Action cams have become one of the staples of modern videography and it has to be said that the most popular of all the action cams is the GoPro. So versatile is this handy little camera that it’s been used in everything from an eagle in flight to Jerry Seinfeld‘s Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee. As good as action cams are these days they still require a little bit of savvy in order to produce truly outstanding videos.
Nothinbutshorts‘ Anthony Gordon has always been our go-to man for action cinematography, he has all the savvy and know-how to produce phenomenal videos AND he’s willing to share his knowledge with us (check out Anthony’s earlier article for V&F on shooting live sports – Lights, Action, Action). Here are Anthony’s tips & tricks so you can get the best out of your action camera.
Tape and tie it
The fancy (and expensive) mounts are great, but simple old cloth tape and cable ties do the trick, and in many instances allow for far more mounting options. They also offer great vibration dampening if built around a mould of tape.
3 is the magic number
Get the GoPro 3 rather than the 3+. The 3 is nearly identical to 3+ in functionality – save your money and put it towards accessories that will make a difference.
If you’re planning to go somewhere for multiple days, get a car charger and multiple batteries so you don’t run out of power.
Set up right
For the GoPro Hero 3, stick with 1,080px (HD) and either 25fps, or 50fps for slow motion – but bear in mind the 50fps needs to be converted in order to view as slow motion. GoPro claims its cameras have 4k capability but it is only 15fps and not very usable. When mounting the camera on a bike, use the wide setting, or the super wide setting if you have a 3+, although note that there is quality loss with the super wide setting.
Get spare sticky mounts because once they are stuck down they are there forever. Also keep that in mind if you’re mounting on a nice new bike or helmet.
Show your cards
The GoPro uses a Micro SD card – it’s best to stick with a max of 32gb as the larger ones can cause reliability issues after long periods of time. Get multiple 32gb cards (or smaller) instead and keep your data safe.
Light to bright
A cheap ND (Neutral Density) filter for the front lens is a great addition. In extremely bright conditions, an ND filter will help slow down the camera shutter speed for smoother footage, and will help reduce banding on the footage. The better ones fit over the outside of the camera lens.
Use simple tools to get better angles as opposed to the expensive accessories. For example, tape the camera onto the end of a broom or long PVC pipe, or cable tie it onto a glove. When mounting onto a bike, use areas with least vibration such as the seat post or under the handlebars.
What to avoid
The add-on LCD back screens are a quick drain to the battery. With the field of view so big anyway, the lens will capture nearly everything in front of it.
While GoPro audio isn’t an option when in its waterproof housing, the out of housing sound quality leaves plenty to be desired. If you’re chasing some sound, angle the camera with the wind, as otherwise that wind noise will just sound like static. Taping external mics to the unit is an option, but far from ideal. Another option is Sena’s Bluetooth Audio pack – either way, good sound comes at a price. [Polar Pro mic pictured above]
Edit for credit
Make sure you have enough hard drive space, HD footage mounts up very quickly. There is no need for a separate card reader, just connect the camera with the supplied cable. Depending on your edit software you may need to conform the footage to go with other footage – a great piece of software for this is MPEG Streamclip.