The camera settings
These sorts of cameras have come a long way from their origins. The Hero 6 for example can correct for fisheye in camera, record 4K 60p, and up to 120fps in 2.7K, as well as having very good digital stabilisation. It also records to HEVC, which in ProTune modes makes for very good things indeed. But older cameras right back to the 3+ contain many of the settings I am about to refer to. If you use a GoPro you really, really do need to be recording in ProTune mode, and whichever camera you have you should be recording to the highest bitrate you can. There really isn’t an excuse not to given the price of SD cards these days.
Better bitrates equals better quality. You might also want to turn down some of the extra enhancements if your camera gives you the option. Namely the artificial sharpening, which, if you want your footage to appear much more natural you should be switching it to a low setting, or turning it off altogether. If you feel that the footage is soft you can dial back in some enhancement later.
GoPro cameras can be pretty saturated right from the off, particularly the latest model, so dialling down the saturation by choosing the flat option should be on your list of things to do as well. Other cameras such as the Yi models also have a similar flat option. You can always bump the colour back up later. Ideally these cameras would allow finer control, but they don’t so this is what we need to work with. However that’s better than losing detail due to overwhelming one of the colour channels. It depends on how much work you want to do later. If you just want to bang out an edit for your mates then sticking with the default colour is probably best to do.
Exposure compensation is also an important setting to look at. The camera can become confused in some environments, so on occasion this might need to be dialled down slightly to give your footage a bit more of a chance. Particularly if you are shooting around snow or water. Locking the shutter speed and/or limiting the ISO may also be an option that can help reduce noise.
Slow motion is something that you will more than likely want to make use of. But be selective as to what you film with it. For example if you want to output to YouTube in 4K, you won’t want everything to be in 240fps 1080p. Coming home to hour upon hour of footage shot in ultra slow motion where nothing interesting happens is a recipe for frustration, too. Find your moments and select the appropriate frame rate. Often 60p will suffice for the most part. But for events that you know will be totally spectacular or over with quickly, the ultra slow motion modes come into their own.
In the next part I'll discuss gadgets and accessories, as well as some tips for the editing stage.