Having been using GoPro cameras since my very first one way back in 2012, the GoPro Hero 3, and more recently with the GoPro Hero 10 Black, I want to pull together a few hints and tips that I’ve learned over the years, many of them discovered when creating recent video blogs.
The first item I want to look at are batteries with the obvious suggestion being to carry spare batteries. How many? At a rough guide, I would go for one in the camera, another as spare, with another as backup. Note I mention the word carry. That mean carry them with you when out filming. Seems like a no-brainer but it’s so easy to forget or think you won’t need them. Next, don’t leave batteries in the camera over time as they will lose charge. Not exactly sure why but they do. Possibly the internal clock is still ticking away. Another battery tip is to label your batteries with a number or letter and use them in sequence. Easy that way to know which batteries have been used and which are still fresh. I carry my batteries in a small cloth credit card pouch for safe keeping. And finally, charge the batteries after every shoot. Don’t forget!
Next topic is the GoPro chest rig. First tip is to make sure it’s good and tight or it may slip out of alignment. But not too tight that you cannot breath or your arms go numb and fall off. The camera can be mounted either right way up or upside down to get the ideal field of view. It’s always wise to do a test beforehand to determine if you are getting the view you desire. Still on the chest rig, might be useful to carry a spare QR mount. Mine failed out in the field the other day and I didn’t have a spare with me. Result, end of filming session. Also, and this applies to all GoPro mounts, replace the sometimes-awkward thumbscrews with M5 x 25mm Allen bolts and tighten with a suitable Allen key. Far more secure, though it does take a little more time and effort. Also carry a few spare bolts/nuts with you as they are easy to drop and lose.
One issue I have discovered when using the GoPro chest mount for these time-lapse turfing videos, if maintaining the same angle of view. I want to keep the handlebars low in the frame, allowing more of the scene ahead to be kept in view. Whenever you remove the camera from the mount, for example to change batteries or check footage, you lose the exact angle you were previously using to record footage. However, there is a simple way around this.
Following numerous tests, I found that an angle of 55 degrees is perfect for my situation. That’s the angle between the back face of the GoPro and the flat plate on the chest mount. Actually, it’s not far from vertical when I’m sitting on the bike with hands on the handlebars, though that might not apply to other riders. Note that the GoPro is mounted upside down. To allow me to easily maintain consistency, I marked the 55-degree angle on a piece of timber and cut out a small wedge with the hand saw. I can now easily use the 55-degree timber wedge to keep the same angle each time. Simple when you think about it.
Mini tripods are often very useful when making videos with the GoPro. As my main setup is to use two GoPro Hero 10 Black cameras, I carry two of them, both from GoPro. They come with a tripod mount plus a quick release tripod mount, which are both useful. They are compact, take up little space and can be positioned in all manner of locations, on fence posts, on the ground, in trees and so on. Use your imagination.
Also, part of my filming kit is a selfie pole and a ground spike. This is my way of getting round carrying a tripod which is bulky and awkward to carry on the bicycle. The ground spike attached to the bottom of the selfie pole and allows me to raise the camera up above ground level to over 1.00 m, useful when there’s high grass or thick vegetation. Only downside is that you need soft ground and take care in high winds. Does not work with tarmac and the like, obviously.
In the video above, I’m using a custom-made carrier support to mount the GoPro. It comprises a selfie stick attached to the top of the front carrier on the bike by means of a small ball-and-socket head, which allows forwards and side to side movement. The selfie stick is stabilised with two aluminium flat bars, attached to the carrier with bolts and the selfie stick with a P-clamp. More details on Turf Blog 18-04-23. Main tips here are to check everything is secure, including all bolts and where the camera attaches to the selfie stick and keep an eye on it while riding, particularly on rough ground. Also, useful to carry the required tools with you in the field.
Now, the actual filming. I’m not going to go into all the details of video resolutions, frames per second and all the rest. Far too many of them for this page. So, first tip. Always test, test, test, before you head off for that dream epic downhill run on the bike. Or you may have to start again. Check you are getting the field of view you want; you have enough battery capacity left and space on the media card. Also check the lens is clean and look and see that nothing will obscure the lens, for example, headphone cables, rucksacks straps, etc. If you find that the field of view isn’t wide enough, you can increase this with the Max Lens Mod. This is used in the above video.
One tip, which might also seem a no-brainer, and that is to take your time when you switch the camera on or off. Make sure it’s actually filming. The flashing red LED is a good visual clue. It’s surprisingly easy to find yourself getting mixed up and switching on when you wanted off, and visa-versa. Oh yes, another good tip. Rather than record your entire session in a single clip, which can be difficult to edit later, stop recording regularly and save the clip. You will end up with lots of shorter clips which are easier to manage when editing.
Now, the not so humble media card. My tips are to buy the fastest cards you can afford, with a greater capacity than you need and at least one spare per camera. And perhaps the greatest tip in the Multiverse, don’t leave them in the computer after you’ve downloaded the clips. Also delete the old footage when you are finished with it. Note that media cards do occasionally fail, can get lost and are easily forgotten. Finally, take care in the field when changing media cards. The cards are spring-loaded in the camera and can, if you get it just right/wrong, shoots out and vanish into the undergrowth, down a rabbit hole or into Hyperspace. Or in my experience, down the back of the computer bench. You have been warned.
Next topic is recording audio. When I first started talking to camera, I tried the GoPro as it was. However, wind noise was the biggest issue, particularly when riding the bike, as you can imagine. Next, I bought the Media Mod and tried the microphone on that. It was better but still not good enough with wind noise still the main issue. I eventually settled for a Rode Wireless II microphone setup. This consists of a transmitter which attaches to the speaker and a receiver which attaches to the GoPro and you need the Media Mod for this. Works a treat and means I can record audio up to 100m from the camera. Again, test, test, test and make sure you are actually recording.
Now, a few tips when using the Rode Wireless II microphone. First is to secure the transmitter with a length of cord, rather than rely on the clip keeping it in place. I’ve had it fall off the rucksack strap which is not a good idea. Another tip when riding wearing only a t-shirt and that is to clip it to the front of the t-shirt and use a cord with toggle to take the weight, as it tends to pull the t-shirt collar down. Added safety from loss as well. It goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway, remember to charge the Rode Wireless II microphone set after each session and also after a long idle period.
To finish, framing the shot can sometimes be an issue, especially when I’m filming myself riding the bike. There is an GoPro Mod you can buy, the Display Mod, a flip-up front-facing camera screen which shows what you are recording when facing the camera. Could be useful but will need to decide if it’s with buying. That’s all folks!
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