By Jamie Cole, Creative Director, Red Barn Media Group
I’m not a GoPro “pro,” but it’s part of my arsenal in the field, and has proven indispensable as more of my client work has shifted to video. These little wonders can have some fun applications in ag videography, and can even help with social distancing. Here are a few ways I’m using mine.
Tip #1: Social Distancing
The discussion around GoPro opened for us in our webinar on the new realities of shooting in the field and observing social distancing. (Check out the webinar here.) My last few interviews in the field, I’ve asked a farmer to clamp a GoPro to a dash, handle or visor in the tractor cab (as long as it’s not going to shake too violently when the tractor moves), set up the shot using the GoPro app on my phone, and then just hit “record” as we talk over the phone via speaker or Bluetooth. I’m safely on the ground or in the truck, while the farmer does work but talks to me. Think an ag version of “Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee” (yep, they use GoPros with clamp and suction mounts on that show). You can also run separate audio using a lav mic and/or an audio recorder (like the Zoom H4N) that’s left in the cab, and sync the audio in post.
Tip #2: Keep It Current
Two reasons to upgrade with every new GoPro release: 1) They’re super cheap and 2) you can get risky with the older ones. I’ve had a bunch of fun letting tractors run over my old GoPros, sticking them in places they probably shouldn’t go. And I haven’t lost one yet. Plus, when GoPro releases a new camera, the changes are always worth it. (Unlike, perhaps, Apple’s endless phone upgrades.) The stabilization (“Hypersmooth”) on the HERO8 is a lot of fun to play with. And that’s just one example.
Tip #3: Stabilization
Keeping your camera current also means you have the best camera on the market for auto-stabilization, at least in this price range: the GoPro HERO8. (Anyone who has shot video on a DSLR without some sort of gimbal device knows what a shaky proposition that is, often offsetting the inherent quality of a good lens). But the news isn’t all good. The lower the light, the worse the camera’s stabilization becomes, so that cool twilight shot from the fender of the tractor can look pretty bad, and there’s no way to “fix it in post” when the camera has already tried to do it. The footage you have is the footage you have, and there will be a lot of motion artifacts. On the HERO8, you can turn off the “Hypersmooth Boost” in the settings if your low-light footage looks “smeared.”
Tip #4: Master Shots (and the Most Fun Cutaways)
Other than the recent use of a GoPro for cab interviews thanks to COVID-19, I’ve most frequently used the little machines for fun, up-close b-roll that can’t be captured any other way: a good look at closing wheels on a planter, the back of a baler opening up and dropping a bale, even a digger at ground level turning up potatoes. That’s what GoPros are made for, really. But a friend of mine (Marc Ward, terrific shooter, check him out at www.filmdogmedia.tv) taught me that they can also be great for a 4K master shot in a sit-down interview. Just clamp it to the top of your main camera, or to one of your close-up cameras in a multi-cam setup, or even to a light stand. It gives you one more fun option for a cutaway, and you can’t have too many of those. (Quick note: The newer GoPros have manual settings that can help you get good exposure on a master, so check that out instead of the “Auto” settings.)
Tip #5: You Got A Fast Card, You Got A Ticket To Anywhere
Please forgive the reference to my favorite song of all time… But if it helps you remember to get the fastest microSD card you can buy, it’s worth it. (Speed is measured in megabytes per second.) Because the fastest card is worth the few extra bucks. And these days, it’s very few… Even at retail, there’s typically only about $10 difference between the slowest and fastest cards. You may not notice the difference in the footage—I’ve rarely gotten dropped frames, for instance, even with the slower cards—but I do notice the difference in transfer rates. At some point in the editing process, another machine will have to “ingest” the footage from the card, and even if you’re not the editor, whoever has to perform that task will appreciate a faster transfer speed. One caveat: If you have older equipment, it may not be compatible with the newer, faster cards; hence, a referral to Tip #2.
Check out this Facebook group if you are wanting to get serious about using GoPro.