Anyone who’s been on YouTube in the last three years already knows this, but we feel the need to reiterate that the GoPro camera is probably the coolest thing to happen to extreme sports videography since the advent of the normal video camera. For those not in-the-know, a GoPro cam fastens to an athlete’s body and records a first-person, high definition view of all the amazing things that athlete accomplishes. From jumping off cliffs to cranking out backflips and 360s at skate parks, the GoPro has revolutionized the way we as extreme sports enthusiasts and practitioners can appreciate the radical feats of the most seasoned pros. Anyone looking for proof that this camera technique is as sweet as it sounds need only check out the compilation above.
Using GoPros is not without consequence, however. Because of their affordability (costs range is in the hundreds of dollars, not the thousands), and their near-ubiquity in viral extreme sports videos, it’s tempting for the untrained to grab hold of one and let ‘er rip, expecting fame to come within seconds of the record button’s depression. But, the fact is, not just anyone can make great GoPro videos. As connoisseurs of GoPro technique (the good, the bad, and the ugly) we’d like to impart some of what we’ve seen go into some truly noteworthy video contributions, in hopes that you’ll be well-versed next time you mount a camera on your handle bars or helmet.
Here is your guide to filming the ultimate GoPro video.
“Establish surroundings?” You may be thinking, “What does that mean? Don’t I have a camera strapped to me?” You very well may, yes, but that doesn’t ensure your viewer has any idea what’s going on. Though the magic of GoPro is born from viewers’ intimately sharing (almost firsthand) in whatever the camera wearer is doing, not taking time to ground viewers in a setting before jumping off a cliff or whizzing down a ski slope can be jarring. Those who watch your video want to be taken on a ride with you, from the moments leading up to your endeavor all the way up to the aftereffects. Show them as much of your journey as you can. You may feel like all people want to see is action, but every good story needs a strong setup. Don’t rob your audience of that. Narration or an opening card explaining the nature of the video also helps viewers place what they’re about to see.
Use more than one camera
You absolutely do not have to use any camera but a GoPro. They’re high quality and, provided you adhere to our advice about properly establishing for the audience whatever it is you’re about to show, they’ll will do a fantastic job communicating any experience or sentiment you wish to convey. That said, it’s good to have more than one GoPro on your person. Strapping on multiple cams to various parts of your body will allow you to record several angles at once. This means that when you’re editing your video, you’ll be able to grab more than one view of the incredible feat you took the time to record. One cam may seem like enough, but it’s not. Trust us. You’ll need at least two to keep things interesting, especially if your video exceeds one minute.
Secure all cameras
Do you see how much flipping and twisting BMX rider Mike Montgomery is doing in the video above? Imagine if one of the cameras he had on fell off in the middle of a tailwhip and one of the moments that makes this video so epic was lost to the pavement below his airborn bike. This is not a risk you want to take. It may go without saying, but we’d like to say it anyway: make sure your all GoPros are well-anchored before embarking on stunts that may not be easily repeatable. Also, keep your head reasonably still in the moments leading up to and following your stunts. Relentlessly bouncy videos aren’t exciting — they’re difficult to sit through.
Consider mixing footage and using effects
As we’ve said, GoPro is awesome on its own and need not be supplemented with any additional cameras or effects. But if you’ve got the means and the ability, why not go all out? Grab another camera operator or two to provide a third person view and go nuts with slow mo’. That’s always a big hit.
Do something incredible
All the technology in the world is meaningless if your camera’s not pointed at an extraordinary subject, so go do something incredible.
Follow these tips and we bet the one million view marker won’t be too far off.