by Gunther Machu | 21st February 2017
Nothing screams “action cam footage” more than the stuttery, stroboscope-like motion caused by the high shutter speeds used to compensate for high exposure on sunny days, making it particularly difficult to match to other cameras. Read on to see how you can fundamentally change the viewer’s perception of your action cam footage with the use of some GoPro ND! One of the first things you learn as a filmmaker is to use the 180° rule for your shutter speed, a techinque based on the shutter mechanism of old film cameras which effectively means that you should always use a shutter speed equal to double the reciprocal numerical value of your frame rate in order to achieve a smooth motion sequence (e.g. a shutter speed of 1/48s when shooting at 24 frames per second). The resulting motion blur of moving objects in the frame creates a smoothness that is an intrinsic part of the “cinematic look”, and it has a huge impact on the viewer’s experience. This, however, poses a problem when using small action cams like GoPros: their fixed aperture (around f/2.8 in the Hero5 Black, for example) means that the only way to correctly expose the image is by adjusting shutter speed and ISO. F/2.8 on a bright sunny day in snow-covered mountains means the shutter speed can easily drop down to the neighbourhood of 1/2000 – 1/3000s, which translates to zero motion blur even for the fastest action scenes. To bring the shutter speed down, you need to use heavy neutral density (ND) filtration. In our example above, this would be a 5-stop or ND32 filter (32 = 2^5). This reduces the shutter speed from ~1/3000s to ~1/94s, which is close to ideal for a typical action sports frame rate of 50fps. Now, a quick online search for GoPro ND reveals that ND8 and sometimes ND16 filters are what’s mostly available, which is clearly not enough for our example above. PolarPro GoPro Hero5 Black cinema series filters Here’s where the PolarPro GoPro Hero5 Black cinema series filters come into play. The set includes an ND8, ND16 and ND32 filter as a replacement for the front lens element (the HB5 lens cover), using multi coated glass in an anodized aluminium frame. You basically unscrew the original front lens cover on your GoPro Hero 5 Black, and replace it with the PolarPro GoPro ND filter. The result is a nice, flare-free concept that works very well! I did have a little trouble, however, when fitting the GoPro ND as the tolerances are very tight, and you could almost break your fingers while attaching them. I have contacted PolarPro with regards to this problem, and they replied that all orders would be replaced with new filters automatically and free of charge, as there was indeed a tolerance issue. That is some really good customer service! For my skiing video above shot in Flachau, Austria, I mostly used the ND32 filter, and the ND8 on the cloudy shots, which was not enough to produce motion blur. For these scenes, I should have used an ND16 – see if you can spot it! As you can see, the filtration creates a nice motion blur, which in my opinion completely changes the character of the action cam sequences. The GoPro ND makes the footage look organic, helps the subjects stand out from a more blurred background, and on top of that the H.264 encoder has an easier job of distributing the limited bandwidth of ~60Mbit/s in the image to reduce macro-blocking. It certainly does not scream “action cam footage” any longer! Since there are no exposure aids on the GoPro, it can a bit difficult to decide which ND filter to use. I used the manual shutter option and set it at 1/100s in order to match my 50fps, and tried different filters until I got a nicely-exposed image, judging only from the LCD back screen. I then swapped the shutter option back to AUTO, and set the max. ISO to 800 to allow for some automatic exposure compensation by the cam. Using the linear field of view and the Karma Grip (which I reviewed in an earlier post here) offers the additional advantage of spending almost no time in post with image stabilization or optical correction issues. I did use the Protune flat settings, however, so I did add some saturation and contrast. All in all, I can highly recommend the use of ND filters on your action cam as it truly changes the viewing experience and makes it much easier to match action cam footage with other cams. The PolarPro ND filters are just one option, with others including filter sets from Freewell, Holaca, Sandmark and others. In any case, make sure you choose filters that use high-level multicoated anti-flare glass! Figure 1 and 2: Nice, cinematic motion blur created by the heavy ND filtration. A new world of GoPro imaging opens up! GoPro settings for the video above: 2.7K 50p, linear field of view (no fisheye!), max ISO 800, Protune flat, lowest sharpness. The cam was used in conjunction with the GoPro Karma Grip Gimbal, and the time lapse sequences were shot using my Sony A7S II. The PolarPro Cinema Series Filters are available here: US: LINK EU: LINKRead more
by Gunther Machu | 10th January 2017
I have been using GoPro cameras since the generation 2, and owned the Hero 3 and Hero 4 cameras (see my review here on cinema5d of the Hero 4 Black and how to get the best quality out of it). I love the fact that those tiny cams can be mounted virtually everywhere, allowing new and unusual perspectives. However, stabilisation has always been an issue for me. Read on for part 1 of my review of the GoPro Karma Grip. The GoPro Karma Grip Despite their surprisingly good video image and frame rate capabilities in relation to size, I was always sort of frustrated when reviewing my GoPro footage after a mountain biking or skiing trip. Most of it was unusable, with just a very tiny percentage proving OK to be processed further in post e.g. using warp stabilizer in Premiere Pro. As a result, I have been watching the development of electronic gimbals for GoPro cameras closely, although online reviews of the Chinese gimbals available so far were not very encouraging. This changed when GoPro announced their Karma Grip in late 2016 (sold separately to the Karma Drone) – an electronic gimbal from GoPro themselves that seamlessly integrates with GoPro Hero 4, 5 and Session cameras, and includes controls for power on/off and recording start/stop – that sounded great to me! At the same time, the Removu S1 splashproof GoPro Gimbal was announced, offering a wealth of additional features in comparison to the Karma Grip. (Here’s Nino’s recent review of the Removu S1 gimbal.) But which one to buy? They are about the same in terms of price… The Removu S1 In the end, I decided for the Karma Grip and pulled the trigger. I sold all my old GoPro cameras and purchased a Hero 5 Black to go along with it. It turned out to be a very good decision, but more on that later. Torture-testing the Karma Grip For me, the best test is always to head out with my mountain bike and my dog. I had the idea of doing a dog POV shot, as having my dog running around like a madman would be the best way of putting any stabilization device through its paces… You can follow my dog around for a day and see the results of attaching the Karma Grip to a GoPro dog chest mount in the video below: Quite amazingly, the Karma Grip does a fantastic job of stabilizing the footage. However, I would not recommend this particular setup, as dogs tend to not care at all about having high-tech devices strapped to them and sticking out to the side when running through the forest. Hence, the limited amount of test shots in this video. I shot this mostly at 60p, simply because I lacked ND filters for the Hero 5 Black. The alternative would have meant a much higher shutter speed in bright sunlight, resulting in a more “choppy” look that isn’t as smooth. Unfortunately, Vimeo doesn’t handle the compression of 6op footage well at all, so I strongly recommend heading over to the Vimeo page of the video and downloading the original video to watch it in much better quality! Also, I took my dog for a spin on the mountain bike later, where it was my turn to use the GoPro chest mount. You can see the results in the second half of the film above. All in all, the Karma Grip is amazing – the stabilization actually works so well that racing at high speed through the forest looks like a piece of cake. I might even need to apply some shakiness in post to my footage from now on! Karma Grip – Pros: Fantastic stabilization. Integrates very well with GoPro cameras offering control buttons on the grip. 2h battery life of grip is more than enough for my purposes. As it powers the camera as well, in theory there is no need for a spare battery for the cam. Comes in a neat case, where you can put the whole assembly as one – taking everything out of the case to the first shot takes virtually seconds only. Karma Grip – Cons: Audio of Hero 5 Black sounds muted when fitted to the Karma Grip when compared to the solo audio from Hero 5 Black. The sounds of the brushless motors can be heard in the audio track. Not splashproof, so I would not recommend to use it in a wet environment, despite the Hero 5 Black being water resistant. Glitches: Sometimes, the Hero 5 Black won’t power on when turned on from the grip – you have to dismantle the cam, remove the battery, fit it back to the gimbal and try again. Sometimes the GoPro battery continues to drain after being turned off from the Karma Grip, which you won’t realise until the next time you try to power on the system and find the GoPro battery is flat. Although the grip charges the cam, if the cam’s battery is completely drained it won’t power on again. Very bad, and here you actually need a spare battery for the cam, as there is no way to tell if the cam is “really” powered off. Also, I had a few instances where the cam would not record sound – I have no clue why and how this happened. Fortunately, I always use the new “RAW” audio feature on the Hero 5 black, where separate tracks from each mic are recorded as wav files. So the recorded sound was still there somewhere. But GoPro sound is a separate story, anyway… Summary Although it does a fantastic job of stabilizing the footage, I hope GoPro can solve these glitches via firmware updates later on. Of course, I updated all my devices prior to testing. The major task of stabilizing GoPro footage has been accomplished in an amazing way. Now, as a future improvement it would be great to solve the bad audio inherent to action cams. There are no solutions from GoPro yet. Here, competitor offerings like the Removu products come into play. For the Hero 4 black edition, they offer a wireless mic via a bacpac attached to the cam, which promises to solve the audio issues (Removu M1 & A1). The combination with the splashproof Removu S1 gimbal sounds really promising. In part 2 of this review coming soon, I will perform a head to head comparison between the Removu S1 and the Karma Grip. Check back later this week! If you have any experiences with GoPro gimbals or the Karma Grip already, please share in the comments below!Read more
by Adam Plowden | 20th September 2016
GoPro announced their first drone, the GoPro Karma, at Photokina 2016. We get hands on with this highly-anticipated foldable drone right here at the show. GoPro Karma – The Foldable Drone The GoPro Karma has been designed to make it as easy as possible to use and fly straight out of the box, whether just using the stabilizer or for aerial filming. Within a few minutes, the foldable drone can be unfolded, powered up and linked to the remote that conveniently includes a screen. It has a number of automated features including auto shoot paths where the GoPro Karma will orbit between two points, a reveal path, flying up or away from the start point, and cable camera mode. The controller has a built-in touchscreen, and has been simplified to make it as easy as possible to fly straight out of the case. Simulation tutorials will be available soon to aid in learning to fly the drone. In terms of batteries, the GoPro Karma has a plug and play style removable battery that allows for 20 minutes of flying time, while the remote battery lasts for 4 hours and can be charged on the go. Learn more about the GoPro Karma, GoPro HERO 5 and the new GoPro eco system in our launch article. The GoPro Karma will be available form the 23rd of October, with the full package including the drone, GoPro Hero5 camera, stabilizer, grip, controller and batteries for $1099. For the GoPro Karma foldable drone alone, the pricing will be around $700.Read more
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