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Documenting A Road Trip Via Video

By David Hague
Long distances hold no fear for me. As a young 'un (well in my late teens), it was nothing to get in the trusty Holden HK panel van and drive from Port Hedland to Perth some 1600Kms away. And in those days, about 40% of it was on dirt roads! (Flat tyres and suicidal kangaroos alike were a health hazard).

In later years, I was to drive another longer trip at right angles to my Hedland-Perth jaunts, from Perth to Sydney and onto the Gold Coast (Surfers Paradise), a distance a tad shy of 5000 Km. And in the following 7 years, I'd replay that trip three times as well as the Gold Coast to Mackay in north Queensland run a few times.

The last 10 years or so, I have retraced the Sydney-Perth drive a few more times (I can recall 6), and had lots of smaller runs of 500Kms or more.

Touch wood, so far, apart from losing the air-conditioning in one car in the Adelaide hills (Sth Australia) at the height of summer, and my latest steed, a Holden Monaro CV8 spitting its gearbox all over the M7 in Sydney (thankfully under warranty), I have had no major breakdowns. Not even a flat tyre.

Contrary to popular belief, if you do happen to expire on the side of the highway, help is usually no more than a couple of hours away with a liberal smattering of service stations-cum-motels along the way, even on the famed 'Nullarbor Plains' highway. And there is plenty of traffic, so you won't have any 'Wolf Creek' moments I assure you.

Today starts the beginnings of my latest escapade, moving from the northern Victorian city of Echuca to, yes once again, the Gold Coast. Mudgeeraba to be exact.

But this time I am going prepared.

Only once in all my travels have I bothered to even cursorily document the trip(s), despite having an arsenal of cameras etc along with me. This oversight was pointed out to me in a sideways fashion on the Last Great Nullarbor Trip. On an overnight stop at Madura (see map), supping an ale at the bar, conversation around me was hearty in its enthusiasm for the environment - summed up by someone saying that the TV travelogue programs never show these parts of the countryside, which was a pity.

So, I thought, on next big trip I'll document it for posterity, and let others see of Australia what many never do.

The Monaro is to be wired up with a phalanx of camcorders; a Kaiser Baas dashcam is mounted on the windscreen with a 64GB Sandisk card, a Sony HDD DCR-SR200 Handycam is on a Hague headrest mount (no relation by the way), and a Canon Legria Mini-X 'action cam' is to perform roving boundary rider camcorder duties when not mounted to another Hague mount, a suction based heavy duty unit kitted out with Manfrotto hardware.

Audio is also well catered for too. An Azden wireless mic setup with a label lav mic will record dialogue to a Samsung Recorder, a RØDE VideoMic Go on the Sony will record ambience, suitably backed up with a RØDE Videomic 2 on the Legria.

Righto, the hardware is sorted. Now onto the software.

The main footage will be cut and diced in Sony Vegas 13, but for footage of this type, some extra heavy lifting is needed for a number of reasons.

First, the environment is hardly conducive to pristine and stable footage, with vibrations galore, especially on the un-dampened Kaiser Baas. Second, all of my cameras use CMOS technology meaning the dreaded rolling shutter issue will  be front and centre, not to  mention 'warpage' because of the action camera genre's propensity for 'fish eye' lenses.

Then we have to look at the possibility of skewed footage, again caused by the less than ideal environment.

My armoury to counter these nasties is from the ProDAD stable - particularly Mercalli and ProDRENALIN. Together, these applications have been a boon for action cam shooters everywhere. Since we first saw a car mounted video camera back in the 70s when Toyota Celica driver Peter Williamson had one as a passenger for the famed Hardie Ferodo 1000 at Bathurst, things have come a long-long way!

Led by the GoPro range of cameras, we now see video from cars, mountain bikes, drones, surfboards, parachutists and anywhere else that the word 'extreme' can be used to describe it. And they are eminently affordable.

But the aforementioned problems - warp, skew, jitteriness, fish eye, rolling shutter et al - are endemic in the design of these little powerhouse camcorders, and ProDAD has emerged as the frontrunner by a country mile in having the tools to fix them, without resorting to expensive (and often heavy) shock mounts, gimbals, gyros and the like.

But I am also going to be using other proDAD software tools too. And here's why.

Mercalli and PrroDRENALIN are fantastic at what they do to give me pristine footage to play with. But from experience, there is nothing as boring as a 'road trip' movie that shows little more than passing scenery for mile after mile.

And so also being dragged into play are ProDAD Heroglyph and ReSpeedr.

Heroglyph adds the visual icing to the cake; among other things, with it, I can easily and simply select a map image, and click and draw the route, even with multiple destinations. With complete customization of timing, animations, and tons of effects, Heroglyph makes it appear as if the route is drawn auto-magically.  Just like a bought one as they say!

ReSpeedr on the other hand will be used to add some pizazz via time lapse and slo-mo. I have yet to work out exactly how as these sorts of effects have to be used very sparingly and have a point to them otherwise they just add confusion and indeed, can make footage look very average and amateurish - as of course can anything that is added just for the sake of it, detracting from the main story.

And in these sorts of projects, they can tend to grow bigger than Ben Hur, so I'll also have the other ProDAD apps at hand - Vitascene and Adorage.

Oh and one last word.

After more experiences than I care to remember of forgetting something, I now make up a complete check list three or four days prior to taking the journey.

The reason?

If you don't, you can almost guarantee that something will be forgotten - a charger, cable, filter and even fresh tapes or SD cards! And when that happens, you are in the lap of the gods of whatever country town you start the hunt to find one. I still recall - and it still hurts - having to pay $90 for a Firewire cable in Thredbo in the Snmowy Mountains many moons ago, as I had failed to bring one and so couldn't do the night's capture and edit.

By the way, if you want to have a play yourself with the applications from ProDAD, by simply registering on their website, you can download trial versions, and as they say, play along!

Stay tuned for the next instalment of the epic "Road Trip". And if you have any questions, please feel free to email me at david@auscamonline.com.

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David is the owner and publisher of Australian Videocamera. He has a background in media dating back to 1979 when he first got involved with photojournalism in motorsport, and went from there into technology via a 5 year stint with Tandy Computers.

Moving back to WA, David wrote scripts for Computer Television for video training for the just released Windows and Office 95 among others, and was then lured to Sydney to create web sites for the newly commercial Internet in 1995, building hundreds of sites under contract to OzEmail including Coates Hire, Hertz Queensland, John Williamson, the NSW Board of Studies and many, many more.

David can be contacted via  david@auscamonline.com

Related Keywords:Video Documentary, Azden wireless mic, Kaiser Baas dashcam, RØDE VideoMic, Sony HDD DCR-SR200 Handycam, Sony Vegas, ProDRENALIN

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