Trying to Vlog with the Insta360 One X
Having finished the book Cycling from Square One,
I have to admit I was getting a little bit sick of writing every day. The ability to take video on the bike and share a message that way has always been something that I have enjoyed. I have learned a lot in the search for the easiest way to do that.
I have tried many things. I think I am up to a total of four sports action cameras and that does not include trying my phone, several pocket cameras, DSLRs, and other video equipment. Now, as for the phone, I still think that it is a great way to take pictures and possibly even video from the bike, but I always fear that I'm going to drop it. I just hate taking the phone in and out of a pocket while riding.
The ideal video comes from something that is easily held on to, easily stored away, and something that provides good audio. A dedicated video camera is a better option than the phone if you can hold on to it, and it can be easily turned on and stuffed or stored in a pocket in your jersey. Let’s face it, mounting the sports camera on the front of the bike (or rear) is boring! It is useful in races, I guess. Or, it works well to supplement the vlogging that I was trying to do handheld.
I tried for several years to get away with using a GoPro to do vlogging, and it worked well. Especially with the Hero 7 Black, the wide-angle perspective was useful and effective even if the audio was not perfect. At one point I bought a foam case to muffle the wind noise. It was okay, but the lack of a front facing screen made me unaware of whether I was “in the shot” when I pointed it at my face and spoke.
When I switched over to the Insta360 One X, the ability to have a wide range of perspective was very intriguing. It records in all directions, allowing me to reframe the footage. If I point the side of the camera with the buttons at my face and hold it near the bars, I can frame myself perfectly in the 16:9 shot. Because it shoots in 360 degrees at 5.7K, it easily looks decent in 1080 which is more than enough for YouTube. It also allows me to get tiny planet videos and all kinds of weird perspectives. I am really in love with the look and use even if the workflow is a little time consuming.
The settings in the Insta360 One X allow me to long press on the shutter button and have it immediately start to record video. If I remember to give it a few seconds too record, I almost never miss a shot. When I am done, a single press of that same shutter button turns the unit off. So far in moderate weather the batteries last about 2230 minutes which is more than enough footage. No one wants to hear me talk for that long, and if I need more footage, I usually bring extra batteries which are cheap and can easily be purchased on Amazon.
The workflow starts with selecting shots on the Insta360 One X camera and dragging them into the Insta360 One X app on my phone or iPad. Then I trim the shots (start and finish only) and reframe the shots into a “flat” 16:9 aspect ratio before dumping all the separate videos into an editor to clean it all up. SO, for example, the North Buffalo to Mapleton video had 12 smaller Insta360 One X shots that were exported onto the laptop to be fixed in DaVinci Resolve 16. I add titles, trim the ride footage, clean up the audio, color grade, and add music which I record myself and overlay on the quiet parts. It is a lot of work, but the results are decent.
Here is a video that will give a good idea of the standard shots I can get out of it.
Here is a video that shows some of the more creative shots that I can get out of the Insta360 One X.
Here is a video with a combination of normal and the more experimental elements.
The problem has been the audio. Again, the wind ruins the footage time and time again. and the sad thing is you never know until you get home and listen to the footage whether the wind noise will be terrible or not. My first solution was to add a small piece of foam between the latex case that I have for the Insta360 One X and the camera itself. Simply covering up the microphone hole did not do a whole lot maybe because the foam was thin.
You can hear the wind just whipping in this vlog!
So, then I tried covering the whole bottom of the Insta360 One X with a foam windscreen. This is working out well with only a few drawbacks. One drawback is that the foam sometimes gets in the shot as you can see in the North Buffalo to Mapleton video. The second is that it makes the camera a little bulky, but this is not a big problem. The windscreen can be used as a lens cover when storing the Insta360 One X in a back jersey pocket, so that's a plus.
I'm currently exploring the idea of using some stick-on fake fur wind covers like found in the “dead cats” that people use over boom microphones. We will see how that goes and if it improves the audio without the need for the foam windscreen. Stay tuned. Here is what that looks like....
Check out the vlog I did on the podcast to hear what the faux fur setting sounds like. I did not do any audio processing on that track, so this is exactly what came out of the camera. To me it sounds okay. With a little processing it might be better, but for me usable is fine.
For now, I am hoping that I can get the quality audio I need to take the vlog to the next level. I think then that the obvious next steps are getting better content and building a following. This would include the need for better routes, but also just deciding upon a focus more often instead of just the random, stream of consciousness style I seem to have now. Maybe if I do, the vlog will take off and become a sustainable entity. Oh well, one can only dream.
Check out the gear I use below, and if you buy it using the link, it will help support the blog and the YouTube channel!
Canon G7X Mark II
GoPro Hero 7 Black
Insta360 One X