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Experience shooting TWALK 2015

Earlier this year I shot a video at TWALK 2015, the Canterbury University Tramping Club's annual 24-hour orienteering event. It was kind of a last minute decision to bring my camera (an Olympus E-M5) and an older GoPro Hero along so no shooting plans were made and I had no big ambitions to produce a very polished, finished product.

If you want to read more about the event, check out the CUTC TWALK website.

I ran with in a group of 6 and because we could share the tasks of navigating and searching the hidden checkpoints, I had enough time to run ahead and film my team and also a lot of the other competitors. Obviously, the busiest and most crowded time was at the start and it thinned out as the race went on.

After about 3-4 hours we finished the first leg, had a quick rest and a decent amount to eat from the big table of free 24 hour warm buffet, then headed out again for the evening/night leg. Unfortunately, none of my cameras were particularly good in low light so as soon as the sun disappeared that was it for filming apart from a few shots of headlamps. An A7s would have been amazing but it also started to rain and get really cold while we were exposed on the tops so anything other than a GoPro or a really well weather-sealed camera could have got negatively affected.


As mentioned above, the main camera was an Olympus OM-D E-M5 (de) with an old manual Olympus OM ZUIKO 28mm f2.8 lens which turns into a 56mm full-frame equivalent or "normal lens" on a MFT sensor. The reason I used an OM lens and not a more modern zoom lens was the great manual focus ring that is absolutely necessary for those rack focus shots. It's also a great looking lens: it's almost as sharp as my best MFT prime lens at a quarter the price. Finally, 28mm translates to 56mm equivalent on full-frame which is just a really nice and natural looking focal length for documentary-style shooting. To rig the camera up for better stability and handling for the indoor shots I used various parts from Smallrig such as Quick Release Handle with Nato Rail (de) and aluminium rods.

The second camera that I used when I needed a wider angle or high mobility was the original GoPro Hero (de) that I have since upgraded to a Hero 3 (which of course would have delivered much better image quality for this video, in particular in those low light shots). It was mounted on a cheap monopod to keep it steady and enable me to do smooth panning shots. While it impacted mobility a little bit (still a very lightweight kit), it improved image quality dramatically by making it possible to take very stable and steady shots and I highly recommend that people use a light monopod with their GoPros if shooting hand-held. It also keeps the horizon level almost automatically because the heavier monopod leg is always pointing down - keeping only a GoPro level in your hand is almost impossible. I specifically wanted to avoid the typical point-of-view helmet/chest-mounted GoPro shots so I tried to use it like a traditional film camera by getting close to the ground or high above people's heads as much as possible. That opening shot of the competition when everyone starts running is also the GoPro on the extended monopod.

For audio I used the Zoom H5 Portable Recorder (de) with the stereo microphone module for sound effects and room tone of the woolshed.

Editing and Grading

For editing and colour grading in Linux I used kdenlive. While it worked and all the basic editing features and effects are available (for free), it is not a completely hassle or stress-free experience, especially once the project grows past a certain size. I also started to get random shifting in some of my clips on the timeline, or it would suddenly use a different version of the same clip. For colour grading I had to go into every single clip and adjust curves and levels to get the right look. While colour correction and grading should always be done on every clip individually, unfortunately kdenlive requires a lot of repetitive steps to get there while other programs make it much easier and faster (it's one middle mouse button click in Resolve). In the end, I got the project done without any major hiccups and I recommend kdenlive as a first, free editing program if you're on Linux but if you are serious about your projects I would step up to something like Davinci Resolve which is much more stable, feature-rich and also free.

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