Elliot Grove, founder of the Raindance Film Festival, is fond of advising budding filmmakers not to buy a good quality camera. “If you have the kind of money to be buying a camera,” he says, “you have enough to make a short film. Or better yet, give the money to me and I’ll make a short film with it.” A decent quality camera can be rented, with tripod, for under £100 a day – and if you can find a cameraman with his own equipment then you might even be able to avoid that cost. “If you insist on buying a camera,” Elliot continues, “get one of these.” It is at this point that he reaches into his pocket and pulls out something the size of an engagement ring box. This is the GoPro, and it comes in several variations (Hero 2, Hero 3, Black etc) all of which are available for well under £250.
The GoPro is pocket-sized, very, very simple to use and comes with a handful of useful features thrown in. It will take SD cards and even external hard drives, so the memory limit is up to you. It will record 1080p – or 4K – and it has a great microphone hidden away in there. It will also record slow-motion (100 or 120 fps) and time-lapse images, as well as allowing you to control the perspective – from ultra-wide angle to more restricted viewpoints – and comes with a zillion add-ons and options: water-proof cases, shock-proof cases, wireless adaptors, zoom lenses, monitors… the sky really is no limit for this little thing, as witnessed by the hundreds of filmmakers strapping the lightweight camera to RC helicopters, balloons – even spacecraft.
Want one already?
There are many uses for the GoPro outside of extreme sports, and we are sure you can discover many more. Here are some of the tasks we have set it to work on:
As a cheap, expendable and portable camera
For those with a larger, if not unlimited budget, the GoPro can be used to film from slightly more perilous positions. For example, it can be strapped to the side of a car, or held over a precipice without too much capital being put at risk. Because of its small size it can also be used in tight spaces where a bulkier camera will be awkward or unusable.
On the fly filmmaking
The GoPro’s portability means that it need never be far from the filmmaker’s grasp. This makes it extremely useful for capturing footage whilst out and about in everyday life. Capture locations, exciting events, record interviews. Make mini-documentaries and super-short shorts. Discover the beautiful complexity of POV filmmaking!
As the film industry spirals out of control a new model of independent filmmaking is responding to new media platforms. Mobile phone and internet videos are increasingly popular; youtube hosts multi-episode series, the viral has become a powerful form of advertising, it has become very easy to add videos to blogs and more and more formal media channels are recruiting user created content. The GoPro makes creating these videos very easy; it is simple to record footage and the quality is more than sufficient for internet video-players. It’s low price and simple design mean that it is now easier than ever for someone to upload content. It is up to you to find an idea original and good enough to bring in a large audience. Here is a great music video made on the GoPro, which looks like it might one day be the trailer for a POV feature!
Now so far this article has come probably come across as some form of subtle (or not so subtle) marketing, but it is worth noting that the GoPro is not without its drawbacks.
Firstly, you can’t change lenses or film in a format that isn’t wide. It is more than good enough for the functions listed above, but don’t hold out any hope of being creative with depth of field, focus, zoom or anything like that. Secondly, there’s no screen on it, so you pretty much have to guess the framing and lighting of your shot, unless you shell out for a small monitor that connects to the camera wirelessly. Lastly, although the GoPro comes with it’s own set of attachment systems and tools, they are specific to the brand. In that way it is very much like a Mac computer: great with it’s own hardware, but not so good with integrating with 3rd party equipment (universal tripod mount? Mic clip?).
These drawbacks are minor however when compared to the smorgasbord of possibilities that the GoPro camera will provide you with. We don’t recommend you buy a camera, but if you do, this is the one you should go for. Buy the GoPro here.