Monday, December 30, 2013

End of 2013

I wrote in here back in June about suffering from video burnout and for the most part I've kept it down to a dull roar about filming and posting up videos for my Vimeo account during the 2nd half of 2013. I also said I'd be deciding by the end of the year about what I planned to do with my Vimeo account and filming stuff for fun. I've made a decision about that too.

Over the last few months, I've started work on editing a number of different videos from my road trip across North America, and they're all in different stages of completion. Including the one I posted in my last blog post, I've gotten 4 of them posted online so far.

The first one here was shot in Western Alberta (Canada) at the Athabasca Glacier. I filmed this video at different spots on the way up to, and on, the glacier. It was a cool experience for me; I've been to the glacier before, but never on it.

Athabasca Glacier from Steve Savage on Vimeo.

The next video in the list is from Coquihalla Canyon Provincial Park, also known as Othello Tunnels. It's near Hope, British Columbia (Canada). I've been here a few times over the years and each visit, I only had a camera with me. I'd always wanted to return with a video camera to be able to capture it, and the cross continent road trip gave me a good excuse to return here, show Rhonda the sights, and film it.

I always loved the white of the rocks, which contrasts nicely with the green tones of the water in the canyon. I had to get creative to capture a few of the shots, which is half the fun of it. I must have done at least 10 takes of the shot that follows the river as it flows directly underneath me. I was in the middle of the wooden bridge and every time someone walked on the bridge, the shaking would ruin my shot. Also, to get a lot of the shots of the river running through the canyon, I had to hop over different barriers to get close to the edge to get the shots.

It was a great visit, topped off by a swim in the cold mountain stream that day!

Moments: Othello Tunnels from Steve Savage on Vimeo.

The last video I uploaded from the road trip this year was from Antelope Canyon, which is in Arizona, U.S.A. This was supposed to the personal highlight of the trip for me, but I had no idea just how crowded it would be, and that I wouldn't have any time or opportunity to use a tripod and setup properly for shots.

So, though I wasn't expecting to have to do it, I put my video camera on full auto and just concentrated on trying to capture the best shots I could handheld considering my time and space constraints.

After the visit was over, this was the footage I was dreading to look at and edit. I had set my expectations too high for the visit, and I was disappointed. In the end, there were a lot of usable shots and though the video isn't what I had hoped to have done there, it turned out kind of cool.

Antelope Canyon from Steve Savage on Vimeo.

Fast forward a few months and the cold weather hits us here in Ontario, which led to 2 other videos being done. The first snowfall of the year, and an ice storm. I was able to get out and get some shots of these and you can see these two videos here:

Old Man Winter On 29 from Steve Savage on Vimeo.

Mac Johnson Wildlife Area Ice Storm 2013 from Steve Savage on Vimeo.

So now that 2013's almost come to a close and 2014 is knocking on the front door waiting to be let in, what I decided to do is to keep doing what I've done over the past 6 months or so. I won't stop posting new videos (I'm not ready to retire just yet), but I will be slowing my output compared to how often I used to post. The videos might be random places, events, or even scripted shorts, but they'll still keep on coming through 2014. There might be times when I do post a bit more frequently, and there might be times when I go a few months without a video.

So what's coming next? Well, those other videos I've been working on will get posted up sometime in 2014. Still to come sometime over the next 12 months are:
  • Rocky Mountains
  • Crater Lake
  • Californian Wilderness
  • American Desert
  • Grand Canyon
  • The Canadian Praries
  • Dinosaur Park So there's still lots to look forward to in the new year!
  • Sunday, August 25, 2013

    Road Trip & A New Computer

    What a trip!  Every time I do a road trip, I'm always blown away by the beauty I find around me.  This was the longest road trip I've been on, both for time and distance, and I knew I'd be in for a treat, but really, I had no idea...  I wish I could have captured more with my XA10 than I did, but even with three weeks, time was the enemy for our ambitious plan, and we even had to cut out a few really cool destinations to get in what we did get in.  :)  It's not all bad, though; we added a few spots to our list that were along the way, which were really amazing to see!  I edited together a compilation video of some of the sights that we saw during Road Trip 2013, and if you want to skip right to it, scroll down this page and you'll find the video.

    If you're a bit more patient than that, I'll give you some details on the trip and how I put the video together.  So where did we go?  Well, we started off from Brockville, Ontario, Canada and went straight to the Trans-Canada highway.  We stayed on that highway pretty much until we got to Banff, Alberta.  From there, we took a few different highways until we crossed into the United States at the Abbotsford, BC crossing.  We drove south along the I5 until Oregon, where we then took some less travelled highways.  We rejoined the I5 for a little bit in California until we got to the Trinity highway and took the Trinity hwy until we got to the Redwood highway and followed that until San Francisco.  From there, we rejoined the I5 until we got to Los Angeles.  LA was the farthest south we went.  From there, we headed back up through Las Vegas, through Utah and into Colorado.  From there, we stopped sightseeing and just made a beeline back towards home, driving through the states.

    Some of the stops we made where I did some filming were:
    - A few different locations in western Ontario & the Praries.
    - Medicine Hat, AB
    - Dinosaur Park, AB
    - Athabasca Glacier, AB
    - A few different locations along the Rocky Mountains.
    - Othello Tunnels, BC
    - Crater Lake, Oregon
    - Different locations in California, Nevada, Utah & Colorado.
    - San Francisco
    - Hoover Dam
    - Grand Canyon
    - Antelope Canyon

    Not everything I shot will make it to a video, but I had a look at what I filmed and I'm happy with a lot of what I managed to capture, so that's a good thing!  :)

    Coming home, I realized my NLE was on the way out, so it was time for a bit of shopping around to see what I could get to replace my system.  My old system worked for editing, and did the job, but it wasn't exactly fast.  After shopping around and doing a little research, I settled on this machine as my new NLE.

    - ASUS M51AC
    - Intel i7-4770 CPU (4 cores at 3.4 GHz)
    - 32GB DDR3 RAM
    - NVIDIA Geforce GT 640 3GB DDR3 RAM
    - 2TB 7200 RPM HD + my other hard drives all at 7200 RPM

    How's it run compared to my old NLE?  Actually, I'm more than impressed with it, and the upgrade was worth every dime.  Here's why...  When editing video in Premiere, it wouldn't be uncommon for me to have 2 different AVCHD video tracks at the same time, one with some serious color grading going on, and the other on top of that partially opaque.  On top of that, I'd have a few PSD overlay files  and some titles that do other things...  On my old NLE, depending on how much was being done, if I was previewing at full quality I'd get anywhere betweeen 1 frame a second to 1 frame every 5 seconds, depending on what was done in editing.  (This is all unrendered.)  When I was ready to render out the final video, that part typically took about 35-45 minutes to do for a 2 -3 minute video.  Color grading isn't supported by Cuda technology, so for the most part, having a NVIDIA card didn't really help me in editing.  When the video was rendered out, I'd convert it to Xvid for the web and that would always take about 16 minutes.  On average, once I was done editing, I'd expect to wait between 50-60 minutes until I had a file I could upload.  Unless I caught something I wasn't happy with when I watched the video file.  Then I'd have to make the change and wait another hour.

    On my new NLE, I'm able to preview my timeline, without rendering it, between 15-30fps with heavy color grading going on and multiple layers.  This is at full resolution for playback.  If I drop it to 1/2 resolution for preview, I get the full 30fps.  That by itself is really impressive, since that's all on the CPU.  (Remember, my color grading plugin isn't supported by NVIDIA's Cuda tech, so instead of having the video card helping out, it's just sitting there doing nothing while the CPU does all the work.)  Rendering out a 3:12 video took about 13.5 minutes.  Converting it to Xvid took another 3.5 minutes.  17 minutes total on my new rig, or about 1/3 of the time.  Oh, and I forgot to mention that I also checked off "Render at maximum bit depth." on my new NLE in Premiere.  Before, I always left it unchecked in my export settings before because it was just to slow on my old machine.

    I see the question "what should I buy for a good system to edit AVCHD video" a lot online.  The answer is pretty much get yourself something along the lines of what I have.  You can go slower, and I did for a few years, but if time's a premium, spend the extra few bucks and you'll save yourself so much time, frustration and energy!

    So how's my new NLE do as far as editing the video I took during the road trip?  See for yourself and decide.

    North America - Continent of Diversity & Beauty from Steve Savage on Vimeo.

    Sunday, June 23, 2013

    Thoughts, A Summer Break and Future Works

    Finding something you're good at, passionate about, and can do as a career in life is a rare thing.  I'm one of the lucky ones.  I posted about my introduction to video in 1991 with my friend Dave's English high school project.  It wasn't my first time in front of a camera; my parents used to shoot Super 8 video of my brother and I growing up and in grade 8 I acted in a short commercial produced by my public school as a project.  But for all intents and purposes, The Devil's Moon was the first time I saw any kind of a semblance of video production.  Sure the direction & script were loose, the acting & camera framing were bad and the original edit Dave did was done on two VCR's hooked up with RCA cables, but it was the first time I ever saw how there was much more to the process than I ever knew.  I'd just turned 16 when we filmed that, and had no idea of what I wanted to do in life, and I was honestly a little scared by it.  I could see my friends being really good at a lot of things, but I didn't have anything until I had that ah-ha moment during the time Dave was making The Devil's Moon.

    It didn't take me long after before I met my best friend in high school, Cory.  He shared my passion about being creative and together we shot more video than we knew what to do with using the school's VHS camcorder.  We used that energy and enthusiasm to get our first program at Cablenet 13, Kingston's community access television station.  (Cablenet was eventually bought by Cogeco Cable Inc. and I finished up my volunteer years there under TVCOGECO.)  I spent 7 years doing volunteer productions there, from late 1992 until late 1999.  I went to Algonquin College in Ottawa for General Arts & Science and then TV Broadcasting from 1997-2000, so my last 2 years volunteering at TVCOGECO weren't as a volunteer producer, they were just as a volunteer, crewing different positions on different shows whenever I was back in Kingston.  After graduating from TV Broadcasting, and having all of those years of volunteer experience under my belt, I knew for sure this was the career I wanted to embark on for my life.  It was something I was good at, had a natural eye for shooting, and most importantly, something I was passionate about.

    From about 1998 until 2007, I did freelance work in Ottawa and Medicine Hat, while holding down a full time job.  (Not in the industry in Ottawa, but in the industry in Medicine Hat.)  I did everything from cable pulling, chyron, camera work, and even worked as an assistant editor.  I worked for about a year  in Medicine Hat at CHAT Television in Master Control, and also did work there directing, VTR, graphics and audio for the news.  In 2007, when I came on board at TVCOGECO as a staff Producer, I stopped freelancing, so I could concentrate on my position there.  In the almost 5 years I've been at TVCOGECO, I've probably grown the most professionally, and become passionate about the city, my co-workers and everything that we do.  What we do there matters.  It matters to the community, it matters to the Community Producers and community volunteers who are a HUGE part of what we do, and it matters to all of us on staff.  Our company has also been tremendously supportive about what we do and they've fostered a positive environment where we feel happy, safe and we care about everything we do.  All of that together is why I've been able to grow in my abilities.

    Growing has meant trying different things.  From breaking the rules I learned on the job and in college to achieve certain looks to my videos, to stepping away from my comfort zone for a few years and shooting an entirely different style of videos than I've ever shot for my Vimeo account.  I'd been wanting to step away from my comfort level of comedy and horror for a while, but it took a while to work up the nerve to do it outside of work.  Even the one attempt at a serious piece that I did in the early 2000's had some goofy moments in it.  Vimeo offered a home for that kind of stuff, and I took a chance and the community there's been great to me since I did!

    I posted my first video on Vimeo almost 4 years ago and in those 4 years I've grown a lot as a filmmaker.  I learned about HD video, its limitations and it's perks, the evolving DSLR market for shooting video, what new gear like Glidecams and Glidetracks can bring to the table, and I've also learned tips and tricks about how to film better, by watching my peers, both at work and in the online community.  I've been able to adapt these lessons in both my Vimeo videos and my work at TVC.  You know you've grown when you have a hard time watching your older work.  That all said, I've got a lifetime of learning ahead of me and I still have a strong drive to push myself to learn more, and get better.

    But...  Every now and then, you need to step back for a bit, and that's what I'm doing now.  Between work and all of the Vimeo video's I've shot and edited over the last year, what it comes down to is I hit the wall and I'm exhausted.  It's time to smell the roses for a while.  Sometime over the next few months, I'll start my hobby shooting again.  I know exactly when that'll be, and I'm excited for it.  I'll be travelling across Canada and the U.S.A. for 3 weeks this summer, and I'll be documenting different things I see along the journey and pasting up videos from my trip this fall.  I haven't really taken a good sized break from Vimeo in a long time, and taking a few months off will rest and recharge my batteries.  I'm not sure what I'll be doing going forward after this year, whether I'll get back into more scripted works again, or stay with the short vignettes, a combination of both, or even something different.  I've felt the need for a change, and to push myself harder as a filmmaker over the last year and I need to decide on what that will be.  I'll decide by the end of 2013.

    Friday, April 5, 2013

    Canon XA20 and XA25 Announced

    Canon has finally announced the next generation in their XA line of prosumer camcorders. Instead of one, there are 2 new models being released this summer. The Canon XA20 and the Canon XA25 (which is the same as the XA20, only with 4:2:2 SDI output, for approx. $500 USD more). If you follow my blog, or my Vimeo account, you know I own the Canon XA10, which is the first in the XA line to have been released.

    The XA10 is a fantastic videocamera, with a few shortcomings, which are:
  • It records in 4:2:0 color space using the AVCHD codec.
  • The AVCHD codec isn't AVCHD 2.0; which allows 60p recording. Instead, the XA10 uses AVCHD 1, which only goes up to 60i.
  • HDMI-out is compressed, which means even if you plug it into a recorder capable of recording 4:2:2 color space, like the Atomos Ninja 2, you're not getting a better picture, so stuff like chroma keying and issues with color blocking and the possibility of floating objects are still things that might crop up. That's just an inherent weakness of 4:2:0 color space.

    So how does the new cameras stack up against the old XA10? First up, let's compare the features from these 3 different cameras here:
    Compare the XA10, XA20 & XA25 here.

    So now, I'm just gonna go down the list and compare them from top to bottom.

    The larger CMOS chip on the XA20 and XA25 should be a good thing. It's a 1/2.84-inch chip instead of a 1/3-inch chip. A bigger chip should collect more light, leading to better low light performance and overall better picture clarity.

    A higher number of megapixels on the XA20/25 is a bad thing. The image may not be as crisp of a picture, since the image could be squashed from native to fit 1920x1080. If it's a crop and not a resize, then the image should be as crisp on the XA20/25 as it is on the XA10. One thing to look out for is if the XA20/25 takes still photos, these could be a little better quality because of the higher number of pixels. Not much better, but a little bit.

    The optical zoom getting bumped up to 20x is nice, and the focal length seems decent on the XA20/25. As long as Canon's new glass is good, and it usually is, this part falls in the upgrade category.

    The extra frame rates and finally the ability to export at least 4:2:2 video on the XA25... The ability to record in MP4 at 60P in 35MBPS and AVCHD 2.0 at 60P in 28MBPS are welcome additions. Same with uncompressed SDI video out. That means it's not being processed for AVCHD first before it gets to the SDI out. (The XA10 only has compressed HDMI out, which means the output isn't true 4:2:2 color space, but 4:2:0 color space. If you're color correcting, or chroma keying, having 4:2:2 video is huge and worth plugging in a separate hard drive recorder that can take advantage of it.) I'm not sure if the XA20 or XA25 will have the ability to export 4:2:2 video through the HDMI output yet. I couldn't find anything one way or another, but the SDI-out is why the XA25 costs $500 more than the XA20. SDI-out means thie XA25 can finally live either in a proper studio or mobile environment, unlike the XA10 or XA20.

    The XA20/25 is apparently a little better in low light. Not sure what the quality would be like, with the new CMOS sensor, so I'd have to wait and see some footage on this one whether it's a good or bad thing, or even noticeable. The XA10 was 1.5 lux minimum, the XA20/25 is 1.2 lux minimum.

    The XA20/25 has a higher resolution viewfinder, which is always a good thing, but it's not 100% field of view like the XA10 is. It's "Approx. 100%". It's a TFT screen, so the picture should be better looking on it. The odd thing is I have no complaints about the viewfinder on the XA10. I've never had any trouble telling when focus was on or off, so I'm gonna file this one under a downgrade because having a 100% FoV is more important in my books. When I had a HV30, the approx. 100% FoV meant I always had things on the edge of my shots that I never wanted, whether it was people walking around the edge of my shots or junk. That means I had to resize those shots, resulting in loss of image quality. This isn't a big deal because the majority of us don't use the viewfinder, we use...

    The LCD monitor on the XA20/25 has a capacitive touchscreen! This is like an iPhone, so, as long as the software that drives the camera is good, this is a HUGE upgrade, since this camera is menu driven. The XA10 has a resistive touchscreen, which is older, cheaper and less effective tech.

    No internal storage on the XA20/25. It's probably a cost saving measure, since capacitive touchscreens are expensive and Canon jumped on the wifi gimmick. The new cameras aren't that much more expensive than the XA10 when you consider it, so something had to go to keep the price down. This is a major letdown for me, since I use the internal storage a lot on my XA10 to prolong the life of my SD cards. This is a downgrade.

    The XA20/25 is larger all around than the XA10, but both the XA20 and XA25 weigh less than the XA10. The slightly larger size might be a plus to someone with larger hands than me, but the difference between all three models here are so small, that this one's a draw. Nothing really to talk here about.

    Finally, the cost:
    XA10 - approx. $1,999.99 USD
    XA20 - approx. $2,499.00 USD
    XA25 - approx. $2,999.00 USD

    My final thoughts are this...

    It's a mixed bag. Some things are better on the XA10 than the newer models. Internal memory, less megapixels in the CMOS chip, 100% viewfinder on the back and no wifi, which is just a gimmick that drains a battery quicker. Overall, both the XA20 and XA25 are a step in the right direction. They have better frame rates, the ability to record either in MP4 or AVCHD 2.0 at higher bitrates. The newer cameras record in 60P, should have better lenses, and the XA25 has the ability to at least output 4:2:2 video through SDI. The capacitive touchscreen on the LCD screen is huge too. The bigger CMOS chip would have been a great help, but it's nerfed by having more megapixels. Minimum illumination on the XA10 is 1.5 lux, and on the XA20/25 it's only 1.2 lux, which isn't much better. If the number of megapixels had of stayed the same as the XA10, they'd be bigger on the chip, and in turn, the camera would be that much more sensitive to light. I can't help but think that it could've gone down to 1.0 lux for minimum illumination if they'd have left the number of megapixels alone. Shutter speed still doesn't see a 1/4000 setting, the XA20/25 still only go to 1/2000.

    Now for the XA25. For an extra $500 on top of the cost of the XA20, you get the ability to export true 4:2:2 color space video through the SDI out, and also connect the camera easily to a studio or mobile unit. That SDI connector lets you export the picture to a format capable of recording 4:2:2, so your footage is closer to how it was meant to be seen. If you're selling your footage to broadcast companies, a stock footage website, or are creating your own features, typically 4:2:2 is the minimum that's accepted. So that's a no brainer. The downside is that the internal recording codecs are still consumer codecs, so if you're recording to memory cards, you're still stuck with close to the quality of the XA10. But let's face it, the XA10's quality is superb and nothing to sneeze at. Not sure if SDI out will work with video that's been recorded to memory cards, but if it does, the output would be 4:2:0 color space and not 4:2:2, so buyers should be aware of that.

    The new zoom rocker is also nice, but the XA10's zoom rocker isn't bad at all. I'm sure the larger zoom rocker on the newer models will make finessing zooms easier for people with bigger hands, though.

    I've got to say that on paper anyway, it seems that if you had to choose between the XA10 and the XA20 and internal storage wasn't a concern, the XA20 would be the way to go. For an extra $500 you get true 60p at a slightly higher bitrate, a 20x optical zoom, and a capacitive touchscreen. Trading internal storage for wifi connectivity is a bad move if you ask me. Having that internal storage was one of the great things about the XA10, but a lot of videographers have lived without internal storage without too many problems, so this isn't too big of an issue, it's just a shame that part got downgraded. Now if you don't record in 60p because you're not looking for slow motion, and you're someone that likes to record in 24p, the answer changes in favor of the XA10. The XA10 does true 24p, like the XA20 and XA25 do, but comes with 64GB of internal storage. Chances are if you're recording in 24p, you're not recording sporting events, and the 10x optical zoom will be good enough for you. If you work in an environment where SDI connectivity is a priority, then the XA25 is a must for you, even if it costs about $1000 USD more than the XA10. That's a no-brainer, because it's still one of the cheapest cameras out on the market with a 4:2:2 SDI out connection.

    All that said, where's it all leave the XA10? Well, without a firmware upgrade to at least give it AVCHD 2.0 support, it's a boat anchor, because it's priced too close to the newer models and the G30 ($1,700). I can't see it still selling well when the only things it's really has going for it is internal memory and a CMOS chip with less megapixels for what should be a crisper picture (unless the XA20/25 does a crop on those megapixels, and not a resize). With the Canon XA10 lacking 60p recording, having only a 10X optical zoom and a capacitive touchscreen, unless the price drops considerably on it to under $1499 USD, my feeling is it'll just become a shelf warmer for stores. The XA10 really needs a firmware update to give it AVCHD 2.0 support for recording 60p at 28Mbps to stay competitive. I hope Canon realizes this and has one in the works for when the XA20, the XA25 and the G30 launch. Otherwise having this camera on the market with the others just doesn't make any sense at its price point. The XA10 is a fantastic piece of kit, but with all of the newer Canon models coming out soon to take up space on the store shelves, the lack of AVCHD 2.0 really makes it feel like a last generation camera.

    For bigger pictures of the new models, you can check out this link as well.

  • Monday, February 11, 2013

    The Winter 2012/2013 Trilogy

    Usually when winter rolls around, I scale back the number of hobby videos I make. Not only because of the harsher weather that limits the amount of time you can comfortably stay out for, but also because there isn't a huge variety in what you can see when you're outside. I mean, let's be honest. It's white, most of the landscape's hidden, and the trees are bare.

    This winter, I wanted to shoot 3 videos around the area I live in to highlight the colder months. The plan was to shoot three videos that could be watched back-to-back and have a flow to them, or could be watched individually as standalone pieces.

    The first video I shot was Snowfallen. This video was shot during the first major snowfall of the season at the Mac Johnson Wildlife Area conservation area. I went out to try to capture that fresh snowfall look to the landscape while the snowflakes were still falling.

    Snowfallen from Steve Savage on Vimeo.

    The second one I shot was Winterscape, which was a highlight of the Lyn Valley Conservation Area.

    Winterscape from Steve Savage on Vimeo.

    The last one of the trilogy was Solitude, which was shot within the city limits of Brockville, Ontario in two city parks, along the St. Lawrence River.

    Solitude from Steve Savage on Vimeo.

    Each of these videos had their own challenges. The first, Snowfallen, was more from a technical perspective. Shooting at 30 frames a second is a limitation of the XA10, and you don't get to see the snowflakes fall very easily at 30fps. Slowing down the footage to 60fps solved that problem. So each clip that made up Snowfallen was changed from 60i to 60p and then color corrected to give a more pastel look to the color palette.

    Winterscape was more of a physical challenge. We had a lot of warming and freezing right before I shot that video, leaving the ground ice-covered under a fresh layer of snow. Not only did it make staying upright tough, but it also almost led to a really nasty accident at the top of a cliff where I didn't realize it wasn't safe to try to get down to a ledge. So yeah, ice is really slippery. Lesson learned.

    Solitude, I knew was going to have the biggest hurdles for me, since it was going to be shot all inside an urban area. I try not to shoot in city limits because the straight lines of civilization just aren't as interesting to me as the natural lines found in nature. I knew getting all of the signs of man out of my shots would be impossible, so I looked for ways to minimize them, or to make them flow into the shots. Color correction also was the most challenging on this video because of the changing daylight late in the day and the difference between footage shot in shaded areas (more blue) and in the sun (more orange). Both Winterscape and Snowfallen were filmed on overcast days, which made for nice, subdued shadows and uniform lighting. Color correction in the summer is always easier on sunny days thanks to all of the bright colors everywhere, but in the winter, there's so much white that changes in light temperature are easily noticed.

    The point of all of these 3 videos was simple. Even in a small area, like where I shot these 3 videos, there's always a wide variety of things to be seen. You don't have to go far to get great pictures, you just have to keep your eyes open.

    Saturday, December 22, 2012

    The Fall 2012 Project

    Last year, I skipped over filming the fall colors, so this year I thought I'd focus on the different parts of fall as my next project. We had some beautiful colors out this fall, but the weather didn't always cooperate with me for filming. We had a warm & dry summer, and a cool & wet autumn. But the weather played nice often enough for me to get out and film the videos I'd hoped to film.

    On the first day of fall, I ended up at Perrins Corners with Rhonda. The fall colors weren't out yet, but we were looking for a nice spot to film and came across a dried up creek bed. We walked along the creek bed, and I met up with the owner of the land who gave me permission to film anywhere I wanted.

    This is the video that came out of that trip.

    Emptied Creek from Steve Savage on Vimeo.

    Within a week of shooting Emptied Creek, the reds, oranges and yellows of fall started showing up. I went out to the back country of Eastern Ontario to look for a few spots I've never been to before to catch the start of the fall change.

    I found a few great spots while driving the countryside, including a great swimming hole I can't wait to try next summer at the opposite side of Charleston Lake from where I went camping and filming earlier in the year. That footage was what I used to make Autumn Beginnings.

    Autumn Beginnings from Steve Savage on Vimeo.

    Over the next few weeks, I collected a bunch of different shots from different places in Ontario as the colors reached their peak. The colors were really vibrant when the sun was out, but I never really had much time out in the field to film everything I wanted to capture before the sun would go hide behind more clouds. Still, I managed to get a few nice shots and I put together The Colors Of Autumn

    The Colors Of Autumn from Steve Savage on Vimeo.

    Things got busy for me, and I didn't have a chance to get out again until Remembrance Day. The weather was pretty cool by then, but we had a really nice day, so Rhonda and I went out looking for another place we hadn't been to before. We came across a trail maintained by the Cataraqui Region Conservation Authority and while Rhonda went out shooting stills, I struggled to get started. Eventually, I came up with the idea shooting a video similar to my video Industrial, which is one of my favourites. We spent hours there on the trail, just looking at the scenery, enjoying the awesome weather and shooting. On The Trail is what I came up with.

    On The Trail from Steve Savage on Vimeo.

    The last video I did in the fall was one called The Back Lot. The fall colors were long gone, since winter was just on the doorstep, but there's that harsh reality that exists for a month or two before the snow settles in where almost all of the plant life is dead and the trees are bare, and that makes for some imagery that can be bold. This video was filmed literally a few meters from my home, in a back lot that's slowly being eaten away by a new subdivision that's being built.

    The Back Lot from Steve Savage on Vimeo.

    This collection of videos manages to document the entire season of fall, from beginning to end. Each of these videos was color graded differently to give them a different feel from each other. From the saturated greens of the first video, to the bright, larger than life colors of the leaves in their full glory, to the pastel hues of the last video. Some of the color grading took me hours and hours to do as I worked on different parts of each shot, looking to get it just right, and others were pretty quick, since I just looked to accent what was already there. It was a fun project to do, and I'm glad I decided to try to do it.

    Wednesday, October 10, 2012

    My Thoughts On The GoPro HD HERO2 ProTune Firmware Update

    ***UPDATED Feb 9th, 2013*** If you're a GoPro user, chances are you've heard about the ProTune firmware update, and if you haven't, what rock have you been hiding under? This upgrade was one of the most anticipated updates to the GoPro HD HERO2 in the last 6 months.

    GoPro's are used by both enthusiasts and professionals alike. For professionals the new ProTune profile has a few changes that on paper sound just about perfect, but how do these changes make the camera hold up in the real world? I took out my HERO2 to do some testing to find out and these are my thoughts after experimenting with the ProTune profile. All video was shot at 720p, 60fps.

    So what is ProTune? Well, ProTune promises a higher bitrate of 35 Mbps, compared to 20 Mbps from before. (To put that in perspective, BluRay is 36 Mbps. My Canon XA10 uses the AVCHD codec, and only gets 24 Mbps). The HD HERO2 will now also shoot in native 24P and 25P, thanks to ProTune and it has a new flatter "CineStyle" color profile. So what all is that stuff, and does it matter? Let's break them down one by one.

    35 Mbps sounds impressive, but you have to remember that bitrate doesn't always mean everything. Compression algorithms is the other half there. How does it hold up after H.264 compression in an MP4 container?

    See for yourself.
    Comparison (Flickr recompresses photos, so the quality of this screen grab isn't as good as the original, but you get the point... There's a noticable difference.)

    I was impressed by the low amount of compression artifacts that the new ProTune profile gives. Right away, I could see more detail in the leaves as I was running, less blocking on my face (noticably around the eyes and chin), and even in my clothing. There's a lot less jaggies. It's not perfect, but it's pretty darn good!

    24P - 24 frames a second native filming. To be honest, this is useless to me. Some people feel this gives their filming a cinematic look. Me, I find it just looks jerkier and more like PAL television. I never film in 24P and won't start with this. But for those who like 24P or 25P, just knowing that the camera has this ability and can match up with your other cameras that are shooting at that speed is probably a great thing. It'll save you time and headaches converting footage in post since the new firmware update brings 24P native filming to the GoPro.

    The CineStyle color profile... Is it all it's cracked up to be? Watch these 2 videos I shot with my GoPro to compare ProTune on and off as well as color correction before I talk about my feelings on it.

    GoPro HD HERO2 ProTune vs. No ProTune Comparison from Steve Savage on Vimeo.

    GoPro Hero2 ProTune Color Correction Comparison from Steve Savage on Vimeo.

    The first thing I couldn't help but notice was how much softer the picture was when ProTune was turned on. I wasn't expecting that and was really surprised by it. The loss of picture detail is really noticeable when compared to the original color profile. Now, I only tested it at 720p, so it's possible that 1080p might be a bit clearer. I don't think it will be, but it's possible. If someone else tries it, let me know in the comments down below!

    The next thing I noticed was the picture really was a lot flatter (the darks aren't as dark, the bright's aren't as bright). This should allow for more flexibility when doing color correction. When I color corrected the first video, I just copied and pasted my look from the original profile video to the ProTune profile video to compare what exactly happens if you do that. (Not pretty.) In the second video, I specifically color corrected to get the best look I could out of the ProTune profile. (You can get pretty good results with a little elbow grease.)

    So that leaves me with the negatives and positives. Here are a few negatives I didn't get to above...

    First, with ProTune enabled, you lose the ability to shoot super slow motion. That resolution isn't available on the camera anymore. 720p is the lowest you can go.

    Second, a class 4 card won't cut it anymore if you're using ProTune. It's not fast enough. You'll need at least a class 6 card. I had a class 4 card in my GoPro, but I only filmed for about 10 seconds at a time, and even then it buffered for about 5 seconds after I stopped recording and gave me some warnings. I ended up taking a class 10 card out of my Canon XA10 to do the second ProTune test with. Take it from me, and do youself a favor and invest in a class 10 SD card so you can use all of the features of the camera and make sure it can keep up with ProTune.

    A few postives are:
    ProTune can be turned on and off in the camera's settings. So don't worry. If you don't like it, you don't have to keep it. You can use it when you need the extra bitrate, and lose it when you want the super slow motion.

    My HD HERO2 didn't crash once after the latest firmware upgrade with the LCD viewfinder attached. Before, it was crashing ever time I used it, and I had the latest firmware before.

    So my final thoughts are mixed. I love the extra bitrate, but would have loved to have seen this as a separate addition to the camera, so that you could use the extra bitrate without the CineSytle color profile. Unfortunately, it's a package deal. The camera is definitely much better all around thanks to the ProTune update, but the blurrier picture is something that worries me, and I bet will worry a lot of other people out there too.

    Over all, I give this update a 6.5 out of 10.