Monday, February 13, 2012

Cool things to do with your GoPro

Or, for my kayaking audience:
Sweet ill stuff to do while yo leg is broke. Specially if you are ballin on a budget. Brown.

EDIT: I have written another article, featuring a newer stern mount, but also a short essay about my philosophy of GoPro filming. You can check it out here.



Well, as you all know, I recently broke my leg, so I can't kayak for a while. During my downtime, I have been playing around with my camera equipment, and I thought I would write a post about some of the cool things that you can do to your GoPro. The GoPro HD cameras have revolutionized action cinematography, because they are so accessible and yet so high quality. I am still learning, but here are a couple of tips and modifications that I have found that help you get even more professional looking results with a minimal investment.

I started this article by just writing about the time lapse tools, but then I just had to make a video showing them in action, and then it all spiraled out of control, and I made a full length video of a lot of different filming techniques that I have discovered for the GoPro. Check out the video here:

Most of the things in the video are described in more detail here, and I have a couple general tips here that are not in the video. I hope that these ideas help you enjoy your GoPro even more. If you don't have one, go buy one at GoPro.com. Anyway, here are the tips:

Lick the lens.
Many kayak videos shot with GoPros show a lot of water droplets on the lens. Some people recommend rainx or other hydrophobic treatments, but these tend to make the droplets stand up tighter off the surface. The thing that you're seeing on the shot are the droplet edges. Instead of eliminating the droplets, embrace them. Lick the lens and give it a quick wipe, and the lens will have a constant thickness layer across it. There will be way fewer droplet edges.

Use some kind of de-fogging stuff on the inside of the case.
You will be using this camera near, in and around water. Temperatures will be changing, air will be moist, and you might get water droplets inside the case. Fog is hard to spot, but it will turn your gopro video into mud. I bought some smith anti-fog wipes from REI for about $2 each. I have used one so far, and it has solved all my fog problems.

Build a lens cap.
That front lens on your GoPro is made of plastic. The case is very durable, and you will be tempted to just toss the camera anywhere when not in use - on the floor of your car, into a backpack, etc. This usually won't break the case or anything, but it can scratch the lens easily. Random little scratches on the lens will degrade your image quality. Here is how to make a nice lens cap. I didn't come up with this idea. Get a ping-pong ball and cut it in half, then drill two little holes in it and pass a hairtie or rubber band through there. It should fit around the outer edge of your lens perfectly.

From GoPro equipment
From GoPro equipment
Those were the tips. Here are a couple fun things that I have built or re-purposed for my GoPro.

Stern mount!
Again, I didn't come up with this idea, I found it trolling the internet. The basic idea is pretty clever. You want a post that clamps on to another rod (the grabloop) at right angles. This is basically what a bicycle seat post does. I searched around until I found a post that would grab on to a grabloop, then monkeyed around with it a little, and attached a GoPro mount to the end of it. I like mine. The angle is adjustable, so you can lean it towards or away from yourself, and of course it attaches to the bow or the stern, without any modification to the boat itself.

If you build a protruding mount like this, use it with a little care, and think things through. I tried to make mine so that it would flex and break before breaking the boat, but even so, you're taking some extra risks having a giant narwhal horn sticking off one end of your boat. Not to mention the danger to your GoPro. However, you can get some entertaining shots with it. Just don't be tempted to overuse the footage. You probably love seeing your own funny faces as you paddle downstream, or reading the logos on the back of your lifejacket, but nobody else does, and you usually can't see much of the rapid that you're running.

From GoPro equipment
From GoPro equipment
From GoPro equipment
From GoPro equipment
From GoPro equipment
Stows easily in the stern when not in use. GoPro equipment
The other cool thing that I have been playing around with is the super-easy time lapse functionality of the GoPro Hero 2. Here are a couple cool internet ideas that I have stolen for getting interesting timelapses.

Egg timer!
A lot of videos have fake effects where it looks like the camera pans around at super slow speed during a time lapse. Usually this is just a software effect and the camera was stationary (the software crops the original clip, then uses some perspective distortion and moves the cropped area around). Here is a cheaper and easier solution: mount your GoPro on an egg timer. The egg timer takes a long time to swivel around, so over the course of your timelapse, your camera will pan around in a circle. This has some limitations, like the fact that all your timelapses will rotate at the same speed, and will always turn left (or right, whatever), but hey, it's cheap and easy. My friend Ty built this egg timer swivel for me. All you do is drill a hole in the top plate and put a screw through it that is the right size for a tripod mount. Tripod GoPro mounts can be bought from the GoPro website. Also, thanks to Ty Newton for building this particular egg timer mount for me.

EDIT:

A little update here: you could also buy an eggtimer with a flat top (I think Ikea sells them) and glue a flat mount on the top surface.

Furthermore, here is a short video showing a better demonstration of the eggtimer.
From GoPro equipment
This nut is glued to the bottom so that the egg timer can be connected to a tripod. GoPro equipment
Ready for action, one hour at a time. GoPro equipment

Motor!
Here's the cool one. I am still perfecting this tool, but it's been fun so far. The big craze lately has been to have video shots that track side to side really smoothly and artistically on fancy rail systems. Here is how to get that same effect during a timelapse: Use a BBQ rotisserie motor to slowly wind up string and pull the GoPro along some tracks during a timelapse. I don't have any fancypants tracks, so I have been using a skateboard on our living room floor. The timelapses that I shoot that way are pretty boring, but the idea is sound.

EDIT:

Another note here: My latest version of this device is the same motor, but instead of a skateboard I have a toy truck that's about 4 inches wide. I chopped the top off, and put a bolt through it to attach the tripod mount onto. I carry the truck and motor around in a backpack, and use whatever flat surfaces I can. Usually either 2x4s, cement surfaces, hoods of cars, or the hull of an overturned boat. I'm still perfecting it even now. Sometimes the toy car isn't aimed right, and jumps a little during the timelapse. However, it's still cheap, and still portable. These two videos feature a couple timelapses using the toy car, although interspersed with a lot more kayaking:
Gore Race Video (The toy truck shot is near the end, at 1:50)
Summer 2012 roadtrip video (come for the gratuitous timelapses, stay for the nudity!)(there is no nudity. There are waterfalls, though. And as many creative GoPro mounts as I could manage.)
Rotisserie motor. It winds up the string and pulls the camera really slowly. GoPro equipment


Now for a couple tips for getting creative shots that don't involve much hardware.

Tie the GoPro to a long stick!
The really cool thing about the GoPro is that it produces really high quality video, but it is tiny. It's light enough to tie to the end of a long stick and do cool things with it. Sticks are usually easy to find near rivers, and you probably have an extra tether for your GoPro already, so it is incredibly easy to put two and two together. You can then wave the camera around artistically near the top and bottom of interesting rapids, or reach out closer to playwaves. The cool part of the tie-to-a-stick technique isn't just the new location that you can reach, it is the smooth way you can move the camera in ways that seem impossible. Take advantage of that.

Hang the GoPro on a rope!
Same basic idea here as with the stick - the GoPro is small enough and light enough to get to really strange places. At the Mwave in Colorado, there is a convenient bridge near the wave, and we have often used that bridge to run a pair of ropes across the river. We found a piece of wood nearby, and we tie the camera to the wood, which is in turn connected to both ropes. We connect to the two ropes so that we can steer where the camera is pointed. You can then raise and lower the camera, film from directly above the paddler, directly in front of the paddler, and just generally fly around having fun. Just like with the stick, the new locations are cool, but movement is the really sweet feature to take advantage of. You could imagine setting up a budget zipline shot quite easily, since a standard throwrope is strong enough to support the GoPro easily.

Wear the GoPro backwards!
Next time you are online watching a helmetcam video and you realize that it is really boring, ask yourself why. It is probably because the video is the standard view of someone's bow, while they paddle something average. Waves are cool to look at, but not worth making a video of. The cool part of paddling videos is the paddler. Whenever possible, I try to paddle incredibly close to someone while filming with the GoPro. This gives the rapids a sense of scale, and more importantly, it gives the audience someone to look at. Your bow is not very charismatic. The natural extension of this is to not just film someone by following them really closely, but to turn the camera around backward in its mount and film someone following you. Faces are more exciting than helmets.

Mix it up!
Never ever release a video composed entirely of the same type of shot (well, I guess there are some exceptions, but even then...). No matter how cool your angle is, it can always be made better by comparing it to a different angle.

Now go out there and have fun, because I can't until my leg heals.

For some more awesome boat-mounting ideas (some more expensive, some cheaper), check out Unsponsored.uk. They have made some very nice looking stern mounts, and they were the ones that came up with the idea of using the bicycle seat post as a mount.

Also, as mentioned at the beginning, I have written another article, featuring a newer stern mount and a whole lot more filming philosophy. You can check out that article here.

Also thanks to our housemate Shon for letting us use his skateboard for timelapses.

35 comments:

  1. Hey what did you edit your video with? i'm having a hard time trying to edit my video with imovie while keeping it HD quality. Thanks! Sweet stuff though really enjoyed that

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    Replies
    1. I used Adobe premiere. Just about anything other than imovie or windows movie maker should work. I have heard about some free editing software... lightworks or something. It's mentioned in some of the other comments.

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    2. well learn rendering techniques in imovie you can do HD. As well as Windows Movie Maker, it has built in 720p and 1080p rendering with no quality loss. Just make sure imovie/wmm is set to 16:9 during edit and select the proper render output.
      I'm sure Mac has codecs built in that will do this, if not that is very surprising.

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  2. I use adobe premiere pro, but any higher powered editing software will produce about the same results. I think that there is a free editing program that is relatively good, but I can't remember the name. Light-something or something along those lines. Also I have a vague memory that there might be an "imovie hd" that is different from regular imovie.

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    1. Yeah i have the imovie hd but it may be an old version so i'll have to look into that. When i have the money i'll be sure to invest in some better software but unfortunately i'm coasting on fumes right now haha. thanks for the tips i really appreciate it.

      scott

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    2. I haven't tried it, I have no idea how well it might work or even whether or not it runs on mac, but here is the program I was talking about: http://www.lightworksbeta.com/

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  3. What setting are you doing your time-lapse in? Awesome video, now you've got me thinking, thanks!

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    1. Depends on what you want to capture. Most of the ones in the video were shot on either 5mp @ 2sec or 5mp @ 1sec. When I first started playing around, I used the 11mp settings, but 11 megapixels for every frame was too much work for my poor little computer to preview during editing, and the final product is way less than 11mp.

      If you're unsure about how often to take an exposure, probably do one setting faster than you were going to start with. You can always drop frames later, but you can't create extra ones.

      Also, the output into the video was 30 frames per second.

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  4. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  5. Great! thanks for amazing tips! My creativity is the limit! Keep us posted with any other genious ideas! *bookmarked*

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  6. Hey man Love the page. I saved it. Def going to be trying some of these things. I literally just got my camera...do you use the flat lens for your water pictures or just the regular case and do you use a polarizing lens? Sorry trying to learn as much as I can and great page :) Damn and makes me wanna try Kayaking bad. Sucks I live in Florida.

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    Replies
    1. I made the video before the flat lenses came out, so it's all with the curved one. The flat lens makes shots look good when the camera is fully submerged. If it's just getting splashed occasionally, the flat one is not necessary.

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    2. Also, glad that you like the page!

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  7. Just got my GoPro a couple of weeks ago as well. Got a nice video of kayaking at the beach a couple of weeks ago, now looking to keep improving. With the kayak mount, can you reach the shutter to turn it on/off while paddling? I do more long-distance paddling than whitewater, and would want the ability to turn the camera on/off during my paddle. Love the egg timer idea, as I've seen that effect done in other time-lapses and wondered how to recreate it.

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    Replies
    1. It depends on which boat you attach the mount to. For most of my boats, I can't reach it, but when we put it on natalie's boat, she is able to. I've seen some people use their paddles to push the buttons, but I haven't tried that.

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    2. Hey Leif,
      Great idea to use seat post clamps for the kayak stern mount. Not sure what you used to attach the camera on the other end though. Are those just layers of plastic jammed in the tube then drilled to fit GoPro mounts? Or did you bolt the plastic peiced to seat post as well?

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    3. Yeah, those are layers of plastic, bolted into a stack, then carved into a circular cross section to fit into the post. Then to attach the gopro, there are 5 layers, and every other one is cut short and carved a little to replicate the three fins that the official mounts have.

      I feel like there's a better solution out there. Maybe using the gopro clamps to attach to the post, or something. Let me know if you think of anything.

      Also, credit where it's due: the post thing was not my idea. I stole it from unsponsored.uk They have some other really cool ideas. Check them out.

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    4. when you say to lick the lense, do you mean the lense that sits inside the casing?, are you saying the lense gets water droplets when its inside the actualy casing. im pretty sure i get water droplets on the outer part

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    5. Yeah, lick the outside, not the inside. Inside gets fog sometimes, but licking it would just cause gunk. Licking the outside, your spit gets cleaned away by the water and there's no gunk.

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  8. iMovie HD is basically iMovie 6. It's been updated since then. The interface was somewhat different, but decent, if not spectacular results can be had from it. I have also used Picasa for basic time-lapse videos, as they have a specific "transition" setting for it.

    Great blog - great ideas. Thanks!

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  9. What is this song?! I've shazamed it and everything but i can't find it! Awesome video too. I'm trying out the panning shot today!

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    1. It's in the credits. "Lluvia simpatico" by my good friend Mike Lee. You probably won't find it on shazzam because he's still just a local musician. If you like it, you should buy it, and help out my buddy. Go to http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/mikelee23

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  10. Where did you shoot the last section of the video with the surfing, when you had the gopro mounted to the ropes?

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    1. It's called the Mwave. It's traditionally very shrouded in secrecy, since it is a little bit dangerous (it's in a canal, etc), so I'm afraid I won't say anything more. You're on your own from here. Sorry.

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  11. Thanks, for this overly amazing blog! I'm way into kayaking and recently broke my wrist! Its just my Canadian dumbness! I love the elapse timer(the one where u put the camera on a timer.) Thanks,
    Garrett

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  12. Awesome tips! Just got myself a GoPro2 for Christmas. Unfortunately, it's the dead of winter in Michigan, and my mountain bike and motorcycle are both in hibernation for a few more months. Can't wait to try out some of your ideas this spring!!!

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  13. Love It, Got my GoPro a few months back and still playing with it, Great Ideas, Most I will try, Awesome, Thanks Again

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  15. Wonderful tips. I'm off to go by an egg timer and a ping pong ball.

    Thanks
    HC

    ReplyDelete
  16. There is some great advice here and all of the poses are easily achievable without looking forced or contrived. I particularly like pose 7 which can make a very dramatic bridal portrait shot in the right location and light. I’ll check out the app for more ideas.

    ReplyDelete
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