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Monday, September 21, 2009

••◊ 24 hours in Idyllwild

I'm not one to let sleeping dogs lie. I'm the type who gives them a quick pull on the leash and tells them we're going for a walk. So this post is mainly to partially futiley satiate my anxiety about not working on a project. I attached a few raw frame grabs from the video to this post.

I spent this last weekend at an extreme 24 hour mountain bike race in Idyllwild, California called "24 Hours of Adrenaline." My main intent was to give my new video equipment a test run before embarking on a more serious project next week.

Idyllwild is in the high desert in the San Bernadino mountains in the Cleveland national forest east of Hemet and north of Anza (not that anybody really knows where those places are without Google Earth, latitude= 33°40'38.05"N , longtitude=116°40'36.75"W). The course starts at Hurkey Creek Park and quickly ascends 900 feet, then turns around shortly after the summit and returns for a 10 mile loop. The team I went up with, "Old Arrogant Bastard Amber Ale", came in first in their division with 27 laps completed in 24 hours. Like any challenging race the it started out with excitement, followed by "what the hell were we thinking", then "we have to finish what we started", then "do we really have to finish what we started?", and finally "final push - this was soooo worth it". Final racer body count: 1 banged up elbow/shin combo and one broken spoke."

My energy seemed to follow that of the race. I sort of eased into it with apprehension since I wasn't completely confident in my equipment yet - and as it turned out I didn't have manual mode working for video yet. As a side note, Canon doesn't let you use manual mode with exposure simulation so I was shooting in auto/dummy mode all weekend and not understanding why it wasn't working perfectly for me. Probably best anyway with me fumbling around with all the controls on various gadgets. Good experience for next time.

The experience that I feel really makes this event noteworthy is the night time rides. The race takes on a surreal feeling early in the morning with lights coming completely out of the dark randomly highlighting desert foliage as handlebars sway side to side. Eiry quiet surrounds the camp site even though the racers are still rocketing into the finish to energetically hand off the baton to the next rider - or check in for the next lap if they are a solo rider. Yes, the top solo riders do 21 laps (210 miles) over 24 hours. My body decided to wake up just before 2am due to the random beaming of a flashlight on a rider's helmet outside my car. With all the wisdom that comes with sleepy thoughts at 2am I decided it was a good time to go for a walk and shoot some night time shots. At the start/finish I grabbed some wonderful, colorful night time images that wouldn't be possible with most video cameras. The 5D really accels there, thank goodness. Then I decided to go walking up the race trail....yes, trouble ensued. Now I'm old enough to know that stuff happens due to carelessness, however it was 3am by this time and my judgement was less than optimal. After shooting mysterious trail footage of bike lights coming through the pine trees and dry desert shrubs I was walking back when I heard a racer coming and I needed to step off the trail to let them by. So I try to do so in complete, pitch black darkness and of course fall flat on my face. Even worse my lens hood is completely cracked and trashed. My main shooting lens now has scratches across the front that interfere with the screw on filter threads. My new wireless transmitter and field recorder fall out of my backpack and get scratched. Oh, and my shin and thigh took a beating. It's one thing to beat up your body, but equipment is expensive and doesn't heal. Ordered a new lens hood today. I'll repair my lens when I get back from the shoot next week. To put is politely, "dang."

Mentally I had to tell myself it will be OK and that I should continue. This wasn't bad kharma, just a small mishap; keep going. I guess my feeling of hope for the project dropped at the same time that it does for the racers, which probably gave me a sympathetic outlook on how to shoot the project (a good thing).

The next day came around and I started shooting more on the trail. It was my own push to the finish. Motivation toward a deadline is something I've understood most of my life and just accept it as a functional asset. It's the same for most racers. They understand the race is 24 hours and there will be that time when there is 16 hours left and you aren't self motivated anymore. There's 12 hours left and now motivation and energy are gone. Then there's 4 hours left and the motivation somehow comes back. In the final hour it's a complete relief because it's almost over and you know you've done what you can do. Anyone who has shot a large project knows that this is a direct parallel.

I'm really proud of the "Old Arrogant Bastard(s)" and Amber as well. Oh, did I forget to mention that this was a co-ed team with a kick butt chick racer on board? Phil posted the fasted lap time of the event at 43 minutes.

24hr race team from left: Phil, Amber, Bob, Gary, and John

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

••◊ lav'd up

It's been much too long since I wrote my last blog post. There have been multiple projects in the fire and we all know how that goes. One of those projects this last Monday was a corporate shoot at HP for internal communications - sorry no video here. It was a basic sit down interview with one interviewer and multiple interviewees. I viewed it as an excellent chance to break in my new lavs and transmitters.

Colette, pictured below, was my willing test victim subject. I labelled the picture below to show how I had her wired up. The mic is just at the edge of her lapel on the inside of her jacket. The transmitter was mounted near her right hip. No ugly tie clips hanging out. OK, nothing really special here, however Colette asked about how I had the lav attached to the inside of her jacket and I thought it might make a good blog posting to pass on this information.

These next two photos show how the lav was attached to Colette. I'm using my jacket as a reference (no, I don't own any pink jackets for this simulation). The first photo shows the lav taped at the edge of the lapel. The trick that audio pros use for strain relief is to attach a piece of tape on the mic wire 1-2 inches after the mic, form two loops of the lav mic wire, and wrap the tape around the loops inside-out so the sticky side sticks to the fabric (as opposed to the loops of wire). The two loops held inside the tape form strain relief so your talent doesn't rip off the mic while shifting around or worse - break the lav mic wire. Not shown here for clarity sake is an extra step. You want to put another piece of tape over the strain relief just to make sure it sticks to the fabric otherwise the strain relief will quickly be dangling and useless.

The second photo shows me tugging on the loop. You can see that one of the loops is starting to close in as it should.

There are obviously more elaborate techniques out there, but this is a basic one any shooter should know. A google search will give you more information than you ever wanted to know.

For this demonstration I used medical tape to attach the lav to the jacket. In the interview I used gaffer's tape. For this configuration it doesn't really matter all that much. When you want to hide the mic under a shirt on some one's chest, the side of their cheek, or on their forehead under bangs/wig then medical tape is probably the better option. At least your talent will think so.