16 Nov 2017

How to make amazing videos with action cameras - part 2

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Even older action cameras are capable of great footage in the right hands Even older action cameras are capable of great footage in the right hands Shutterstock

The second part in our series giving more essential tips for getting the most out of your action camera, this time focussing on accessories and editing.

In Part 1 I wrote about the practicalities of setting your camera up, and the sorts of things to consider when obtaining shots. In this part I'm going to talk about gadgets to help you use the camera, as well as considerations for the edit. 

Gadgets and accessories

Given that these cameras are all about mobility, gadgets quite often mean faff. But sometimes they can be useful if you select them carefully. The Karma and Feiyu syle gimbals may well be a worthy investment. Contrary to the lack of mention on the website, the Karma handheld gimbal is in fact splash and dust proof according to response by GoPro in a recent Q&A. Feiyu Tech and other companies such as Removu also make dedicated splash and dust proof models. However FeiyuTech have one other ace up their sleeve in the fully waterproof (read submersible) WG2 gimbal. A collapsible pole is also a useful thing to have, allowing you to get a number of different perspectives, manoeuvre the camera to difficult to access places, capture selfie shots (I know, I know!), and you can even use one model as a static tripod. Speaking of which, a micro tripod, such as a Gorilla Pod is extremely useful to have available.

Drones? For some sports a drone could be considered fairly important part of your arsenal of tools. However while there are incredibly portable models around such as the Mavic, Spark, and Karma, they can still be a faff. Not to mention there are all the various finicky legalities involved in flying them. They are an increasingly popular way of capturing shots, however please always bear in mind the legalities specific to your country or state when using them, as well as using your common sense. Flying on a mountain top for instance might seem remote, until a military jet comes screaming past you at eye level so closely that the pilot waves at you! So be careful.

Micro dollies are also an option. But for me they are more trouble than they are worth. Remember that when you are making such videos, you are still out there to have fun and enjoy the day, so getting the right balance between enough kit that can help you, or too much that can be a hindrance, is essential.

If you are involved in watersports of any kind, then some sort of float assistance for the camera is a must. Unless you enjoy impromptu scuba diving! if you are mounting to a helmet, boat, or surfboard etc, then always make sure the camera body is tethered down so that if the mount fails, you won’t lose the camera. A friend of mine once lost a GoPro at the bottom of a waterfall in Scotland due to not heeding this advice. Amazingly he managed to recover the camera and get his photos and footage a couple of years later, but that might not always be the case! Although it is a testament to how tough these devices can be!

Lastly, ND filters. If you want the ultimate control over your shutter speed then these are a must. PolarPro make some direct replacements for the Hero 5-6 line that don't just clip on top of the existing lens cover, but actually replace it. Amazingly it just unclips with a rotation, and can be replaced with these ND filters.

Polar-Pro-Cinema-filters.jpg

A set of filters such as these optically high quality Cinema ND filters from Polarpro could be considered essential

The edit

For those who want to work ultra quickly, the new Quik Stories functionality may be the way to go, and you’ll be thankful you made all those highlight tags. But since we are talking about making something that is a bit of a cut above, we really need to be looking at least at some semblance of decent creative edit. Clearly I cannot teach you how to edit a video in a few short paragraphs if you have minimal experience. So I’m going to assume that you are at least familiar with the fundamentals.

Producing a great video doesn't always mean having the best NLE. I won't kid you that to truly get the best results you do need something a bit more 'pro' such as DaVinci Resolve, but you can still create some compelling edits using nothing but iMovie on your phone. But it will be a lot of effort and frustration to do that.

Unfortunately GoPro highlight tags do not work in the main NLE’s. Yet. Though I still think it is good practice to use them because sometimes you do just want to make a quick edit, or to quickly find a clip for Instagram etc using GoPro's own software. In the future they could be very handy indeed if the main NLE’s gain the ability to read this metadata. The Quik Desktop app will read these highlights and other metadata, so that for instance speed and height metrics can be overlaid onto your footage. But it cannot output clips as Prores or other edit friendly formats. This software could still be useful in a pinch, but for the most part you will want to be using software such as FCP X, Premiere, and Resolve 14 (which is available for free).

If you want things really polished, you will often need to ‘massage’ the footage from these cameras a fair bit. This will involve adjustments such as correcting the fisheye distortion (After Effects will be your friend here if you are lucky enough to have it), and getting to know the colour controls of your NLE. Luckily with the newer cameras shooting 4K there is a lot of leeway for cropping in and adjusting things. If you want the best from your action camera footage, be prepared to put a bit of time in with regard to these aspects.

Something else to consider is the sound. Great music is one thing, but can you pep things up a bit more with atmospherics or even some foley? It can go a long way, although the work is sometimes not noticed. I remember once making a kayakng video with a GoPro, and I created the whole sound bed from scratch. The sound of the paddles, water hitting the plasic hull, everything. I sent it to a colleague to ask his opinion of the sound design and he told me that he couldn't say anything about it because he wasn't sure what I was referring to. He didn't realise that the entire sound track was created from scratch in my NLE and not recorded on location! I guess that could be taken as a compliment, of sorts!

Finally, if you want to see what is truly possible with these cameras, look no further than the work of Abe Kistlevitz. Abe is one of the team that brings you the GoPro launch videos, and his skills speak for themselves, as you will see in the video below, shot entirely on Hero4 cameras. Sit back, turn the volume up, and if you have the monitor select the 4K option, enjoy!

Header image courtesyof Shutterstock.


Simon Wyndham

Simon Wyndham is Deputy Editor of RedShark News, a professional cameraman and video producer of over 15 years. With a background in indy feature making, when he isn't producing bread and butter corporate videos he can be found hucking the gnar on rivers whitewater kayaking and adventure sports filming.

Website: www.5ep.co.uk

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