Sustrans Competition Video

Sustrans, a UK charity aimed at promoting sustainable transportation methods, ran a competition to celebrate 15 years of the National Cycle network. The aim of the competition was to produce a short video explaining what the cycle network means to you.

I roped in fellow cyclist and work colleague, Robin and made him ride up and down and backwards and forwards to get the shots we needed to make our film.

Of course, being a bit different I decided to to make our video using a stills camera! It’s a technique I’ve used before at Flickr meets in the pub – shoot a lot of stills in High speed burst mode and then turn the sequence into video.

This has the effect of making the frame rate less than that of normal video and gives a stop motion / time lapse effect. It also sometimes reminds me of very old film that jerks and stutters through the sequence.

By messing around with the frame rate we were able to include some shots that would have taken too long in ‘normal’ video and gives our piece an unusual effect.

Camera setup

To get the maximum length of shot possible on my Canon 40D, I used medium sized JPEGs and high speed burst. The image size was 1880 x 2816 – a lot lower than I normally shoot but this is still bigger than 1920 x 1080 – full HD frame size.

Focus and shot framing was pretty difficult on some of the shots but trial and error got us there in the end!

To shoot the film I used a combination of Handheld, normal tripod mounting and we also used a Joby Gorillapod, the SLR version, to mount the camera on several places on a bike! Another interesting method was to shoot from the water taxi boat on Cardiff Bay, whilst Robin rode across the barrage! We used a set of walkie talkies to communicate with each other when we weren’t within ear shot – which happened quite a lot actually!

We were able to mount the camera on the handle bars to get the view of the rider using the Gorilla pod.

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We also mounted it facing forwards and I was able to ride behind Robin for what became known as a ‘chase shot’..

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Both these shots used the wide angle 10-20mm Sigma lens.

One of the craziest shots was mounting the camera to face backwards, so I could shoot Robin riding behind me.

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For this shot I removed my seat and mounted the Gorilla pod in the seat post and was able to ride up on the pedals, using a remote trigger to fire the camera. We got some funny looks on the barrage path, to say the least!!

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We also used a variety of lenses to make the film. The most common were the Sigma 10-20 wide angle and also the ‘travel zoom’ Sigma 18-200mm IS. The nifty fifty, Canon 50mm f/1.8, came out occasionally and there was a brief appearance from the big Sigma 170-500mm!

The Route

The route is basically part of my route to and from work. It includes a large section of Cardiff city centre and Cardiff Bay and also one of Sustrans own projects, the new Pont-y-Werin bridge in Penarth.

As the route progresses we pick out some of the latest developments to the national cycle network, which has changed the Bay area a lot, making it much more accessible for cycling these days.

You can view the route below at the Runkeeper site. Runkeeper is a cool app for iPhone (and Android) that records GPS info for activites…

Sustrans Route

It was chosen, not because it is direct or the quickest but because it takes in some of the best sites and would therefore give us the best shots!

Post Production

Using Quicktime 7 on the Mac I was able to open groups of JPEGS as an image sequence. I used a frame rate of 12 fps, which seemed to give the best effect. The image sequence was saved as a reference movie, which can them be imported into Final Cut. Here I was able to first crop the shots to 1920×1080 by scaling. This was then export using Apple Intermediate codec into true video, from which I was able to edit.

Robin adapted a piece of music he had written in Reason and was able to make it fit early versions of the cut. From there, the cut informed the music and the music led to changes in the cut – it sort of evolved!

The final cut was tweaked with a bit of colour correction and exported as a 720p movie and uploaded to the web.

The most complicated shots were the two timelapse sequences, one near the Wales Millennium Centre and the other along the barrage. These were a combination of two shots – a timelapse sequence, where there would be one shot taken every two seconds or so and another taken on burst, with the camera locked on the tripod, so it didn’t move. I then had to draw round Robin on every frame to included him in the timelapse. It took a long time – I have way too much time on my hands!

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