Spring Updates

Spring is finally here, and bringing with it a new season of creativity!

To celebrate the returning of the sun I felt it appropriate to get back to my film-making roots and piece together a short skate video with a close friend of mine. Ali Samson (the featured skateboarder) and I were close friends in high school, with shared interests in playing music and skating we made a lot of content together over the years and have thankfully kept in touch.

For this short piece I broke out my Tokina 12-24mm lens for that wide-angle skating look, and mounted my Feelsworld EVF direct into the hotshot so I could monitor the shot while I skated and keep track of the composition. I dropped a 2-3% warp stabiliser on one or two of the shots to iron out a few bumps in movement, but overall the footage came out very smooth. Other than a few magenta light-leak overlays very little colour correction was applied as I wanted to keep those natural warm Canon-sunny-day colours.

Continuing on the theme of Spring/Summer, I had the pleasure of shooting a suitably summery event for the Kingsgate Shopping Centre: 

The event focused around a group of dancers who'd perform routines while touting the latest fashion offerings from the shopping centre. Filming dancers in a very crowded public place wasn't without its challenges, however I am happy with the final result. I attempted to capture the excitement and fun of the event by using upbeat music matched with an upbeat editing pace while also keeping the visuals as colourful and interesting as possible. I focused on capturing the movements of the dancers while incorporating some movements of my own into the camera operation so the whole piece has a sense of dance and celebration to it.

I'm scheduled to film another one of Dunfermline's events in the next few weeks - the Dunfermline Food & Craft Weekend - which I'm really looking forward to. I'm also looking forward to shortly releasing a personal creative project that's been in the pipeline for a while now. Coming soon! 

New Year - New Showreel!

Happy 2017 everyone! 

I wanted to roll in the new year by piecing together a new showreel as it's something I haven't updated in a couple of years. I felt like my work has really developed since my last showreel (which was in 2014) and wanted to create something that would reflect that growth. I chopped together a short edit to display some of my favourite pieces of work from 2016/2015 which you can watch here - 

2016 was a super productive year for me - I established some fruitful professional relationships, created a higher standard of work than before and worked on some projects I felt truly passionate about. It was a year to focus on honing the skills I'd developed and used day-to-day. However this year I aim to shatter that status-quo and create a whole new way to approach my filmmaking. I'll soon be gaining some new equipment which will open up new opportunities for creativity, which will require new workflows in all areas of productions. I'm turning my focus to topics of filmmaking I feel more connected to and I've set myself new ambitious goals. 

It's going to be a great year! Watch this space.

The "Viking Heart" Student Challenge

Edinburgh College's Graphic Design course boasts potentially the best industry engagement of any design course in the UK. They've established relationships with design agencies around Edinburgh which allows students real-world mentoring and project opportunities, one of which being the award winning One Week Project. A fun element of my job is documenting these projects so the video can be used by the college to increase awareness of employer engagement, promote the course, but also provide the students a tool for self-promotion.

This semester's brief was delivered by Highland Park - a single malt Scotch whiskey from Orkney, who were looking for the students to breath life into their social media channels to appeal to younger markets. Watch below to see how the teams got on!

Graduation Run & Gun

Every September Edinburgh College hold their student graduation ceremony, which a great chance for the students and parents to celebrate in their achievements together. The Video Unit (the department I work in) is tasked with filming the day to create a highlights video so the students and the college have something to look back on relive the excitement of the day.

Having made several of these videos now we had decided to take a different approach this year, learning from the mistakes of the past. Previously we'd used three camera operators, with one assigned to either photography, gowning or reception and then all three positioned on tripods for the ceremony itself. Although this provided excellent coverage of all stages of the day we found ourselves drowning in a sea of footage when it came time for post-production.

This year we took a less-is-more approach. We used two shooters, both running Canon 5DmkIII's, handheld using stabilised lenses (the 24-70mm f/4 and the 24-105 f/2.8). This meant we were able to move quickly instead of being locked into our tripods, and the handheld footage provided a sense of movement and aliveness to the footage that we'd previously lacked.

We were more selective with our shooting, looking for opportunities to arise and then recording them as opposed to constant recording and then scouring through the content afterwards. This is essential as the video had a one-day turnaround deadline, which we were able to meet.  

We made good use of Premiere CC's Warp Stabiliser tool to smooth out any bumps or shakes in the footage. This tool has really changed the way I think about shooting run and gun videos, allowing me the freedom to be more experimental with movement in shots. Knowing that you don't need an expensive 3-axis gimbal to achieve nice tracking or sliding has allowed me to create more dynamic looking footage while keeping kit to a minimum.

I'm still on the search for more kit-minimising techniques as I believe that, now more than ever, it's possible to do much more with much less. Disruptive camera technology is constantly being introduced and changing the game, so I plan to keep a firm ear to the ground to be able to stay at the forefront of light and effective run and gun.

Below are two videos I've made recently, both utilising the techniques I've described above, and both featuring elephants.

Summer '16 Updates

Recently I returned from the most ambitious and adventurous trip I've ever been on - three weeks travelling around Thailand and Bali, and the experience was truly amazing. I knew I was going to take my camera to capture some of our experiences but I didn't anticipate just how full of colour and life these countries would be. Here's some of the tech breakdown - 

With limited baggage space I knew I'd have to pack bare-minimum equipment, so opted to go completely raw and just bring my Canon 5D mkIII body, my 24-70 lens and my shoulder sling strap. On the run up to the trip I'd been experimenting and practicing handheld motion attempting to create slider or dolly-esque movements in camera and had found a few techniques for achieving the effect, so I felt confident in not bringing any additional support. I was commissioned to make an event coverage video for a local shopping centre before leaving so I used this as an opportunity to practice the technique and implement it into a live project. You can see the best examples in the video below at the 53 second mark.

I shot my last trip (Sziget Festival, Budapest) in MagicLantern's MLV RAW format and, despite the extra consideration of massive file sizes, decided I'd be doing the same thing for this trip. The increase in dynamic range and colour that RAW provides is dramatic compared to the 5D's usual video output, and feels as though you're shooting with something more akin to a RED or ARRI. Having limited equipment means getting the most out of what I have and MagicLantern certainly does exactly that. I've been uploading framegrabs from my RAW footage to my Instagram account so be sure to check them out and follow my account for more!

I shot intermittently while we travelled, leaving gear in our Airbnb accommodation on quieter days and taking it out on the more adventurous. The time away from the immersion of constant shooting gave me a chance to reflect on my work in terms of career aspirations and as a creative artform. It seems as though the distance has helped me understand more about what I want to achieve from filmmaking and helped focus my attention in the right direction. 

Upon my return, feeling inspired and refreshed, I pieced together a short preview from some of my newly acquired footage, which you can watch below. 

Since returning I've been developing several new film project concepts which are now in varying stages of production. For the latest news and updates be sure to follow my Facebook page as exciting things are coming!

Scottish Galleries & Budapest

June is graduation season and working in a college has lead me to both enjoy and fear this time of year. Just about every creative subject taught at Edinburgh College host some kind of exhibition and as such require some level of filming, whether it's simply recording a flavour of the event for future promotional materials or something more in-depth and case-study-esque. It's a very busy period but I always find myself inspired by the sheer volume and diversity of the creative works on display.

We created the first short film below to document the Graphic Design Department's most recent One Week Project. The students are given a live brief from a client, in this case National Galleries Scotland, and have 7 days to meet the brief and present their solution. The team who deliver the best pitch are given prizes and have their concepts taken forward and considered for implementation. The winning concept was really strong and something I'd personally enjoy seeing the galleries employ.

You can read more about the Graphic Design Department's activities on their blog.

Outside of my work at Edinburgh College I've been working on several video projects, one of which I managed to sign off on last night (more info on that coming soon) leaving me with a desire to edit something together just for me. Client-based work is always welcomed however it's an attempt to express someone else's vision or communicate their message. Feeling fuelled by all the creative work I've seen recently I delved into the dusty project files from last summer's trip to Budapest and within two hours finished this little edit.

The video was shot on my Canon 5D mkIII with a 24-70 f/4 lens, RAW in MLV format converted to Quicktime files using MLRAWviewer. The depth of colour and sharpness of the picture reminded me that the result is worth the more demanding workflow, inspiring me to shoot some more RAW content this summer. The festival was so vibrant and exciting that it would be very difficult to paint a vivid enough picture to give the viewer a real idea of the experience (although the official after-video does an amazing job). So with the short selection of footage I had I decided to show 'pockets' of the festival to give viewers a small taste of something similar to my experience at Sziget. 

Learning Magic with Cammy

It was around February this year when, after a long and inspiring conversation with a good friend and mentor, I'd decided to really start putting effort back into my freelancing. Since I'm effectively starting from scratch I knew it would be important to dedicate time to rebuilding that key object for any creative - my portfolio. Therefore I decided that 2016 would be the year of the showreel, and that I'd focus my energy on finding a wide-variety of projects with strong visual elements. No project would be too out-there for consideration...Enter Cammy's Magic!

A photo posted by Richy McAllister (@richt33) on

After learning that Cammy, a young aspiring magician, was looking for new video content for his various social media platforms I knew it was a project I wanted to be involved in. It contained everything I'd been looking for - it was hugely visual, entertaining, interesting, an area I know nothing about (so naturally I'd learn a thing or two during the process) and it also offered an opportunity to shoot in a different kind of environment to that which I'm used to.

Social media has become one of the most effective marketing tools on the planet and I believe Cammy is wise to be using it as a hub for sharing his latest and greatest tricks and illusions. He undoubtedly understands it's potential as one of his older videos went viral and reached a whopping FIVE MILLION VIEWS...That's quite an audience. One that couldn't have been reached so easily just 10 years ago, before the cataclysmic rise of Facebook, Twitter and Youtube.

Social media is a tool that can be used to startling effect and with Facebook's new automatic video player there's never been a more optimum time to start filming, sharing and catching your followers' eye. Cammy's Magic is an ongoing project so keep an eye out for more content soon, and be sure to check out his Facebook page!

'The Space' Opening Exhibition

The Image Collective are a group of creatives who are gradually turning the unlikely setting of the Ocean Terminal shopping centre into a place for art. A few weeks ago "The Space" was launched - a dedicated exhibition space providing a platform for both well known and new artists to display their work. I knew it was something I'd like to be involved with so I jumped at the opportunity to create a video to capture a 'flavour' of the evening. 

Today's #runandgun #rig for an events coverage gig #videographer #canon

A photo posted by Richy McAllister (@richt33) on

I shot the event on my trusty Canon 5DmkIII and 24-70mm f/4, bundled onto my seldom used shoulder rig which I'd calibrated into more of a handle-bar/figrig setup. 

I felt like this offered me more opportunity to capture shots with some movement as handheld tracking (although not impossible) can be very tricky to nail. I utilized a few of these moving shots to help establish the environment and, with a little bit of warp stabilization, was really happy with the results.

The hybrid image stabilizer built into the 24-70 f/4 was a big selling point for me for exactly these kinds of situations. I feel like I can get reliably steady tracking and sliding shots without having to be weighed down with tripods, monopods or steadicam systems. More ambitious shots with more movement would perhaps require some additional equipment, although I am working towards one day achieving Brandon Li level run-and-gun handheld work.

I feel that it's important to be able to create dynamic movement on the fly and with a minimal set up. Since the popularization of sliders the parallaxing shot has become commonplace in a lot of corporate and creative films. I feel that the sheer volume of which the shot is used has diluted it's dynamism forcing us now to think more creatively.

Camera operation has always been a strong focus of mine and shoots like this only further inspire me to really refine my technique and technical calibrations. 

The band that played live were kind enough to let me use one of their tracks for the video's backing music, and as well as being nice guys they also happen to make awesome music! You can check out Indigo Velvet here.

Baba Gadji Pickups Shoot

In November last year I posted a behind-the-scenes photo album from a short film shoot I'd been helping out on. The subject matter was too bizarre not to shoot some stills of and I ended up with some candid photos that I was really pleased with. Last weekend the work continued as I was recruited to helped shoot some pickups, and much like the previous shoot there were laughs, chaos and more behind-the-scenes photos to take.

Baba Gadji Pickup Shoot March 2016

I took the shots on my Canon 5D mkIII with the Canon 50mm f/1.6 prime, switching to the 24-70mm f/4 for filming. The photos were taken using the ambient light from the set which was a mix between sunlight from the windows, room lighting and a softbox. 

I really enjoy shooting candid on-set photos because it not only fills the gaps between takes and location or costume changes but also provides an insight into the atmosphere of the shoot. This is usually lost in the actual footage which has its own agenda and narrative requirements to meet. Since this shoot had some very visual elements involved I knew there'd be some interesting outcomes...particularly the facepaint-kimono combo.

To keep fully up to date with my video/photo production you can now follow my new Facebook page! 

GLMAA Kickboxing Champions Case Study

A few weeks ago I travelled to Birmingham with the GLMAA competition squad to compete in the WAKO British Kickboxing Championships. Over the course of the tournament three of our junior fighters took away British titles which, considering the level of competition, is no small feat. Gary Lee and I agreed that their achievements were worth documenting and sharing so I got to work on creating a short case study piece. It features some insight from the fighters and their parents, reflecting on the tournament experience as well as a look into their overall experience within the academy.

Shot on Canon 5D mkIII, 50mm f/1.6 with Sennheiser lapel mics & Zoom H4 recorder.

Unfortunately I wasn't as prosperous in my division. I won my first bout but lost the second, knocking me out of the tournament (which you can watch in the player to the right. I get knocked on my arse at around 00:33 for anyone interested in seeing that). I was however really pleased to have competed at such a high-level event and spending time with the amazing talent within the academy is always a treat.

I can't say enough good things about kickboxing as a hobby. As is evident from the parent's testimonial in the video above it can have majorly positive effects on the confidence, patience, discipline, well-being and focus of not only young people, but adults alike. If you're in the Fife area and are looking to try a new hobby I couldn't recommend GLMAA enough.

Learning Kickboxing Photography

I've always enjoyed watching martial arts. As a child I was obsessed the the Power Rangers which led to a short stint of Taekwondo classes however never progressed much beyond a humble yellow belt. Now that I'm all grown up I've come to terms with the fact that they probably weren't or never will be recruiting new Power Rangers, however that didn't stop me from taking up a new martial art anyway. Since 2013 I've been attending and training at a local kickboxing gym - Gary Lee's Martial Arts Academy (GLMAA). Initially it was purely to improve my health although after not long I began to enjoy learning the techniques and my attention shifted. Now several years into training I'm part of the competition team and even had the privilege of representing the academy at the WAKOS British Championships in Birmingham in February this year (2016).

An opportunity arose recently for me to contribute back to GLMAA by helping them produce, edit and manage all of their online visual assets. This will include event, product and promotional photography and videography, as well as some graphic design elements.

This is a great opportunity for me to start branching out further into the realms of photography and I'm particularly excited as it's within a subject that I have a real passion for.

Last week I took some test snaps in class to experiment with the best camera settings for shooting in a poorly lit hall with primarily tungsten lights. Below are some of the results.

We decided that colour-popping the yellows would emphasize the academy's branding colours while also neatening the image up for potential text inserts for social media use. We wanted to focus on the people who train at the academy, getting close-ups of facial expressions to show how enjoyable and relaxed the classes are.

I'll be adding a few new pieces of kit to my arsenal over the next few weeks to allow more creative flexibility with regards to this style of photography. I'll post the results shortly!

'Atomic Love' Music Video Shoot Photos

In November last year I helped a friend with a very special short film project he's been working on for some time now. Although I'd helped out on a few of his shoots before as camera op, this shoot was set to be something special. I'm deliberately omitting as many details as possible to ensure the final released product carries as much anticipation as it requires, however below are a selection of photos from the day.

The film is in it's final editing stage and will hopefully be ready to submit to film festivals this Spring/Summer.

Yurting, Weddings and Skateboards

As 2015 drew closer to an end so did a few wee personal projects meaning the year could end with a nice and neat bow tied in.

Last year for my birthday a group of friends and I rented a sleeping pod in a lovely little camp site in Glenshee. I knew I wanted to go back after having seen the possibility of staying in their authentic Turkish Yurt, so we booked a long weekend and I brought my camera. As well as documenting  the experience of our stay I thought it'd be nice to involve the owners of the site in the video by interviewing them. I got to learn more about the history of the site and was given an insight into their eco-friendly philosophy. It's a cool little business run by genuine and lovely people that I'm happy to work with on these little passion projects. It's something I'd like to perhaps delve more into in 2016.

Another attempt at promoting a local grass-roots company came in the form of this short personality-piece documentary. The subject was a long-time friend of mine who had recently started his own business teaching one-to-one skateboarding lessons to children and adults. The project was a perfect opportunity to come to grips with my new equipment as the first full shoot on my 5D mkIII. The entire project (excluding the interview) was shot in RAW so it was a great opportunity to get used to the workflow while helping a friend gain publicity for his budding business. Extreme (an extreme sports TV channel) shared the video on their Facebook page quickly amassing 40,000 views, perhaps making it the closest video of mine to going viral.

My personal shooting schedule was nicely concluded by filming a wedding for a family member. The venue, the weather, the people, and the day itself were all beautiful, and I can't thank Vicki and Paul enough for trusting me to capture their big day. 

Now that 2016 has begun I'm looking ahead to future projects and plans are being made. I'll be sure to keep this blog updated with my film-making activities and post any and all new content.

Happy New Year!

Big Rig

Having upgraded my camera equipment a few weeks ago it became abundantly clear that my galient little laptop was going to struggle processing the new formats I'd be experimenting with and then implementing into my workflow.I knew that the best option would be to build an editing rig specifically for handling these kinds of tasks. I also knew I'd need to enlist the help of my brother - an IT specialist with an interest in Frankensteining PC components together and overclocking them into oblivion.

I sent him an email and received the following timely and concise response - "I am preparing a spreadsheet. Prepare your face."

After a few weeks of research, face preparation and spreadsheets we settled on a build spec that we were both happy with. I ordered up the following components -

  • Gigabyte Z97P-D3 Motherboard
  • Intel Xeon E3-1230v3
  • GTX 960 4GB Graphics Card
  • 32GB DDR3 HyperX Fury RAM
  • Corsair CXM 600W Power Supply
  • Kingston 240GB SSD
  • Seagate 2TB Barracuda HDD
  • Salman CNPS10X Heatsink & Fan
  • Antec P280 Case
  • Creative Gigaworks T20 Speakers
  • Acer G226HQL LED Monitors x2
  • Cyborg R.A.T Gaming Mouse

So last weekend my brother and I spent a solid 6 hours (not including a 1 hour Indian food & Youtube break) piecing together an electrical jigsaw, you can watch a timelapse of it above.

The setup went well with only one or two speed bumps to overcome. Once the OS was installed and updates updated I got to installing Adobe CC 2015 and can happily say that it runs like a dream. I've worked with some RAW and high frame rate footage to test its mettle and it holds up brilliantly.

As well as having the hefty technical arsenal I believe that having a dedicated workspace has a huge impact on your productivity and creativity, and this has been a big realising factor for me with this project. Laptops are convenient but I never felt like I was able to really knuckle down while working on one. What helps me get into the correct mindset to sit and churn out a heavy editing session is comfort, a neutral and calm environment, having everything you need in one place (hardware, recording media, digital assets, etc) and a cup of coffee and a biscuit or two don't hurt either.  

I'm currently working on a personal project using all of my new technical assets and the workflow has been so much more enjoyable and efficient than my previous set ups.

Rollin' Rollin' Rollin'

My first day at the zorb run, filming their crowd-funding video.

My first day at the zorb run, filming their crowd-funding video.

I like buying people experience gift vouchers for birthdays and Christmases. There's a large margin for error when buying tangible gifts and I like to think practically. So when Becky's birthday was dawning I knew that I had to sort something out.

Luckily for me, last year I had the privilege of helping a new Edinburgh-based adventure company, Rolling Haggis, get set up by making their crowd-funding video, so I had a good idea where I'd be going. After a few phone calls, a birthday and a surprised/annoyed girlfriend we were ready to roll. See below.

We had an awesome day on the run thanks to the Rolling Haggis team who are all super lovely, and thanks to Gopro's amazing cameras we were able to capture the whole thing in 1080p @ 120fps. The edit was quickly knocked together in Premiere Pro with Ratatat's song 'Two' from the 9 Beats album. 

If you're ever looking for an exciting and alternative outdoor activity in the Edinburgh region then I'd highly recommend giving Rolling Haggis a go. Don't be fooled by the pitch and volume, those were happy screams. 

Upgraded!

Recently I experienced that bittersweet moment that all solo filmmaker's must endure...Upgrading equipment. It was with a tear in my eye and a meteoric dent in my bank account that I packed away my 550D into my storage camera bag. I tried to remember Mufasa's words - I tried to explain the great circle of life so maybe little 550 could understand. Alas, the old battle-worn camera remained still and stoic, true to form, and retired quietly to role of B-camera.

I decided on the Canon 5D Mark III for the same reasons that make it one of the best DSLR shooters out there - the full frame sensor, the capacity to shoot RAW with Magic Lantern, the low-light capabilities and the solid, chunky build that makes it feel indestructible. I also picked up the Canon 50mm f/1.4 and the Canon 24-70 f/4, a solid Manfrotto tripod, shoulder rig, and EVF to complete my new set up.

Yesterday marked the first day of testing all of the kit together as I found some spare time to experiment and the resulting short film turned out to be much more enjoyable to make than I had anticipated. You can watch it below - 

The 24-70's macro setting coupled with Magic Lantern's MLV RAW format married really well for a close cinematic look on a lot of shots that I was really pleased with, and plan to do more with in the future. Using the 3.5" EVF made framing shots myself much easier, making one-man-shooting a much more viable option. The RAW clips were converted to Prores MOVs via the free MlRawViewer software, composited in Adobe Premiere with the additional Gopro Hero 4 footage and final effects and tweaks were made in After Effects.

What was originally meant to be a test of my new camera's abilities accidentally became something more potent with the introduction of home video VHS content I've been digitising. Showing modern footage of a punchbag session next to VHS footage of a Taekwondo tournament made me consider the influence that that experience has had on me now. Would I have an interest in martial arts now if I wasn't involved with it as a child? Would my girlfriend and I now have our own dog if we both hadn't grown up with dogs? I'm interested in the influence past events have over our decisions now and how strongly our past shapes our future, and I thought this short piece was a nice introduction into the concept.

Perhaps it's something I'll return to in the future with a more organized approach. But for the meantime, I can't explain how pleasantly surprised I was that this supposed one-off test shoot turned into something I have a genuine interest in.

I'm really excited to be using more advanced kit as I feel it easier accomodates more creative potential, and I have no doubt that it'll do just that.

Questing Into 2015

A tripped out nightlapse from my Gopro Hero 4 on Hogmanay.

A few days ago a close group of friends and I rang in the new year. Amidst the somewhat blurry memory of whiskey, dancing, glowsticks and laughter (see right) I remember feeling overwhelmed by the magnitude of events that had taken place over the last twelve months. New jobs, new relationships, new outlets; some sad goodbyes, some unexpected outcomes and lots of filming. 2014 was huge, but now we’re saying goodbye, getting organized and looking to the future. Here’s how I like to start a new year.

The List: You can thank Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson for boosting the term ‘Bucket List’ into the general public’s vocabulary. Whether you’ve seen the film or not it’s become a relatively common feature in a lot of our lives, and mine is no exception. A Bucket List is generally regarded as a list of things to do before you die - most popularly things like swim with dolphins, learn a second language, skydive, etc. I made one a few years ago but found that it didn’t motivate me to actually do the things on my list. I found myself saying “I’ve got plenty of time. I don’t need to swim with dolphins right now. The time will come for me to pester those adorable mammals.” It felt too big, too much to take on at once, so I decided to narrow it down. I created a yearly Bucket List and to appeal to the competitive gamer in me I named it my 2014 Quest List. I dedicated one page to Personal & Experience related quests (visit a new country, go camping, charity fundraising, bake a cake, etc) and another for Creative & Videography related quests (make a showreel, write a short story, finish my website, etc). This soon became my productivity catalyst for 2014. I’d check the list every day and see if any quests could be completed or worked towards. It kept me on my toes and made sure my habit of procrastinating was kept in check. Over the past few weeks I’ve been working on my Quests for 2015 and it’s coming along nicely. Seeing a full list without any items yet ticket off provides a real sense of impending adventure and creativity for the year to come. If you feel like you’d benefit from a bit more focus and motivation in your life then try giving this a go yourself!

The Goals: I used to made videos for a training company and was exposed to countless hours of management training footage so I feel qualified when I say this - they bloody love acronyms. There’s seriously an acronym for everything, however there was one that stuck out to me and it happened to be regarding goal setting. SMART goals are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-Bound, and I apply this system to my quests. I’ll not go into each one as there are hundreds of websites that explain SMART goals in more detail, but I’ll provide some personal examples - read 10 books, visit three new countries, donate blood, go hillwalking, run a 10k, go to a festival, learn to drive, see the Northern Lights, fix my guitar, make thirty videos, make a travel video, create a digital VHS archive and create a 2015 Highlights Reel similar to the one I made in 2013. These goals are obviously specific to me and my long-term goals but perhaps they’ll ignite some ideas towards your own goals you’d like to achieve this year.

The Result: Every small progression made through the quest list is a small step towards a final result, which in this instance is an idea of who and where I’d like to be by the end of the year. Change is inevitable whether you take control over it or not, which I think has been summarised nicely by Heraclitus - “No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.” What I’ve learned is that personal change is generally slow by nature, but leaving a trail of evidence provides a position of relativity to look back from. This makes it easier to see the difference between you a few months ago and you right now.

Looking back at my 2014 Quest List I can see my stand-out experiences and the fond memories associated with them, and it only excites me more about the potential that 2015 harbors. Try it for yourself and see, and have a great new year!

Home Videos & the Cameraman Conundrum

There's something undeniably enjoyable about watching home movies. Whether it's the waves of nostalgia, the resurgence of a feeling or perhaps just seeing yourself in third person like the hero of your own film, it’s something we all seem to enjoy. It’s a feeling I've grown up with thanks to the home video collection that my Dad and Granddad lovingly cultivated over the years. Last year, in an attempt to provide that enjoyment to family and friends I made a real effort to ensure that I didn't miss a beat. Every significant event that could be filmed would be. It totalled in at 166.57GB and over 24 hours worth of footage. The plan was to create an archive for each month and at the end of the year a short chronological montage like a 2013 highlights reel. Something the people involved in can look back at and go “aw, I remember doing that and that was fun”, because we love that. So I made the video and you can see it below.  It was a fairly easy de-constructive edit and as we all know by now, I’m partial to a good montage so I was happy to put the work in.

This year I’ve made a similar although less vigilant effort to capture home video. You can see some examples of this year’s progress below. They're both simply collections of moments played over some music, intended to be watched and enjoyed by those involved.

So although I've been archiving bits and pieces, my 550D and I have spent significantly less time with each other over the last few months due to an exploration of what I like to call the ‘Cameraman Conundrum’. It’s a question that sounds something like this - “do you film the moment, somewhat removing yourself from the experience in exchange for the ability to re-watch it, or do you put the camera down and completely be a part of it.” It’s as much a philosophical question as it is videography related so it falls into a somewhat of a sweet spot for me as both subjects tickle my pickle. I thought I’d give myself a break, take the pressure off and involve myself more in the activities rather than designating my role to observe-and-archive.

After having tried out both styles here are the conclusions I’ve come to - Keeping a home video archive is hugely rewarding. It provides a footprint of your experiences and the joy that comes with being able to watch it back. At the end of the year get everyone together and you’ll see the enjoyment it creates. However, don’t film to prove to others that you've lived. Social media has influenced the way we associate our personalities with media of ourselves, so know that you don’t need third party acknowledgement to feel valid. Do it for the future enjoyment of you and your friends and family. Don’t let filming the experience dilute it. The most important thing is enjoying the moment to it's full potential now, and while re-watching footage is hugely enjoyable it doesn't possess the same joy as being there, so prioritize accordingly.

As with most conundrums about life, the answer relies on a balance. Be ready to capture special moments, but don't live through the sights of your view finder.  

GoPros & Tough Mudding

For the second time in my life now I've found myself dragging my sad, mud soaked legs through the Dalkeith countryside. I'm more exhausted than ever and cramp is clutching at my calves, but a single thought keeps me going - think of the footage. I slip my GoPro head-mount back on and proceed to clamber through a stroganov of mud and lost shoes. Think of the footage.

Most participants take part for similar reasons - the physical challenge, experiencing the adrenaline and camaraderie, the excuse to play in mud as an adult and a neat headband at the end. I won't pretend I wasn't seduced by the same things, my inner-child absolutely demanded we go, but thanks to the development of action cameras in the last decade the filmmaker in me also gets his kicks. For me it's the perfect blend of productivity and ridiculousness, and a dead interesting way to spend a Saturday.

I filmed the 12 mile grind on my GoPro Hero 2 + GoPro Head Strap, swapping between head-mounted shots for obstacles and wrist wrapping the straps during running sections. Despite having been preceded by the GoPro Hero 3 last year the Hero 2 still produces impressive results. For me, using an older bit of kit alleviated the worry of damaging the camera too much. Although I was still mindful of it's health it was nice to not have to worry about a shiny new Hero 3 drowning in mud, which might have broken my heart a little bit. I have no doubts that it could take the same punishment, but after having used a Hero 3 on several shoots now I feel that it's best reserved for cinematic action that doesn't compromise the camera too much. Given enough light the Hero 3 will capture your extreme sports, home movies or travelling videos with impressively crisp images, however with a constant film of mud on the protective case I felt like I'd be underutilising it. So bring in the older model and let's get dirty.

The edit above was pieced together on the same day as it was shot. The quick turnaround was primarily because I feel that these sorts of personal projects tend to lose steam very quickly, and secondarily because after sitting on my couch I discovered my legs no longer functioned. The edit was done in Premiere Pro, my preferred NLE software for quick turnaround projects. I decided to edit the footage in chronological order to give viewers an accurate insight to the course, allowing past participants to relive the experience and giving future participants a glimpse of what's to come. This allowed me to edit in a 'deconstructive' style - I placed all my assets on one timeline and gradually chiselled away unusable sections of footage, leaving me with a perfectly chronological rough-cut. From here I tighten the cuts to introduce a sense of rhythm, avoiding simply cutting on the beat as this makes the edit become predictable and less dynamic. I applied some minor colour correction to the footage, upping the mids, highs, and saturation as well as applying a warm tone. I wanted to emphasise the excitement and action of the day and felt a strong colour palette would help, creating an almost Mirror's Edge-esque game-like experience.

Premiere Pro CS6 Project Timeline - A simple single video track sequence with vignette adjustment layer

The incredible success of GoPro's recent IPO hopefully indicates bigger and better things in their future, and I'm looking forward to seeing if they'll see it as an opportunity to branch out their product range. There's a gap in the pro-consumer market at the moment for reasonably priced camera drones that I'd love to see filled, or perhaps a step towards a cinematography oriented production camera. I'll be keeping my eyes peeled for GoPro to release more justification for doing ridiculous things. There's a market of inner children nipping at their heels.