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4.06.2012

Test Your Tools

I finally had an opportunity to use my GoPro. I took it out shooting with two guys willing to do some free running as footage for one of the Filmmaking 101 assignments.

Here was the danger: I had, as I said, never used this camera or rig before. I had no idea what the footage looked like, and I was unsure what it would pick up, let alone how to run the thing. I had flipped through the manual a few months ago, and was pretty sure I knew how the thing worked... in theory.


Pressing Record on a Head-mounted Cam

Thankfully, the footage turned out well. But here are two reasons to test your tools before you do an important shoot:

1. Know what you can expect
I had no idea what the footage would look like when I finally dumped it to my computer. I knew I had to point the lens in the general direction of the action... but how much would the camera pick up? What was out of frame? How did the lighting work? Were there any important settings--like widescreen vs. standard--that I hadn't properly set? Sadly, had I known the answers to those questions before we started filming, the footage would have been even better.

2. Know what can go wrong
We tried to get a head-mounted shot of a front flip, but the camera went flying. I guess the head straps don't quite lock it down all the way (which is why most head-mount shots are attached to helmets). A few minutes later, every time I pressed record, the thing would just beep at me three times. Why? I had no idea. The camera was clearly trying to tell me something--the display had shifted too--but I wasn't familiar enough with the camera to know what it meant. Eventually, I discovered the the SD card had jiggled loose and we kept shooting. Also, as you can heard in the footage, when I was carrying the camera by hand, the head straps kept knocking into the camera, adding clicking to the audio. Now that I know that, I'll be more careful to keep things from bumping into the camera while we run.

I am a big proponent of doing a bunch of little projects with your equipment before you hit a mission critical shoot. That way you can learn the things above--and more--before you miss an opportunity because you weren't knowledgeable yet.

But here's the deal: Sometimes the only way to get the time and motivation to do tests is by producing real projects. So, like I did in this instance, sometimes you just have to pick up a camera and go ...if you want to learn how to shoot like a pro.

 ~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor

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