Sunday, February 28, 2010

Winter Olympics 2010: Canada wins over USA

We interupt this program to announce that the winner of the Winter 2010 Olympics Hockey match between Canada & the USA, is . . . Canada

Naturally, the best team WON

We were downtown and happened to be in the Athletes' Lounge on the 6th floor of the Hudson's Bay Company when the winning puck was scored. There was celebration in the streets of Vancouver. Canadians who are docile by nature, were NOT today where there was a lot of patriotism and Red & White flags waving about

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Video Editing: Picture in Picture

Last year while on a ride to Kelowna, BC on my Suzuki SV650K4 I did take a bit of video using my Panasonic SDR-SW20 Flash Camcorder. It was perfect for bike use. I had it mounted on my right handlebar mirror stem using Ram-Mounts. The SW20 is in a waterproof case, shockproof and best of all used electronic media rather than Hard Drives or tape mechanisms which can fail due to vibration. The SW20 is only a DVD quality, recording in standard definition which is perfect if you are going to use the clips in a picture in picture application, or podcasts where you would like to have smaller files.

I am not going to make this too technical but the SW20 produces .MOD files which cannot be imported into WMM (Windows Movie Maker). The reason that WMM or WMP (Windows Media Player) can't recognize these files which are produced by flash camcorders is because the Header Information is missing from the main file and is included in a secondary file as matched pairs. The header file includes information such as bitrate, aspect ratio (16:9 or 4:3 etc) in order for the codec to DECODE the info in the file. CODEC stands for COmpression and DECompression, after all Mpeg4 is a compressed format. I discovered a Utility that can give you the specifications of the file so you know what codecs you are missing. The original File produced by the SW20 is xxxxxx.MOD

pana sw20 orig mod
(original specs of the .MOD file Panasonic SDR-SW20)

here is what it looks like after conversion to .AVI

pana sw20 conv avi
(.MOD file converted to .AVI)

It has been converted to a DivX 5 but at a lower bitrate. I've been doing video editing for a couple of years now using the proven, Try and Fail Method, sort of like WWID as practiced by Charlie6. Eventually everything fell into place

This video was produced using 3 video clips from the SW20 and a couple of static photos which were downsized to 1100 x 800. The clips started out from the camera at 9510 Kbps and finalized at 2.5 Kbps for upload to YouTube 480p resolution HQ.

Here is a slice from the screen of PREL7 with a portion of the timeline


The video is compiled using 3 clips.

1) Westside Road just south of the Junction from Westbank BC with Okanagan Lake on the right

2) Hwy 8 From Merritt to Spences Bridge which is one of the better motorcycle roads which is just over 3 hours from the heart of Downtown Vancouver, BC

3) Heading south in the Fraser Canyon south of Boston Bar where there is a series of seven tunnels ( <-- link )

I placed two static photos overlayed with rolling video, then changed the background. Later I replaced the static photo with another video, overlayed with a video in a picture in picture. With PREL7 you can resize the thumbnail video to any size and place it anywhere on the screen. The I annotated the video with some titles. It was raing part of the way back from Kelowna (approx 400 kms East of Vancouver) and miles later when the sun came out I didn't think to check the protective lens cover to clear the mud from the glass so of course that blob is in the video.

I hope you like my little experiment with PIP

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Sunny Sunday in February

With my new Hero GoProHD mounted behind the factory windshield of my Suzuki V-Strom DL650A I decided to try it out in the sunshine. It picked up a lot of glare from the windshield as I rode south over the Oak Street Bridge then along Hwy99 and Hwy 91A. My ride ended at Steveston harbour to the Government pier where there was a good view of Mt Baker in the background

This is my 2nd test video. The GoProHD footage is sandwiched between video taken with my Lumix ZS3 (720p30) . For those who require additional information here is what I noticed.

The video taken with the Panasonic Lumix ZS3 was 1280x720p 30 fps (actually 29.97) at a capture rate of 12 Mbps. The video produced by the GoProHD set at 1280x720p30 was around 8 Mbps. With a bitrate of 50% less you would expect the GoProHD to be of lesser quality. I am using PREL7 (Premiere Elements 7) as my video editor. The ZS3 compiles video in the AVCHD codec which requires conversion from Mts (Sony calls it M2ts) to mpg. My converter can be set to any bitrate so upon conversion the MPG was downsized from 12 Mbps to 9 Mbps.

Using PREL7 I am able to import the MPG files from the ZS3, and it will import the GoProHD mp4 files without conversion. After I bring these clips to the timeline, import the transitions and put in some titles, I render the final version to Mpeg2 at 6 Mbps. I noticed from the video forums that most videographers render anywhere from 4 to 5 Mbps to keep the files sizes reasonable for upload to YouTube. This short 4 minute video ended up at 297 MB and took 50 minutes to upload after the 1st one failed. There is a bug with Windows 7 and most everyone is having troubles uploading when using windows7. Since I purchased my new laptop rendering is much faster. It is rendering around 20% more than real time. This 4 minute video took around 6 minutes to render. Using my old Acer it used to take 2 to 3x real time.

The only reason I mention all of this is because we have some new Videographers in the sidelines waiting for their own GoProHD to arrive in the mail. I am a helpful person by nature and I expect to field some answers when or if, they are having problems with their own projects.

When I get a chance I will try to mount the GoProHD without anything in front of the lens. I don't believe there will be any flare from the sealed waterproof case. It is just being cast by the factory windscreen

Sunday, February 21, 2010

My Hero: Video Replacement

During the past couple of years I have been using a Panasonic SDR-SW20 for my rolling bike video. I have RAM-Mounts on each bike. I originally selected the SW20 because it used flash memory, was waterproof and shock resistant which was perfect for Bike use. But with the addition of my Lumix ZS3 I have been spoiled with the higher resolution of HD video, so last Thursday I came home with this

(Hero: GoPro HD1080p30)

It comes with all the cables necessary, a Lithium Ion rechargeable battery and a waterproof case, a few extra mounting plates and a suction mount


This is the Motorsports model. I decided that I would purchase a model dedicated for bike use rather than a handheld consumer model as they are not waterproof and too bulky.


With so many curves on the V-Strom it was hard to determine the perfect spot to mount the camera and I was anxious to give it a try, so I mounted it over the instrument cluster, above the Speedometer and Tachometer right behind the plexiglass windshield. While it is not the perfect spot it is easy to keep an eye on it and operate the buttons. As I found out later, there is too much glare on the windscreen in the sunshine which causes stray light to hit the lens


I know, I have a GPS mounted on the left handlebar. I really don't get lost but I use it mainly as a speedometer as all motorcycle speedos are generous. I have heard that GPS units are redundant in Key West as they only have one road and it is impossible for anyone to get lost down there, but I suppose it would come in handy for those without Tachometers.

(GoPro is mounted just left of the factory supplied Tachometer, standard Equipment on a Suzuki V-strom)

(Front View looking through the factory windscreen)

The instructions with the GoPro say that they use the finest 3M adhesives available. The mounts can be used on helmets when skydiving, surfboards or mounted inide race cars but I thought it more prudent to attach a tether, just in case


The plastic, waterproof case is designed to be completely sealed against the elements. It comes with two rear doors; a sealed one and one with large openings for the microphone to pick up more sound. Of course only the solid door is completely waterproof.


Mr Conchscooter (<-- link) made a comment recently about the centre stand on his Bonnie . In times past all bikes came with centre stands, now for some reason they are an option. I had a centre stand installed when I bought the V-Strom, makes it easier to lube the chain or adjust the rear wheel tension


Several times today I had to adjust my left mirror. I first thought that someone had bumped into it at the BestBuy parking lot where I went to purchase another external hard drive. Later on while riding I noticed more of my arm in the rear view and had to move the mirror are again. Perhaps I was travelling too fast and the wind was moving the mirror. I came home and tightened the nut(s).


It was very large nut and luckily I had a couple of 22mm open end wrenches available, which I must have needed before, just like my 19mm and 17mm wrenches. I find that often you require two. One to loosen and the other to hold the lock bolt


I am not a mechanic but I don't mind buying good tools. You just never know when you will need it


Because we are the host city of the 2010 Winter Olympics I have included a few Canadian flags


The following is my first test video using the GoPro 1080HD but set at 720p30. I tried out a few test clips at home first and I could not see much difference between 720p and 1080p so in an effort to go green and save more gigabites I only used the 720p30 mode. Even so this video was around 600 megs and took over 1-1/2 hours to upload to YouTube. There is a bug with Windows 7 and they haven't solved the problem yet. Often it takes a couple of tries to get it posted. This video has been downsized to 6 Mbps but still 16:9 format. The light was getting quite dark near the end but still came out acceptable (to me anyway)

(GoPro HD recorded at 720p30 , 16:9 , 6 Mbps)

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Mid Winter Ride in Vancouver

As I was leaving work my colleague said "Don't you think it's time to take off your snow tires ? I don't think it's going to snow anymore this year. No use wearing out your new snow tires"

Well, it's true. We never really had any snow this year. Rain yes, snow no. There were a few weeks where it went below freezing and there was frost and fog which prevented riding to work, but other than rain it's been the mildest winter in 100 years. (I heard this on the radio). You know this is true because of the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics. There is barely enough snow to run the events and we had to truck it in from Manning Park which is a 6 hour return drive.

I somehow just knew it wasn't going to snow this year as I purchased 4 new mounted nordic track ice radial snow tires. I have ice scrapers, two shovels and rubber boots in the trunk. I think I'll wait a couple of weeks before I mount the summer tires.


Lately there have been a lot of photos of bikes in parking lots. Irondad (<-- link) even has a personal parking spot at Lloyds Centre in Portland, and Mike (<-- link) has posted a few photos of his Beemer in a parkade.

It was nice to feel the warm sun and experience the freedom of 2 wheeled flight.


Here I am waving at you. The sun was very bright so I thought that the shadow made for a good self portrait


I realize that bike enthusiasts would park their bike, back in, Face outward but I have my own system. First I analyze the flatness of the ground and prefer to have the bike lean at a greater side stand angle. For some reason I think my side stand is a bit too long and when the road angles the wrong way it is more prone to tipping. Secondly, there is more mass at the rear of the bike due to the top and side cases giving you a larger footprint to make your bike more visible. Also I feel that there is less tampering of your possessions as the cases are in full view of passing traffic. Thieves are less visible at the rear of the parking spaces. I had some errands to run at a big box store


Today my plan was to go downtown and try to take a few photos down at the harbour. There are some overpasses that lead over the railway tracks but they were all cordoned off as a security precaution for the Winter Olympics. I had to make a U-turn before the security gate

I tried to take Cordova Street into Gastown to try and make it downtown but the traffic was stopped in all directions, so I made another U-turn and went East. I then thought to take Main Street and head south, but I could see the line went over a mile and there are signal lights at every intersection, so I made my 3rd U-turn and ended up on Railway street where I thought I would pose my V-strom for some photos.


Again it wasn't my day. The sunlight was coming directly behind me and the telephone pole cast a dark shadow right in the middle of the photo and I didn't feel like waiting another hour or so for the shadow to move. I even thought about turning the flash on to minimize the shadow, but in the end I decided it was more artistic to leave the shadow in the photo. This image is appropriately titled "Shadow of telephone pole cast onto a mighty V-strom". I wanted to frame my Wee with the Vespa in the window and the door on the left.


Behind this building there is a small parking area which has a view towards the docks. Usually there is a locked gate, but today the gate was open. On the other side of the Container Terminal you will notice 3 large ships. These are the accommodations for the security people, such as the RCMP and others who are here to patrol the city. There is an overpass which leads over to the docks but only VANOC (VANcouver Olympic Committee) vehicles are allowed through security.

While I was busy snapping photos of the waterfront area and the cranes I turned around and noticed a Black Yukon come through the gate. I said to myself "Oh no, not again". It's not the first time I have been stopped from taking photos of sensitive security installations. I approached the Yukon and the window rolled down to reveal an RCMP driver in full uniform and wearing a black bullet proof vest. Beside him was a passenger, similarly dressed. We spoke for a while and I showed him the photos on my 460,000 pixel LCD screen of my Lumix. He said he was not here to check me out. He just wanted to have a short break too. He looked at the bike and asked a few questions, then he said his buddies are Riders too. Then the rear door opened and two more officers jumped out and came over. I asked the driver if I could take his photo for my Blog. He said NO. The female officer took her camera out and started to take some photos so I asked if I could take her photo from the rear, so as not to be identifiable


These officers are here from Ontario and the female officer rides a VTX1300. They are living on those cruise ships in the background. I said you must be living in a life of luxury with all that food and luxurious surroundings, but he said that they operate a buffet only. All 4 of them are very happy to be here in the warm sun, instead of under 4 feet of ice and snow. If only they could have their bikes here and go for a ride on the Whistler highway


Slightly farther East on Powell Street you get a better view of the first ship in line.


From the same vantage point I zoomed onto Grouse Mountain to capture a photo of the "LIONS", for which the Lion's Gate Bridge is named.


Don't let the white stuff fool you. This photo was taken last Sunday. It has been raining the past few days and most has melted. The rain is creating havoc with the Winter Olympics.

Closer to home the road closures have affected my daily commute. Here is a view from Little Mountain (Known as: Queen Elizabeth Park to the tourists). The perimeter road is closed blocking my shortcut


Further down the hill is the intersection of 33rd Avenue and Ontario Streets. It is closed too forcing me to turn south at Main Street and take sides streets to allow me to cross Cambie


I got the idea for the next photo from Jim, he likes to be called cpa3485 (<-- link) for short, only he is not astride his might MAX


Just another uneventful day on the Wet Coast of British Columbia. Winter has passed us by this year. Nothing but sunshine and warm temps in the low 50's (US), unlike those in the East who are buried under 4 feet of snow and ice. Sun and warm temps are forecast for the next week so riding weather is here. Why shovel when you can ride ?

(I Feel Lovely)

Monday, February 15, 2010

Honest Scrap Award: preview

I must say that I am honoured to be selected for the Honest Scrap Award from Torch, Midlife Motorcycle Madness(<-- click link)

It came out of the blue and I am at a loss for words. As Irondad (<-- click link) has previously mentioned on a recent blog entry, somehow riding, photography and blogging has brought all of us together into our tight-knit community, who look out for each other. I have met some of you over the years and hope to meet more.

Please click on Torch's link above to find out more about this award. I am putting my thinking cap on wondering which 10 honest things I should say about myself, that you don't already know. I don't think I am allowed to bestow this award to those Blogs he has already mentioned so I will have to look at my favourites and report back soon.

When I first started this Blog it was always my intent to highlight the scenic beauty of places I have travelled, so not all posts will be motorcycle related although I like to travel on secondary roads throughout British Columbia, Washington and Oregon. Don't always believe what you read on the internet. There are Oregon style roads all over the Pacific Northwest so you don't necessarily have to travel to Oregon to experience Twisties. ( <-- Irondad made me write this )

There are many Blogs which I frequent in my daily travels where I am an unknown lurker. Where I have never returned a comment, such as Aria & Spirit which gave me the inspiration to travel to Hell's Canyon. His site is a delight of prose and stunning photography. I missed him by one week and I was on the lookout for his Hack while down in the La Grande area. But I doubt very much that he is even aware of my existence. Like wise with Road Grits Cafe. (<-- click link) A lot of down to earth sage advice but again I have never offered a comment. There are many blogs that have shaped my opinions and have shaped my outlook on riding and life. This is why I am having such difficulty in my selection. I think that I will stick to the community where I am known and with whom I have reciprocated. I need a little more time to come up with my Blog list.

I don't intend on ever making a post without some photos, call them snapshots. So in the continuing pursuit of the visual experience, here are a couple of recently taken photos that have nothing whatsoever to do with this post


Fidel Castro spotted in Hawi, Hawai'i. I had to take this shot for my friend Jack "r"IEPE (<-- click link) who enjoys a cigar once in a while. So much so that he wrote a book on cigars. I have never read it and my free, autographed copy has not yet arrived


When I saw this I kept thinking that you should never "take wooden Indian Nickels"


Here is a shot of the Spam shelves at our local supermarket, hardly any selection as compared to what we noticed in Hawai'i, where it is the local national favourite food, besides Mac and potato salad which we thoroughly enjoyed.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

The Kettle Friendship Society

We were invited to a special Christmas Dinner. I know, for normal people Christmas had come and gone but to the volunteers and other workers of The Kettle, Christmas is a busy time for them to help people in need so they postpone their festivities until the end of January.

There are several organizations working throughout the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver and I had not been that familiar with the Kettle before, even though I often pass by their drop in centre.


I know there are many agencies which require a helping hand and most of us often give to the Salvation Army or other worthwhile charities. As members of local car clubs we support the Cruise for Kids, and through the BC Corvette Club we also donate to many charities every year, like the Telethon and we also sponsor a handicapped van through Easter Seals.

Here is a short mission statement taken from their website "" (<--click link)

Changing Lives, Building Community

"Mental illness, coupled with stigma, low incomes and substance abuse – these are issues that thousands in our city face. They are the people we see every day in our communities as we go about our business; individuals who have found themselves overwhelmed by circumstance and feel forgotten by society. They need a helping hand to mobilize and access resources, eventually building trust, and most importantly hope."


There were over 350 people here, mostly "underprivileged" people that I had perhaps passed on the streets who were here through no fault of their own. The Kettle also operates assisted housing units and there is even an on-site health clinic. I wasn't sure what to expect when it was mentioned to be a Christmas dinner, so I came in work attire which means dress shirt and slacks, extremely overdressed in view of the "clientele" of the Kettle. There was a table specifically for the Directors of the Society but other than them and us, I did feel a little self concious and a little out of place.


All the time while I was eating my Christmas Turkey Dinner (complete with stuffing and all the trimmings) I was thinking that I shouldn't be here and eating this food when it could have been given to someone more deserving, and that their hard earned sponsorship funds could have been better directed.

After dinner was served, there was the dessert. I am not positive but I believe that the catering company donated their facilites (fewer bookings in January). The tables were cleared and Santa was welcomed in to distribute Toys for the children.


Simple toys that were selected and individualized for each child, but you should have seen the smiles of joy in their eyes when their names were called and presents were opened.

The Band is getting ready to play. For one evening they (the clients) are able to enjoy themselves, have a good meal get some entertainment and leave the pressures of the world behind with a feeling that someone cares for them.

(The Directors: Kettle Friendship Society)

As I watch the Band and the dancing I am thinking how lucky we are to be able to leave this place and resume our normal lives . . .

and to be very thankful for what we have.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Classic Galaxie & Wee

Our Vacation to the Tropical Island of Hawai'i is but a memory. Back to the daily grind of back to work and enduring the warm winter of British Columbia. This is shaping up to be the warmest winter in recent times. Vancouver is the host city of the Winter Olympics 2010 and it starts tomorrow. There has been so little snow that we had to truck it in from Manning Park over 3-4 hours away and unload it up Cypress Mountain. First they had to install a straw base by Helicopter at $900./hour and put the snow on top to form the ski runs.

Lately there has been great interest in photographing Bananas
(<-- click link) so I thought it was time that I put in my .02c

(Thanks to Iron-GRAN-dad, for the idea)

I am running out of Hawai'i vacation material but I still have a few things to say about the North Kohala area and the small town of Hawi on the northern tip of the Big Island. I just thought that with the major snow storms on the Atlantic Coast it was time to show everyone what the spring-like weather was like on the Wet Coast of Canada. If you wish to see some amazing snow pictures (<-- click link)

The weather last week was overcast with a slight chance of precipitation. I was wearing my Hawai'ian attire but decided it was more prudent to change into my usual riding outfit. For a moment it looked like Pink Crocs but in the end the riding boots won.


I envy those tropical riders in their shorts and T-shirts. Today it was jeans, with riding pants over, riding jacket with liner, leather gloves, riding boots, thick socks and the requisite GPS since we have more than one road in which to get lost or disoriented. Actually I usually use the GPS as a corrected speedometer. For some reason bike speedos are overly generous and I like to know the correct speed.

I had some errands to run and ended up downtown at my favourite parking spot


I couldn't find a photogenic place to pose my Wee. With the Olympics many roads are closed. They have special curb lanes for designated Olympic vehicles where you cannot stop or suffer a $167. fine/ticket and you cannot cruise the areas around the docks, so after a while on the way home, I stopped at my neighbours garage when I spotted this


It was a very nice old pickup truck. I used to have an old pickup truck which I traded for some computer equipment a few years ago and wished I kept it. I think it was a '53 Ford F something 6 cyl with 3 sp Hurst shifter. It was a step-side.


It appeared to be in very good mechanical condition and sported a recent green paint job . The owner of the truck was visiting my neighbour, Joe


Looking into the garage you will notice Joe, on the left. That is his recently restored 1963 Ford Galaxie XL500 convertible. It was a "basket case" when I first saw it towed in over 5 years ago. He stripped the whole car down to the frame


While he was busy dismantling the car and prepping it for paint he was accumulating all the parts necessary for the restoration


The Galaxie is better than new. Joe has done all the work himself, except for the excellent paint job. Joe used to own a gas service station and is adept at performing all the repairs himself


He completely rebuilt the engine to "as new" condition and took the transmission apart to rebuild it too


I asked Joe to pose one more time for the camera. He is very proud of this car. He basically rebuilt it himself doing all the work except for the paint. Last year he took it to a Galaxie club show & shine (car show) and won First Prize.


It was time for me to make my exit and I mounted my Wee to ride the short distance home, up the lane


No snow, No sand, No salt, No sun. Just another day on the Wet Coast, otherwise known as the Key West of Canada