After using action cameras and GoPros for a couple of years and making many mistakes along the way, I have decided to collate my years of experiences and share with you my best action camera and gopro tips for beginners! Hopefully, by the end of this, you can apply these simple tips to your shooting and ultimately have more fun!
Without further ado, let’s begin!
It used to be that all you look for on your memory card is the storage and nothing else matters.
However, that’s no longer the case.
Now, card speed is another important factor you should consider because if your camera is paired with a memory card that’s not fast enough, you might end up with a choppy, broken video, which is the last thing we want.
But how fast is considered fast?
Well, if you own an action camera that films in real 4K and regularly use 4K, you should really consider getting a UHS speed class 3 memory card if you don’t already have one.
2. Video Settings
Below are the 3 most important video settings, field of view, resolution and frame rate, that you should get yourself familiar with because they directly correlate to how your video look on the surface.
Field Of View
FOV, short for field of view, is basically how wide the camera is able to shoot.
It’s measured in degrees and to put it in perspective, a camera with a 180˚ FOV would mean that it is able to film everything in front of the lens.
Most action cams have a 140˚ – 160˚ FOV and can be adjusted through software manipulations, as your camera can decide how much of the image sensor it wants to take.
If you want to further fine-tune or remove the distortion, there are plenty of editing software out there that you can use to adjust the field of view for free.
Personally, I generally like to use a higher field of view for scenic, panoramic shots as it’s more immersive but the tradeoff is the barrel distortion present.
On the other hand, for daily vlogging and action footage, I prefer a lower field of view. It’s up to you in the end and even if you mess it up, it honestly wouldn’t matter that much.
Resolution & Frame Rate
Resolution and frame rate tie together as the former affects the latter and vice versa.
Generally, the higher the resolution, the more processing would be required, hence the lower the maximum frame rate.
Frame rate is a really fun thing to play around as it allows you to take cool shots especially when you decide to shoot in its extreme ends (slow-mo & timelapse)!
What are frame rates?
For those of you who are not very familiar with frame rates, let me quickly explain to you.
Video clips consist of many pictures taken in a very short interval so that when it’s played back, the images will move in a natural way, creating what we know of as a video.
Moving back to frame rate.
Measured in frames per second, frame rate is essentially how many pictures (or frames) are being taken by your camera in a second. The higher the smoother, but the tradeoff is it takes up more space (storage) and perform worse in low light conditions.
These are some suggestions that I feel work best for a certain scenario:
4K 30fps – Superb video quality for timelapse & panoramas but takes up a lot of storage space
2.7K / 1080p 60fps – Great as an all-rounder solution as I feel it’s the perfect balance between video fluidity and file size.
1080p 120fps / 720p 240fps – Amazing for slow-motion videography: fast moving objects such as splashing water, fireworks, jump shots and explosions!
16:9 Vs 4:3
Most people don’t know this but the default image sensor for the majority of action cams are in 4:3 aspect ratio, which means shooting in 16:9 actually crops out a portion of the video your camera is capturing!
Some common shooting resolutions that are in 4:3 would include 960p, 1440p, 2.7K & 4K (could be 16:9 too).
Shooting in 4:3 maximises the vertical field of view and makes it more square than the 16:9 aspect ratio. This results in more of your video capturing the surrounding environment, hence more dynamic, which allows you to crop the video more freely during post-processing (if you intend on editing).
However, at the same time, as most displays are designed for 16:9 videos, the tradeoff is that 4:3 videos may look a little weird, with blank spaces or distorted when projected onto a display.
Oh, and since we are on the topic of resolution, check out my article on ‘fake resolution’ and learn how many action cam companies falsely advertise their camera to shoot in 4K, but it’s in fact not able to.
3. Shooting Mode: PAL or NTSC?
The difference between PAL and NTSC is that PAL shoots at 25/50/100fps while NTSC shoots in 30/60/120fps.
Different areas in the world utilise different lighting frequency and if you film at night or somewhere with artificial light, be it from TV, lamps, LED, etc, and realise that there is flickering occurring, it’s very likely because you’re in the wrong shooting mode.
Alternatively, you can check out which region you are in here and change your shooting mode correspondingly.
4. Improve Your Audio Quality
One of the 2 things that GoPros & action cam suck at in general is audio quality, alongside low-light filming.
Thus, if you’re overdubbing your videos with music, then it shouldn’t be an issue.
However, if you plan on using the original audio extensively, you should consider investing in some audio accessories.