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5 Tips to Make a Mountain Bike Video That Doesn’t Suck

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My bike, ready to roll video at Pima & Dynamite.

Someone just posted a 17-minute mountain bike video on YouTube. It’s a painful slog through a trail – one camera angle The.Whole.Damn.Time. This sucks. And there is entirely too much of this visual colon exam brand of suck on YouTube, Vimeo and the rest.

It doesn’t have to be this way. I’m no film maker. I don’t even play one on TV. But I can tell you how to make a mountain bike video that doesn’t suck.

Tell a Story
Are you making a video just because you bought a GoPro Helmet Hero? Woah. Slow your roll. Think. Would you watch a movie because Sam Raimi or Quentin Tarantino just bought a new camera? Even if the answer is “maybe,” you didn’t direct Army of Darkness or Pulp Fiction.

So before you pop that camera into a helmet mount, think. What about your ride could be interesting? First time on a particular trail? Your longest ride ever? A really cool race? Did your favorite trail just get a maintenance facelift?

Find the story … and tell it.

I'm ready for my close up.

I’m ready for my close up.

Vary Your Camera Angles
The video I mentioned above? One single solitary view: straight ahead. What a god-awful snoozefest. Whether the terrain is forest, desert, tundra or sewer tunnels, one viewpoint makes for dullness.

What can you do? Well, here are some of my go-to angles:
-Handlebar, facing straight. I always show a little front tire for perspective.
-Helmet.
-Handlebar, facing to the side and showing hand and brake lever.
-Handlebar, pointing down to show the fork. Great for technical bits.
-Handlebar, facing rider. Always good to get a person.
-Seatpost facing rear. Awesome for passing people!
-Seatpost facing front. Definitely shakes things up.
-Have a friend with a helmet cam. Mo’ angles, mo’ riders, mo’ fun!

If you whine “But that’s a lot of work during a ride, and I don’t want to hold anyone up” … then don’t make your movie during that ride. Go with some people who don’t care (every movie needs stars) about some delays. Yeah, it takes some time to move the camera around. Or you can have a bike with SRAM 9.0 instead of XO and maybe an X-Fusion fork instead of a Fox – that way, you can afford three Helmet Hero cameras and not have to switch so much!

Keep Each Bit Short
I rarely show one clip for longer than 10 seconds. I keep most clips at 3-6 seconds. I also try to vary the camera angle every 3 clips or so. This keeps it all from getting monotonous.

Just forkin' around.

Just forkin’ around.

Font Something Once in Awhile
Flash some text on the screen. It can be something informative, funny, insulting, whatever. It’s just a nice way to add something extra to the story you’re telling.

Shorter is Better
If you are guilty of making a 15-minute mountain bike movie with a helmet cam, do me a favor: Invite a bunch of random people over. Sit them down and make them watch your opus. Within 60 seconds, people will be playing “Words with Friends” on their smart phones, squirming in their seat and looking for rafters in your ceiling so they can hang themselves by their belt.

But if you apply all the rest of these tips and jam it into a sub-5-minute package, they’ll ask when the sequel is coming out.

Have you seen an amateur mountain bike video that you love? Link to it in the comments!

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