Main page

Making movies out of a backpack
with the Canon 70D and the GoPro Hero 3+,
November, 2013

(This is the the part of my home page that gets the most hits.)

In late 2005, I was in Maluku, Indonesia where I filmed interviews with these
children. Afterwards, they asked if they could pose for a picture.


In November of 1999, unbeknownst to most of the world, a major technological breakthrough occurred: Sony quietly released a portable computer that YOU COULD EDIT MOVIES ON. A few months before that, Hewlett-Packard had released a portable CD burner and Sony began making video cameras with a built-in "Firewire" port that could be linked directly to a computer without having to pass through an office full of translation devices. Mankind thus reached the new millennium with the potential for putting a functioning movie-production studio into a backpack and I started my movie-making career.

A Decade of Cameras

For years the Sony PD150 and 170 were industry work horses. I carried this camera all over Asia.

vx 200

The VX 2000 was another camera that I lugged all over the place. It was about like the PD150, but with consumer quality sound.


The PDX-10 never achieved the legendary status of the 150 and 170. Nevertheless it was smaller and still took great movies with professional sound.


I loved the Sony HVR-A1E because it was smaller than the PD150 and took better movies. It is still sold.

Sony %d Mark II
The Canon 5D Mark II has turned out to be a game changer.
canon mark III
The Canon 5D Mark III took things to a new level with better sound tools and a better movie picture.
Canon 70d
The game changed when Canon released the 70D. Now, at least, there was a DSLR with auto-focus.

Go Pro Hero 3 +

I never wanted to own one of these until I actually owned one of these. It's fun and serious at the same time.
Canon 70 D and GoPro Hero 3 +
Here they are together -- I took this with my cell phone.

My story:

In 2001 I bought the Sony DSR-PD150P and then the Sony VX2000. Those was replaced by the Sony PX10, and then, in 2005 the Sony HVR-A1E. So far so good. Then, in late 2008 the world turned upside down when Canon released the 5D Mark II. This was a full-frame 35 mm DSLR still camera that had a movie function. But not just any movie function — this guy could take full high-definition movies in lower light than virtually any camera ever. People started using it to make remarkable movies in low light and in dramatic quality. I had purchased the 5D Mark II to replace its predecessor, the 5D which had been my stills camera for years, but soon I, like the rest of the camera world, concluded that this was an amazing movie camera as well. Shortly after that I sold my Sony HVR-A1E. For me, the days of shooting on tape were over.

In late 2009 the high definition standard of Blu-ray was accepted as the industry standard. The quality, if the viewer has a very large screen TV, is amazing. With my cameras, Adobe Premiere Pro, and my Blu-ray burner I have produced Blue-ray movies and disks on-site that have amazing quality. Most clients, however, are interested in something for the web. Youtube can be used to playback the same size picture, 1920×1080, as blu ray. If you look at my Youtube channel, most of those movies are 1920×1080.

Back to our story.

My love affair with the Canon 5D series ended in mid-2013 when the world changed again as Canon released the first DSLR with auto-focus in movie mode that actually worked. The 5D Mark III took great videos, but if your subject moved much, you usually lost the focus. Now those days are gone.

At this writing, late 2013, the Canon engineers are working night and day to bring their top-of-the-line DSLRS up to speed with autofocus. Until they do, the D70 is the new top gun.

But wait! Didn't you always want a camera that you could swim underwater with, tie around a post and suspend off a bicycle, and stick on top of your hat? If you did, then the GoPro Hero 3+ is for you. You can see a movie that I produced with it here.

Here the GoPro Hero 3+ is set up to film part of my bike.

So that's the story of my cameras. And it has a happy ending: after all of this, my equipment can still fit into my backpack for production anywhere.

I edit my movies on the PC using Adobe Premiere Pro CS6.5. I once taught Final Cut on the MAC. I was amazed at how similar it was to Premiere Pro. I don't claim that Adobe makes the best movie editing software, but I would say that the race is neck-to-neck with Final Cut. Some people who know both programs prefer Premiere Pro; others Final Cut. Most professionals who can afford it, would prefer to use an Avid, a computer designed solely for digital movie editing.

If you want to learn movie making, it's a little bit like learning to write. You need to stop thinking about it and actually do it. Classes don't hurt either. For a few weeks every year for five years, I attended classes at San Francisco's Bay Area Video Coalition. The school is dedicated to teaching hands-on digital movie making and apparently they have had some success—the walls of the hallways of BVAC are lined with movie posters advertising the movies of former students. Two of my fellow students had graduate degrees in cinematography, but felt they had missed something in their more academic classes. Studying there was a very good experience.

If you or your organization is interested in learning more about this technology, e-mail me at Thomasriddle at


FAQ, Frequently Asked Questions

Back to top

What's the big deal about your camera?

Picture and sound quality. Professional camera have color depth that consumer cameras generally do not. Additionally, the 70D does amazingly well in low light. The picture below is a still from a movie that I made in a place where no movie camera should have to go, below that is a 27-second clip that ends with the light of a candle.

movie still

The game-changing 70D is the first DSLR to have good auto-focus. In the clip below, you'll something that was impossible before the 70D was released.


I use a variety of mics. I NEVER use the on-board mic of my cameras for professional work. I really hate it when I hear on-board mics. Drives me cuckoo.

Can you make Blue-Ray DVD disks and movies?

Yes. Earlier on this page I've written more on DVDs.

Can you do animation?

The Bangkok Skytrain Dancer by thomasriddle  

Yes. Using Adobe After Effects I can do all kinds of tricks. In the above movie, you can see Lorna, the only woman ever to dance live on a Bangkok Sky Train platform. She comes "live" from Adobe After Effects.

Can we be sure of what we're getting?

Definitely. With all production done on site, all stages of production can proceed with the client’s go-ahead. Unlike printing where the sky-blue background that you design on your desktop computer comes back from the printer deep-sea-blue, this is truly a "what you see is what you get / what you hear is what you get" technology.

Twice my clients have hired "production teams" to produce movies for them off-site which my clients were unhappy with, so they hired me. I always work step-by-step with my clients to make sure that everyone gets what they want. And so far, so good.

Can you produce CDs, DVDs and Blue-ray on site?


If we hire you, is there anything else you can do?

I was a computer support specialist for the United Nations in Cambodia during the UNTAC operation— I’m the person who produced the ballot paper that was reproduced 8 million times for the 1993 election. After that I went to computer graphics school in Oregon. Skills learned there helped me teach computer classes in two universities in Hawaii from 1996 through 1999. As a consultant I've taught PageMaker, MS Word, PowerPoint, PhotoShop, movie making, installed back-up systems, developed databases, formatted books, cleaned up computers, installed software, taught digital photography, developed digital photo libraries, made music DVDs for bands, and produced home pages.


Please send your comments and questions, I'm thomasriddle at !


Main page