GoPro action camera mounted on a bicycle's handlebars

So you bought a GoPro Hero 3 for video production and are ready to become the next big Martin Scorsese. You pack it up, go to your favorite mountain and begin recording from your helmet mount. Once you get home to view the video, you have the most beautiful shots of the sky and clouds that you have ever seen, but nothing of you and your friends. Though technology has grown to give us the option for high-quality HD video,the human element needs to catch up with the technology (or maybe the lack thereof for what we need.) Below is a brief guide to get you started in your first video production with your new Go Pro Hero 3.

Why GoPro only?

In this article we are using the GoPro Hero 3 Black Edition for video production because of its options of wide, medium, and narrow fields of view at 1080p/30fps. Typically when other action cams record at 1080p, they have a sort of fishbowl effect which distorts the outer sides of the video and can make it look amateur. Using the higher video resolution like 4K, however, will give you enough raw footage to be able to crop in during video production and get rid of the outside fishbowl effect. this will leave you with a high quality image with little to no pixel degradation and no image distortion.

If this sounds like too much work, you can get a similar quality by using the SuperView mode which takes 1080p with 4:3 aspect ratio and dynamically stretches it to a 16:9 aspect ratio, so you get a full, wide-angle high quality video. However, you still get a slight stretching effect on the sides of the image, but this can make your wide-angle shots better than stock 1080p.

Holding the GoPro or mounting options

While there are multiple mounts for the GoPro series of cameras, there are three specific mounts that tend to work best to capture high quality video for video production.

  • Chest mount – Action cams are designed to catch action. Therefore they should see as much of it as possible to provide a good representation of what is being filmed. The best way to see what is happening around you is to mount the cam to your chest with the chest mount system. This will provide an overview of what is happening around you. If you are skiing or biking, the full shot of your hands, arms, legs, bike, skis, etc. are in the field of vision. Putting all of these elements together you can see the action of the user as well as the difficulty of the terrain; this makes for a good video. However, there are drawbacks to a chest mount. If you are snowboarding, this might be a little off center as your body is off to one side or the other. You can still get some good footage, but it will not be straight ahead and you won't see a lot of your board. Therefore, the next mount might suit you best.
  • Pole mount – Pole mounts are mounts where you can mount your action cam at the end of a pole and hold it in your hands, thereby guiding the scene you are recording in HD video and producing more of an action film. By holding the pole, your body acts like a sort of shock absorber and keeps the action cam steady and provides a much smoother HD video from your GoPro Hero 3. The videographer can also point the cam at various different scenes. So when you are approaching a large jump on a snowboard, you can point the cam to the jump, turn it to point at your face to show the fright of approaching the jump, then point it down over the edge of the jump to show how far the drop is. You then point it straight again to show you landing the jump (then back at you to show that huge smile because you didn't totally bail). Pole mounts are also good for getting different elevations of video, maybe holding it above and behind you to get a good video of all of your friends skiing behind you, or low to get a good video of the speed you are traveling when running through a slalom course.
  • Swivel mount – One of the newest types of mounts is the swivel mount. With this mount, you attach the action cam on a pole mount and then attach it to a swivel on top of your helmet. Though big and bulky, it gives a unique perspective by giving you a 360 degree view of you in action. By pointing the camera "in" at the end of the pole, this will gently circle around you and include your board, skis, bike, motorcycle… whatever, as well as the scenery around you in order to show motion, POV, and most importantly… you! There are some DIY projects out there to put swivels on helmets without the pole so the camera actually just spins on top of your helmet, giving you full 360 degree HD video around you, but I don't recommend that for a good action shot; stick with the pole mounted swivel.

Where to point?

If using a chest or helmet mount you may just mount the action cam and forget about it. But then when you get home again to view the footage, you get a great picture of the ground in front of you. What angle should you use? Typically if you are mounting on the helmet, you want to mount the cam so there is a slight downward angle, this will provide you with a video that shows your hands and arms typically, as well as the scenery in front of you. If you are looking at other people, this will usually show their heads and bodies rather than only the tops of their heads. This goes the same for the chest mount, you will need to point it a little up to be able to take into consideration your body angle when you are participating in your activity. This will give you a forward shot of your scenery, as well as your arms and hands, along with your handlebars and front tire if you are on a bike.

If you are just holding the camera and taking HD video of other people, you would need to hold the action cam a little low so you can point both up and down. Most of the action takes place at foot level, so going back and forth between foot level and head level will give you good footage of your friends and the action taking place. They will love you for this as they are only able to take shots of themselves (swivel mount) or the action (chest, handlebar, board mounts) unless they want to hold a pole mount for themselves.

Have fun

The overall goal of your action cam and video production, is to show you having fun. Go out there, experiment a little, use an LCD screen (or some action cams that have real time view apps) to see where you are shooting. Recording these memories for you and your friends is the ultimate goal and using some of these tips should provide you some quality footage to share with the rest of the world as well.

Brian Teal is a tech guru, an amateur videographer and participates in various extreme sports

Brian is a photo and video enthusiast and extreme mountain biker.