What those weird sounding terms and settings on a camera are all about in relation to BMX Racing. Hopefully this post helps with your photo/video skills and we see your work up on NXTLVL…Light: When filming or taking photos (sometimes without a flash) the best time of day is at noon. It is halfway through the day which means the sun theoretically should be above you and since your light source is directly above you, no shadows should be cast.
Photography especially is about capturing light so keep that in mind.
Which camera should I use: These days its honestly does not really matter. I have used my iPhone 4S to film and the results were great. Even the audio came out decently. People don’t really seem to care about video quality anymore either so phones, iPads, camcorders or DSLR’s all work fine.
Composition: Most cameras viewfinders will have a reticle on the display either a dot or a square or a + maybe. Hold the camera with both hands to help stabilize the image and keep the reticle locked onto the rider. A picture or moving picture should always tell a story so look at where your focus point is in relation to what else is around the frame. Make it look simple and high impact so it visually makes sense at first glance.
Thumbnails: To attract people to your video make the best possible looking thumbnail to apply to the edit. The thumbnail is the first thing people will see. Try avoid kooky looking fonts for your text as well. Something as simple and dull as Helvetica should work.
Tags: Always a good idea to tag your images and videos e.g. “BMX” or “Cycling” along with your name or any sponsors. Adding hundreds of tags won’t always work so just add the ones most pertinent to your media. This will help search engines and other services that index tags to find your media easily.
Mac or PC: Another annoying debate just like Clips vs Flats. I have never owned a PC in my life simply because of how I use a machine. I would say 90% of all media people use Apple because of simplicity, easily accessible software, ease of use and design. An Apple is very Plug N Play but a PC not so much. These days both do a good job anyway but if you have the cash in your wallet, go for an Apple. There is a reason a Porsche costs more than a Volkswagen.
Music: A good place to find music to add to your video is Soundcloud. Search for something that has a Creative Commons license and that means you can use the track as long as you give the owner credit and to further extend that courtesy, a link back to the Soundcloud version of the song. Have a look around and you will find a lot of decent music. If you like Dub-Step, consider it Christmas. Not everyone will like your music choice but that is just life.
Vimeo or YouTube: I personally like Vimeo although their recent site changes and mobile apps are awful. Vimeo has a classier stigma attached to it with a clean layout and YouTube has millions of videos of people getting hit in the nuts. It does make sense to post your edits on to both of them if you want more people to see them.
Lens: No easy answer. It all depends on how far away you are from your subject, how much available light you have, composition etc. A 200mm lens is a great all rounder and good starter lens.
White Balance: Most commonly ignored setting. By default your camera should set this to auto (called AWB) but you always get your best results when shooting on Manual. What White Balance does is display whites under different lighting conditions. The human eye does not actually perceive the color white properly hence why White Balance was invented. Look around at your available light and decide which setting best suits your shot. When I shoot Motocross/BMX/MTB I tend to always use the “Shade” White Balance because it mixes in quite a lot of earthy looking brown.
Video Editing Software: Don’t worry about star wipes, kooky effects or adding tricks. Use something that is simple. iMovie is a good application and is very easy to use. I used Final Cut Pro 7 for a long time but be prepared for slow software that has VERY frustrating nuances. Recently I switched to Premiere Pro and so far find it much less frustrating with a smoother workflow. There are many applications out there and some that even come free with your camera so shop around.
Video Compression: Like which lens to use, there is not a simple answer to this. Why do we compress video? The first 5 minutes of The Dark Knight Rises is easily over a terabyte in file size so video compression is used to scale and reduce the video whether it be for Blu-Ray, DVD or online. Since most of our videos are destined for online viewing we need to compress (format) the video for example to suit YouTube or Vimeo. There are many guides on how to compress but to save you a lot of time software like iMovie has an option to do it all for you. Compressing a video also means taking a drop in overall quality but this is how compression works so don’t be surprised.
Flashes: Remote flashes work well and can really make your image pop out by controlling the light. Again, taking images is all about capturing light. Built in camera flashes are never really that amazing and tend to make the image look flat. You can get creative by putting colored cellophane over the flash. Ideally for remote flashes you want 3 of them for full effect. Alternatively you can use only 1 for artistic effect.
Aperture: This is how wide your lens will open and is measured in something called “f stops”. f2 means the aperture is very open when taking a shot and letting a lot of light in while making else other that what the camera is focusing on blurry. f18 means the aperture is not that wide open letting just a bit of light in letting most things in your image be in focus. If you can manually set it on your camera, try shoot mostly on f8 since this setting seems to have a good balance. Think of the aperture like your pupils in your eye: when its dark your pupils open wider to adjust for the lack of light and vice versa when its bright.
ISO: This means how sensitive your camera will be to light. If you have plenty of light you can set it to ISO 200 or conversely if it is dark you can set it to ISO 800. The higher the ISO setting the more “noise” you will get in your image depending on the quality of your camera. Noise is small colored specs that will appear in your image making it look low quality and grainy. This can be useful for artistic effect sometimes. I always try keep my ISO as low as I can.
Shutter Speed: How fast your Aperture opens and shuts. Simple. Always try have this set to the fastest you can with the available light you have. Makes the image sharper and clearer. Shutter speed applied to filming means the higher you go the smoother your motion will look.
FPS: Means Frames Per Second and very basically, when filming, how many images the camera grabs every second. Lowest you should ever film at is 24 FPS. Almost everything you see online or on TV is at 24fps. If you intend to slow your footage down, shoot at a higher FPS e.g. 50 or 60. This will smooth out of the slow mo and not drop frames which means gives you jerky looking motion.
-sponsor-me-videos don’t work because nobody ever has time to watch them all. Keep filming, getting the videos on sites like this and the sponsors will seek you out
-never shoot until you fill the entire memory card. Sometimes this can cause a problem and overwrite all your footage
-batteries run flat quicker in the cold. Never tested this myself but I can believe it would happen
-never stand in the trajectory of a rider and their bike. People make mistakes and sometimes exit the track. You are looking at a viewfinder on a camera, not the track and will most definitely get hit.
-once you put something online it is no longer yours so don’t get bummed when some little punk copies your edit or uses your song.
-although I cannot confirm this I have heard it is legal to use a 30 second excerpt of a song before you run afoul of various copyright laws. However be warned that the people who enforce copyrights do not care about anything other than money. These are the same people that take 12 year old’s to court for downloading music.
-shoot for fun and exposure, not for money because you will get some the latter and none of the former
I might take a while to reply but feel free to email me (Lloyd) any questions you have.