Monthly Archives: January 2011

Checking in

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Back when we kicked off this project my blood was still flush with adrenaline from last winter, probably one of the best seasons I’ve had in the last 15 years. I was SO ready to do it again, but I’m sad to say that this year has not delivered the same epic waves and weather yet. Maria and I cleared our slate for most of December only to get skunked. The dates between Christmas and New Year’s Day, typically a time of stellar surf around here, were eerily flat — like, uncannily flat. So I haven’t shot anything like I want to. The good news is that the swells turned on a couple of weeks ago, and the weather is fantastic, so a good season might be upon us now. I’m poised.

New Year's Day was bitterly cold here in Santa Barbara, and as flat as the Pacific can be.

Last summer, I got ahold of Oregon Scientific’s little ATC9K sports cam. During a run up and down the coast, we managed to rendezvous with PG in Central California and frolic a while in some fun little surf, and shoot preliminary water footage with the ATC9K. To be honest, it was disappointing — soft image quality, generally desaturated color, bleached out whites. Maybe I’ll post some up here as an example, but I really wasn’t stoked about it. Of course, the best artistic response to a technical weakness like this is to exploit it — the funky image has its own kind of allure, especially if the waves and scenery are worthy. So I haven’t given up on the cam altogether, though it makes me crave a high-end solution with a housing all the more.

Since then, OS has released some firmware upgrades, I’ve fiddled around more with the customization, and learned a bit more about which situations might yield better results. I’ve stripped all the plastic holders off of it and secured a length of bootlace to it with some fibrous shipping tape. Now it’s a very light 3-inch waterproof cylinder with a screen on the back and a simple button on top to trigger a shot. Can’t complain about the form factor at all, it’s outstanding.

Shooting specs

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I recently got an inquiry from one the the intrepid matriders from the Pacific North West. He had acquired a nice HD camcorder and wanted my thoughts on which recording mode to use. I told him that ideally I’d like to see video shot at 30 frames-per-second, and if possible in a widescreen format (16:9) at full HD resolution (1920 x 1080 pixels). Get as close to the action as possible in order to keep the screen filled while minimizing the use of the zoom lens. Use a tripod with a good head on it to stabilize the image and pan smoothly. The digital image stabilization function usually introduces some softness into the image, so it’s better to put some effort into getting a solid picture in the first place.

Realizing that not everyone has access to camcorders of that quality, it’s certainly not a deal-breaker if you shoot footage with other specs. I imagine that Standard Definition stuff will be pretty common, and it will fit in our HD field. Don’t use 24 frames-per-second “film look” if you can avoid it. it’s harder for me to integrate that with other frame rates. It can be done, but it’s less than satisfactory — try not to.

To keep things organized, I’ll put up a separate post about capturing your footage, file types, and transferring to the project repository,

As far as tracking down the waves and riders, you’re on your own.