What is travel video about? Of course, it's about traveling, being on the road and things like that, but what about the action? How can it best be captured so that spectators feel like they're right there, on the streets of Berlin?
There's been a lot of talk about HD sports and action cameras recently, and one of the most often featured among them is the GoPro HD Hero2. Of course, we needed to get and test one of these nice little gadgets.
Once the action camera was in the house, we started to think of the action itself. Normally, this type of camera is used by tough guys and girls fearlessly jumping out of planes, doing paragliding or riding down vertical snowy mountain faces as if there were no tomorrow. Altogether breathtaking things -- that we unfortunately do not practice (due to vertigo and joy-killing rational appeals).
So, what the hell do we need a "look-what-we-can-do-with-gravity" camera for? Good question, and here's the answer: to capture the urban flow. Not just any flow, but our own movement through the city.
Everybody who ever tried to capture motion without using a Hollywood set-up knows the problem: A simple bicycle ride on the riverside looks like, well, a simple bicycle ride on the riverside when using just normal equipment. It gets even more pedestrian as the driver has to adapt his or her movements to the low mobility of the camera operator. In the end, the whole story looks like a slow motion showdown. With our small new wonder box, the same action looks quite audacious -- and the picture benefits from some brave maneuvers like riding between trucks and doing some fancy brake action.
Jokes aside, it's just really fun to cruise the city with a camera on your helmet or your handlebars, following a well-composed trail showing the changing atmosphere in different neighborhoods along the way. Once back in the editing room, enjoyment goes on as the footage calls for experimental treatments like time-lapse, slow motion (which can be done with no problems thanks to the high frame rate) or "magic bullets."
But another point has to be mentioned as well: Action cameras seem to need bright sunshine to produce good HD material. Due to the wide angle and the small sensor (in comparison with full HD DSLR cameras), everything looks flat and unspectacular when the sky is gray. And of course the pictures shake quite a bit. For that reason, being underway with an action camera means thinking, moving and watching differently since your head is the camera operator in the literal sense of the word.
We gave it a first try, and it won't be the last. Improvement in camera operating is possible and necessary, and therefore our small new series "urban motion berlin" is a further playground for us. (It's also great fun.) We started our journey with a trip of contrasts, from the government district to well-known Kreuzberg. On our way, we crossed many famous (political) sights like German Chancellery and Reichstag building as well as hidden corners in Kreuzberg.
Big traffic on Unter den Linden and Alexanderplatz was part of the game as well, but there was no traffic at all in quiet side roads. We passed historic sites like Berlin Cathedral, temporary buildings like Humboldt-Box and GDR modernity like Café Moskau and Kino International. And of course, we had some nice coffee breaks on our way.
The trips ends on Oberbaum bridge, which marks the border between the districts of Kreuzberg and Friedrichshain and gives view to Mediaspree. The area has been -- and still is -- the subject of discussion among investors from music and media industries, urban planners and citizens. But that's another story. Therefore let's get back to action: Just forget about bungee jumping and mountain rafting for a moment and enjoy Berlin!