The following is a post by Sérgio Miranda and expresses his point of view on action video production. He is neither a professional cameraman or a video producer. His experience comes from consistently shooting and editing action videos during the last 3 years for promotional brand-activation events and for his individual or group of active clients, runners taking part in his running tours in the lovely city of Porto, Portugal.
seriously now: you need to stabilize your camera!
We've all witnessed big fails in what comes to action video's quality, those where the cameraman (or woman) is running, with such shaky footage that it makes it nearly impossible to watch beyond the 3 first seconds without getting seasick... in this post I will demonstrate how these nausea-inducing videos can be easily avoided with a small $ investment and a few editing tricks!
It's actually very easy and, once you get the hang of it, you'll come to love it and possibly develop a healthy addiction to video production!
So, bear with me:
What DOES POV stand for? what is it?
First of all, what is Point of View (POV) ?
That's just a technical way of saying that the video shooting technique enables you to experience a scene first hand, by putting you in someone else’s shoes. In this case, the running shoes of a running tour guide! It is a shooting technique that shows you my perspective 'of the scene', literally from my position in the front, leading a running group throughout the city. I won't be talking about drone video techniques here (expensive gear/legal issues involved/not POV...)
Screenshot from a video produced by 디에디트 THE EDIT , a korean VLOG project. This video contains both non-stabilized footage taken with a mobile phone and a regular DSLR camera and some POV GoPro stabilized footage
>FULL VIDEO HERE<
HOW TO EFFECTIVELY STABILIZE AN ACTION CAMERA
In the past I have tried it all: holding my hands really steady, footage-stabilizing post-production softwares, filming with an handheld stick, diy mechanical stabilizers... many wobbly videos and 'deshaking' softwares later, I realized I had to stop wasting my time and purchased my first gimbal (that was already 3 years ago!)
It was like stepping out from the darkest of alleys to the most luminous, light-filled square of Porto - I experienced this massive change in quality: the handheld 3-axis gyroscope gimbal completely changed my ability to shoot action videos and gave my viewers' stomach a lot more comfort!!!
My first option, back in 2016, was a Feiyutech G3, specifically designed for GoPro cameras. Presently, with my non-waterfproof 4-year-old Gopro Hero4, I use a Feiyutech G5 which claims to be splashproof (I will get to this topic, further below).
There's obviously other brands and options for action cameras, also for those in need of a smartphone stabilizer, particularly who regularly needs to create content for Instagram stories, IGTV or Facebook live broadcasting ( I am not competing in that championship yet, myself...)
Recently I too have been looking at the GoPro7 & 8 with built-in stabilization, and seeing some online videos that are not as shaky as the ones from previous GoPro models. Still, they're far from perfect and, for the most part, they are not horizontally leveled....
Video shooting with a 3-axis gyroscope gimbal+GoPro during a Salomon workshop "how to trail run" in Porto, in 2017
Is there a way to stabilize a camera without electronics?
Actually there's a few.
While there are inexpensive and even diy methods, most of them consist of a bulky frame with heavy counterweights - not the best option when running... Other methods, like a traditional tripod or 'the string hack' just below - the cheapest stabilizing method I know of - are only possible to use if you are standing in one place...
(these stills from a youtube video show someone using 'the string stabilizer' with a DSLR camera
but the same strategy can be used with a GoPro)
Source - video - @minute 1:26: youtu.be/Z3MohNj9eVo?t=136
Now, if you're running and shooting video at the same time, you'll need extra help for stabilizing your footage. The electronic kind.
HANDHELD 3-AXIS GIMBAL - what are the benefits?
Let me list a few for you:
Two bonus features I use all the time are:
editing software - where the magic happens
Though the gimbal will do most of the stabilizing work for you, it won't provide a 100%stable 1hr video...mainly because you're running - and, in my case as a running guide, also talking, making gestures...
That's where the video editing software comes in:
Since day one I have been using Imovie, a free video editing software that came with my 10 year old Macbook. There's of course many other options on the market, Adobe Premiere Pro, Final Cut Pro... some web-based with a free-trial period. Most of them require some time to learn how to perform even the most simple of operations, but don't see it as an impossible obstacle. It'll be a learning process and will save you time in the future.
I find the iMovie to be have a good balance between the number of features and ease of use. Because it has so many features - image filters, transition effects, image crop, green screen feature, semi-professional precision editing and a bunch of other options - there's still so many things in there that I haven't yet explored to its full extent.
Investing my time in learning on how the video editing software works has provided me a world of possibilities and lot's of freedom to be creative.
I will address the video-editing stage of production in a future blog post. For now I will only reveal a few tricks concerning stabilization:
Here's 3 different examples of what I did with a 120Euro/130 dollar gyroscope gimbal and a GoPro ( all in a beautiful setting, Porto... that also helped ;) )
As you can see, most high frequency motion was filtered and there's no blurry or wobbly scenes.
Surely there's some up and down low-frequency movement of the camera but that's something I find acceptable on any running video - it's a POV video after all, isn't it?
Group city running tour - Porto - Leo H4 Dutch field hockey team - 2018
Despite being advertised as a waterproof product, some of the screws in my gyroscope gimbal now present some corrosion. After a few months of use, the handheld device shows signs of deterioration - sweat and humidity are relentless on low quality metal parts like the small screw in this picture.
This is the 3rd gimbal I own but the first one claiming to be 'splashproof'. While the two last ones were lost to problems in the eletric rotors - probably corrosion - this one, however, seems to be holding up fine (for now!), despite the corroded screws...
There's also some transient issues regarding the leveling of the camera when I turn on the gimbal. Usually it takes about 2 seconds to reach the horizontal but, from time to time, it will take extra 10 to 30 seconds...
Everything/one becomes slower with age, am I right? ;)
On the bright side: my GoPro Hero4 has fortunately outlived two of the 2 gyroscope gimbals...! That's one impressive piece of electronic 'gizmo'!
My next posts will be about the preparation, practical tips on how to shoot the video, about video editing phase, green screen technique, adding graphics and your company logo to the videos,... well, there's heaps of information I will share soon.
Don't miss out, add me as your 'business connection' or follow Porto Running Tours on Linkedin:
Keep running strong and good luck with your next video productions!
Author: Sérgio - Running tour guide - Porto Running Tours
DISCLAIMER: this is not a sponsored blog post. All brands mentioned are the ones I happen to work with at the moment.