Dirt Jump

I just got back from Highland Mountain Bike Park in Northfield, New Hampshire. The place is about five miles off exit 19 on RT 93 and it is less than 2 hours north of Boston. If you like to downhill mountain bike or BMX, this is the place to go.

In fact, it reminded me of a condensed version of Whistler in B.C. Canada. And that is saying a lot! Whistler Bike Park, for me, is as good as it gets.

I met up with my bud Nick Keating to shoot some high speed footage of the Park with local riders. Be sure to click on his name to see his Flickr account. Nick is an excellent stills shooter and he is taking some sick MTB photos. He recently acquired a Canon 5dmk2 and a bunch of lenses and accessories from an online contest. Congrats Nick, time to step up your game!

Nick shot this short GoPro Hero helmet cam video as he ripped through “Hellion” at Highland. Those of you who have cruised down Whistler’s A-Line may see some similarities. Hellion is like a baby A-Line but this track it is in my backyard! And Highland just opened up a new downhill trail called “Happy Hour”. Sweet. I can’t wait to ride that.

Nick and I set up the Fastec Imaging HiSPEC2 Color 720p high speed camera at the base of the Slope Style course at Highland. The slope is a bunch of berms and dirt piles that form an incredible, air-inducing, super flowy downhill course. We worked with professional freeride mountain biker, Aaron Chase to shoot a simple high speed dirt jump sequence. Aaron is a great person and he was fun to work with. Crazy sense of humor and he is living the dream for sure. He was leaving for Whistler the day after we shot this footage!

I shot at 718 frames per second off a tripod (most of the time) and had my cam assist, Nick help with lenses and moving the tethered laptop around in the intense sun and heat. The camera shut down twice, due to temperature and the black Sony VAIO laptop got so warm, it was hard to hold. But so far, both are working well in the field.

Dirt Jump

I have to use 12 volt lead-acid batteries with a 140 watt inverter to get the camera power. At one point, the laptop died and we had to grab a power strip at the lodge to send juice to both the camera and the computer from the sketchy Walmart inverter. I have a USB powered monitor that mirrors my computer screen, but with the limited battery power, i have yet to use it on the high speed camera. It is a real challenge to follow the action without a proper viewfinder mounted to the camera itself.

Fastec Imaging has me testing out new high speed software and a firmware update to the HiSPEC2 camera. The software on the PC was version 1.0.0.0. Never fun to run that version. A bug was found and I was unable to export the high speed footage as an uncompressed .avi file. This was the workflow I was use to in my past experience with this camera and now I had to do a few extra steps. I had to export as a “.tiff image stack” and then load all the images as a sequence in Quicktime 7. The same process I use when taking stills from my Canon 5dmk2 and building a timelapse. This added extra time to the rendering and will be fixed soon.

I want to use uncompressed .avi, I think it looks better. I found the .tiff files added aliasing and moire to the camera images that I had never seen before. The .tiffs looked “digital”.

When editing the content in the lodge (waiting for a storm to pass that never arrived), Nick made the suggestion to turn the entire project black and white. I agreed with him once I looked at the footage and saw the moire and heavily blown out sky. I used Magic Bullet Looks to apply a film-like soft feel and removed all the color. This little camera has trouble with high contrast situations. It also creates the “screen door effect” where you see small black lines and texture off the sensor in dark and white areas of the picture. This can be avoided as long as the do not clip the video or shoot in very low light. It can also be removed, in most cases, in post.

I will be shooting much more at Highland this summer. Hope to get a Phantom into the bike park next! Stay tuned…

If you have any questions about this camera system, please email Matt through this contact form at Fastec Imaging.


This video is also available on Vimeo. Click Here to view it.