girls team. In BattleBots they team up again for HyperShock.
Their first match was against Will’s father and siblings.
At least that match didn’t end in (intentional) flames.
Marc DeVidts, creator of the seemingly unstoppable Icewave, wasn’t in high school during Bots High. However, he was the mentor to the other main team featured in the film, My Mechanical Romance, with Liz and Danielle. He has one of my favorite productivity quotes.
The robot is not done, therefore there is work to do.
Since the events of Bots High he went and co-founded Double Robotics, now a multi-million dollar telepresence robotics company. They have a very nice looking demo video. See if you can spot Greg, BattleBots co-creator.
Nola’s the glue that keeps everything together. One of the founders and head of Starbot, a sort of maker space catering to high school kids, she helps facilitate the building of robots for different schools and organize competitions. She also gets kids (especially girls) inspired in science and engineering. In BattleBots she competed with an all-girls team from Carrollton, one of the schools in Bots High where two of the featured teams are from.
Before it was a flame throwing multi-bot, the very first version of Witch Doctor made its appearance at the national competition in Bots High in the open division. It quickly became famous for tossing robots across the arena and into the Lexan walls.
There’s a follow up video with Bots High that catches up with Will and the teams the following year. In it is a battle between Will’s new robot and Witch Doctor, with some surprising results.
The biggest sparks that flew in Overhaul’s battle against Lock-Jaw happened after the fight, when Overhaul member Adam Bercu refused to shake veteran builder Donald Hutson’s hand for a hit after the buzzer.
Before schooling the two time super heavyweight champion on buzzer sounds, Adam was one of the original teammates of Witch Doctor. He also shook hands.
Special Shout Outs
Greg Munson, co-creator of BattleBots, served as announcer at the games in Bots High.
Other co-creator, Trey Roski, would step in to save the day from autonomous robots.
You can buy or rent Bots High right now on VHX, which is my preferred platform since the majority of your money will go to me, the filmmaker, to make more cool projects. Or learn more about the film and find more ways to watch at www.botshigh.com.
Adobe just released a slew of updates across the board for their Creative Cloud apps. One of the big ones in Premiere that I’ve been looking forward to for a while is the Morph Cut transition. This transition is designed to stitch together a jump cut in an interview to mask the cut. Well, that’s the idea at least.
The only thing similar to this that existed before is Avid’s Fluid Morph in Media Composer. Fluid Morph works really, really well. So well that I downloaded the trial of Media Composer to clean up some jump cuts from Dolphin Lover, then export them back to FCPX.
But since I’m a Creative Cloud subscriber, it’d be nice to have this tool permanently in my arsenal. So I exported the same clips I ran Fluid Morph on to try out Morph Cut and compare how it handles the edits.
Check out the side by side comparison in the video above.
My impression from this test: Avid’s Fluid Morph is still hands down the better option. I’d say out of all the cuts, Adobe Morph Cut maybe did an acceptable job on a third of the edits, and they were definitely the least noticeable jump cuts.
The biggest issue is Morph Cut won’t work under 12 frames (what I found from my testing). The trick of masking the cut is to make the transition really quick – usually 6 frames in Avid works really well. When I would do a six frame transition in Premiere, I’d get this error.
When the transition is too long, the video and audio stop syncing because the transition is starting while the A side clip is still talking, giving away the effect.
Bottom line – Morph Cut works on very subtle jumps but still has a ways to go before being as reliable as Fluid Morph.
This year was my second time at NAB, covering new gear for Filmmaker Magazine. I can’t say there was anything that completely blew me away, but there was some new gear and tools that definitely piqued my interest and looked quite useful for the future.
One thing there was no shortage of at NAB was drones. But 3DR caused a big splash with their new Solo drone. Unlike DJI, 3DR is sticking with GoPros as the camera instead of making their own, and the Solo offers full control over all GoPro settings while flying. But what really stands out with Solo is the amount of automation their apps have when flying. You can easily program moves as a single operator that would normally require two people with two controllers. Really excited to get my hands on this.
This really handy device for single camera operators adds focus control for Canon lenses via a grip handle. You can get smooth focus control when run and gun shooting while keeping your hand firmly on your rig.
All the GoPro rigs I saw from PolarPro seemed to address a problem or wish for GoPro mounting that I’ve personally encountered. The Strap Mount and ProGrip are my favorite, as pictured above. It features a quick release system to attach to your backpack strap or BCD when diving for easy access to your camera.
I’m a stickler for clean, high quality sound but I’m no sound professional and sometimes wireless systems get so finicky I just want to smash them into a wall. Plus they become a giant tangle mess of cables that eventually get frayed. Sennheiser is trying to streamline the process with their new AVX system. The receiver is small and designed to clip right into the XLR port. The transmitter doesn’t have any dangling antennas and both will automatically find and connect to free frequencies.
Not gear but I’ve already been putting Wipster to use. I’m sure most of you have gone through some sort of system of password protected Vimeo sharing or Dropbox links when sending cuts of a film in various stages. Wipster is a streamlined process to not only easily share cuts and manage versions, but also for easy frame accurate commenting by simply clicking on the video. Freemium model – definitely worth a look.