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Micro / POV Camera Systems
Covering the GoPro HERO and other small Point-Of-View video cameras.


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Old July 19th, 2012, 08:10 AM   #1
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Attention serious documentary filmmakers!

I would like to chat with someone who's made a serious, high production-value documentary using the Hero 2 as their "primary" camera. Not a music video like what GP has on their home page. A true documentary with natural sound, interviews, a compelling story line, and a length befitting broadcast values.
It seems everyone, pros and hobbyists alike, has a GoPro in their bag for the odd shot, the weird angle. But I've yet to find anyone who has made a full-length doc using the Hero (and a handheld audio recorder, probably, and maybe a Steadicam) by itself. There are no youtube videos other than the tiresome music video stuff. The GoPro customer service was of no help either. A google search brings up nobody.
Yes, the wide-angle is limiting but simply getting close to a subject overcomes that issue.
Is there anyone out there? Please put me in touch with them. Otherwise, is the world still awaiting the first documentary shot with a GoPro this far into their existence??? I'd like to be the first!
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Old July 19th, 2012, 08:34 AM   #2
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Re: Attention serious documentary filmmakers!

I think you have answered all your own questions in the post!

The very aspects of the GoPro that make it so useful for certain shots are the very same aspects that make it quite useless for most shots.

Terrible terrible low light performance.
It has no screen.
No manual controls.
No audio (worth mentioning).
Awkward to hold.
Awkward to control.
No zoom.
Fisheye lens causes distortion.
Jello and more jello.

Other than the actual novelty factor of making a documentary with a GoPro, I can't think of any 1 reason why anyone would want to use it as a primary camera.

It does not bring anything to the table. A cheap consumer handy cam would provide better results for all the shots where the GoPro wasn't mounted to something to get an unusual angle, or in a dangerous inaccessible place, out in the elements, attached to a bike etc, etc.

Now, I love the GoPro, and I use it all the time to complement the more professional cameras in my bag. But it really is a one-trick-pony camera that yields fantastic shots when you maximize its strengths, but makes pretty awful shots for most everything else.

There are some short 'documentaries' that make great use of the GoPro, but generally they are documentaries of extreme people doing extreme things. Thats the GoPros niche.

'Grinding the Crack' by Jeb Corliss uses multiple GoPros to document one such event. Is this a documentary? Yeah, sure. Why not. Its brilliant too.

You'll find many such documentaries on the web. But you won't find many with 'broadcast values'. Surely 'broadcast values' starts with selecting the right tools for the job!
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Old July 19th, 2012, 08:59 AM   #3
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Re: Attention serious documentary filmmakers!

I agree with Simon.

One is expected to use various cameras depending upon their strengths. However, a complete documentary with a particular camera can have some novelty value. If Go Pro would like to sponsor a project completely shot with a Go Pro then why not. You can try that. Alternately, you can create a documentary and approach them for novelty's sake. If you can become their official champion, then no harm.

The other thing that I want to say is, if Go Pro is the only camera a person has, then he/she should try and create films with it. After all, it is more important to accumulate film making experience by shooting short films/documentaries than sitting idle.

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Old July 19th, 2012, 09:17 AM   #4
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Re: Attention serious documentary filmmakers!

Is there a particular reason why you are so keen on using a gopro for documentary? I only see a benefit in using this camera for action shots and sport and to get a few creative shots from difficult angles but other then that any videocamera out there would be better for documentary work. The Gopro has no controls that you can easily access realtime nor any way to verify what you are filming. Maybe a Crocolis would be better? Wholesale Sports Action Camera Full HD From China It's much cheaper and at least you can see what you are filming, plus with what you save you can buy a external audio recorder as audio usualy sounds like crap on these small pocketcams.

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Originally Posted by Lynne Whelden View Post
maybe a Steadicam
If you plan to use a steadicam, you need to add quite some wheight to it, you can't balance a steadicam with just a gopro on it.
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Old July 19th, 2012, 10:15 AM   #5
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Re: Attention serious documentary filmmakers!

I wouldn't use GoPro as a primary camera, but I just bought a Steadicam Smoothee which worked better than expected for me. It's made especially for the iphone or GoPro. When the Smoothee first came out, I thought it was a gimmick because I thought the GoPro would be too light to fly. I was wrong. Upon actually using it, the Smoothee works perfectly well. The best part is the price...only $150! The entire rig is also light as a feather. There is a counterweight in the front of the unit that can slide up and down to rough balance the rig, but it isn't mentioned in the manual. Side to side and front to back adjustments are with traditional Steadicam knobs for precise alignment.
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Old July 19th, 2012, 01:09 PM   #6
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Re: Attention serious documentary filmmakers!

The reason I'd want to use a GoPro is the same reason why mountain climbers do mountains! "Because it's there."
I'm surprised nobody has done this yet. (As I said in my opening statement, I'm not talking about music videos. Documentaries by their very nature have nat sound, talking heads, voice-overs and maybe just a little smattering of music somewhere.)
I know its limitations and they're similar to the iphone. But that didn't stop some creative folks from making some pretty incredible videos with the iphone camera when that first came out. That camera had no controls, crappy audio, awful to hold, the list goes on.
For me, it's the challenge of carrying a virtual studio in your pocket. I've shot docs on Sony camcorders before, even super8mm film cameras before. I'd like to move on, shed weight, simplify...but not at the expense of ruining a project if that's what ultimately happens.
I'm hoping to pick someone's brain who has already done it. Maybe that person will say, "Forget it. It's not worth the effort. It's only a bag of headaches.The images look like crap."
Can anyone give me the name or email of someone who's done this already?
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Old July 19th, 2012, 02:17 PM   #7
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Re: Attention serious documentary filmmakers!

I haven't heard of any 'talking-head' style documentaries done with a GoPro. If there are any they presumably didn't do too well.

There was a feature length 'found footage' movie shot with GoPros, filmed in a pseudo documentary manner similar to the Blair Witch Project.

Obviously the GoPro was chosen, not because it was there, but rather because it provided a handy McGuffin in allowing a Point-of-View dimension to the movie (and the story happened to revolve around extreme sports characters who are often associated with the camera). So the GoPro seemed like the right tool for this job:

Last Ride

At any rate, being a movie there was a necessity for dialogue and some sort of framing; so perhaps they would have encountered some of the issues that you would like to clarify.

I should point out (and I'm sure most owners of GoPros are the same) that I have at times tried to use the GoPro as a regular camera. Certainly I had used it on a recent skiing holiday to try and capture some family shots in-between skiing. Apart from when it was attached to a ski helmet my experience was to forget it. It was not worth the effort. It was a bag of headaches. And the images, mostly, looked like crap. However, I don't think you want to hear that.

Best of luck with the idea.
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Old July 19th, 2012, 09:34 PM   #8
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Re: Attention serious documentary filmmakers!

Thanks for the tip. I contacted a James Phillips who I think was involved with that production but everything there is more than a year old and it seems like it never went anywhere. (On his blog he laments having sold only 21 downloads.)
For sure I'm not a GoPro fan-boy and I'm not conjuring this up to try to get a sponsorship. I have no interest in promoting anything.
Maybe, as some suggest, there's a reason why nobody's made anything other than extreme sport stuff with it...
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Old July 21st, 2012, 09:04 AM   #9
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Re: Attention serious documentary filmmakers!

Well, it's quite interesting to learn there's really no documentary ever been done (other than ones making GoPro part of the story). There's probably a story within that story...
Can anyone comment on the image quality. Specifically, under normal lighting conditions--good light outside--is the image fairly sharp? Sharp enough to pass for acceptable on the "big screen?" Or would people be rubbing their eyes and tears start to form from squinting so much?
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Old July 21st, 2012, 10:57 AM   #10
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Re: Attention serious documentary filmmakers!

Does it need to be a gopro? have you looked at the Crocolis HD I provided a link to? I have seen users reporting that it can produce quite sharp footage and considering the price AND that you have a tiny viewfinder I would not see any reason why to go for a gopro if you plan to do documentary with it.
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Old July 21st, 2012, 02:56 PM   #11
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Re: Attention serious documentary filmmakers!

There is nothing wrong with the image specifically; especially outdoors with any kind of daylight.

GoPro footage has been turning up on lots of broadcast work; BBC seem to use them in TopGear and the like (for specific shots though, like mounted on the dashboard looking through the steering wheel). It looks just fine on my big screen HDTV.

Sometimes the image seems a bit grainy to me, but nothing out of the ordinary. I have not ever felt the need to run it through with NeatVideo or anything. Its fairly sharp, all things considered. Footage from my DSLR is often a lot softer (depending on the lens).

There are some dramatic video clips out there done with this camera; its definitely capable of pulling off nice video in daylight.

When the camera is pointed vaguely towards the sun you get a lot of flaring (especially considering how wide the lens is, and no hood option); I often get these purple spots and flares on my video.
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Old July 22nd, 2012, 03:48 AM   #12
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Re: Attention serious documentary filmmakers!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Simon Wood View Post
There is nothing wrong with the image specifically; especially outdoors with any kind of daylight.
This is why there are so many great looking snowboarding & surfing video clips shot on GoPros they are all shot in bright daylight.
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Old July 22nd, 2012, 06:07 AM   #13
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Re: Attention serious documentary filmmakers!

Hi Lynne

I would think it's quite feasible for the right documentary..I mean what crazy person would venture through dripping rainforest after the Amazon Indians with a broadcast camera in the mud and insects...strap a GoPro on your head and you have a waterproof cam that gives you a POV shot of whats happening and there is no reason at all why you couldn't have a recorder in your pocket or even add narration afterwards and just record ambient sound.

The point that seems to be totally missed here is the fact that a doc is only as good as the story line so a real pathetic story line shot with pristine images from a $30K broadcast camera won't work whilst fair images with a brilliant story will capture the viewer 100%!!

We tend to get totally overwhelmed here with technical quality and the IQ of the image becomes obsessive and all the other really imortant factors are ignored!! Tell a really good story with good audio and the images then become only a visual backup for the storyline. If a doc that has a story that has you glued to the screen, are you really going to suddenly decide "Oh, the resolution is a bit soft in that shot" or "I wouldn't have framed that shot like that" ?????

As no-one can actually give you an answer Lynne, go out and be a pioneer and let's see a doc shot just with a GoPro. I bet it will turn out way better than you expected.

Chris
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Old July 22nd, 2012, 06:34 AM   #14
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Re: Attention serious documentary filmmakers!

If you'd like, I'll give you a whole bunch of reasons why shooting a doc with a gopro is not a good idea. Then you'll be inspired to go and prove me wrong!

Seriously though, I could picture a doc being shot with GoPros for everything except the interviews. After all, there are plenty of police shows stitched together entirely from terrible quality security camera footage, and linked together with some sit-down interviews.
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Old July 22nd, 2012, 06:38 AM   #15
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Re: Attention serious documentary filmmakers!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Chris Harding View Post
Hi Lynne

I would think it's quite feasible for the right documentary..I mean what crazy person would venture through dripping rainforest after the Amazon Indians with a broadcast camera in the mud and insects...strap a GoPro on your head and you have a waterproof cam that gives you a POV shot of whats happening and there is no reason at all why you couldn't have a recorder in your pocket or even add narration afterwards and just record ambient sound.

The point that seems to be totally missed here is the fact that a doc is only as good as the story line so a real pathetic story line shot with pristine images from a $30K broadcast camera won't work whilst fair images with a brilliant story will capture the viewer 100%!!

We tend to get totally overwhelmed here with technical quality and the IQ of the image becomes obsessive and all the other really imortant factors are ignored!! Tell a really good story with good audio and the images then become only a visual backup for the storyline. If a doc that has a story that has you glued to the screen, are you really going to suddenly decide "Oh, the resolution is a bit soft in that shot" or "I wouldn't have framed that shot like that" ?????

As no-one can actually give you an answer Lynne, go out and be a pioneer and let's see a doc shot just with a GoPro. I bet it will turn out way better than you expected.

Chris
Chris,

The thing is that lots of people have filmed documentaries in the rain forests; and most of the best ones would have used professional gear to get the right results. Hell I've seen some great ones filmed with 35mm film cameras. Have you ever watched POV work for long stretches; it gets very repetitive after a while. There is only so much of that you can watch before it becomes annoying.

I dont disagree that the GoPro is a great hands free camera; thats what it is designed for. But there are lots of small waterproof cameras with a zoom lens, some form of video controls, audio inputs (and audio controls).

At some point you're going to want to actually see and hear what you're recording. At some point you're going to want to lock it off on a tripod, or do some pans and tilts. At some point you're going to want to reframe with a zoom. At some point you're going to want to sit down to do an interview. For most of these eventualities you would want to have a traditional style camera. Then at some point you'll want to strap it to your chest, or your head, or a motorboat, and then yes for those scenes you'll want a GoPro.

If I was in the rainforest doing a documentary I would aim to bring a small traditional camera, and a GoPro. Id hate to be in the middle of the amazon when I realized this (although the POV shot as I slowly shake my head filmed with the GoPro would probably make a fitting finale to the show; maybe I could look up to the sky and shake my fists, or just give myself a good old fashioned head-slap - it'll all look good on a GoPro assuming its not too dark under the canopy).

But yeah, I agree. I'd be interested to see where this goes in the end. My advice to Lynne would be to just buy a GoPro and test it out. You might use it as a primary camera, or you might end up using it as a GoPro, either way you'll definitely use it!
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