Interview: Steve Starling

Anyone who has ever thrown a fishing line into the briny more than once will have heard of Steve Starling.

Starting out in the 80s with a program called “Go Fish Australia” on the ABC, Steve later leapt to prominence on the hugely popular Rex Hunt Fishing Show, and has been a regular on many fishing oriented TV programs ever since.

Recently he started his own project, “Fishtopia” that as well as a comprehensive website, has its very own YouTube channel, “Starlo Gets Reel“.

I caught up with Starlo for a chat about how he started, how the show is put together, what gear he uses and other behind the scenes info. Starlo was generous with his answers and also offered some tips for budding fishing videographers.


AV: At what point did you decide to go video as against simply writing stories with photography?

Starlo: I’ve dabbled with some YouTube content for around seven years now, but have become much more serious about it in the last year or two. With the ongoing demise of print media, I see YouTube and vlogs as the way of the future, and a means for me to continue my 45-year career as a recreational fishing communicator, presenter and educator.

AV: You have appeared on many successful TV shows, starting as I recall with the original TV fishing program hosted by Rex Hunt. Did you get any training or experience in that process that assisted you in the transition to what you are doing now?

Starlo: No formal training, but I got to watch a lot of very good camera operators and editors at work over the years, and I learnt quite a bit in the process. I’ve always been very interested in that side of the process. In particular, sitting in edit suites with editors for hours on end as a fishing advisor and story researcher has given me a feel for the shots that are required to adequately tell a story. This actually began even before the Rex Hunt show: way back in the days of the ABC series “Go Fish Australia”, during the 1980s!

AV: What camera(s) are you using to shoot your videos?

Starlo: I’m currently running three cameras: a Sony AX33 4K Handycam, a GoPro 7 Black and a GoPro 9 Black with a Media Mod. I also have a DJI Mavic Mini drone, but don’t get to use it as much as I’d like, being a “one man show”.

AV: Any add-ons to the camera used (eg ND filters)

Starlo: As mentioned, the GoPro 9 Black has a Media Mod and I also have an underwater dome housing for the GoPro 7 Black. I’ve recently taken to running polarising filters on both GoPros most of the time and fit them with custom lens hoods that my son Tom made for me on his 3D printer. The hoods are designed to fit over the polarising filters without causing any vignetting of the images.

AV: How is audio obtained? If external mic(s) which ones?

Starlo: I run a Rode Video Mic on my Sony AX33. However, I’m more and more coming to rely on the audio from the Media Mod on the GoPro 9 Black, as it tends to be quite good, even in a bit of breeze, whereas the Rode is rather susceptible to wind, even with the dead cat fitted.

AV: Is voice audio obtained different to ambient? Eg on camera mic v a radio lav?

Starlo: I rely on the Rode or the GoPro Media Mod for both ambient and voice recording in the field, then use a Zoom H5 Handy Recorder for my voice over recording back in the home “studio”.

AV: Do you use any external stabilisation (eg DJI Ronin gimbals) or is it all basically handheld and tripod based?

Starlo: Because I’m typically working alone, I rely a lot on tripods and various mounts. The Sony AX33 is almost always either on a tripod or a Camzilla clamp mount (often in the boat). I tend to wear one GoPro in a chest mount and vary the other GoPro between a selfie stick and a mount in the boat or on the kayak. I have no gimbals or other stabilisation. I shoot everything in 4K so that I can crop images if necessary.

AV: Do you have any specific workflow process from start to finish?

Starlo: I’m very much self-taught in all of this, and I’m sure my work flow could be a lot better and more professional! As soon as possible after I return from a shoot I try to review all of my footage and, while doing so, I select and trim the clips I know I’ll need to put a story together (using QuickTime). I’ll name and number these clips in a way that makes sense to me (eg: 4_Cast before first hook-up, or 6_ Good ambient audio with birds, etc) and save them to an external Seagate Drive.

AV: Which editing package is used (eg Premiere, Resolve, Vegas, FCP etc)

Starlo: Believe it or not, I still do all my editing, after trimming those initial clips in QuickTime, in the free iMovie program that came with my Mac notebook! iMovie has its limitations, but I find it very intuitive and easy to use, and I’ve become quite adept at milking the most from it! My biggest struggle is the limited memory and RAM of my ageing computer. Things can become very clunky and glitchy if I have too much 4K footage imported into the timeline. I’ve overcome this by editing my videos in relatively short “chapters” of just a few minutes each, before saving these to the external hard drive (still in 4K) and then deleting the working files from iMovie. Once all my chapters are cut, I pull them all together again on iMovie. It works for me! I’d love to switch to Resolve (after researching it a little), but haven’t yet found the time to make the change and learn a whole new system… I’m a creature of habit! If it ain’t broke…

AV: Any effects software or plug ins used

Starlo: No.

AV: Is audio sweetened outside the video editor (eg with Sound Forge, Audition, Audacity etc)

Starlo: No. Audio remains my greatest weakness and I really need to address this.

AV: Do you have assistance or is it essentially a “one man” process to make the show and you script, shoot, edit, narrate/present and produce the whole shebang?

Starlo: In the early days, my wife Jo (who’s much more tech savvy than me) helped me a lot and did most of my editing (she’s mastered at least the basics of Premiere). But these days I’ve taken it all on myself and I’m a total one-man show: from shooting and scripting to editing and voice overs.

AV: Where can it be viewed?

Starlo: My YouTube channel is called “Starlo Gets Reel”.

AV: Do you charge a subscription?

Starlo: It’s all free at this point.

AV: Any plans for expansion say to subscription TV or even free-to-air?

Starlo: I had quite lengthy discussions with Uscreen in the US and was seriously considering the subscription path at one point, but it was all too hard and too expensive in the end. I’ve decided at this point to stick with free access to my work via YouTube, and to attempt leverage and monetise that through sponsorships, partnerships and the very meagre earnings generated by Google ads. I’m also on Buy Me A Coffee (https://www.buymeacoffee.com/starlo), so fans can support me in that way, too! But at the moment, it’s a break-even exercise, at best.

AV: Any really memorable moments you have captured while shooting?

Starlo: Capturing on video my good fishing mate and much-loved Aussie screen icon, Garry McDonald, (aka Norman Gunston and Arthur Beare) falling into the icy Tumut River while trying to net a trout for me was pretty memorable, and very funny! I’ve also had the odd magic session on the water where everything just comes together seamlessly, and the weather, fish and cameras all do what it said they would in the script I had in my head! Those times are rare, but they seem to make it all worthwhile.

AV: Any major mishaps that made you approach things in the future differently when shooting (or editing)?

Starlo: So far (touch wood) I’ve been fairly lucky. My worst stuff ups have been arriving on location to find that I’ve forgotten to put SD cards back into my cameras or drone, and that they’re still sitting on the desk at home! You tend to only do that once.

AV: Any suggestions for budding fishing videographers?

Starlo: Have a system and a plan and try to be organised. Do your best to make things as easy for yourself as you possibly can, otherwise you’ll constantly find excuses NOT to take the camera gear or NOT to set it up… and that’s sure to be the day when the fish bite like crazy! Oh, and carry more spare batteries and SD cards than you think you’ll need.

AV: Any other thing worth talking about?

Starlo: Keep it real and be yourself. A video camera has a way of cutting through any “masks” and showing the real you, anyway. If you try to be something you aren’t, viewers will immediately spot the deception. Embrace your stuff-ups and be honest.

And when it comes to voice overs (which are important in many of my vids), the BIG trick is to make it sound like you’re NOT reading them! Stand up rather than sit to record them. Read a line or two in your head, memorise it, then look up from the script and deliver it to the recording device as if you’re actually talking to someone standing there: complete with facial expressions and hand gestures… It makes a huge difference to the finished product.

You can also follow Steve Starling on his Facebook page Starlos Fishtopia

 

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