Drift Ghost-S and Adobe Premiere Pro CS6

It's a bit flat around the village of Avoriaz
It’s a bit flat around the village of Avoriaz

This weekend I spent some time learning how to produce video with Adobe Premiere Pro CS6. In particular, developing a good workflow, basic structure of a film project and how to work with footage taken off the Drift Ghost S which I but just a few days prior to a trip snowboarding in Avoriaz last month. Here’s what I’ve learnt.

Shooting with the Drift Ghost S

So simple, even a super hero to work it
So simple, even a super hero to work it

Before we left for Geneva I shot two test videos, the first was using the Drift Ghost fixed to my helmet – which I was taking snowboarding and riding to work.

Here I wanted to see how sturdy the adhesive helmet mount was (very bloody sturdy), and what angle I should be setting the attachment to.

In the second video I attached the camera to a Gorilla Pod and used it like a monopod taking it out onto Brighton seafront on my skateboard. This time I wanted to see how the camera handled quick changes in light levels as the sun suddenly came out of nowhere in comparison to the foggy morning when I was riding in.

All of this footage including the video above was shot with default settings and running 1080p at 60fps. This, as I learnt later was my first mistake.

The first two test ride videos I threw quickly into iMovie in order to get out onto Youtube and were exported straight to Youtube with the highest settings available. The video above, as I will go into later was edited inside Adobe Premiere Pro CS6. Youtube was my second mistake.

I quickly learnt from the first video that the way the ultra wide angle works and the position of the sticky mount meant making a slight adjustment to pull the camera down a little so there wasn’t too much sky. The second video proved that the camera in its default state was more than capable of balancing extreme changes in brightness and contrast.

With the two test shots down and feeling quite impressed with the crude results I headed off to the slopes of Avoriaz to learn how to Snowboard and shoot action footage in a 5 day intensive week.

Getting good footage with the Drift Ghost S

Playing back the footage from our snowboard trip, I learnt all too late something I already knew to be true. When you have a wide angle lens on a camera you need to be up the arse of whatever your subject is in order to get great footage. What annoyed me was that I should have known this from the years of being a concert photographer and only occasionally dabbling with fisheye lenses or ultra wide angle lenses.

This means that most of my footage whilst quite educational for me at the end of each day to play back through and see where I was making mistakes with my riding, is otherwise quite uninteresting viewing.

The video above consists of footage from the first two days of our week and I think that the footage that looks the best is where there is something in the foreground of the shot in focus. Take a look at the card game or the button lift for example.

Later in the week there were a few instances where I was following Cami that look good but still not amazing because she was considerably faster than me + on a snowboard I wasn’t always looking in the direction I was heading if you get my drift?

Managing all the video files

I knew with moving from the world of photography to video there was going to be some management requirements to keep everything in order.

Initially I started importing all the videos into Lightroom 4 only to regret the idea because Lightroom is for photography and does it incredibly well, I didn’t want to a) muddy the water of my well organised Lightroom with mixed media b) import files into a location where I was going to have to potentially trawl through folders to find originals because they’re amongst other file types.

But, there is a lot to be said for how Lightroom organises imported files and so I began to replicate it by creating a main directory for the year, then a folder for each day, copying the files for each day off the camera into the relevant folder.

A side note specifically relating to the Drift Ghost S is that it creates a preview file for everything that is shot. You’ll see when you look into your folders that there is a .th file or something like which is a few MB in size. Don’t bother copying these over, they’re of no use to you, just for the camera. You may also find it is faster to blitz the card whilst it is still connected to your machine rather than doing it on-board.

Adobe Premiere Pro CS6

I think I spent about 2 hours just looking through tutorial videos and various posts on forums about workflows for Adobe Premiere Pro CS5/6 before finding a method I liked the look of. One aspect of Premiere Pro I like is that it allows for non-destructive editing.

In the same way as you have the choice in Photoshop whether you want to add a filter or edit to a layer or create a layer above to apply these to therefore not destroying the original, well you can do that in Premiere Pro too.

It tried just checking my rushes and then making clips and slapping them onto a sequence without really know what I was doing and it started to tie together. Using a creative commons licensed track by Nine Inch Nails I was able to then make further edits and put a sequence together with some sort of pacing.

Then things started going wrong.

Colour correct and colour grading

I had footage from indoors, outdoors but crucially all from the same camera. What I wanted to do was just clean up some of the contrast and give the images some punch. Oh boy was that a mistake. There were loads of tutorials on how to do this all following relatively similar flows but as with photography colourizing your images is a personal taste. With video it is also a little more technical because of course the goal posts are changing with varying constrast and brightness in your original footage.

The other thing I have found is that even though I am using a blazing fast brand new 2014 Macbook Pro Retina, the GPU is incapable of rendering the previews once you add effects. I don’t know whether I can resolve this but I really hope I can otherwise it’ll be back to my 2010 Macbook Pro with the dual graphics card and see what happens there.

I used the threeway color effect to set contrast and slight toning but I think I’ve over pushed it because in the export I can see a lot of blocky bits in the blacks – but that could also be down to the format I exported at, and here’s the next clanger.

Use Adobe Media Encoder on export

I had found some presets to download for AppleProRes formats to use in Premiere Pro and selected them as the output option and pushing everything down to 30fps. It estimated 2:30:00 to export. Ouch I thought, but just an estimate, it’ll be faster right? Nope. It hung at 47% after 4hrs the first time. at 47% the second time and eventually I gave up.

Then I read something about using the queue function first which sends the sequence to Media Encoder. This time I saw it was locking up at the same point each time which was the sunset panorama. Going back to the project in Premiere Pro I found that the stabiliser effect I was using had locked up and not correctly applied. Clearing the effect and reapply solved the issue.

I also at the same time changed the output format to be h264 and used previews. Again, a mistake as I learnt because the previews weren’t rendering properly to start.

Eventually I got a video which you see above and uploaded to youtube.

It’s been a steep learning curve but the fact that Adobe Premiere Pro CS6 doesn’t manipulate files means that it wasn’t a problem to scrap and start again because the files were all where I left them and they were never damaged by crashes and the like.

I’m enjoying learning about video editing and post processing, I can see how I’ve been spoilt by using iMovie all these years but also how it’s left me wanting more control over certain areas.