December 19, 2012
The following is a guest post by Michelle Cassel and Ryan McAfee, two friends, journalists and avid travelers who impulsively decided to leave everything behind to travel America by bicycle. They can be found at AmericaByCycle.com.
I know what you're thinking -- there are a lot of commas in that title. Just know that they're there for emphasis.
You might also be thinking about creating videos on your bike tour and posting them to your web log, or "blog" as the kids call it these days. Well great! That's why we're all here. You've learned how to make a bicycle touring video, you've learned what tripods to use, and you've learned the art of storytelling thanks to the other bloggers and judges so far.
But how can you do it? How can you balance your time between riding, shooting, and editing? Can you figure it out with the Pythagorean Theorem? No one really knows for sure. Ancient cyclists say that there are many ways, and that they've been passed down on secret documents that only a select few have ever seen.
And as luck would have it, we at America ByCycle have come across those ancient documents and have translated them for you in great detail! Unfortunately we're having trouble locating them at this time, so here are some alternatives that we could think of off the top of our heads.
Be prepared. The boy scouts are, so why shouldn't you be? As long as you've got the most basic tools to be a cycling filmmaker (camera, computer, editing program), you'll at least be ready (to attempt) to match your expectations for producing videos along your incredible journey. Whether or not you can ACTUALLY match them is another story (trust us). If you expect to be publishing a new, well-produced video every day, think again. Setting unrealistic expectations for yourself can lead to huge problems including stress, fatigue, and worst of all, less cycling. The best thing you can do is have your camera readily available (and tripod, if you've got one) and make sure you're fine with sitting in front of a computer and editing, even if that means you're inside your tent.
Remaining flexible with your content creation is an absolute necessity. Some days require more cycling, and some days require more shooting and/or editing. However, don't let your quest for a fully-edited video or a certain shot or landmark get in the way of a better story. Yes, your sunset was beautiful, but was it more interesting than that group of ninja clowns playing Cribbage behind you? Probably not. Don't sacrifice your unique experience for getting the "perfect" shot. Some of the best video we've ever gotten was from those unexpected encounters. Let the trail decide where you go and what you shoot. And seriously, if you see any ninja clowns playing Cribbage, SHOOT VIDEO OF IT!
In order to keep it fresh and not burn yourself out by working too much, do a little bit of everything each day. Start off with some morning shooting, bike for a little bit, and then finish the day with a little more shooting and editing. Blasting out 70 miles leaves little time for anything else other than stuffing your face and going to bed. In our case, the times we bicker with each other the most are the times we're doing all cycling or all editing. We fall behind with our videos if we're only cycling, and we never get anywhere if we're only editing. That being said, a couple days of only one or the other are fine, just don't let that mountain of footage get too big! (Psssst -- it's not a real mountain, it's a metaphor.)
Put all of your camera/shooting gear in a place that's dry, padded, and easily accessible. Dump your footage into folders that correspond to each day/event you've shot. The more organized your footage is, the less time you have to spend figuring out file locations. This leads to a more streamlined work process. And most importantly, BACK UP your data. Use a cloud service like Google docs, buy an extra hard drive, hire a droid, do anything and everything to ensure that you will not lose your footage. Like the saying goes, if you have two you have one, if you have one you have none. If you have none you have problems.
There's no point going on an adventure if you're only going to experience it through your camera. From our personal experience, we've learned it's a good idea to put down the camera once in a while and actually absorb the world around us. You can shoot gig after gig of an event or a beautiful place in which you're staying, but the lasting impressions come from direct interactions with your environment. I'm not saying you should skimp on shooting, but just remember take a few moments for yourself and look through your own eyes! We can't stress this enough.
"Whether" (get it?) it's a literal or figurative storm, make sure that you're making the best of a bad situation. If you're caught in a storm, film yourself getting rained on (as long as the camera's PROTECTED). It shows your vulnerability and helps you learn new ways of shooting. As Tom Allen pointed out, conflict can really drive your story and be the most compelling footage for your viewers. Embrace how terrible it is and show everyone. It can actually be cathartic as well as incredibly fascinating to watch. Taking something that could be a momentum killer (like a flat tire) and turning it into a part of your narrative helps you stay in control of the situation, leading to better video. When life gives you lemons, add it together with your pre-existing avocados and make guacamole!
You don't have to be an amazing editor to tell a great story. The same goes with shooting. The key is to continue to work on your storytelling as you ride and learn what's working and what isn't. Experiment with different camera angles. Get out of your comfort zone, because it's there that you learn the most about yourself and your capabilities. Challenge yourself to tell a different story each time. Literally stop and smell the roses, and then film yourself smelling those roses. How was your framing? Was it out of focus? Now you'll know next time what you need to do to improve it. No one ever says "I especially enjoyed the part in your video where it was really shaky, then it went dark, and then it was hard to tell what was going on." But then again, the Blair Witch Project made like 250 million dollars. I'm not kidding.
Girls just want to have it. The Beach Boys will have it until her daddy takes the T-Bird away. I mean, fun is important. And I'm not going to sit here and pretend that every minute of producing a bike touring video is like eating a love pizza topped with children's laughter; it's REALLY difficult. Michelle and I have had to take a break from our current tour to de-stress and take time for editing. As I'm writing this, our last piece of new content on our site was almost 2 months ago! My point is that you can really end up making your tour the most fun experience you've ever had, or you can make it the biggest pain in your butt (it will most likely be both). Either way, as long as you're having fun while you're traveling then it's worth it. Whether you make one video or crank out weekly episodes when it's all said and done is up to you; just know that when you're having fun so are your viewers. Now get out there and shoot, edit, and you know, BIKE!