– A GoPro Camera
– Your Time
– Opposable Thumbs
TIME REQUIRED: 20 minutes or less
TOTAL COST: $0 (WooHoo!)
Congratulations on getting your new GoPro, now you’re all ready to capture some epic game footage and post it up on YouTube for the world to see. So it’s just power up, hit the record button and go, right? Wrong. You may want to rethink that strategy since with the standard settings you’re only getting a fraction of what your new camera is capable of. Fear not, I have you covered with a full rundown on setting up your new action camera to get the best shots possible. Sit back and grab a pen, because it’s time to get your black belt in GoPro-Fu!
IT’S ALL ABOUT THE ANGLES
Take it from me, nothing ruins a great day of playing and recording than getting back to the house only to find that your camera wasn’t even aimed remotely in the right direction. It’s personally messed up some great days of airsoft videos for me and I’m going to help make sure my bad experiences help prevent the same from happening to you.
Position on your head matters and I have two tips ready to make sure you’re getting the angle you need to capture all of your crazy kill-streaks on the airsoft battlefield.
If you read my article two issues ago about my helmet rig, you’re already going to know this one, if you didn’t, fear not… I have you covered. (Pro-Tip: a subscription to Airsoft Insider is a good thing)
First, make sure you have your camera mounted correctly. The ideal setup is a combination of a helmet and a GoPro NVG mount. Not that the head strap is a bad option, but the helmet mount offers a much more stable platform and you’ll end up with a less bouncy, more professional looking end product.
If you can swing it, also grab the standard helmet mount kit for the extra pieces. With these you can run your GoPro inverted on your helmet to get it closer to your sight line, and also get a better angle when sighted down your airsoft gun.
The second tip is that you’re going to want to angle up your camera a hair more than you would to get a normal shot standing still. The reason for this is that when you are sighting down your airsoft rifle, you naturally tilt your head downward to get a good look down your sights.
The best way to make sure you have the right angle is to bust out your camera and gun, pretend you’re aiming at an enemy in the mirror and record a few seconds to review on your computer or if you are lucky enough to have a camera that supports it, live review on your phone in real time.
After a few angle changes you should have something that looks right when you’re standing still and sighted down. Congrats, you’re now 1/3 of the way to getting your degree in GoPrology!
Before we dive deep into the video settings, we need to address perhaps the single most important factor of filming action video: The audio.
Out of the box, the GoPro has the potential for great sound, but the guys at GoPro seal it up immediately in a waterproof case, which muffles everything in the outside world. While this is great for rainy days or water-based activities, it really puts the crunch on us airsoft filmmakers.
So, unless you’re playing in an absolute downpour of rain, I highly recommend swapping the back door out for the included skeleton-back option. If you really want to step up your game, pick up the full skeleton case to get the best audio available. (Pro-Tip: You can DIY your sealed case into a skeleton one by drilling a hole where the mic ports are on the side, just make sure not to do itwhen your camera is in in the case!)
Either way, it’s going to give you significantly better sound from your stock GoPro camera…and good sound is the cornerstone of a great video.
CAMERA SETTINGS ARE KING
Now that you have the angle and sound down, it’s time to dive into the menu of your camera to make the final changes.
First up is resolution, and contrary to popular belief, bigger isn’t always better, and in this case I’m inclined to recommend recording in today’s HD standard; 1080p.
The reason I’m recommending that versus some of the higher, and newer resolutions is for a few solid reasons.
What good is a 4K image if it caps you at only 24 frames per second (aka: fps, and we’ll tackle that in the next section below). There’s no point in giving up frames only for a resolution that most people can’t even view. Sure, YouTube is now allowing users to upload at 2K and 4K resolutions, but many people’s PCs can’t play those back smoothly… and that means that unless you have a beefy gaming or editing PC, your computer will have a tough time editing those larger files.
Another solid reason is that almost one half of YouTube views are from mobile devices, which (as of 2015) still play the video back at a much lower 720p resolution anyway, so if you plan on publishing the video to the web, there’s not a solid reason to make the leap up just yet.
To wrap it all up, you need to consider your memory card capacity. If you’re recording at 2K or 4K, you’ll be filling up your memory card much faster vs recording at 1080p. In fact a 32GB memory card will barely hold over an hour of video if you are recording at 4K. The thing to take into account is the larger the resolution, the bigger the file and the less recording space. So always consider that when making a resolution choice.
This would have been an easy one a few months ago, but starting in 2015, YouTube has allowed videos to be uploaded at 60 frames per second. So, up until then 30fps was the gold standard for action footage and 24fps was reserved for a more cinematic look, but with the new changes, you now have options and 60fps can be a viable choice for our fast-paced world of airsoft action video.
However, like everything in video, there is a tradeoff. By pushing your frame rate up to 60fps, you’ll be using your memory card storage space at 2X the rate, but in return you’ll get an image that feels more lifelike and fluid. BBs are more easily seen in the air and quick movements left and right won’t be affected by the Rolling Shutter effect so many action cams are prone to at 30fps or lower (also known as the jello effect, rolling shutter is the appearance of an underwater look when panning side to side quickly).
Another bonus of a higher fps is that you can slow the footage down in post production to get those epic moments in “slow mo”. Some GoPro cameras can record at 120fps or even 240fps, so depending on what you’re going for, you have quite a few options to get those video game bullet-time-like shots.
So again, it comes down to how long you’ll be recording, how much space you’ll need and if you have a computer that can handle editing at 60fps or higher. That said, 30fps at 1080p is still the defacto standard for YouTube action videos.
This is a pretty easy one for us airsofters as the GoPro only gives you three major options; narrow, normal, wide and super wide(on some cameras). Since we’re looking to get a full picture of what’s going on, we’ll want to be shooting in the wide, or if you have it, super wide modes. This will give the best view of the battlefield and grab all the action.
The only time you would want to possibly consider using the normal or narrow options is if you are using your camera as a gun cam and want to get the most resolution possible of your kills at a farther range.
Aside from that, I personally set my camera in wide mode and forget about it.
This is another “gimmie” setting and when it comes to your White Balance, the auto setting is best. The GoPro is pretty good at figuring out what color temperature light it is reading and can adjust the white balance accordingly so your image doesn’t have a blueish or pinkish tint to it.
That said, if you plan on recording all outside in bright sunlight, you can consider setting to 5000K. For indoor action, you can test the options 3000K (warm) to 6500K (cool) to find the right color to keep your white balance looking neutral, but overall, I let the GoPro make the choices here.
Now I’m going to let you in on one of the best kept secrets of good YouTube action videos and it’s all about the metering mode. I’m sure you’ve seen plenty of times on YouTube or in your own footage where you are inside a darker house or building and looking out a window just mowing down enemies, but when you review your footage, it’s not what you saw with your eyes. Instead, your epic killstreak is nothing but an overly bright blob of light where your opponents should be outside the window, while your gun and the inside are lit correctly.
The reason this happens is that, by default, the GoPro looks at the entire scene to determine what should be bright and what should be dark. So in the case of the window, the majority of the scene is dark (your gun, arm, the window sill and the rest of the room you are in) and just a small portion is bright (what’s outside the window). Your GoPro takes the average of the shot and decides that since there is more dark than light, it should adjust the brightness for the darker areas. The result: your enemies outside the window are washed out and overexposed while the room is lit correctly.
Fear not, there’s an easy fix. By changing the metering mode to Spot Metering, you are now telling your camera to adjust the brightness of the scene based on what’s in the middle of the camera image versus taking into account the average of the entire image.
So now when you’re getting that epic killstreak, your enemies are perfectly lit outside the window and the inside is darkened, just like you see with your naked eye… and you’ll never have unusable footage from this issue again!
The Protune option for the GoPro can really open up the capabilities of the camera, but it’s not for everyone. While it does open up a ton of editing options and a higher recording bitrate (increased quality and file size), it can be taxing on your editing system and add quite a bit of time to your workflow. However, if you have a solid editing program like Sony Vegas or Adobe Premiere along with a good computer, it can be a great option.
So, for those who are ready to make the next step, check out the inset for my quick reference cheat-sheet for some of the more popular Protune settings.
Quality bump: Higher Bitrate with no additional editing time
• Protune: on
• WB: Auto
• Sharpness: High
• Color: GoPro Color
Color Correct Ready: Higher Bitrate + Flatter profile w/ quick edits
• Protune: on
• WB: Auto
• Sharpness: Medium
• Color: Flat color
All In: Full control in post- production, but extended edit time
• Protune: on
• Set WB: (test shots to find best setting)
• Sharpness: low
• Color: Flat Color
• ISO: (Test shots to find best ISO forbrightness vs noise)
Well class, that wraps up today’s lesson and I hope you’ve learned something. Now it’s time to put your education to work; so grab your camera, strap on your helmet and start recording your games today!