POV video series: You got an action cam, now what?

Author: [ smburt ]   Contact Author: smburtSun May 30 02:00:37 UTC 2010

You've been to the Adventure film festivals, seen stuff on YouTube, and seen your buddy's helmet mounted camera, and decided to put down some cash and buy your own action camera. How do you make the most from it in the adventure sports you do, because like the marketing says, “If you didn't capture it on video, it never happened!”

The first thing you need to determine is what you expect to get out of having an adventure video camera, and by adventure camera, I mean a POV style camera that can mount in any number of places to capture really cool shots of your adventure.

Some people want cool "one-of" shots to impress their friends, or to use as a tool to study technique. These shots may or may not ever see life on the web. If that's what you want out of your camera, then you may find it's use go like a fad, one short lived.

As a production tool. having a POV camera doesn't limit you to these terrific and valid uses, but with some planning, knowledge and practice, (ie: time) you can document way more of a story, be it epic or a day trip, and still keep the really cool shots and capture technique to boot. Here's a primer.

Video Takes Time

First thing to be aware of when you do an adventure for the purpose of getting shots is to realize that the trip is going to take you way longer because of all the waiting time required to change camera positions, and if you have the capabilities, to review the footage. Make sure you pick the right people and situation for this to end the way you planned it. There can be a lot of waiting around in your group while you get your mounts torn down and setup again. Some in the group may not appreciate this. Survivor Man talks about this all the time. Doing the adventure is one thing. Lugging the gear, setting up the cameras, and recording all the extra angles on top of just the regular adventure may not be every one's cup of tea. I find it less trying to go shoot it alone, but it will lack the greater human element that people like.

To make things a bit smoother, for example, when I'm mountain biking with a group of friends, I use the time taken for regrouping to change camera position so that no one is delayed by what I'm trying to do. The video I'm trying to shoot isn't the reason why most came along on the ride. Often to get great talent, the incentive of them being in a video might just be the trick.

Know The Angles

With practice, get to know what camera angles work well so that you are not fumbling and trying to come up with something different when the opportunity comes along. Camera mounts and angles are an entirely whole separate article, separate from this primer. From a lot of fun practice, know what works best, and already have a strategy to rig the camera in a hurry. It's not the time for creativity. A time saver is having several mounts pre-rigged, so that all you have to do is move the camera, not re-create the mount setup. This means having several mounts not reusing just the one.

Variety Tells a Story

Watching great adventure does not always lead to shooting great adventure unless you know the bigger picture in terms of what story is being told. Often people get POV cameras, and all they shoot are POV shots of the shocks, tires, boat hull and ice axe. These shots are fantastic, except for when the entire piece consists of only that one shot. From what I've studied, POV shots tend to be the icing on the cake. They are the “ah” shots that sweeten the experience, always leaving you wanting more. If you want to make great video, intersperse them among all the regular shots from a regular perspective. They may be lower in adrenalin, but just as rich in visual experience. These can either be shot from the same camera as re takes (B-roll), or from an additional unit like the video off a still digi camera, or a DV cam running at the same time.

For example, often a POV shot is a closeup unusual perspective of some element of the sport. Maybe it's the underwater vantage point of the paddle blade entering the water and haul passing over head, or the classic suspension travel on a mountain bike. As cool as these shots are, the viewer needs some relief both in terms of visual stimulation and in terms of point of reference. You always want to keep the shots looking great, so a good idea for the next shot might include shooting from a stationary position where you see the paddlers or riders going by, as seen from shore or through the trees, panning the camera. In these shots, the emphasis is on great scenery and terrain. The connection that makes the sequence work is the human experience and the activity happening. So often people think that all the views happen from the perspective of the vehicle in motion. Things can be just as appealing when shot from the sidelines.

Time is of the Essence

Remember how long your final video will be. YouTube limits you to 10 minutes. The Internet is inherently a short attention span medium, and video on the web is ingested with the same short term interest. I would suggest keeping your videos to the length of an average song. That will be the subject of our next article. Using music to super charge your video.

Shannon Burt

East coast editor

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