Aiming High with Avid Xpress DV

For most producers, it would be enough of a challenge to shoot and edit video from a still location with a clear end product in mind. But there just doesn’t seem to be enough excitement in that for Grant Carroll, owner of Martini Shot Films LLC, and his video crew. In addition to landing the best shots, they must also focus on safely landing themselves. Their area of expertise is skydiving, and there just isn’t any other way to get the best shot than taking a leap from a swiftly moving aircraft at 13,000 feet up with a camera mounted on their helmets.

“Shooting skydiving is actually not all that different from shooting horse racing or any other subject. The main difference is that you usually have about 60 seconds of working time per shot, and then you have to go get set up again. Oh yeah, and there is also the enormous ball of dirt we call Earth that you’re hurtling towards at about 120 to 150 mph,” explains Carroll.

When Carroll has his feet firmly planted back on the ground in his office, he doesn’t trust editing the many hours of footage he has shot to anything but his Avid system. Carroll recently upgraded from Avid Xpress DV software version 3.0 to 3.5. “To be really honest, if there wasn’t an Avid, I wouldn’t be in this industry. If I had to be an editor without Avid, I would just rip my hair out every day,” he says.

Carroll has been editing on an Avid system since the 1990s when he started on an Avid Media Composer 4000 as a communications student at Florida State University. He was the first student to take an advanced Avid class at the school; he even made his thesis using an Avid system. “From day one, I loved it,” he says. While Carroll likes all the added features of Avid Xpress DV 3.5 software, working with it doesn’t feel all that different to him than working in the old days with the Symphony or the Media Composer systems. “I’m used to the feel of an Avid system and its ease of use. The interface is very familiar to me, and I’m very comfortable with it,” he says.

Every summer, Carroll participates in skydiving’s premiere event, the World Free Fall Convention. The annual event is held in Illinois during the first week of August when some 4,000 to 5,000 skydivers converge on the town of Rantoul to jump out of every type of aircraft imaginable. Carroll’s personal jump list includes exiting from a hot air balloon, a bi-plane, a C-130, and through the bay doors of a B-17 Bomber. “I always surround myself with a very skilled and knowledgeable crew. I give them a job, and that job is to get me the most amazing images they can, so that when it comes time for me to do my part editing the production, I have the absolute best material to work with,” says Carroll.

By the end of the 10-day event, Carroll and his crew end up with 100-plus hours of footage. Carroll’s finished products have earned him a number of accolades from the skydiving community, including producing the best skydiving video two years in a row. He is now the official videographer for the event. “We push the limits in skydiving DVDs. We jam-pack them full of features,” says Carroll, something Avid Xpress DV v3.5 software allows him to do easily. Last year’s DVD included 25 chapters and was 67 minutes long. The bible of the industry, Skydiving magazine, rated the 2002 DVD 5 out of 5; the reviewer’s only complaint was that it wasn’t long enough.

One especially handy feature of the Avid Xpress DV product is its portability, says Carroll. In addition to the official DVD that comes out a few months after the end of the convention, Carroll and his crew, armed with a handful of laptops, are also able to offer participants nightly footage of each day’s highlights. Two years ago, when Carroll offered the daily footage for the first time, the event’s participants were ecstatic. “People went nuts. They loved it,” says Carroll, who would download the footage from DV cams to laptops, edit it using Avid Xpress DV software, and then air it that same evening. “They couldn’t believe they were seeing themselves that quickly. Without this software, I couldn’t have offered that.”

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