English expat revisits Grand Union Canal towpath Market Harborough

Grand Union Canal

GoPro chest mount time lapse experiment

The video speeds up what’s normally an hour long walk along the Grand Union Canal towpath from Great Bowden to Union Wharf in Market Harborough.

It seemed like a good way to get some exercise and some footage to test-drive Final Cut Pro X on my new iMac.

I used the chest mount harness from my cheap GoPro accessory bundle and I did the loop once recording video, and once using the still image lime lapse feature.

Lessons Learned

My first important lesson was that walking while wearing a cheap camera chest mount does not make a smooth filming platform.

The second lesson was that still image time lapse is more forgiving than speeding up video. The raw video footage was unwatchable, and speeding it up made things worse.

Brief details of the edit

The time lapse was set to one frame per half second.

Playback at 24 fps made the footage unwatchable because of ghosting and shudder from the wobbly walking platform.

I re-used the video settings I used in Sony Vegas for bike ride time lapse video, effectively 8 frames per second – 24 frames per second, but with each image held for 3 frames. It’s half the usual minimum for persistence of vision, but I like the effect that the image lingers on screen.

The low frame rate is slightly more forgiving of wobble and I threw in an FCP focus vignette to try and soften the movements at the edge of the frame.

I also stuck with the idea of “branding” at the start of the video. Future analytics will suggest this is one reason interest drops off in the first 3 seconds of most of my YouTube videos.

Bank Holiday Monday Mountain Bike Ride

private land sign in French vineyard

What better way to spend a Bank Holiday Monday than out in the fresh air on a bike?

This video shows a loop I follow though the “garrigue”, the local scrub land, to nearby Boujan.

It was a spontaneous idea filmed with my stills camera in one hand, so it’s not exactly extreme sports all-terrain biking. It also ends abruptly, which shows how nothing piddles on the spark of creative enthusiasm quite like forgetting to check the battery level before you leave.

Photography and cycling mean I’m finally getting a return on investment in my Sony DSC-HV9V compact, which I’ve had since September 2011, and the lumpy old Raleigh bike I’ve had for a decade and hardly used in England.

One of the stand-out features of the Sony is the sound quality from the built-in mic. Sadly this means nothing when you’re pointing it into the wind a foot away from a wheezing middle-aged English expat.

The bike is heavy, has no suspension, and the rim brakes are a worry on some combinations of steep slopes and loose surfaces, but that bothers me much less than wearing coloured Lycra and Oakley mirror shades.

Boujan barn conversion
Rural to residential building conversion

I always have a camera when I go out, and the hundreds of photographs emailed to friends and family bear witness to my apparently limitless fascination with the Herault landscape. As our second year in France gets under way I’m still taking lots of still images but I’m making an effort to shoot more video.

With the wine industry in decline the Herault pretty much lives or dies by tourism. Our area is close to the sea but not close enough to market as a beach resort. The local government is diligently promoting it as a mecca for VTT (“vélo tout terrain”), or mountain bike, riders.

You’ll see several of the stylised route markers, an orange triangle above two circles, nailed with suspect environmental credibility to various trees.

grape harvest machinery
The big blue grape picker

Just to explain the local colour, there’s a short clip of someone washing down a Big Blue Machine outside the Boujan wine-making Co-operative. It’s mechanical grape picker, and if they’re out in the light of day it’s a tell-tale sign that the “vendange”, the grape harvest, has begun. We don’t  usually see them before September but thanks to this year’s strange weather everything has kicked off a couple of weeks early.