GoPro Action Camera Tips and Tricks
Ever since Nick Woodman sold his first GoPro camera way back in 2004, video and adrenaline junkies all over the globe have consistently flocked to the extremely durable and portable GoPro camera line. After all, they're perfect for strapping to a wearable chest mount gimbal, helmet, snowboard, surfboard... well you get the idea! GoPro cameras can pretty much be attached to anything, go anywhere and have become the go-to tool for POV video, especially in the world of extreme sports. Of course, GoPros are popular for more casual uses, as well for those Disney vacations, a bonfire on the beach and family adventures.
Chances are, no matter what you bought your GoPro for, you’re pretty satisfied with it. But there then comes a point where you want to up your video skills and take it to the next level using camera stabilizers, extension poles, drones or unique angles you see online that have the production value of a Martin Scorcese film? While many of those might actually possess a bit of professional post-production, there’s literally 1000's of tips and tricks recommended on YouTube alone. We're going to toss 5 more GoPro Tips & Tricks your way today, turning your basic videos into masterpieces. These won’t necessarily make the Academy come calling but, hey, you need to start somewhere, right?
Mounting, Filters, Angles, and GoPro Stabilizers
The reality of it is that nobody wants to see your line. Meaning, you turn the camera on, hit record for the next 15 minutes as you shred down the mountain, then FORCE your friends and family to watch you relive your adventure. It's like a dream really. It's only interested to those who experienced it. You have to create a production, less than 90 seconds that is entertaining to watch. Of course, when you tie in an array of amazing clips, we can be mesmerized for days watching people just like you and I do amazing things.
Find a New Angle
Does hanging from a tree, putting your camera in danger, or using a GoPro gimbal work best? You bet they do!!! Different mounts can provide different POVs, which can help tell the story you envisioned. For example, a camera mounted on a bike helmet can provide a view from the rider’s eyes, but a camera mounted on the bike to face the back can capture other riders trailing you – two different views from the same moment. If you’ll be repeating an action many times throughout the day, say for surfing or snowboarding, consider repositioning the camera on each run to capture a greater variety of shots.
One recent shoot we did use the EVO SS Wearable GoPro Gimbal with Mitch Chubey really puts you in the middle of the action as he races down slopestyle course on his mountain bike, jumping, backflipping and elevating your heart rate.
From GoPro direct accessories to homemade clamps and third-party accessories, there's no shortage of what you can do with your GoPro, making it easy to capture the action and create a truly amazing video you'll never forget and something your friends and family actually want to watch.
Filters Improve Video Quality
Photographers and filmmakers alike utilize an array of filters — and we aren’t referring to the color-altering filters in Instagram — to improve the final version of photos and videos.
For instance, using a neutral density filter works wonders when filming in bright environments by allowing for a slower shutter speed, which keeps footage from looking too jarring like the beach landing scene in Saving Private Ryan. Ed Ricker Vlogs has a great ND Filters YouTube Tutorial.
For filming underwater, use a red filter to help remove the blue-green colorcast. There exists a host of available filters to choose from, so the sky is the limit when it comes to giving your videos a unique look and feel.
Stabilizing Your GoPro
One of the best things about GoPro cameras being as ubiquitous as they are is that third-party accessories are equally common. For stationary shots, nothing beats a tripod when it comes to stability. As a GoPro is very lightweight, there’s no need to get a heavy duty set of sticks for it, but do consider a tripod with a fluid pan head. This will let you make smooth pans to follow a subject or reveal a landscape.
For stabilizing shots in motion, there’s nothing better than a 3 axis gimbal. Most gimbals for GoPro today use brushless motors to counteract shaky hands and other motion, producing incredibly smooth footage in virtually any setting.
Here's a little tidbit for you. Did you know that before EVO Gimbals got its start, both of our founders were innovators in the drone space, and built hundreds, if not thousands of GoPro gimbals and attached them to drones producing some of the earliest smooth drone video footage? Nowadays, drones often feature built-in gimbals in order to keep a steady shot when filming in turbulent air. Enough with the history lesson... let's get back to the tips and tricks.
The best way to stabilize your GoPro is with the EVO GP-Pro GoPro Gimbal Camera Stabilizer for handheld shots, or the EVO SS Wearable Chest Gimbal. You can surely shoot stable and smooth videos using these 2 great 3-axis gimbals. Check out this recent Halloween Batch using a GoPro Hero 5 and EVO GP Pro Gimbal for GoPro.
While this next tip for capturing stabilized shots may seem a bit odd, it works like a charm when in a pinch and you don't have any of your fancy mounts and camera stabilizers with you. Simply press your GoPro camera against your forehead – yes, your forehead – while tracking whatever it is you intend to film. Obviously, this method of stabilization works best when your surroundings don’t require the use of both of your hands, as we wouldn’t recommend trying to pull this off while, say, mountain biking. Still, if you’re looking for a quick, effective way to record stable video, this tip works with any type of digital camera, not just a GoPro.
Let's not forget, video footage can also be stabilized in post-production using software like Apple Final Cut Pro or Adobe Premiere. This will result in a slight crop of your footage, so it helps if the video was recorded at the highest resolution available.
Manually Adjusting Your Camera Settings
Although there isn’t anything wrong with a GoPro's default settings — it’s actually incredibly useful for those new to shooting video — to manually tinker with your camera’s settings and push the limits. Exposure can help produce a better shot, especially in tricky lighting conditions. Even if you don’t currently own a 4K television or monitor, these ultra-high resolutions offer the extra working room in postproduction and also future-proof your videos for when you do upgrade to UHD TV. Keep in mind though that when shooting 4k and higher resolutions mean larger files, so if you want to quickly share your video on YouTube, you may want to stick to 1080. The right resolution really depends on your workflow, like, do you want to quickly view or share, or is it part of a bigger masterpiece you’re filming, which will become an edited masterpiece?
Resolution is one thing, but it’s also important to select a frame rate that best meets your needs and the look you’re going for. Setting at 60 frames per second, for example, will give you the smoothest motion but will look like reality TV. On the other hand, 24fps/30fps will yield a more cinematic look but may be too jarring for very fast motion. Let your subject matter dictate your choice, and keep in mind that not all frame rates are available at every resolution. If you aren’t sure, here’s an easy way to remember. Use a higher frames rate of 60 fps for bright conditions, fast action, or slow-motion; drop to 30 fps for low-light, slow or regular action, or cinematic feel.
What of the better videos out there is a frame rate comparison GoPro video put together in 2014 by MicBergsma on YouTube.
Another thing to consider is the aspect ratio. GoPro cameras can shoot either 16:9 or 4:3 (think wide-screen HDTV vs. old-school TV). 16:9 is now the viewing standard, but shooting in 4:3 provides a “taller” image (using the full height of the sensor). We suggest you stick with 16:9, but if you want to shoot in 4K, you can only use the 4:3 aspect ratio, which you can crop to 16:9 in post-editing.
Plan Out a Good Story
Remember when I stated nobody wants to see your line? A good story is the backbone of any good video. GoPro itself knows this through and through, with plenty of examples of excellent storytelling on the company’s official YouTube channel. Heck, I still remember the first GoPro video I saw and knew I had to have a GoPro of my own. And it didn't have anything to do with the opening shot being of Smith Rock State Park just minutes up the road from our shop.
A strong story will grip your audience from start to finish, even if the actual filmmaking techniques are underwhelming which GoPro's HD Hero2 did not lack.
Before even picking up your camera, try to develop the idea of what you want to shoot. Maybe it’s just a simple day at the beach or maybe something a bit more complex. Either way, it’s important to start shooting in a clear direction. Write an outline, sketch a storyboard with stick figures, or list out different shots on paper — anything to get your mind focused on the process of creating moments, rather than just sitting back and hoping to record whatever happens.
GoPro experts teach the following “shot list” for anyone to get started on creating an effective video: Think of your story with a start, middle, and end. At the beginning, create an “establishing shot” — an overview of the scenery, for example. Next, introduce any characters involved. Then, mix in POV shots, and then end with a final shot that wraps up the story. The following video provides a great example.
If you’re looking for additional ideas or tips on how to shoot in a particular style or situation, GoPro has a terrific book called Professional Guide to Filmmaking. Not only does the nearly 300-page book cover the basics of getting started, it goes into greater depth about the things we just described here, with instructions on how to go about shooting a variety of things, from skateboarding and mountain biking to a jam session and night trails.
Do keep in mind that a lot of what we discussed here today can really be implemented with any action camera, not just GoPro. I'd even venture to say you can use a lot of this information with your DSLR cameras as well. Of course, you'd want the EVO Rage Gimbal for your DSLR.