Getting better shots with your GoPro

The GoPro is a powerful tool when it comes to analyzing and improving your riding at the track.  I have used it to better understand exactly where I am coasting (not on the brakes and not on the gas) coming into a turn, studying throttle and front brake control, I use it to better understand my position (to slow or to fast) in the group of riders I am riding with, and one of the biggest problems that it has helped me with was body position.  I have even seen it used to check foot position on the pegs as well.  No matter if you are new to doing track days or an advanced racer, this information is invaluable.

If you are just starting out filming or doing photography with a digital camera or recorder, there are definitions you will hear. There are a few things you will hear when it comes to picture size and quality  when dealing with a GoPro camera, they are aspect ratio, resolution, frame rate, field of view, and superview. The GoPro offers more than 100 variations to shoot and record your sport or activity, and with that many choices it can be overwhelming.

Some definitions like Aspect Ratio and Resolution.

Resolution

Lets talk about resolution first.  Resolution describes the size or sharpness of an image and how much detail it holds.  A larger image would naturally contain more pixels therefore have a higher resolution. Typically resolution is measured in millions of pixels or (MP).

Photo resolution is calculated by the number of pixels on height and width. EX:  # of pixels on the height X # of  pixels in the width = the resolution.  Lets say the image is 3840 X 2160.  This would make a photo resolution of  8294400 pixels, or 8.3MP.

video resolution is usually measured by the width and height.  Short hand for this resolution uses just the height.  A video image that measures 1280 x 720 would be called 720.  In the case of the GoPro, it would be called 720p.  The “p” stands for progressive and signifies how GoPros image sensor records the video.  Wide-screen resolutions  often use the width as the shorthand for resolution(2704×1520 would be 2.7k).

Aspect Ratio

Aspect ratio describes the proportional relationship between its width and its height, is usually described by two numbers. The most common aspect ratios are 4:3 and 16:9.  This is the number of pixels width and height respectively reduced or simplified to the smallest number.  For example: 1920:1440 reduces down to 4:3.

Take note that when shooting with a gear mount, such as a chest mount or helmet cam, a 4:3 aspect ratio will work better than the 16:9.  This is because a taller view is needed to capture all the action that is happening.  Tripod mounted and fixed shots such as on a tripod will be best shot with a wider perspective with the 16:9 aspect ratio.

 Field of view

FOV or field of view, this is the extent of  visability of the camera lens, measured in degrees.

  • Wide (170 degrees)
  • Medium (127 degrees)
  • Narrow (90 degrees)

Medium is best suited for fixed camera placement on tripods and stationary  mounts.

Narrow is best used for shots where close camera placement is impossible and a longer range is needed.

Frame rate

Have you ever made a flipbook and watched a short cartoon or “moving picture”?  This is how a video is made, a string of pictures that succeeds one another in time.  Watch these quickly and it would seem that the image was moving.  The more frames or pictures that are recorded in a second, will have a smoother flow of action at the same playback rate.  This measurement is considered fps or frames per second.  For example 60 frames per second will look smoother than 10 frames per second.

Superview

Playing back video captured in a 4:3 aspect ratio will reviel black bars on the left and right of the screen when shown on a wide screen device which is meant to have a 16:9 aspect ratio played on it.  So how can this be fixed?  Well GoPro offers a mode on the newer GoPros called SuperView.  It works by stretching the sides of the video.  SuperView works best when used with equipment mounts or body mounts for a super impressive and  immersive view.

recording guidelines for Maximum Quality

The processor can only process so much.  When resolutions of  sensors improve and video and photo modes expand, sometimes we forget about the processor.  Without the processor the image will not get from the sensor to the memory card.  Natively speaking the processor has to process every image and every pixel on that image.  Now to improve frame rates sometimes pixels will get binned together. Binning combines pixels and groups them together so the processor has less to do and can capture a higher frame rate.  Another method is to crop the image and process it that way.  Another way of allowing a higher frame rate is by cropping an image.  Cropping an image reduces the number of pixels the processor has to process.

Good for Stable or
Point of View Shots
Shots that require
Slow Motion
4K30 Stable and very stable mounted NO
2.7K48 Stable and stable mounted NO
1080p120 Narrow Stable and very stable mounted Super Slow
1080p120 Wide More jagged edges than Narrow Slow Motion
2.7K 4:3 Point of View shots NO
1440p60 Point of View shots Slow Motion
1440p80 More jagged edges than 1440p80 Slow Motion
960p120 Point of View shots Super Slow

Time-Lapse Photos

Besides taking video, taking time laps is another great way to use the GoPro camera to take never seen before action shots.  This option is perfect for the user that is fully immersed in the thick of the action.  Like a snowboarder mid-flip, or a biker mid corner there is little time to reach for the shutter button and still have the concentration to maintain control.  This is where time lapse photos can come in handy.  Time lapse can also be handy to record that beautiful sunset and sunrise on the lake or boats pulling into the lock on the Mississippi river.

Short interval time lapse has some trade offs though.  Just as with video the processor still has to push the data gathered from the image sensor to the memory card.  Time is the factor and .5 and 1 second frame rates compress the image, 2 – 60 second rates have time enough for a fully uncompressed image from the image sensor to move to the memory card.  An uncompressed image is sharper than a compressed image.

Burst Photos

Capturing photos using time laps is good, but sometimes the image you want might be hidden within that half a second photo rate.  So shooting in burst can cut the time between shots even further.  With photo rates of 30 per second to 3 per second.  This mode works best when using a smart remote or smartphone to start and stop the picture capture.

 

Chad

Riding motorcycles and wrenching since my preteen years, I have moved from motocross to street bikes. Being a teen back in those days it was tough to get me off of the bike. Now days even though I am very busy being a dad I still have my weekends and go to the track to race and on occasion will do a track day or two.

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