Filming for Fun with GoPros with Joe Switzer
Are you allowed to experiment and have fun filmmaking? Every year, I leave all my professional gear at home and take a few GoPros with me for a day of fun with my dad. We have a winter tradition of going fishing together. I’m not about to bore you with fish stories. This article is about showing you how to step up your video game by having fun filming your family, friends and anything you’re excited about. This can lead to a passion for filmmaking and a desire to capture more and better video for yourself and clients.
Growing up, the only reason I wanted to make video was to entertain and have fun, which meant a video camera was in my hands throughout high school and college, which jumpstarted my film career. If you just can’t get into video yet and are looking for a way to spark some excitement, the GoPro might just be the answer.
Every production doesn’t have to be perfect. Experimenting and trying new gear with different camera settings can help you in the long term. Looking at yourself on video without any rules or expectations can help you become better. Anytime I’m filming my family, it’s always a reminder of how meaningful moments are. It’s not always about the perfect backdrop, pose, lighting and composition.
It’s the moments that people cherish and look back on. On our fishing trips over the years, my dad and I have encountered snow, bitter cold, thunderstorms, fog and ice. It’s fun to look back at what we’ve encountered. It didn’t matter if we had photos with aperture of 1.2 or 15. Didn’t matter if the video or photos were in perfect focus. It’s all about the moment and capturing it.
Make It Easy
For filming my personal adventures, all I need is a GoPro. The goal is to focus less on filming and more on experimenting with angles, camera settings and having a good time. I don’t want to film my dad making cast after cast with a monopod and DSLR. I’m not bringing a motion stabilizer on my one day off to relax. This trip is for catching fish and not worrying about what lens to use. The gear in my bag for this shoot was two GoPro Hero 4 Blacks, two SanDisk 64GB MicroSD cards, a GoPro Jaws Flex Clamp, curved and flat adhesive mounts, blackout housing, selfie stick, duel batter charger, side mount and four batteries.
The GoPro Hero 4 can film in 4K, which uses a lot of memory. If you’re filming for a long period of time, you can save card space by setting it to 1080 resolution. For this trip, I used 4K, 1080p at 120 fps (slow motion) and 1080p at 24 fps. We rarely film in slow motion, but fishing is so fast, with the fish fighting, hitting and being swung into the boat, that the 120 fps shows you action that you normally wouldn’t see.
For color, I turn on the ProTune feature and set color to “flat.” This gives me ultimate flexibility to color-correct in post. I never want to change my color settings because I will forget to change it back to flat for the next important shoot I’m on for a real job. It’s usually one long clip you’re adjusting the color on, so it’s no big deal to have flat color and then color-enhance in post for the one video clip.
Preparation and Filming With GoPro
The cameras were set and ready to go. I didn’t have to find batteries and format cards. No changing of settings. Just like on a professional shoot, when I’m using the GoPro, I have the camera in the blackout housing, card formatted and battery charged, and the camera is on the side mount with the adhesive ready to stick and the button ready to press in just seconds.
The most challenging part of filming with GoPros is where to stick them. On the boat, I’m looking for something that doesn’t move, that provides a rock-solid base. Putting the camera on my chest, head or trolling motor creates too much movement and has not been effective for me over the years, but I still look for ways to make it work.
Over the past year, Switzerfilm has used GoPros in almost all our productions, where we also look for rock-solid surfaces. One example is over-the-road trucking. In the past, we have had GoPro failures when sticking or clamping to unstable parts of trucks. Be on the lookout for vibrations, and don’t put the GoPro on any part of the object that shakes, rattles or vibrates. Even though the camera can handle motion well, with outstanding stabilization, if a vehicle is vibrating, the footage will likely be unusable.
First, determine an interesting angle that would be impossible to get with your DSLR. Then find a rock-solid place to stick or clamp it. If the object you’re placing the GoPro on moves (not shaking violently), you’ll get even more interesting footage. We’ve put the GoPro underneath trucks, outside of trucks, atop truck trailers, on roller coasters, zip lines, welding helmets, waterpark playgrounds, Ferris wheels and on lumber going through cutting machines.
Be prepared. Have the GoPro charged and ready in its waterproof housing with the mount and adhesive. If you’re not ready to have it on and recording in seconds, you will miss amazing opportunities.
A big challenge is when you download hours of footage and there’s only one minute of video that you actually want to watch. Instead of wasting hard drive space and eventually deleting it and losing it forever, it’s best to edit your footage right away.
For this video, we had about three hours of footage and probably four thousands casts. I love watching us fish, but I’m more excited about the catching, not the casting. While the day was still fresh in my mind, I downloaded and edited the video on the way home from the lake. It takes only a few minutes to import and put the video together. My total editing time was less than an hour. Edit your video right away so you have something interesting to watch and share.
Family, Friends and Adventures
At the end of the day, if you just want to have fun with a GoPro and you’re not concerned with cinematic shots, experiment with interesting angles by using the clamp mount, chest mount, head mount or just handheld. Maybe you’re going hiking, skiing or to a theme park. You can learn—and capture a ton of memories—by keeping it simple.
You just never know what having fun with a GoPro could ignite for you as a professional. It might unleash a passion you never knew you had for video. If nothing else, you’ll have fun family moments to look back on forever.