The GoPro is my new friend

As I mentioned in a previous post, we bought a GoPro camera (Hero3 black edition) to add to our department’s arsenal and I’ve been playing with it this summer.

The GoPro Hero3 (black edition) and the accessory remote.

The GoPro Hero3 (black edition) and the accessory remote.

I was talking with my friend, Reed Hoffmann, about it and he said something  that made a ton of sense to me. We were talking about teaching our students about equipment. One of his approaches is to be the one who actually reads the manual. Even though I’ve read more manuals in my five years of teaching than in my previous 25 years as a photojournalist, I never really thought about it and when I said that, it was like adding the last link to a chain. There’s a ton of good information in manuals and if you want to get the most functionality out of your device, read the manual. Or know someone who has.

My second time out with the camera, I mounted it on my head as I umpired some softball games. I worked both behind the plate and out on the bases and was surprised by what I learned. In the office, I thought standing behind the plate would be too static, but as it turned out, that was the best perspective. Watch the video for clips from my last two outings with the camera and what I learned. The notes below are listed by when they appear in the video.

  • Be sure to use the correct housing for the device. First time out, I was using the waterproof housing, which doesn’t all you to record good audio. In most cases you’ll probably use the skeleton backdoor. (:12)
  • The “wide” view is very wide (:24)
  • In the wide view it’s very important to have something in the foreground to add interest and prevent dead space. (:28)
  • You can see the difference in the foreground when I was working the bases. Even when I got close to a play, the extreme wide angle makes it seem like the camera is further away than it is. (:43)
  • At :52 I intentionally made hand signals above my head, right in front of the camera, to show you that perspective.
  • I shot b-roll on the wide setting. I find the distortion unpleasing for most of these shots. (1:06) But I do like the effect as I go through the line after the game. (1:16)

By my third outing with the camera I had read the manual and figured out how to change the point of view (POV) in the settings. In 1440p (and most other resolutions) your only POV choice is “Ultra Wide.” If you change to 1080p you have the choice of ultra wide, medium and narrow. You’ll see all three in the second half of the video (basketball).

  • The narrow view would be good for b-roll. It was a little too tight for this basketball stuff. (1:19) But the view is clean, undistorted and has a good feel to it. By the way, the audio is directly from the camera and is not enhanced in any of these clips.
  • The camera is a curiosity for people — especially when you’re wearing it on your head. Note the kid at 1:25, trying to get a better view and get himself on the video.
  • What I like about this view is that you can still see the action when it moves to the other end of the court. (1:32)
  • Medium point of view worked out the best in this basketball setting.  I was mainly interested in foreground action and it captures a lot of the court without too much distortion — a little bit of distortion is a nice affect. (1:44)
  • (My team is in the white shirts. You can see the defense totally fail at 1:54.)

Also, I downloaded the app literally an hour before the basketball shoot. It allows you to operate the camera remotely. It worked 90 percent of the time. It hung up at one point and I had to restart it. That’s never a good thing and it always happens at the worst time. Having the app seems to make the LCD screen an unnecessary accessory. On the down side, it really drains the battery because the camera appears to remain in wifi discovery mode even when turned off. The first thing I did when I got home that night was get online and buy more batteries.

Overall, this has been a very cool period of learning and discovery for me. I like the GoPro a lot and will be encouraging my students to give it a try. Please shoot me any comments or questions you have.

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One response to “The GoPro is my new friend

  1. Thanks for the info. I won a hero 3+ in a raffle and want to use it to video a basketball game.

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