Google Glass Video Workflow

One of the highlights of Google Glass is it’s camera. Sure it’s not the best (only 720p, far worse than most smart phones), but hands-free capture has many benefits.

While filming Glass: A Love Story we’re using Google Glass exclusively as our camera. The director, myself, is the primary camera person, jib, dolly, etc. with PAs sitting in for a few shots and even the actors shooting while acting in order to get an authentic 1st person view.

Google Glass provides a variety of challenges as a filming tool:

Audio is limited to the wearer. While it can pick up some external audio, it’s not a great external audio capture device. We’re employing a Zoom H4n and boom mic to capture audio for later synching.

Glass films dark. Glass video is much darker than a traditional camera, or even a smartphone like iPhone 5. We’re doing quite a few outside shots, but because filming outside creates so many audio challenges, we must shoot inside, which requires a very brightly lit set. Not easy for a production with as limited a budget as ours is.

Screen Shot 2013-08-21 at 9.34.24 AM

Initially you could plug Glass into your computer (I’m using an iMac) and download footage into iPhoto. You’d get as raw a footage as possible (more on that later) and be able to archive and preview it. Unfortunately the latest Glass OS update has broken that functionality so you can no longer download straight to a computer, or at least to a Mac. I’m now required to hook up to wi-fi, wait for all of the videos I’ve shot to upload to the Google Plus cloud, then download them. This is tough in locations with alot of shooting and no wifi. Once glass is full, you are done shooting for the day. Also, once your video is on the G+ cloud, deleting it from Glass, will delete it from the cloud. So, you have to make sure to download it before deleting it or you’ve lost your footage.

Monitoring video on Glass is helpful only to be sure you shot something and it is framed the way you want. Any nuances, such as focus, audio, expression, etc. are impossible to see. You have to go through the process above in order to preview the video. Most cameras, including smartphones, can be connected directly to an iPad or other computer to download and view footage. Glass kicks up an error (device requires too much power) that prevents this. Too bad, it would have been a great mobile video monitoring solution.

Google Glass encodes MP4s. This is NOT optimal. MP4 codec compresses footage, so even if you can get past the fact that Glass only shoots 720p, you’re stuck with compressed footage rather than raw or uncompressed footage. It’s easy to see why this is the case, Glass is meant to be a short-clip capture device, not a professional video tool. Also, MOV is a proprietary Apple codec, so, there’s that… I have found some workarounds; VLC is rumored to be able to convert the footage, though my version can’t. After Effects will accept MP4 and render out as MOV. Final Cut will not accept MP4. iMovie will accept MP4 and render it back out, but I have a sneaking suspicion that it is causing further compression. This is a huge issues since it requires every single frame of footage to be processed in some manner before you can even synch it up to the audio. This will be by far our greatest challenge in post.

Just to test the footage I’ve been downloading it from G+, then emailing the files for myself that are small enough to be sent as an attachment. I then open it on my iPad in iMovie. I have several video editing apps but everyone of them has rendering errors with MP4s except iMovie. So I import into iMovie, do a quick render (or edit then render) and am free to play with my new MOVs in other editing apps.

We’ve only been in the production stage for 1 week with Glass: A Love Story. We’ll be filming for the next 2 weeks then into the edit bay. I’ll keep this blog posted with info as I continue to learn how to use Glass for professional video production while making the first Google Glass movie.

Feel free to share the infographic below on my current workflow.

Google Glass workflow infographic


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