Showing posts with label motorcycle video. Show all posts
Showing posts with label motorcycle video. Show all posts

Monday, 26 September 2016

Motorcycle Media: short films, documentaries & time travel on a Friday night

Friday night had me home alone in the first time in forever.  After a rough week at work I was wiped and on the verge of a cold, so it was a low impact night.  I went looking for some escapist media and stumbled upon EXIF's Top 6 Best Motorcycle Films.  I'd seen Shinya Kimura in The Greasy Hands Preachers, but I'd never seen the film that set him out as a motorcycle media icon, it's just shy of three minutes of perfection:

Shinya Kimura: Chabott Engineering

Another one I hadn't seen before that does a great job of capturing a northern motorcyclist's winter dilemma is Waiting out the Winter.  It's a short video, but it sets the mood of tinkering while we wait for the snow to recede in the frozen north wonderfully:

Waiting Out The Winter

WAITING OUT WINTER from Andrew David Watson on Vimeo.

Those short films made a great appetizer, but I was looking for something a bit more long form.  If you're ever looking to pass a lazy hour or two in another time and place, Cycles South will take you to the early 1970s.  Like the '70s themselves, Cycles South looses the plot half way through, but discovers itself again before the end.  If you're delicate and can't handle the very non-politically correct sensibilities of the early 1970s, don't watch this, but if you can let it all go and are willing to exist in another time, Cycles South makes for a psychedelic road trip (man).  The whole thing is on Youtube in 15 minute segments, they connected together automatically with a few seconds of delay between, mercifully commercial free.

Google/Youtube lost its mind after I watched the series in order and started shooting motorcycle themed video at me from all directions.  Next up was Fifty Years of Kicks, a twenty minute documentary about two off road motorcyclists well into their seventies.  I wasn't initially hooked, but the quality of filming and the narrative they were building had me after a few minutes.  There is something about watching old guys fight the clock that is heroic.  It makes me want to celebrate any small victories they have before the inevitable happens.

Looking for something on the history of motorcycles I came across The History Channel's documentary on Youtube.  It's a bit wiz-bang flashy and over edited, but you get some Jay Leno, and the jet powered Y2K.  When they went from that to some Dodge Viper powered thing I began to think this was less about motorcycles and more about bored rich people.  I didn't get to the end of this one.

Have you ever wished you had an old, British uncle with an encyclopedic knowledge of motorbikes who would natter on about them indefinitely?  I was afraid Classic British Motorbikes: 100 Years of Motorcycling was going to be an advertisement for a dealership in England, but the big green Triumph Tiger in the opening moments kept me playing it.  This video takes place sometime in the early two thousands (hence my model of Tiger sitting in front of the dealership).  The idea was to invite in classic bikes and celebrate 100 years of motorbiking in Britain.  The camera work is amateur, as is the interviewing, but you'll still pick up a lot of history from the owners and the knowledgeable interviewer.

I watched until he interviewed the owner of the dealership who seemed entirely disinterested in the whole thing and was apparently running the family business because of his dad's love of bikes.  He made a stark contrast to the enthusiasm of every previous interview.  If you're interested in British bikes and especially their history, you'll enjoy this one (with a bit of fast forwarding).

It's amazing what motorcycle media you can dig up on the internet with a bit of luck.

Thursday, 22 October 2015

GoPro Alternates: The Contour

The Contour Roam2.  If you're looking for a motorbike
friendly, less expensive alternative to the GoPro, this is it.
No doubt, GoPro rules the action camera world, but I'm always on the lookout for alternatives to the very expensive king of the hill.  I'm waiting (seemingly forever) until the 360Fly becomes available in Canada, but in the meantime, the Contour Roam2 came across my desk, so I gave it a go.

I'd previously tried the Foscam AC1080, another cheap, GoPro alternative, but it was fairly disastrous.  The camera took nice enough video, and seemed sturdy in its shell, but the incredibly cheap accessories will let you down.  In the short time I had it the fastening mechanism never held up to wind (it wasn't geared and would just flop flat) and then the entire camera was gone after the cheap plastic mount let go while riding.  Unless you can source better quality mounts, I would not recommend the Foscam for motorcycles at all.

The basic Contour Roam2 is about the same price as the Foscam (about $150 Canadian, or 1/3 the price of the cheapest GoPro), but doesn't mimic the GoPro form factor.  Instead, the Contour is a brushed aluminum tube (in a variety of colours) with a very small frontal area making it an ideal motorcycling camera.  Unlike the GoPro or other cameras that copy its format, the Contour is a slim, low profile design that doesn't produce a lot of drag or wind noise.

The two suction mount options compared - you're paying
US exchange and 1/3 more in shipping for what, at first,
looks like a cheaper GoPro option.
The Contour also comes with much more robust mounting than that terrible Foscam.  While riding in a variety of conditions including some quality Canadian roads and a downpour (the Contour is waterproof without a case), the Contour never wavered, offering steady video and secure mounting at all times.

Mounts for action cameras appear much like printer refills - it's where the real money is.  Fortunately Contour offers a wide range of accessories and mounts and, unlike GoPro, ships from a Canadian distributor so you aren't surprised by a lot of extra costs.  The pricing for the mounts is also comparable to other action cameras, so you aren't getting extra hosed on the back end.

The Contour offers a wide range of accessories including motorcycle focused low profile, helmet and goggle mounts.  I've found the 360° stick-on mount to be robust and offer a variety of angles from a single location on the fairing.  You can rotate the Contour's lens to keep videos upright regardless of how you mount it, so you don't need to muck around with a lot of video editing.

Operation of the Roam2 is as simple as it gets.  The default setting is 60 frames per second 720p video, which looks sharp on youtube and keeps up nicely with a motorcycle's motion:

To change settings in the camera you need to have it hooked up to a PC with USB and be running Contour Storyteller (a free download).  This app lets you edit and share video and change camera settings.    The camera can be set to 1080p or a variety of lower settings.  It also has a photo every so many seconds setting.  It takes standard micro-SD cards which are cheap and easy to find.  Swapping cards takes only a moment, and they're tiny, so keeping them in a micro-SD card carrier (don't leave them loose, you'll lose them, they are tiny!) in your pocket means you can easily carry as much footage as you like.  The battery has yet to run out, even on all-day rides with lots of filming.

To turn on the camera you simply push the slider on top forward and a light comes on to let you know it's filming.  This is easy to do even with gloves on and I found I could do it even while riding, so catching just the good roads is an easy and obvious process.  The camera records to mp4 which is then easily uploadable to YouTube or other video sharing sites.  It doesn't work well with Windows Movie Maker, but does with everything else.

If you want live footage and camera control, the Contour+2
does the business, and at $430, it's over $100 less than a GoPro
If you've never made riding footage before the Contour Roam is an inexpensive way to get into it.  It's a basic, tough camera with solid mounts that suit the rough nature of video on a motorbike.  It isn't chock full of options but it does the business well.

Contour also offers the Contour+2 which is a much more complex camera in a similar form factor that offers wireless connection to your smartphone, GPS and super high frame per second options, all for a hundred bucks less than the typical GoPro.  If you dig the format, it makes a compelling alternative to the standard GoPro.

Sunday, 14 June 2015

Around The Bay: Part 5, motorcycle media from the trip

The story told in a photo is told as much by the viewer as it is
by the photographer, and it's non-linear.
Since I was solo on the circumnavigation of Georgian Bay I brought along some gear to capture the moment.  I prefer photography.  I think a good photo is an entire world you can get lost in, and unlike video it isn't forcing you to follow along frame by frame.  In a photo you're free to wander with your eyes in a non-linear way.

Having said all that, I brought along some video gear to try out on this trip.  I'd love a GoPro, but since they cost almost as much as my bike did, I got a cheap Chinese knock-off instead (and a cheap knockoff it is!)  The Foscam AC1080 takes fantastic video (full 1080p) and decent photos (up to 12 megapixels), and at only about $140 taxes in, it's less than 1/3 the price of a GoPro.  Where it falls apart is in the fit and finish.  In a week of what I'd describe as gentle use for an 'action camera' the buttons never lined up right with the unit inside the waterproof case (I ended up having to remove the camera to start and stop it), the case itself was so rickety it would just blow over in the wind (the GoPro has a ratchet in the stand that locks in position, the Foscam is just a plastic screw), and the case itself snapped at the base after only a few uses.  It also gets uncomfortably hot when it recharges.  I have some concerns about the physical capabilities of this 'action' camera.

The Foscam takes nice stills too, when it takes them.
The other shaky part of the Foscam is its operation.  You can start it up and it'll stop again for no apparent reason (though this might have to do with convoluted options buried in menus).

You might think the GoPro lacking in options, but it has very streamlined operation and always gets what you're filming (which is vital in action video), and it does it without an LCD or menu options buried three deep.

The Foscam also saves in a .mov file format which Sony Vegas seems determined not to render properly.  If you can get past all that frustration you can get some very nice video out of the Foscam:
... and you can find you've got nothing because it shut off just when you were about to do a one time thing:
A quick video of the boarding of the Chicheemaun ferry in Tobermory - why did I take it from the Olympus Camera around my neck?  Because the Foscam shut off for no apparent reason just as we were about to board.  But hey, when it works it makes nice pictures.

The go-to camera was my trusty Olympus Pen.  This is the best camera I've ever owned - a micro SLR with swappable lenses and full manual control.  It also takes video in a pinch.  This camera punches well above its weight.  If I were to pony up for something better, it would be an Olympus OM-D that takes the same size lenses, and then go on a lens hunt for some macro and telephoto madness.

Also on this trip I brought along a Samsung S5, which takes nice pics and decent video.  Smartphone cameras have gotten so good that I don't think about point and shoot cameras any more, they are redundant.  My only regret is not picking up the bonkers Nokia Lumia 1020 with it's massive camera built in, but then Telus didn't have it.

I'm not really through with the Foscam yet.  Once I've got it worked out, hopefully I can still use it to get some quality video off the bike.  The other day we were out for a ride so I decided to focus on getting some audio instead.  Yes, riding a bike really is as fun as this sounds.  I'm going to look into making some finer audio recordings to catch the sound of riding, it's a different angle on motorbike media.

Over the summer I plan to look into more advanced 3d modelling and micro-photography as well as maybe some drone work.  I'm looking forward to pushing the limits with motorbike media creation.


Google Album: photos from the trip
Google made a story: Google Photos auto-arranged pictures from the trip into scrapbook.

Friday, 21 November 2014

Motorbike media bits and pieces...

I came across some motorcycle media recently that is a nice diversion if you're suffering from PMS. has a series of motorcycle short documentaries that will keep you rolling on two wheels, even if it's vicariously.

The Women's Motorcycle Exhibit video led me to the site;  much better than the floozy on a bike photography you usually see.  There is nothing sexier than a strong, capable woman riding a bike (as opposed to a skinny model draping herself on one).

The other shorts were all new to me except for Long Live The Kings, which has since spawned The Greasy Hands Preachers.  The reviews for that film have suggested that it's a shallow but pretty look at current motorbike customization trends.  I was hoping for something that plumbs the depths like Matt Crawford's Shopclass As Soulcraft (a must read),  but it evidently isn't that, though I'm still looking forward to seeing it.

I also found Brittown, a documentary about Meatball, a master mechanic and Triumph motorbike connoisseur out of California.  It's a genuine look at a genuine fellow.  You'd be hard pressed to find any hipster bullshit in this video.

I also completed the set.  Having already seen Faster and Fastest, I was finally able to see The Doctor, The Tornado and The Kentucky Kid, the middle Motogp video in the trilogy.  It's a close look at a single race at Leguna Seca.  The phoned in interviews are a bit low-rent, but the drama is as engaging as ever.  If you want to get into Motogp, these videos will give you the background you need to get right into next season.

In the meantime, the mighty Austin Vince put out Mini-Mondo, another motorbike short (poem!) that (hopefully) gets you out on two wheels and seeing what's around you:

We're buried in snow in mid-November and thoughts of riding are weeks behind me now, but at least the media I'm finding keeps the two wheel dreaming alive.

Friday, 4 October 2013

Motorcycle Media

I've been perusing the youtubes for motorcycle related videos and came across a couple of humdingers.  The first is BLAZER, a short (16mins) motorcycle mood piece based on a quote from Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.  If you've got the patience for it, Blazer builds from a joyous ride in the country to that moment we've all experienced where the machine you love becomes your worst enemy.  The conversation between the biker and his old Triumph is one anyone with an older and/or dodgy vehicle has had.

Don't be internet impatient and you'll enjoy where this goes.  The production values are excellent.

The second is another atmospheric piece (I'm a media arts teacher, what can I say?  I love moody artsie shorts!)   This one is about a bike mechanic in London (UK).  It follows not only his work but his ethos.  This piece not only follows the art of the mechanic, but it also follows the art of the craftsman.  Once again, if you're an internet twitch addict you'll find this long and boring, but if you can lose yourself in a narrative, this one is lovely.

The next is another fantastic video production that catches the raw, wild feeling of riding.  Cafe bike based and focused on friends completing a bike journey together, the video uses strong visual editing and audio to put you into their saddles.

This video uses music as effectively as BLAZER to put you into a motorcycle riding frame of mind.

If you're looking for a more documentary approach, the Classic Motorcycles documentary series will give you an accessible review of the beginnings of such classic British marquees as Ariel.

Open these up in the full youtube window and you'll get suggestions down the right side about similar videos.  You'll discover a wealth of motor cycle culture well beyond the frantic, herd minded focus on current motorcycle news.