Feature Stories

The Motorcycle Diaries: Off Road Journeys

A love for mountain scenery, fast bikes and radio communication means that, even in retirement, life for David Casler is far from dull. Having recently retired from corporate life, David and his wife Loretta enjoy the beautiful surrounds of rural Colorado, where David is an avid writer, amateur (ham) radio operator (callsign KEØOG), and motorcyclist. David shares his passions for ham radio, and riding the many trails that dot the Colorado countryside with the world, through his blog dcasler.com, and YouTube channel.

David in his riding gear with his GoPro Hero2 HD mounted on his helmet. Photo by Gary Garren.

Sharing a passion for riding

David's love for motorcycling first started at the age of 16, when a friend let him ride his new Yamaha trail bike. Many years, and bikes later David's love for riding takes him high into Colorado's Rocky Mountains, as he traces and explores the many marked and unmarked trails that crisscross the rugged countryside. After being gifted a GoPro Hero 2 HD camera for his birthday, David decided to record and share his videos with family and friends via the internet.

"Initially I used it so I could share my rides with my wife ... [and] when I showed the raw video to her she enjoyed it! I put up short videos on YouTube … to share my rides with friends, but soon found that other people wanted to see these videos too," explains David. "One reason I enjoy using the motorcycles to see the vast beauty of our Rocky Mountains is that the view is unrestricted, even with a helmet on. Riding a motorcycle is a very personal experience. I can feel the wind, the sunshine, even the rain drops."

Complex timeline management

Complex timeline management made easy using PowerDirector 12

However, shooting on a motorcycle certainly isn't without its challenges. David mounts his GoPro on his helmet, to give viewers as close to a first person perspective as possible. This, however, means that he is unable to see the camera while recording, to make sure that the settings are appropriate and that it is functioning properly. The length of many rides also means that battery life is another factor that David has had to consider. Shooting in RAW presents its own problems, with the file size for a normal three to four hour ride coming to a hefty 16GB, and on top of all that, doing a lot of off-road riding means that the video that David shoots is often quite bumpy.

"The "Fix/Enhance > Stabilizer" feature of PowerDirector 12 does a good job of stabilizing the very shaky GoPro video," says David. "I carry two batteries for the GoPro to give me more recording time. Also, I now have the 'backpack' (a small attachment to the back of the camera) that allows me to control the camera from a remote that I can see while riding. That way I’m sure of what the camera’s doing," explains David. In addition, I record on a 32GB Class 10 SDHC card. Two batteries, which provide power for three to four hours of video, fills up about 16GB on the card. I offload this to a network hard drive so that it doesn’t clutter up my computer hard drive."

When publishing his videos, David is also mindful of their length. "Sometimes I'll take what could be long and boring (a 45-minute run up Engineer Pass Road) and compress it to five minutes using PowerDirector's "Power Tools > Video Speed" tool," he concedes. As many of his off-road videos are intended to introduce different routes around the Colorado backcountry to fellow riders, David also edits his clips to focus on key turns and road signs on the route.

Instructional videos & studio shooting made easy with PowerDirector

A look at David's studio set up, as he sees it during shooting

In addition to his motorcycling videos, David also creates instructional videos to aid those looking to take the amateur radio license tests in the United States. Originally, David would provide such instruction in-person, however all that changed when he moved to the sparsely populated western Colorado. "I could not reach very many people with my classes" he explains, "so I conceived the idea that I'd create videos that introduced material that's written in a standard textbook published by the American Radio Relay League."

David not only sets out to instruct new ham operators how to pass the required licensing tests, but also gives pointers which he hopes will allow them to get the most out of their new hobby. In order to do this though, David has had to use a room in his house to set up his own personal recording studio, complete with green screen and professional lighting.

While his production set up might extensive, David is adamant that it's worth the effort, as it makes the post-production process much simpler. "I shoot the ham radio videos specifically to be easy to edit," he admits. "For each video that shows me with the green screen in the background, I substitute another background behind it, which can be a video or a backdrop. […]The New Blue effects included in the Ultimate version of PowerDirector 12 is a Chroma-Key effect. Ths pulls a truly outstanding chroma key." After syncing the video and audio, which he records separately, David is ready to render, and upload his clips directly to YouTube.

David shooting his instructional videos in his home studio with lighting & green screen set up.

David is a firm believer that anyone can, and should, share their passions in the same way he does. "Share! Whatever your passion, other people would like to learn from you. Think through how you learned it and what pitfalls you had to overcome. Then create videos that helps others. And sometimes the sheer beauty alone justifies a video," he affirms.

"Video is more effective than prose by a long shot, and people prefer watching over reading. Over time, you'll build up a community and will find that thousands of people will subscribe to your YouTube channel. Every time I put up a new video, I get more subscribers."

David Casler is a blogger, writer, ham radio operator (Amateur Extra level, callsign KEØOG) and motorcyclist. He regularly updates his blog dcasler.com with material related to his hobbies. You can follow directly view his video via his YouTube channel. He is also a CyberLink MVP (Most Valued Professional). A full version of this our Q&A session with David can be found on his blog.

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