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Creative help on filming a bike ride

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You Can Call Me AlCreative help on filming a bike ride
by on Aug 24, 2006 at 4:07:51 pm

Hello all,
Been hired to video a non-competitive bike ride that lasts one week.
Mainly the riders are about 40yrs. of age.

Been looking at what the previous videographer did and it was what I expected; music over the whole thing with cuts to interviews of the riders acting goofy during rest stops. Their is no real structure to it but parts are well done. The client didn't like it much but I am having trouble coming up with anything different except just executing it better. A full blown documentary would be great but is not within resources. Client would like something that we can sell back to the riders.

One of the riders is an elder statesmen who used to do radio and has great voice and I am thinking of using him somehow.

Any suggestions are appreciated.

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mark SuszkoRe: Creative help on filming a bike ride
by on Aug 25, 2006 at 2:07:53 pm

What comes to my mind is to put wireless mics on two of them, and get some of their conversations while they ride. I would probably seed the conversation in advance with some selected topics that would likely lead to either funny or pithy commentary.

Adding some POV cameras to one of the bikes might be nice.

I am of the school of thought that documentaries are "found" in the editing process, that you go over all your assets and figure out a narrative thread and then build to that. That's not to say you don't start the project with a point of view, or that you don't steer it by the choices you already made in who, what, where, and when you shoot. But that the story sometimes evolves beyond what you started with, or goes off in an unexpected direction, and then it gets entertaining, because you're learning something new along with the audience.

So, what is the point of this ride? If the previous program disappointed the client, I could maybe see why, if all it was was montage of riders without a true narrative thread. Beyond the mild thrill of seeing pictures of yourself, that would soon get really boring.

Examples of themes that you could play with would include:

If this is an established run, how does the "new guy" who's never done it before, keep up with the experienced riders? Does he fall behind and get lost? DO they coach and encourage him/her along the way? Or is it very competitive? If it's truly a race, can they discuss strategy? What goes on in their minds while riding? Can you get some commentaries from those folks, grading the newbie, during rest/water/pitstop breaks, or after the thing is over?

Is the run about the destination? What about talking about the anticipation along the way, the expectations?

Is the run about what you find along the way? The terrain, the sights, the people?

With those ideas, it could be you could salvage the original program just by adding-in voiceover and on-camera interviews of recollections and anecdotes with some of the participants.

Or, you could apply these concepts in shooting the new version. Create a narrative with a 3-act structure. Beginning, middle, end. The beginning can be a question: will Joe Spokes be able to make the whole trip, and in what condition? Or it could be something like: "They are the seven biggest hills in what's considered a very flat state, and we want to see the view from each of them to learn about the land and people around them".
Or: "This is a run my late father used to take, and this is my first time following it myself. I want to see what he saw, feel what it was like, and maybe reminisce a bit".

To produce something like this you need good planning and logistics, and usually more than one camera. You need a camera car and/or bike travelling along with the group, an advance vehicle that can scoot miles ahead, deploy a camera and sticks to get them driving by, using high, normal, and ultra-low angles, then repeat. And it would be great to have POV cams and wireless mics on one or more of the bikes as well. This all obviously ups the cost and complexity of the project, but the likelihood of a worthwhile result is much better.

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Doug GrahamRe: Creative help on filming a bike ride
by on Aug 25, 2006 at 4:24:37 pm

I'd consider a helmet cam for the POV shot. The rider's body will provide a little shock absorption. However, bicycles have a very harsh ride; the footage is likely to be pretty shaky no matter what you do.

I recommend a chase car or motorcycle. I tried documenting a ride for my son's Scout troop from a bike. It was WAY too hard to try to keep up with a bunch of teenage competitive riders, let alone get out in front to try to get a shot of more than their backsides.

Doug Graham

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You Can Call Me AlRe: Creative help on filming a bike ride
by on Aug 30, 2006 at 2:21:58 pm

yea Doug the previous guy shot from the back of an SUV and his footage was at times too shaky but how else you gonna do it. I would think this would be less shaky then a bike cam.

I have a PDX 10 and think a stabilizer might be helpful for this at some point. Now that I think about it I don't have an SUV..... I think this is going to be imperative or else I am going to be doing it Le Tour de france style - out of a car window.

thanks for comments,

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You Can Call Me AlRe: Creative help on filming a bike ride
by on Aug 30, 2006 at 2:17:35 pm

Hey Mark,
Thanks a lot - lots of help and I think you are on the right track as the client said one of the points not covered previously was the setting and historic sites along the way. So I am thinking of getting the radio guy to provide commentary of different sites. The main prob with the previous effort was no structure to the video - no reason to watch.

Your way of coming up with the story/documentary I think is the way to go and one I had not thought enough about. I have never filmed anything like this and since it is not a race I can't go in that direction. I need to improvise as you say. Getting the riders story before the race would work and be easier. I think I will now focus on 3 very different riders and follow them through the week and merge this with commentary about the sites they pass and then try to sell this footage to the towns or see if they can use it somehow - I would like my footage to be usable by several groups of people: the riders, the towns, and the organization for the ride.

I also thought of putting daily highlights on their website ....
I mainly will be shooting during the AM until 1-2:00 and then just bits
of nightlife.

Anytips on how to charge for this.... The ride lasts for a week and I will there 24-7 but only need to shoot just so much. Travel, equipment, gas... Lodging will be provided free I would think... plus I am going to have to come up with some music that I can use legally.

The previous guy had a good technique of filming a local band and intercutting that with the ride - broke the monotony but probably not interesting for the riders. His voice was always on the tape to asking the questions and that is something I would try to avoid.

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Mark SuszkoRe: Creative help on filming a bike ride
by on Aug 30, 2006 at 4:13:09 pm

As far as billing, start with your day rate times the number of days, add-in extraordinary expenses such as tape, non-rechargeable batteries, meals, gas, lodging, transport, any specialty gear you have to rent for the job. Decide if you are doing 10-hour days and what your policy for overtime is. Add that all up and you have a starting point. Do not bill a flat rate for everything; you will almost assuredly under-bill or overbill, and neither is good for you. Sme guys leave all the meals and lodging and transport to the client to pay for you. If they can get these at a company discount, it saves everyone money. You will want a portion of the money for the week, say a third, paid to you up-front to cover your up-front expenses as well as contingencies.

For shooting while in motion, keep the lens fully-wide, run a little bit of shutter on it, not a lot, concentrate on keeping the frame level. A steadicam type stabilizer on a bike is not going to work too well, but out the back of a van or pickup truck, it could. We used to use a web of bungee cords to float a camera in the back or side of a van for those kind of shots. See if you can rent a camera that has built-in Electronic/optical image stabilization. This will help a lot, if you keep the shots wide...

As to the interviews, the key is to ask the right *type* of questions and to prepare the subject a little bit. Tell the subject to try and put the question back into their answer, example: Q: What is your favorite ice cream and why? a correct answer begins: "My favorite ice cream is (name) because it has..." This lets you cut out the questions in post and just assemble the answers into a coherent narrative. It is vital to not ask anything that can be answered by a yes or no, if you do that, immediately re-ask the question with abroader scope. Ask HOW-does a-, ask WHY do you- type questions. And the over-used news shooter question: "How do you feel?" Don't ask it like that, though, ask: "How do you feel you did on that last segment of the run, compared to so-and-so? Rate how he did and compare it to your performance."

Good luck with it. The more interviews you do, the better.

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You Can Call Me AlRe: Creative help on filming a bike ride
by on Aug 31, 2006 at 3:35:34 pm

Hey thanks Mark.
Good advice...
Another thing that has come up is the finished DVD.
Selling copies to the riders.... in my proposal I don't know how or if
we should split these revenues.

My proposal so far is scaring me - on duty for 24/7 (somewhat) for a week, and then editing and DVD production... I am in the $3-4,000 range already but I am willing to come down as I am very hungry and losing weight as we speak. Having never done a shoot like this before is making it difficult.


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Mark SuszkoRe: Creative help on filming a bike ride
by on Aug 31, 2006 at 7:56:07 pm

For those hours and level of work, using pro gear, $4,000 for the week, plus expenses, the edit and dubs, is lowballing it, IMO. When you run all the numbers versus the true hours put in, be sure you're not working for minimum wage! The better you understand and can break out these numbers, the better you can sell them to the client as the minimum cost of doign the job right. They already self-admittedly got a bad job for their money from the first guy. Cheap bastards always end up paying twice.

Don't be afraid to charge more for doing more. And better.

If it plain and simple is out of their price range, see if you can get your costs and partial profit up front and the rest on installments. Or re-figure the edit and/or dubs as a separate deal and only bill for the shoot right now. Break it down into more affordable steps, which they can take as and when they can afford it. But Get Paid for every step before you take the next one.

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You Can Call Me AlRe: Creative help on filming a bike ride
by on Sep 6, 2006 at 12:47:55 am

Excellent advice thanks.
I hand in my proposal this week and will go from there and will post back when I hear something.

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You Can Call Me AlRe: Creative help on filming a bike ride
by on Sep 13, 2006 at 5:47:08 pm

Well well well.... how crazy was I expecting to get paid... The guy wanted me to do it for FREE as they have never paid for it in the past. He was never explicit about this in our conversation but I should have asked when he said the previous guy stopped doing it because it wasn't worth the time for the amount of $ he made.

Part of the reason I got fooled is a friend who got me the contact with the guy is a very reliable friend who used to do that guys job so he knows they have money etc.., My friend was under the impression they always paid but in fact no. Partly my fault though as I didn't pick up on some clues during the meeting. In retrospect though I think the hiring guy was trying to see what he could get out of me for free. He said they wouldn't even pay for my lodging or even food if I did the gig! But he said, if I did it they would try to hire me for another video gig in the future!!!

I learned a lot and thanks Mark etc.. for the input.

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Mark SuszkoRe: Creative help on filming a bike ride
by on Sep 13, 2006 at 11:35:06 pm

Sorry to hear that, Al. Don't be afraid to walk away, it's the only way you have leverage in a deal like this.

But that guy said THE MAGIC WORDS.

The Magic Words vary somewhat but their essence is always the same: "If you do x for free, now, we'll pay you for Y, later".

This has never actually happened in the history of history, and anybody that runs this line on you is a crook and a liar, plain and simple. My own policy is that upon hearing even a sublte suggestion of the Magic Words from a potential client, I stand up, pack up everything I came in with, and leave, without a word.

Except maybe a "(censored) you, (Censored)", delivered with a chilling smile. And never deal with that person ever again.


That part becomes easy because usually the scumbag that uses the Magic Words winds up fired or in jail in a relatively short time.

The Magic Words are really very freeing. Other times you are making a deal, you can beat yourself up over and over afterwords, wondering if you charged enough or too much, or if this job will lead to more and better things, to contacts.

With the gift of The Magic Words, you don't have to wonder: you can absolutely KNOW you were going to be screwed, without question. Not only that, but you would have been every other future employer's punk and would never be able to build a reputation or a firm rate card in that town again.

You should thank the guy for making this all so easy.

If you still want to make a video like this project, contact a local club thru the bike shops, figure out how you and they can share the profits for it, and you can use it to promote yourself. Best of luck to you!

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You Can Call Me AlRe: Creative help on filming a bike ride
by on Sep 14, 2006 at 2:45:47 am

Thanks for the words Mark.
Man this video biz stuff is often like this.... one of the reasons I stopped doing weddings as similar stuff kept happening. I need to find a niche.

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dpdenverRe: Creative help on filming a bike ride
by on Oct 20, 2006 at 1:42:52 pm

Great post - thanks for sharing it. It did generate some great planning ideas. And it rings a familiar tone to me - great opportunity, thoughtful planning and preparation, reasonable if not underbid proposal - limited budget or wanting it free.

After having gone through it before, I always like the upfront question of " what's your budget for this ?". Then you can decide how much time you want to spend planning/proposing/etc. Sometimes I will do things for the experience - or promotion. But it's nice to pay for my equipment (or some of it) - and nicer to get paid for my time. Still working hard on that one.

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