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Ironman Arizona 2008 - What I learned while shooting instead of participating in an Ironman... is this: It takes A LOT of little changes and planning on the fly during the shooting and the editing of a project of this magnitude in order to just get it to look decent... forget trying to make it look professional when you are dealing in an environment such as a 17 hour long one person shoot with HUGE changes in lighting and camera locations. I think this sort of shooting is by far the most challenging and yet provides the greatest learning potential.

Ironically, these same problems shooting this event is similar to participating in the event... both are challenging and difficult... and requires a lot of planning and adapting on the fly. The difference is how tired you are afterward... but, believe it or not... it is only a small difference in the exhaustion level (IMHO).

EDITING AND CAMERA NOTES:

All cut editing... most (if not all) transition edits are text... video is mostly cut edited frame by frame. As a result, you get this time-lapse (or strobe) like look.

8 sec. + - I setup the camera in evening (similar sunlight conditions as the morning) the day BEFORE race to set up blank for for empy transition area (i.e., no public around)... next morning set up at exactly the same spot with camera (marked the spot in the grass) and shot with public on moring of race. Removed sky using luma alpha channel and replaced using After Effects Trapcode plug-in shine to get orange red sky and background. This editing combination made for a ghost-like entry of persons into the scene... most noticeable with the bike and person walking fading out thin air at the very beginning of the video.

All 3D text done with Zaxwerks w/ AE.

ISO for camera was predominately in the 250 or higher range with 4X ND filter. Mostly shot flat (i.e., cinemode), then color corrected to bring back color without loosing contrast of bright whites from blacks. This achieve the ability to shoot the bikes at such a level that you can read the words on the spinning bike wheels (discusssed later).

Most cut transitions were a combination of using camera swings to blur to new cut edit... or... used persons walking in front of camera to cut to new scene.

Music beats match to video were done using Adobe Audition in combination with After Effects Sound Keys. Although in hind sight, it would have just as been as easy to manually set the "twitching" key frames for the gold color corrected frames that were created using Magic Bullet Looks.

I Used a Monfrotto Steady 585 Camera support for BOTH as a steady cam and shoulder support (small and easy to travel with and has a dual purpose use capability). Also, used a Monfrotto carbon fiber tripod with a 501 head at times. There is a thin line between carrying what you need most of the time and what you need on few occassions... but, no matter what it is I carried... it had to be light and adaptable since it was HOT and a LOOONG day/night.

Lugged around a 3 ft. aluminum ladder to get overhead shots and the ability to see over spectators and athletes heads. I found this to be the most crucial item I needed (...especially in the early hours of the 17 hrs. long event).

Shots were made with a 55mm wide angle lens... careful to keep more background in the shot than normal because I would be using stabilizing software to help smooth the shoots in post. ProDad's Mercalli stabilizing software was used.

1m 05 sec. water drop custom transition created using AE with VideoCopilot's splatter alpha mattes.

The biggest issue with the swim shots was the rising sun and shooting into the sun and color correcting for the washed out effect that bright sun can impose on the video. Not to mention, this is also the highest number of spectators and participants during the event... LOTS of people getting in the way of shots and shooting locations makes it particularly difficult in the morning.

2m 10 sec shooting under peoples caps... I try to shoot most athletes and others from low angles to remove the cap shadow created that hides the face... very tough to do in most instances.

Beginning at 2m 10sec. - as noted before, the shots of the bikes move through the turn was done using a very high ISO (w ND Filters) so that the text on the wheels can be read eventhough the bikes are moving at a high rate of speed. I picked this sharp downhill/uphill turn as a shooting location because you can get variety of good angle changes of the bikes with provides for different viewpoints from two directions... not to mention they slow down to help reduce the blurring as well. (...again, shot wider than normal to adjust for zooming effect you get when you use stabilizing software later in post). Hint: When your at a large public event... look for the scaffolding set up by the staff... those are usually your best shooting locations... so, you don't have to scout out locations in advance... the organization does this for you by placing platfoms at the best locations.

2 min. 48 sec. - the ambient background sound was captured with my H4 Zoom mic with spectators clapping under a bridge. The mic picked up an echo that when I added it to this clip make the sound more like a nice combination of clapping and camera shutter/clicks as if the photo shots were being taken as the video moves through the photo cut edits.

The slow motions could have been done better at the 2min. 57 sec + ... to much blurring because I used Avid Liquids as my primary editing software?... If I had used Avid MC instead... I think these would have been better slow motion movements. Nevertheless, when it comes to the blurring of the slow motion movements... most of the problems were cause by data compression moving from original HD source to the H264 file format. So... I am not sure Avid's MC could have done much better.

3min. - transition was actually a cut plus a slide of photos from left to right combination (...one of the very few points where a cut edit wasn't used exclusively).

Night shots were the most difficult... shooting with the HV30 is NOT the best camera for this... in hindsight, I wish I had the new DSLR's for these shots... but the video DSLR cameras had only been out for about a year or less when I shot this in early '08.

THINGS I WOULD HAVE DONE DIFFERENTLY:

Shot with a Cannon T2i - good size chip with 60p capacity... that camera would have made the slow motions much better and the night shots MUCH less grainy. Perhaps... I should have used Avid MC as my main editing software (....although, Liquid did a VERY FINE job ...specially with it's ability to make the cut editing extremely easy compared to many other editing applications).

Also, I think it wold be a good idea to take some roller blades with me and get some shots of the runners during the run... and do some set up shots of the bike by figuring out a way to come along side (...but, that is WAY more logistically difficult to do than it sounds).

Shorten the video by about a minute.

OVER ALL...

...it was a VERY long day of shooting with results that are only slightly better than average but a long way from the quality I want to achieve inspite of the totally uncontrollable environment. My next experiment is to probably shoot an Ironman from an athletes point of view with a helment cam during the race... but, I would need to train up a bit for another race and that takes time - a very precious commodity lately {heavy sigh}.

This was tough to shoot and edit for one person... but, it is by far one of the BEST learning experience projects a person can do if they want to learn to shoot and edit. There is nothing easy about shooting from sunrise to sunset in all kinds of camera positions to achieve even a decent results.... much less anything worth showing to the public. Needless to say... my shooting took a LOT of editing to make these marginally reasonable results.

Hope you enjoy... Joe Moya

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