Action cameras are everywhere, but most of our videos could and should be better. Seven simple tips that will turn the GoPro footage you capture from dreadful to great.
MXL MM160 Lavalier Microphone –
Handy Recorder App –
Action cameras are great devices for capturing moments of exhilaration, drama and wonder. In the last few years they have become a “go-to” resource in video storytelling. But when, and how, should you use them?
You want your viewer to connect to your story. Really, you want them to feel they are there, experiencing the moment. That is the beauty of these cameras. But it only works if they have context.
Simply shooting the action won’t cut it. That means you need to capture everything before, during and after an event. Shoot more than you think you will need so you can pick and choose the best moments in editing.
These cameras, maybe more than any other, can transport a viewer to someplace fanciful, imagined or hard to get to. The beauty of a GoPro is they tell stories that are of the moment, unrehearsed, spontaneous. But that also means they are not the right camera for every story. Frankly, they are not the right camera for most shots.
I think of it this way, paprika is a unique spice, but it is not the main course of a meal. Use these cameras to spice up your story with unique points of view. And rely on a normal video camera or DSLR to capture the bulk of your footage. Capture unexpected angles that bring your viewer deeper into the story, but don’t make it the main meal.
We love these cameras because we can put them in unexpected places. They are tiny. We can mount them in spots where we could never attach a DSL or video camera. That means you need to use your imagination, asking yourself, “where can I put the camera to give my viewer an unexpected perspective on my story?” The lazy way to shoot is shoulder high, 5 feet off the ground. Get high, get low, get close. What will capture the moment?
No one wants to watch a video that is randomly shaking and moving. It is too much work for the viewer and they give up. Stabilization is critical for good video. Use a monopod, a flexible tripod or one of the gazillion mounts that are out there. When using a monopod of selfie stick don’t use a “death grip”. Relax your hand and try to absorb any shaking with your wrist. If you have to hold your camera by hand, move slowly and steady your hand as much as possible.
These cameras are phenomenal at capturing events that happen in the blink of an eye. Especially when you slow them down. There is inherent drama when you use slow-mo to give insight to your story. It can feel dreamlike, otherworldly. Most shots don’t lend themselves to slow-mo. But one well-placed shot that reveals something special can act as the climax of your story.
The shape of a camera’s lens directly affects the image. We describe different lenses by identifying their field of view, for example telephoto, normal, wide and fisheye. This really impacts interviews. A good talking head is usually framed head-and-shoulders, using a normal or telephoto lens.
By design, action cameras leverage a lens that captures everything. It is more forgiving when you have to guess at your framing. That’s why shooting an interview with a GoPro distorts the face when you fill the frame. The shot’s not very flattering to say the least.
On most action cameras you can adjust the field of view. Wide captures about 130 degrees of what’s in front of you. It is great for Point of View shots. Medium is about 110 degrees and while still a wide angle field of view, it is less distorted. Narrow covers only about 75 degrees, and uses only a portion of the image sensor. None of the settings are ideal for interviews. That’s why an action camera is my last resort for shooting an interview. I’ll use my smartphone before I use my GoPro.
The audio captured with a GoPro, blows. These cameras are optimized for capturing amazing images and audio is, well, more of an afterthought. If you need to capture audio that is critical to your story you need to come up with an alternative to the in-camera microphone. There is no mic input on the camera so you will need to use a mic adapter cable, but only if you take it out of the waterproof housing which probably defeats the purpose of using the camera in the first place.
My recommendation is to use an external audio recorder and then synchronize the sound in editing. You can use a professional solution like this Zoom H4N, or go simple and use your smartphone. My favorite combination is the MXL MM-160 lavalier and Zoom Handy Recorder app for the iPhone. I like the MXL because I can monitor the audio while recording, and the Handy Recorder app does a decent job of recording the audio with minimal drift. That means when you sync up the audio later on the picture and sound will stay in sync for more than a few seconds.
action cameras like the gopro and the sony have become a go-to for video storytelling but when and how should you use them here's seven tips for getting the most out of your camera you want your viewer to connect with the story you want them to feel as if they're experiencing the moment that's the beauty of these cameras but the first thing you have to do is give them a little bit of context simply shooting the action isn't going to cut it that means you don't just capture the action you capture everything before and after the event shoot more than you think you're ever going to need because well you can always pick and choose the best stuff in editing for example today it's not just underwater footage of fish it's getting here it's getting the gear ready and it's heading to the water these cameras may be more than any other can transport a viewer to someplace fanciful imagine they're hard to get to the beauty of a GoPro is they help tell stories that are of the moment unrehearsed spontaneous but in action camera is not the right choice for every shot I like to think of it this way paprika it's a great spice but it's not the main part of a meal use a regular video camera or a DSLR for the majority of your story and spice it up with your action we love these cameras because you can put them in unexpected places they're tiny you can put them in places you can't put a regular camera or a DSLR but that means you need to use your imagination where can I mount the camera to give the viewer an unexpected perspective something that brings my story alive the lazy way to shoot is 5 feet off the ground at eye level get high get close get low what will capture the moment nobody wants to watch a shot that's randomly moving and shaking these cameras are tiny and they show every move you make so figure out how to stabilize your camera use a monopod or a flexible tripod or one of the gazillion mounts that are out there whatever you do stabilize the camera if you are going to use a selfie stick or a monopod don't hold it with a death grip here's a relaxed hand so that it'll absorb some of the energy from your arm in your body if you do have to handhold it move smoothly and evenly so that your audience doesn't feel whipsawed all around these cameras are phenomenal at capture events that happen in the blink of an eye especially when you slow it down it can feel dreamlike otherworldly magical most shots don't lend themselves to slow-mo but one well-placed shot in your story can give it great drama ok I don't want to get too deep into optics here but the shape of your lens directly impacts the look of your shot we measure lenses with something called field of view how much you can see for example telephoto normal wide angle and fisheye lens selection really affects interviews because a good talking head is usually framed head and shoulders using a normal or a telephoto lens by design an action camera uses a wide-angle lens it's more forgiving when you're guessing at your shot but unfortunately it's not very flattering for an interview most action cameras will let you adjust the field of view why does about a hundred and thirty degrees and is great for point of view shots medium covers about 110 degrees and while technically still a wide angle it's not as distorted niro uses only about 75 degrees and unfortunately doesn't use all the image sensor none of these are a great option for shooting an interview in fact if I'm stuck I'll use my smartphone before I use a gopro for an interview the audio on a gopro blows these cameras are designed for capturing great video and the audio well it's more of an afterthought there's no mic input on this camera so in order to plug in an external microphone you're going to have to use an adapter cable but to use the audio cable you have to take it out of the waterproof housing which probably defeats the purpose of choosing this camera in the first place what this means is you're going to have to use an external audio recorder to capture your sound you can go professional with something like this this is an h4n that I'm using today or go simple with your smart phone when I use the smart phone I like to use this microphone it's an MX L lavalier microphone what I like about it is not only is it a great microphone I can plug headphones in so I can hear my audio when I'm recording and I use the zoom handy recorder app it records great sound and it's free there are a million ways to use these cameras I've just talked about seven of them but I think it's important you consider using an action camera as only one of your sources not your primary camera instead use it for capturing footage your audience will remember