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11 Reasons your Action Cam Vids Don't Look Like the Ones From GoPro

Updated on April 25, 2015
Keeping up with the GoPro production team can be a tall order. But it is possible to meet them on level ground.
Keeping up with the GoPro production team can be a tall order. But it is possible to meet them on level ground.

1. It's an Action Camera, not Magic!

I’m going to be blunt. Things do not automatically look awesome when they are filmed by an action camera. I don’t care that you just bought the top end Hero 4 Black ++, filming by holding your cam in-front of you while walking through a museum is not going to raise the heart-rate of the viewer by a single BPM. Likewise holding up your camera above your head at a music festival while standing in the crowd will not automatically create footage that gives the viewer the illusion they were at Coachella.

In this day and age of people jumping from out of space, drifting a $500k Mustang around the streets of LA or rescuing a precious Orca from a fishing net, it can be very difficult for the average adventure enthusiast to impress, regardless of the stunt.

A simple yet common use for an action cam can be purely as evidence that an event or stunt took place by the person making the claim. Of course with 1080P recording capability this is a pretty basic function of the camera which can be useful, but if the user was expecting an uplifting montage of great achievements of mankind, they will be sorely disappointed.

The following is a list of some assured ways to create a very standard and mediocre action video. But don’t despair, as we have included remedies for every one of these common traps.



2. You’re Shooting an Angle That Has Been Done to Death

This angle gives a good view of the surroundings, but it can have limited engagement with the viewer.
This angle gives a good view of the surroundings, but it can have limited engagement with the viewer.

The Problem

You filmed your track-day, kayaking or bike ride by putting the camera at the front of your vessel and filmed a bunch of road and track coming towards you, the event itself felt amazing but you've ended up with some pretty standard, low impact footage.

Solution

Try placing the camera somewhere it will provide a view people do not normally see. Just because you need to be looking directly ahead in order to ride a bike doesn't mean that’s the best angle to shoot. For example a more interesting angle on a bike would be down near the chain-stay. That way the viewer can see where the bike is going as well as the bike riders input (legs) and the mechanical workings of the bike. This gives the viewer a better idea of everything that’s happening. Sometimes even an angle facing the rider can be helpful for the viewer to understand the complexity and difficulty of the ride taking place, don’t worry though, you’ll still be able to see background so you can see exactly where the rider is.



3. There is no story line

Having some sort of storyboard in your head will help guide you to get the right shots, remember you can always change your direction on the fly.
Having some sort of storyboard in your head will help guide you to get the right shots, remember you can always change your direction on the fly.

The Problem

Action footage that is simply shot in one take from one angle is purely evidence of an event taking place. Its not a film If that’s all you need then fine. But if you want something you and your friends will actually WANT to watch over and over again you need to create a story.

Solution

Film a bunch of extra footage surrounding an activity. A time-lapse of the sunrise and the travel to the venue. Any signs that show the location or venue. Footage of the other people involved. Close-ups of the equipment used to complete the stunt. This all helps build a picture of what took place, if the viewer doesn’t see what was involved then they can’t fully appreciate what has been achieved. This helps to build the emotional engagement with the viewer. When you’re out on your shoot try to shoot everything around you. With the quantity of on location footage you’ll capture, you will have a great selection of footage to choose from when editing.



4. You’re Filming Boring Stuff

The Problem

Action cams are amazing things. But if you’re going to film your walk through Alcatraz it’s going to look pretty lame. Not that Alcatraz isn’t amazing, it’s just, well, all the real action left years ago. It’s only ever going to be of limited excitement to a viewer even if it’s sped up a thousand times.

Solution

Work with the strengths of these cameras and put it where it works best. Up close to someone doing something epic with plenty of light. A winning combination every time….Now strapping the camera to your buddy doing parkour though Alcatraz, that’s a different story.

(The writer would like to express his recommendation that you don’t do parkour in, on or around Alcatraz)



5. The Video Format is not Correct

The Problem

You’ve recorded a 10m high launch on a sail board. But when you go to slow it down it starts to look stuttery because you only filmed @ 24fps (Frames Per Second). You were going to put it to 120fps just for the trick but left it at 24 to save card space. Now you’ve recorded the trick and its stuck at only looking decent when played back at real time speed. When you slow it down it stutters like buggery.

Solution

Realize that that small capacity SDHC card is not doing you any favors. A purchase of a larger card will result in better footage you can do more with in post-processing. Film everything you can in a high frame rate. You’d be surprised at how simple things can look amazing in liquid smooth slow motion. A cat jumping from a tree, someone jumping into water, a race driver putting on his helmet. The rule is: EVERYTHING LOOKS BETTER IN SLOW MOTION.



6. You Compromised Resolution for Card Space.

Resolution. Bigger is always better. Make sure you have the card and battery power to support it.
Resolution. Bigger is always better. Make sure you have the card and battery power to support it.

The Problem

You’ve filmed everything at 1080p because that’s where most TV’s are at these days so why film any higher right? But you turn on ‘stabilization’ in your editing software and immediately loose some resolution and in turn, picture quality.

Solution

Similar to the example above in regards to FPS you’ve gone and crippled you’re footage by recording in a resolution that is ‘just barely enough’ with no room for future processing. Be a man and get the bigger SDHC card.



7. You’re Only Shooting From a Single Angle

The Problem

The footage looks monotonous. Even though there is some great action content, the one angle only tells part of the picture.

Solution

The obvious solution is to buy more cameras, the more the better and put them everywhere. However in you need money for food after forking out for your Hero 4 Black +++ (I just made that model up, to my knowledge GoPro do not have such a camera) a cheaper alternative is to repeat the stunt several times. Each time moving the location of the camera to a different angle. This can be easier with some things like track days. Run a few laps, come back in, move camera, run some more laps, rinse and repeat. If done well the viewer will be none the wiser and impressed you managed to get an entire production crew to stick to the outside of your car.



8. You’re Not in Hawaii

The Problem

The footage you filmed at Brighton Beach just doesn’t have the same impact as the scenes gopro filmed on the north shore of Hawaii

Solution

The Hawaiian north shore is one on the most beautiful locations on the planet. If you filmed some descent action there the footage would be as good as it gets. However if you can find a landscape that has interesting, colourful and unique features found no-where else on Earth, you’ve found your next movie set. This can include, Hills, Desert, Mountains, Cityscapes. Keep it in mind that what seems like an every day location to you, could be considered a strange mysterious place to someone on the other side of the globe…. Alternatively, go to Hawaii



9. The Video Lacks an Uplifting, Life Changing and Inspiring Soundtrack

The Problem

You’ve got your footage together but the wind noise and chitter chatter of people in the vid does nothing for the magic of the action capture.

Solution

In most cases you can ditch the recorded audio all together and replace it with a quality uplifting, ascending piece of music. Its best to pick the music first as you will be editing to the timing of the music. Use the pace of the song to dictate what should be shown. Perhaps tranquil landscape shots for the intro and slower paced parts of the tune. Building up to the best quality action shot for when the song peaks at its crescendo. THAT is how you get emotional engagement!



10. You Don't Have a Drone

The Problem

You don’t have a drone.

Solution

Get a Drone.

Drones (or quad copters) are the cost effective way of getting an aerial shot as opposed to using a helicopter. Drones with a camera attached are capable of some truly breathtaking shots that would normally need a big budget movie house to achieve. But with today’s low cost tech you can get the same shots for a comparatively low cost.



11. You Don’t Know How to use Time-lapse.

The Problem

You need some fill footage but just filming a landscape or people walking around in a street seems a bit boring

Solution

Time-lapse is an effective way to see small changes over time that we would normally not be able to identify. Because of this we can capture footage that is very different to what people see with their own eyes and deliver a unique and powerful capture, perfect to supplement your engaging and emotionally moving production.

Click here for GoPro Hero 4 Timelapse Review



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