How to make a great motorcycle video movie

Motorcycling is all about freedom, the open road and the uninhibited joy of twisting the throttle....

Why wouldn't you want to share it with others?

Should be easy, strap on a video camera and hit record right?

Well, not really, no.

Images and Video, as amazing as they may be, do not necessarily express "the feeling" very well and while you may be in awe of some amazing view out on the open road, to others it might just be 10 minutes of boredom.

Before we get started

Let me say right from the off that a lot depends upon what kind of video you are making and might effect what pieces of advice make sense for you and which ones do not.

Some types of movies:

  • Adventure (Showing a trip in an edited package like a story)
  • Review (Describing or showing something. EG: I do reviews of roads which show information but not really a story)
  • Documentary
  • Just fun (clips of having fun on your bike; not necessarily scripted in any way)
  • VLOG (video blog used to discuss issues or thoughts)

NOTE: the following tips do not need to be taken together (IE: must do them all, all of the time). Try them out individually, together in different combos and see what you like.

So, what goes into making an awesome video?

There are a few things that can make your video AWESOME when used and put together the right way.

  • AUDIO: Sound/Music
  • VIDEO: Camera position/angles
  • CONTEXT: Photos, video clips (snippets), narration and on screen text

AUDIO

Take any camera, attach it to your bike and go riding....and what do you get? WIND NOISE........Holy cow, are you riding in a tornado?!?!?!?!

Even at fairly slow speeds, wind will dominate the audio of most action cameras if they are facing directly into it. Sometimes you can hide the camera behind a windscreen which might also reduce wind noise, but generally speaking you're talking about wind speeds of 50-100mph...that's a lot of wind.

So many videos out there are great images of bikes and curves and a whole lot of wind noise, you have to turn it into a silent movie to watch it....no thanks.

Aha....I know this great song....

A lot of people will remove the camera's audio and put in some super awesome SONG....or less than super awesome song.... that will make it awesome.....

....except now we're watching a silent movie with a soundtrack....

Not as bad as 'Tornado Alley', and to be fair music only videos CAN be quite good IF they also include multiple viewpoints or editing scenes together. 20 minutes of one scene with music isn't as good to watch as it might feel to you while riding it.

A second thing is to carefully match the mood of the video with the music to what you're trying to express. A straight slow cruise matched to some hard core rock music might come across as disconnected.

There are a couple of ways to proceed.

Include the sound of the bike

Twins, Triples, 4s, stock and aftermarket exhaust....we LOVE the way the sound hits us in the spine. People LOVE hearing the bike! Even this BMW r1150r with pretty tame exhaust can enhance the experience.

About 2/3rd through this example is a second clip so hang in there for a few extra seconds.

Mic the Bike

The key to getting good sounds of the bike itself (exhaust note) is an external microphone. That may be in your helmet or could be something you setup behind the seat or right behind the instrument cluster...just depends upon your bike and setup. You'll be amazed at how wind noise gets all over the place so be prepared to try a few spots to find a good one.

For advanced movie making types you might consider a separate audio recording device so you don't have a cord running to the camera. This allows you the ability to change your camera's position quickly without dealing with the microphone cord each time. I'd recommend a high quality recording device. I tried it with a cheap one off eBay and it just didn't last and was mono which wasn't good enough sound.

Narration

The second option is to add in narration along with your music which can really enhance the feeling of the ride for the viewer. Mention things of interest, the road conditions or simply how great of a day it is. People connect with people and it draws them in.

The KEY thing when it comes to narration is to do it AFTER the ride. IE: Do not try and record yourself in your helmet unless your doing a VLOG (video blog). Record yourself back at home. I use Audacity to record my audio (it's free) and then simply bring it into the movie and cut and position the segments as needed.

Keep in mind, I am not a trained multimedia professional just a little trial and error for classmates in the school of hard knocks.

NOTE: when recording your narration, if you mess up or something else happens like a phone call or cat decides to start meowing, you do NOT need to start over, simply leave a pause or cough (as a marker) and keep going or do that section over. You can easily remove the chaff after you're done. Way better than starting from the beginning!

Of course the BEST practice is to use all three: Music, Narration & Bike sounds mixed in together.


FILMING & EDITING

Good quality video isn't all that hard to capture these days. The various action cameras out there do a great job. I won't get into a technical discussion about frame rates and the like, but I will say that you should try a few to find the best results for you/your bike. On the highest setting of my camera (Drift HD) I get the vibration "wave" at certain rpm, but when I set it down one level (to 50fps or 30fps) I do not.

Often people will have loved the ride (they experienced the emotion of being out there) so their movie will be one unending stream of riding....we see the whole thing (without experiencing any of the emotion). Even with a soundtrack it gets boring watching the scenery come by mile after mile when you're not emotionally engaged.

If your goal is to encourage others to ride or try and give them a taste of the experience, you need to edit your video, even if just a little bit, to really enhance the end product. Each element (cut scene, sound, music change or word spoken) engages the viewer anew.

EG: Here is a clip to illustrate....I challenge you to watch the whole thing....and it's only 1 minute long!!

I am not saying you cannot have a longer video section (an uncut segment). What I'm saying is only leave it in (long uncut sections) if it enhances the experience and make sure you are adding in narration or have some music that relates to that segment. Try it both ways. Uncut and cut into chunks with fades or wipes and see which you like better.

Camera Positions/Angles

You can also introduce various camera positions/angles to add some variety such as:

  • Back at you
  • Off to the side
  • Lower down
  • Facing backward

The main reason someone is watching your motorcycle video it to see the road/ride/scenery or be drawn into the feeling or the ride (deep in the winter, I watch videos to keep me going) so don't have 20 minutes of looking at you, but cut to a view of you and then back to the road, etc.

Here are some camera angles to give you an idea. I've paired it with some spunky music so you can see how that effects the mood as well. Something boring like these clips is much better with music. Try also watching it without the sound off to see what I mean about how sound effects the video.

Also, while some editing and showing different camera positions is good, but constantly changing will get distracting so be careful you don't overdo it. I prefer to pic between 1 and 3 and work within that, but if you're doing a lot of riding it can be quite a pain to stop and change angles a lot. With good editing, one camera angle can work pretty well too.

When I do my road reviews, I tend to just face forward so people can see what the road is "like" (not just read about it). I use editing, music and narration to keep it from being monotonous, but when I do a "ride/adventure" I like to throw in some helmet mounted stuff and off to the side to enhance the "being a part of the trip" feeling.

Key takeaway is try stuff. Have fun with it and see what works.

Editing the Footage

YOU ARE TELLING A STORY...to some degree and your movie should do that. Not that you need to write a story or make up something akin to a plot, but think about it in terms of meeting someone and they ask you about your ride. You might tell them where you went, how you got there, what it was like and the cool classic car museum or stupid deer you almost hit. Those are all a part of the story of your ride.

By chopping up your footage, you remove stuff that is boring or just doesn't add anything. At first, it's very hard to do. After all, it's all awesome stuff...it was for YOU while you experienced it. But after you do it, you'll realize that you have tons of good footage left and the overall movie is far better.

SOFTWARE

As you can imagine and might be aware there are lots of audio and video editing software options that range from FREE to a SHIT TON with different levels of complexity.

I have used Windows Movie Maker that isn't as crappy as you might imagine, but it's very basic. Currently I use Audacity for Audio recording and Powerdirector (Cyberlink) for video editing. PD is pretty easy to use (some learning needed, but not too bad for covering the basics) and seems to offer lots of complex features when you want them.


CONTEXT

This is the use of photo or video clips (snippets), narration and/or on screen text to set the stage or enhance the story.

You can tell viewers where you are, which direction you're heading, what the day is like or what town or thing of interest is nearby (If you head down this side road you can see...).

Narration adds a personal connection because you are communicating directly to the viewer. By no means do you need to chatter away the whole time. Little tidbits here and there, anything important they should know such as, "this road is closed during the winter so be sure to check"...or "when you get to this town, fill up with gas because there isn't any for a long time" or just something trivial but fun like "this town has more animals than people".

Narration is great to introduce the movie and thrown in throughout  can really enhance it.

It's also a great way to encourage people at the end...."So now it's your turn, get on your bike and just go..." or "if you liked this video please leave a comment".

If you have a movie you already put together, try adding some narration to see the difference it can make and GET OVER THE WHOLE 'THAT IS WHAT I SOUND LIKE?' thing!

Along with Narration, you can feed in photographs you've taken or what I call snippets (short video clips I take using my smart phone). These snippets can be things link the gas pump, a fence post, a dog, a duck or your bike, helmet, gloves, boots, etc.

They really make a difference and are easy to film whenever you take a break or stop to look at something nifty. These snippets are a key factor in "taking it to the next level". Key takeaway, snippets do not need to be 'fancy'. The road, a car, can, store, gravel, grass blowing all qualify because they all bring in the context. Do not fret over "setting up a shot" just shoot lots of thing and toss what doesn't work.

These snippets add mood and a break to the movie up and show the pre-ride, a break spot or something of interest. It turns the ride into an experience.

Film for 5-10 seconds so if you want them long you have it. You can always cut clips down. I've never wished I filmed shorter, but often find a clip too short for what I wanted to say (narrate) over it.

On Screen Text

On screen text should not be a substitute for narration. IE: do not put up full paragraphs of explanations. On screen text is great for things like town names, crossing state lines, or things like that: Simple contextual markers.

Putting it all together

Snippets, music, narration, a bit of cheeky story telling...