In the guitar world we often talk about a phenomenon we call GAS – it stands for Guitar Acquisition Syndrome and it’s obviously an addiction that afflicts a lot of us. It’s common to see forum signatures with more than a half-dozen instruments listed, sometimes all very similar. I’ve certainly suffered from the ailment myself, but it’s been a few years since I bought a guitar. These days I have CAS – Camera Acquisition Syndrome, and it’s no less of a disease.
I’m quite sure that I was suffering a severe CAS attack when I snagged a GoPro HD Hero2 Motorsports Edition from Overstock.com. I’ve been considering and researching and resisting the GoPro for nearly a year now, but when it popped up on the big O for $249 instead of the usual $299 my will power collapsed. Now that I’m looking around, by the way, the camera seems widely available at this lower price.
So here I am with my new camera and wondering just what I’ll do with it. After all, this a sports camera, an action camera, and my videos are nearly static and so far have been sports free. OK, OK, I should have done more research, should have looked at more clips and read more forums and understood a lot better what one is purchasing when one buys a GoPro.
For one thing, buying a GoPro is just the beginning. The beginning of trips to GoPro accessory sale page. Let’s start by assuming that we’re only interested in the latest and greatest, the HD Hero2. This version has been available since October, 2011 and added 1080 video with variable field of view and a mic input along with other upgrades. This camera is available in three editions, Outdoor, Motorsports, or Surf. There’s no option to buy just the naked camera. Well, actually, the naked camera isn’t very useful, because there’s no way to mount the camera on anything. A housing is needed, and a housing is included with all three of these editions.
Here’s a shot of the goodies that came with my Motorsports Edition:
Here comes the first trip to the accessory store, because all three editions come with the waterproof housing. But with this housing the microphone jack is blocked. So to use the external mic input, we need the $39.99 HD Skeleton Housing. And if by any wild chance we would like to use a standard tripod, we might as well buy the $7.99 Tripod Mount while we’re there.
Here are the parts I picked up:
Time to Shoot Yet?
So now I have the bits and pieces needed to shoot a “look at me play guitar” video and I suddenly realize that the fish-eye effect of the wide angle lens is really not what I’m looking for in my videos. And using the narrow field of view option in 1080 results in terribly noisy video. Oooops. I’d like to find a technical discussion of the method used for the medium and narrow angle field of view, but judging by the way the noise and grain jumps up, I’d guess that these modes basically use a smaller area of the sensor, as if the sensor was physically smaller. Using fewer photosites results in less light being captured, resulting in more noise. This jump in noise can be seen in some other modes, like the WVGA 120fps slomo mode.
OK, it looks like the fisheye effect will be part of my videos unless I’m outdoors on a bright day. How’s the audio? Well, with the default sealed waterproof case, the built in mic can barely catch any of the sound of my guitar. Might be OK for engine noises and such, but for music this won’t do. The waterproof case does come with a second rear door, the “open” door, and this does let a bit of sound in, but the result is mono and not too wonderful. A switch to the skeleton case doesn’t improve things much.
Plugging in an external mic isn’t a lot better, I’m afraid. There’s no level control, so the audio level will be whatever the camera circuit decides. I got pretty low levels using my Audio Technica AT822 and Rode NT4, both pretty well respected battery powered stereo mics. My little Reactive Sounds DAT mic actually gives slightly better levels, but still less than I would like, and when I raise the volume in post there’s a putt-putt “motorboat” sound in the background of all the external mic recordings. Hmmmm, this is not going well.
So when I set out to shoot I went to the old standby, parallel audio recording. I set up a pair of Audio Technica AT3035 cardiod condensers connected to my RME UFX interface and captured the audio in REAPER. Here’s the result, one of my old favorite Hawaiian songs, Kaimana Hila, as seen through the eyes of the GoPro HD Hero2. I shot in 720/30 mode because that seemed to my eye to give the cleanest image.
In order to show off the capabilities of the camera and have a little fun, I shot the complete song four times. I used the tripod mount twice, for the front and overhead shots. Then I used the Motorsports Edition suction cup mount to attach the camera to the guitar body, and one of the sticky mounts to fasten the camera to the peghead. Then I edited the clips in REAPER to create the final video. The title shot was done by attaching the camera to the Sharpie and shooting a timelapse.
So, I’m honestly not thrilled with the GoPro, and on some level I should have skipped this purchase, but now that I have it I’m determined to have a little fun with it. Maybe fly it on a kite?? Hmmmmm …
This entry was posted on Thursday, September 13th, 2012 at 2:42 pm and is filed under Video. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.