There’s a lot of things to like about the new GoPro, the biggest of these to me would be the astounding picture quality & dynamic range. It’s not 14 stops or whatever the buzzword amount is these days, but crikey it looks good. More like REC709 than Slog, but in the same way that digibeta is so much more than HDV.
Skiing and is one of my passions and filming skiing has been something I’ve always done. Initially we were just recording our holidays but as I grew in my career as a cameraperson my skills filming on skis and skiing itself improved to the point where I started getting paid for filming in the mountains.
Now, a GoPro would seem the obvious tool for filmmakers to take with them skiing, but I never subscribed to that. I had always shot skiing films on small, light, handy, and well stabilised domestic and then professional camcorders. The main advantage with taking these rather a GoPro is the ability to frame & reframe with the aid of the zoom, and having a nice big viewfinder or LCD screen. Yes, the ability to resist water and throw the camera around anywhere is useful but only for a limited amount of shots, and personally a sort of videos I make would have never benefited massively from those abilities. Consequently I have never bought a GoPro although I have used them several times when skiing.
The Hero 4 changes things slightly. Having 4K at your fingertips to work alongside the other 4K cameras I now own will be a massive benefit to producing ultra high quality, ultra high definition skiing videos, which will help set my work on snow apart. For this years ski season I will probably also invest in one of the three axis gimbal systems for the GoPro, which will result in ultrastable, super dynamic moving footage at speed while skiing or snowboarding. And of course being Steadicam operator that is the sort of footage that I should be getting!
And yes, before you ask, I have tried Steadicam on skis. I own one of the first small handheld systems, a Steadicam JR, and I have taken it skiing several times, but due to the light weight of the system including as heavy a camera as I could put on it, the mass and inertial were not great enough to withstand the winds generated while moving at speed down the hill, so I was limited to slow moving shots and pretty pictures of the resort, which can be useful but not what I was after.
The three axis gimbal systems for GoPro cameras have changed all that. They are not dependent upon their gravity and balance to achieve stability, instead they use their own motors and consequently are more stable in more environments than a Steadicam. Obviously the trade off is less control, less precise framing, size and weight limitation, complete reliance on electronics, (a Steadicam will balance and work effectively even if all it’s own batteries and electronics fail) and other drawbacks. However, all of these can be forgiven when skiing because there is no other system that can perform the way the gimbals do on skis. I tried one out last season and was so impressed by the way the gimbals work in that environment I would not even consider bringing a Steadicam instead for skiing stability.
Consequently, now the GoPro Hero 4 can record slow motion like my FS700, 4K like my FS7 and FS700, I believe it should be the perfect companion to those cameras for superstable, action, 4K highspeed video capture, and I can’t wait to use mine on skis this season!