Flying high …

… or teaching an old dog new tricks

There’s a restless quality in some of us that causes us to constantly seek fresh challenges and new activities. For me, these are mostly channeled into photography these days as I undoubtedly slow down physically but definitely not mentally.

This year is turning into a bumper year of restlessness as I’ve started to get to grips with video to complement my photography, and what a steep learning curve that is when you are camera operator, script writer, editor, sound recordist, special effects guru and goodness only knows what else.  It’s not just learning how to use the video setting on the camera either as the software needed to turn this footage into a visual masterpiece also has to be learnt and that adds yet another layer to the learning.

You would have thought the those were sufficient challenges for one person.  Well, those who know me well were not surprised when I added a camera drone to the mix a few months into my exploration of video and, if we are being honest, well before I was really ready for new challenges. As well as being restless by nature I am also very impatient and regularly attempt to run before I can crawl.

Sitting down the other morning with a mug of strong black coffee I started to think back over the past seven months. The ups and downs, highs and lows and also the relentless desire to be learning something new that seemingly forms a backdrop to my existence. At least in retrospect if not at the time. Very deep and philosophical you might think but as I’ve got older I’ve realised that we all have something in the background that drives us forward, or backward, and provides the underscore to our lives. This year therefore has been no different to the almost six decades of existence that have preceded it. This year however has been one of the more productive years learning-wise. A lot of the things I set out to tackle this year I am still enjoying and have made some good progress with.

The main one of course has been video. I’ve tried to get to grips with the required skills many times over the last five or six years with varying degrees of success but this year I’ve actually made some real progress and have produced several finished pieces of work.  I have not shared everything I’ve produced of course. A couple of years ago I managed to complete a couple of sections of a planned larger piece but this year I went one better and have produced many completed pieces and have two or three in the pipeline at the moment. Adding the drone before I’d mastered using the cameras for video was typical of me although I still feel the prime purpose of the drone is to augment my stills photography and not the video side of things.

Cerebrally the biggest challenge has definitely been the Final Cut Pro software that I’ve been using for video editing. No starting simple for me, straight in with the big gun of Mac video editing software. It has been hard work, no denying that. It has been challenging, frustrating, time-consuming and totally annoying at times. It has also been interesting, productive and ultimately very rewarding. Sometimes we have to work hard at enjoying something. I have established a (very) basic colour grading workflow which works for now and whilst I can see that I have a long way to go I at least know that my raw footage looks half-decent when I start editing. I have also found that QuickTime is an excellent tool for quickly trimming video to provide short clips for use in other projects such as Pictures to Exe presentations and is also a very adept screen recorder for those occasional snippets.

Flying the camera is still an adrenaline pumping activity for me, but that is largely because I don’t want to lose or damage the drone. I have finally turned off beginner mode although this is a mixed blessing – better range and flexibility on the one hand yet it is harder to keep the drone flying slowly enough at times for smooth video. I’m manually controlling the camera settings for stills photography but still using auto everything for the video footage. You can’t learn everything in one go!

So what with shooting video footage, learning how to edit and create videos, making a start in audio recording and producing my own voice overs as well as getting to grips with a drone you would probably think that any right-minded soul would have enough new things to juggle for the time being. You are of course right. I however am clearly not right-minded because, as you will know if you’ve read any of my recent posts, I then decided to create a virtual Windows PC on my Mac and start to learn how to create audio-visual slideshows using Pictures to Exe.  Of course, I’m not content with starting with simple music and image sequences. I’m combining more advanced image animation with video and generally trying to run … well you get the picture I’m sure!

They say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, well this one is certainly going to have a try!

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