How to Film an Obstacle Course Race Using a GoPro
In this video I share my top film making tips and tricks for getting the best footage out of your GoPro when taking part in an Obstacle Course Race like Tough Mudder, X-Runner etc.
You can see the video below.
So in this video I talk about the best settings to use, pre-race preparation, general tips and most importantly, how to get better shots on the day.
For the purpose of this video I am going to be using the GoPro 5. If you have an earlier version of the GoPro or a different make of action camera, a lot of these setting will still apply but might differ slightly between makes and models.
So first let’s take a look at the settings you should be using.
- So I like to film in full HD 1080 at 50 fps as this is overall the best compromise between quality and convenience on the day. You do have higher options available such as 2.7k and 4k, however I don’t use these setting for 4 few reasons:
- I film at 50 fps which you can’t at 4K. I’ll explain why this is important shortly.
- I want to keep the file size reasonable so my micro SD card doesn’t fill up to quickly
- I want to maximise the battery life, the bigger the video the faster this will get used up
- I want to make sure my laptop can actually process the footage
- Next is the frame rate of 50 fps
- This is important so you can slow your footage down and get some awesome slow motion cinematic footage
- If you’re filming at 1080 on the GoPro 5 you can film in a higher rate, even as high as 120 fps, however I’ve found the need to slow my footage down that much and still be interesting. This then comes back to the best compromise between quality and file size and battery life.
- Next is the view which is a bit subjective, but I like Linear the most which is how your footage traditionally looks when filming on a normal camera. The wide angles are pretty cool, but for me linear looks the best for this type of footage.
- If your action camera has stabilisation, make sure this is on. This will smooth out the motion of your footage and make it less jerky and better to watch.
- For the camera settings, this depends on how good you are at editing and colour grading. If this is something you’re good at, you might want to have a flat profile and no sharpening. For everyone else, I would recommend enabling Protune and using medium sharpening. This will make your footage look pretty good straight out of the camera.
- Finally, make sure you turn off WiFi and the screen for the day. You won’t need either of these features, so switching them off will really extend the life of your battery
Before the event
Okay so now your camera is set up and good to go, next I’m going to give you some pre-race tips. They might sound obvious now, but this can save you some headaches on the day.
- So firstly this is pretty obvious, but make sure your GoPro is fully charged. There is nothing worse than getting to the event and realising you only have 20 minutes of filming time because you forgot to charge the device.
- Next make sure your memory card is in the device and formatted and completely clear of any other footage. You also want to make sure it’s a decent size, ideally at least 16GB – personally I would recommend using at least 32GB just to be sure.
- Finally, add a name/contact number somewhere on the GoPro or the frame just in case you lose it.
So now these are my general tips for the day.
- The first tip would be to use a head harness. You can get harnesses for your body, wrist, you can use a selfie stick, I even saw one guy mount a camera on his shoulder like a parrot! All these are fine, however a head harness is the best because it keeps your hands free, it’s pointing wherever your face is pointing, and it should never really be covered up when you’re swimming, climbing or crawling through tunnels!
- Next is when you have the camera on your head, make sure it’s angled to point slightly lower down than you would expect. I can’t tell you how many times I thought I was filming straight ahead and ended up with tons of the footage of the sky! This was all unusable footage.
- Now a mistake I used to make was to film the entire event and then edit out the bits I wanted at the end. You can do it this way, but I would recommend against it. It’s better to keep your GoPro switched off, and then turn it on and film when you get to an obstacle. Why? Well otherwise 80% of the footage you capture will be you running, which isn’t that interesting compared to the obstacles. Additionally there is a good chance you will run out of either space on your memory card or battery life of your camera.
- This leads nicely onto my next tip, and this is a good one, and it’s to learn the beeps! So what do I mean by that? Well when you turn your GoPro on you will hear 3 beeps. When you press record you will hear one beep. When you stop recording you should hear 3 beeps. When you turn the camera off you should hear 5 beeps. If you learn this you can keep your camera on your heard without needing to constantly take it on and off to make sure you’re filming. You’ll just know from the beeps.
- That said, I recommend taking your harness off for certain obstacles. This could be filming reasons which I’ll cover in a minute, or because there is a strong likelihood that the camera will come off your head and you risk losing it. This has happened to me before, I lost a relatively new GoPro Hero 4 Black and I still have nightmares about it.
Okay so now I’m going to provide you with some specific filming tips for the day.
- The first tip is to remember that you’re filming and to try to use smooth head movement. This can be difficult to remember, but it can make a big difference to the quality of your footage. If you move your head to fast it can be hard to watch and sometimes even nauseating. Try to move slowly and purposefully.
- Next would be to film your own face! This again may sound strange, but on obstacles where you’re taking your harness off your head, film your face and your expressions while you do the obstacle. This is far more interesting for the viewer, especially if the rest of your video is all from your point of view.
- The next tip would be to keep an eye out for anything interesting happening around you. This can involve other groups of people that you’re not with. If you see someone swimming in the mud, or a team dressed as superheroes, or someone catch fire, film it and maybe it will make it to the final cut of your video.
- Now if you’re thinking about different shots, then you can get creative with your shooting angles, and if you’re with other people you can set up some shots. In the last run I did, I would get my friend to film me climbing an obstacle, and then he would throw the GoPro to me, and I would film him climbing it from the other side. If you know someone is about to jump over an obstacle, or jump over some fire, get down low, get a cool angle and try and capture the coolest possible shot you can get.
- If you want to get really clever with this, you can research a course before you go. Tough Mudder courses for example are quite similar each year; there will always be a monkey bars section, the dreaded arctic enema, the warped wall… look at what other people have done maybe the year before and think about how you can make it better and what shots you can get on the day.
- This leads into my final tip, and that’s if you’re with friends or in a team, then take it in turns to film. That way you are in the video too, not just your hands and feet.
So those are my tips! They might sound quite obvious but believe me they will make a big difference on the day. If you want any tips on how on editing the footage, let me know in the comments below, and if enough people want this I’ll create a video showing how to do it!
Here are some useful links about this post:
This is a link to the GoPro Hero 5
This is the GoPro head strap I like
This video was filmed using:
Leica 12-60mm lens
With this light
With this microphone