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Creating Intense Action Cam Videos, Part 1

Creating Intense Action Cam Videos, Part 1

Intense and Artsy Action Cam Videos

“Why doesn’t my video look as exciting and fun on film as when I’m doing it?” Believe us. We’ve asked ourselves this question a few times.

The truth is that creating an action video is all about controlling the perception of movement in your film. While it may seem contradictory, one main mechanism for increasing tension and intensity is about mixing “slowness” into your action film. The basic rule of thumb is: the more varied your footage is, the more dynamic your end product will be.

Vary your scenes’ subject matter

First, let’s talk about subject matter. The length of your film should reflect the subject matter. In short, as soon as you make cuts or have multiple scenes and cameras, you can create more action. One camera and one angle is OK for one run, or a few action sequences cut together, but not suitable for a long video. The more angles, perpectives, activities, and subjects you show during a video, the more interesting it will become.

Compare these two videos of cycling in the city.

Alley Cat in Hamburg:

Biking in Toronto:

Consider mixing together different activities in your action videos. Seeing a little bit of the lunch break can make the next run look more exciting… Or at least make the subject of the video more interesting.

The cycling video in Hamburg shows more interesting activities and, even though it is a cycling video, it becomes more interesting by filming moments which weren’t biking or about one biker. By showing footage which is not related to the action, you create a story arc which draws the viewer into the world of the “actors” and subjects. A little montage from the ski lodge or the ski lift also offers a great change of pace to a snowboarding video which only shows movement on the slopes.

Vary your shots

Within a shot, the audience develops a feeling of distance, speed, and intensity. Let’s call this perspective. Sometimes a close-up will seem faster, other times a wide-angle shot will work better.

Ask yourself if you can keep the subject in the shot the entire time. If your answer is no, then you need a wider-angle because the action happens too quickly. If your answer is yes, then you have a useable shot, but it might not be the most intense shot, so make sure to have another angle to supplement that footage. The video from the Toronto cyclist has an interesting angle and it creates a feeling of depth, but it isn’t suited for an entire video.

A quick wrap up to shot style

Vary all of these elements while shooting. The easiest way is to do this is with multiple cameras. If you only have one action cam, then manipulate your filming so that you can vary all of these elements. Take more runs on a shorter course. Each run should be with different camera placement. Alternatively, cut together long footage of different runs with one camera placement. The variety of material will add intensity to your final cut. This is not a natural idea that will come to while you’re on the slopes or out on the river. Try to think about this every time you take a break, before you start a new run, or tackle a large obstacle (e.g., taking a big jump). Use that movement to change the position of your camera, or film another person taking the same jump.

Control your playback speed

One very important tool to any action film is playback speed. However, be sure to always use a high frame rate while filming, otherwise you won’t be able to use playback speed functions without compromising the quality of your video.

When shooting action sports like skateboarding or free running, it can be helpful to slow down playback when a complicated or quick-moving trick takes place. Likewise, if there is a long stretch of footage without much action or dynamic, the footage can be sped up to make it a useable change of pace to the other material which is the main subject of your film. While the Hamburg video doesn’t need changes to the speed to make it more interesting, the Toronto video will be more interesting sped up as an abbreviated version of the ride. One more tip: if you do change the playback speed, make sure that your music or that the next action lines up coincides with the beat.

When in MAGIX Fastcut, you’ll find this option in the “speed” tab, where you’ll find a “slow motion/fast motion” slider and a checkbox to “play video backwards.” In MAGIX Movie Edit Pro, you’ll see this option under Effects > Speed. Here’s you’ll see a slider with a multiplier for playback speed.

The Final Wrap

Experiment with these different tools to manipulate the tempo and story of your film. With good footage and these tools you will be able to create varied emotional arcs to your video. Try to incorporate them while developing your personal style.

Further reading:

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