How To Shoot Helmet Cam Videos
Some of our favorite videos to make - and watch - are "point of view" clips using helmet cameras and other so-called wearable video devices. There's just something so thrilling about strapping a high-tech gadget to your head and barreling down a volcano on a mountain bike. These days, it's easy to do with so many portable camcorders on the market that can be affixed to whatever body part, piece of equipment or vehicle you choose. But there's also something so defeating about getting to the bottom of said volcano and realizing you didn't press "record" before your big descent.
To help you avoid these kinds of mistakes, here are some quick tips on how to make the most out of your "point of view" videos:
Wear It Well
Before you transform yourself into a filmmaking adventure cyborg, you may want to figure out exactly where the camera is going to be attached. Make sure it's in a place that doesn't hinder your body movements, but also allows the camera to stay focused what you want filmed. Obviously, a helmet cam with a proper mount (no duct tape!) will do the trick. But there are plenty of other mounting options out there, too. For example, if you're jumping out of a plane, you may want to check out the cameras specially made to strap to a chest harness.
Get In Line
The most common mistake for first-time users is to accidentally aim the camera too low, resulting in lots of fabulous footage of kneecaps and shoes but little else. So, make sure your helmet cam or whatever doesn't do this by aligning it to its most ideal vantage point and securing it snugly in its mount. While most wearable cameras don't come with viewfinders, many are equipped with laser alignment systems or rotating lenses that will help you do just that.
Is This Thing On?
Probably the easiest mistake to make is not knowing whether or not your wearable camcorder is actually doing what it's supposed to be doing‚ that is, recording‚ while you're busy doing whatever totally extreme thing you're doing. Unfortunately, wearable camcorders don't come with LCD playback screens like normal cameras do. But most of them are equipped with bright LED lights and/or beeping mechanisms that notify you when recording is in progress. Also, make sure your device has those big, fat-fingered buttons that can easily be pressed on and off whether you're barehanded or wearing ski gloves.
The Right Resolution Just like regular cameras, different wearable devices shoot video in a variety of different resolutions. Whether you buy the cheaper 640 X 480 cam or the more expensive but higher quality Full HD device (1080p), keep in mind the better the video quality, the more battery power that gets gobbled up. If your only purpose is to post the video online, you won't need more than 720p resolution. Also, some devices feature customizable bit rates, which lets you increase or decrease your video quality on the fly.
Frame Rate Matters Not so much with a regular video camera because the action is rarely fast-paced. But when you're filming your solo motorcycle trip across Peru, a high frame rate can be key. That's because the camera's frame rate determines whether a fast-moving clip ends up looking smooth or choppy. Most often, a wearable HD camcorder will offer the standard-ish 30 frames-per-second (fps) at Full HD (1080p), with the option to shoot at 60 fps at 720p. Again, a higher frame rate will drain your power supply faster than a lower one.
Go Configure If you're looking for a device with an exhaustive scrollable menu of configurations and settings, wearable camcorders aren't it. But most of them do allow users to at least adjust for lighting, which helps since we assume you'll be filming your "point of view" masterpieces under a variety of different conditions. Familiarize yourself with your cameras lighting values, such as contrast, metering, sharpness and exposure. It'll make all the difference.
The Power Of Power Because no matter where you go in the world, you can't film without electricity. Trust us, we've tried. So, here are a few things to remember when it comes to power: make sure your wearable camcorder comes with a rechargeable battery. Disposable alkalines are a pain to keep buying, and just add more weight to your backpack than you need. Also, consider having a second rechargeable battery pack on hand to swap out during all-day shoots. And preferably one that doesn't take all-night to recharge.
Sound Advice If picking up good audio is your goal, you might not want to use a wearable video recorder. That's because, in general, you tend to pick up a lot of wind and ambient noise when you're, say, filming yourself skiing down a mountain. However, there is hope. Some camcorders come with what's known as a "configurable microphone" that lets you adjust the sensitivity of your audio intake. Another option is to get an external case for the camera that will act as a windshield.
Store No way around it: you're gonna need extra memory. HD video requires lots of storage space, and most wearable camcorders don't provide that. So, make sure you find a device that supports your preferred type of memory card.