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Virtual garden railroad visits during quarantine

By John Cushman | August 5, 2020

How to use Zoom, FaceTime, and other apps to record video during a virtual railroad visit

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We’ve kept close to home since quarantine and social distancing guidelines have been issued. Club meetings have been canceled; events and open houses have been put on hold. Our hearts go out to anyone affected by COVID-19.
Time at home has spawned creative moments, though. I’ve refurbished structures, maintained locomotives and rolling stock, and looked for ways to communicate and share with friends and family.

Several video platforms have emerged for meetings, including Zoom, FaceTime, Microsoft Teams, and virtual classrooms on Google, PC, and Android products. FaceTime can record conversations, and one can edit them with movie software, and share them. The first rule is “ask permission” before you hit the record button.

With permission, I recorded conversations with three friends while I learned how recordings are made on FaceTime. My friends used their iPhones to capture scenes from their railroads, and I saved our calls on my computer at home.
After capturing our (approximately) 15-minute conversations, I did some editing and rendered them into mp4 files. Video quality was not as good as GoPro or video that hasn’t been transmitted hundreds of miles, but quality was of secondary concern. This was a way to connect in a time of social isolation.

This month I visited Denver, Reno, and Novato without leaving home. Where will you visit?

Tips for recording video session
■ Ask permission to record.
■ Hold the phone in horizontal format.
■ Practice a few calls before making your recordings.
■ Use a variety of camera positions.
■ Creatively mix wide and close up angles.
■ Set the camera on something solid.
■ Use morning or evening light, not midday.
■ Be on the alert for unwanted background sounds, wandering pets, and other people who might accidentally photobomb your artistic work.
■ Capture video of trains, structures, and the garden.
■ Keep final cut about three to four minutes in length after editing.
■ Before ending the call, ask the owner if there’s a scene that they want to be sure to include that has not already been captured
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