Rather late to the party, I have recently invested in a GoPro Hero 3+ camera. It provides a flexible and robust addition to anyone’s kit and will let you obtain footage when you just wouldn’t risk more expensive equipment or simply couldn’t access with more larger cameras.
The problem is, I’m no action sports or adrenalin junky freak. Snowboarding just isn’t my thing and you’re not going to get me at the skate park doing amazing jumps or diving to depths in the sea to capture on the GoPro. It just ain’t going to happen. I have it available to film such things but in the meantime I wanted to experiment.
So I decided to attach it to my car and attempt a simple round the block trip filming from different locations / camera angles on each trip. The trip I did is shown on the map below but this is where I situated the camera on each take.
- Front of the bonnet. A good centralised external shot with no car body obscuring the camera.
- Rear roof facing backwards. Central shot but showing what has just gone by.
- Right wheel arch. These shots look great and give a real sense of speed and action due to their proximity to the road and wheel.
- Internal shot facing the driver (me). This is used as the main audio track and to ‘anchor’ the rest of the shots. Basically, this leads and the rest are additional.
- Rear right window facing forward. This gives great reflections from the car, shows the wing mirror and a little of the driver.
Attaching the camera was actually extremely reliable and solid. Provided you have the suction cup (obviously an optional extra accessory along with everything GoPro…it’s where they make the money) you are good to go. My car is only a few months old so the paintwork is great. I just wiped down each surface prior to mounting to remove any obvious dirt and dust and it worked perfectly. Figuring out the best solution with the multiple mounts and angle brackets can take some time but it’s good fun. My son was playing with the camera and I was playing with the brackets. It’s a great toy. My logic was keep it as tight to the vehicle and close to the suction cup as possible to reduce stress on the fixture. It worked perfectly on every shot.
Camera Settings & Post
I decided to film in 2.7K at 25fps (the most the camera can do at this resolution). This allows some room to downscale to 1080p and create a crisper and more detailed image. It’s not exactly like a 4K downscale but it looks nice and I didn’t need this to be any more than 25fps. For info, the window shot was actually a 720p 100fps shot upscaled to 1080p. I wanted to shoot one part at 100fps to see if it’s worthwhile. I personally prefer the 2.7K downscale. The GoPro was set to the ProTune flat mode to allow maximum bitrate (particularly useful for random motion which can really cause low bitrate video to fall apart) and the white balance was set to the GoPro RAW setting. To keep things simple in post, I just added a little contrast and sharpening. The colour was left as is. It can sometimes look a little odd when set to RAW but the vectorscope was telling me my greys were spot on and the skin tone is good so I didn’t colour it at all. I actually like the look.
The exposure was left to automatic with a compensation of -0.5 to prevent too much over exposure with the dark colour of the car against sunny or bright skies. This works well given the circumstances but the inability to fix the shutter speed on a GoPro can really impact the look of the footage. If you look at the video, you’ll see that e.g. the wheel arch shot must have a one hell of a short shutter speed as a paused frame is almost still clear with a spinning wheel (not at full speed)! This is a problem as the footage can look very ‘choppy’ and uncomfortable to look at due to the lack of motion blur. Arguably a small price for such great action footage at this price point. That said, I do find this improves once it has been through an edit and re-rendered to mp4.
The main audio track is my waffle from inside the car. It’s a bit boring but it wasn’t really planned so I’m just really saying what I’m thinking. I used this track as this video is key and also the external shot become unusable above about 20-30mph (I was using the partially open housing). You’ll notice a drop to the external audio round a few corners to add a bit of impact. The music track is added in Premiere purely for interest and is Mike Luck and a song called Mir.
The audio tracks from the GoPro have a 8dB of treble boost in Premiere to make the vocals clearer. They can become a little flattened by the ambient low frequency sound of the vehicle.
What a nightmare. If you did this on anything other than quiet country roads, you’d need 5 GoPros. Continuity considerations are unbelievable simply due to bikes and cars being in one take and obviously not it the next. Every shot switch has to be matched from a location point of view and then from a continuity perspective. It took about 4 hours to edit down this 5 minute clip. See how many obvious errors you can spot :-)
Downloads and Sample Footage
I hope you enjoy the short clip and let me know if you have ideas of how I can make this better. Below you can download the original final render (not the encoded Vimeo version) and I’ve also put the first wheel arch take online in it’s original GoPro 2.7K mp4 file format so you can take a look at the original if you fancy playing around grading this type of GoPro footage before buying. That one is quite a large clip at about 2GB so it may take you a while to download depending on your connection.Download HD Original (994MB)
If you’d like any of the other clips uploaded, just send me a message here or add a comment. Have fun.