Rick Hurst Web Developer in Bristol, UK


Category: video

You know what I did last summer?

team rubber video shoot

Last summer I was freelancing for the lovely Team Rubber, when I overheard one of the film making dept say “Now we just need a skateboarder to skate the halfpipe..”. I immediately volunteered myself for the role. “Can you skate a halfpipe?” he asked. “Um.. yep, how high?”, I replied. “13 foot”. “..err.. (mumble)… can I come along and watch though?”.

I tend to work on projects with a local working copy on my laptop of whatever it is i’m working on, so pre-empting the current meme of working away from the office, I offered to go along to the shoot, help out where I could, learn about the video shoot process and work the rest of the time from my laptop.

The video shoot was on an old air base in wiltshire. I arrived early in the morning and couldn’t figure out how to get on site, so I circled the perimeter trying out various back roads and possible routes in, occasionally encountering other car drivers, eyeing me up suspiciously as I loitered. I eventually spotted some of the crew arrive and unlock a gate, and sure enough most of the cars I had encountered earlier turned out to contain runners, directors and extras.

The ramp was already set up and I was dying to have a quick go on it, but then the heavens opened leaving the uncovered ramp to get soaked. I prayed that the weather would clear up, as the shoot would have to be postphoned or cancelled if the rain continued. Fortunately it cleared up soon after, and became a scorcher of a day so I went and swept the surface water off the ramp to help it dry out quicker.

I climbed onto one of the platforms just to see what it would be like to drop in, but being considerably higher (4.5ft higher specifically) than anything i’ve skated before, there was no chance of me giving it a go, at least dropping in from the top. I skated it from the bottom, pumping the transitions to gradually get higher and higher up the ramp, but looking back at the embarrassing video clip I persuaded someone to film on my camera, I can’t have gone any higher than halfway towards the top. Fortunately, the ramp owner, and UK vert legend Pete King arrived to provide the goods.

Pete King air

3d model of the halfpipe

The plan was to use the skater as a reference for a CGI character, so the CGI guys set up a makeshift studio in one of the hangars and created a 3d model of the ramp. Pete was dressing in a rather fetching grey one-piece (“chroma key” suit) with white tape to use for CGI reference. As you can see from the photos, he didn’t disappoint with the skating – pulling some massive airs for the camera. These photos are not modified – he was consistently getting airs that high, and landing them most of the day, despite the blazing sun and being asked to repeat the sequence over and over.

Hangar studio

As if hanging around on an air base watching a skateboarder dressed in a lycra suit wasn’t surreal enough, the actors, now dressed as american GI’s, were bought in to encourage and heckle Pete, sometimes while he was there, sometimes when he wasn’t.

more air

Then the chopper arrived. Ever wonder why insurance companies have a problem with media types? Luckily i’m a software developer, so *cough* no chance of my car getting hit by helicopter-related flying debris on a film shoot..*cough*. I made myself handy by securing a nearby gazebo with breeze blocks before it (and the helicopter) took off again.

I can’t say I got a massive amount of work done as planned. Working from the hangar and my mobile office (car, with leisure battery + 3g phone), there was no wifi on site and I could barely get a mobile signal good enough for data, but the main reason was there too much exciting stuff going on to concentrate. I skated the ramp anytime it wasn’t being used – you can’t stick a halfpipe in front of me then expect me to concentrate on python and javascript! Thanks to Team Rubber for a great day out!

mobile office

p.s. you can see the final video here.

Videocasting notes

screen casting set up with Godefroid and Nate

This is the first time I’ve attempted to use my mini dv-cam to get some footage of talks and interviews at the snowsprint to use for video casting. Along with Nate Aune of Jazkarta/Plone4Artists, I have been shoving camcorders in people faces, positioning tripods precariously on ledges and bars and trying to get some footage. I’ve already managed to damage my camera when it fell off a chair at least once.

For future reference, here are a few notes:-

Hard disk space

An hours footage works out at about 11gb of disk space when dumped onto my laptop. I usually only have about 10gb free to play with so a large external disk is a necessity (I left mine at home).

Remote control

As I write this, my dv cam is positioned up on a ledge waiting for a talk to start – I have a remote control at home, wouldn’t it be great if I had bought it so I don’t have to start climbing up on chairs to set it recording.

Editing time

Don’t underestimate how much you’ll need, even if you don’t take into account the time it takes to get the footage off the camera (real time) and compressing the end result.

Loads of spare tapes

If you haven’t got the time or disk space to offload the footage, a stack of blank tapes would be useful.


We need to share footage captured on both NTSC and PAL mini-dv cams – I’m hoping hi-quality quicktime exports in some intermediate format should be suitable for this.


Googling around it seems that the ideal format for a video podcast (i.e. suitable for iTunes and video iPods) is mpeg 4, 320 x 240 pixels, 30fps for good quality. AAC audio.


Snapzpro seems to be a good solution for mac osx, especially if you want the result to be in quicktime, so you can cut the footage in with video in iMovie – cheap alternative to camtasia (haven’t tried it yet, although camtasia does swf)

iSight microphone works well for screencasting apparently.

Vnc snooping or screencasting software on presenters machine would be good so a presentation can be filmed with a human element to it and screen footage edited in afterwards, rather than just videoing a projected screen.

Data transfer

firewire cable useful, especially between two macs – one in target mode. USB key also v.handy for transferring smaller files where firewalls or other factors are stopping network file sharing.


Never believe the “time remaining” progress bar in the export dialogue iMovie.

(I wonder how fast a macbook pro will be in comparison?)

Part of the value of Videocasts is their timeliness – it is easy to get bogged down in editing. Before another event like this it would be a good idea to prepare opening screens, title and credit format etc, maybe in an empty project that can be copied and used as a template so footage can be dropped in, trimmed, titles added and exported quickly.

Using powerbooks for transcoding/ compressing is viable, but slow

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Pterker 2011-08-08 17:47:42

less cynical about video over the web

Last year, I posted a rant about the poor quality of video over the web. Things have changed, at least in my mind.

I have spent a lot of time recently looking at skateboard videos on the web – some use streaming windows media, some use downloadable or streaming quicktime, but all are watchable. I have 512k broadband at home and a fat pipe at work, most of the videos are only a few minutes long and start playing almost immediately.

I want a min-dv cam. I seem to be incapable of just sitting back and enjoying these videos, without getting the urge to go out and start producing some of my own.