How to: 10 tips for filming Kitesurfing with Gopro

Posted on Posted in Kitesurf

I’d like to take a minute to talk about go pros, by which I mean any action camera with a fisheye lens. I know there are other options out there (something I’ll probably cover at a later date) but for now let’s just assume when I say go pro, I mean whatever camera you happen to have 🙂

One of my biggest pet hates is seeing people with these cameras who are just clueless about how they work. What I mean by that is I see them standing on the beach, a good 50-100m from the action and filming their friends/boyfriend/wife with a bored look on their face. I get it, not everyone likes filming, but if you’re filming you could at least TRY and get a nice shot for your friend. So let’s make one thing abundantly clear from the outset: GOPROS DO NOT HAVE ZOOM LENSES seeing how there must be some confusion…

How to: 10 tips for filming Kitesurfing with Gopro 1
Ahem….no

Gopros are designed to be close up, in the action, so if you’re filming from the beach/water get the hell closer! They work best when you’re about 2-3 meters from your subject, otherwise you just get a wide angle landscape shot with a tiny speck that is your friend busting out some sick trick in the middle. Now, for kiting here are a few tips which can help you get nice shots, getting close while still keeping you safe in the process, and general filming tips too

TIP #1 – Set up your camera before you go out (and charge it beforehand dummy!)

There’s nothing worse than getting back to the beach after you’ve been shooting for a while and realizing you had the camera on the wrong settings. Gopros and action cams (particularly older models without screens) can be fiddly to set up so I prefer to just pick my settings in advance and leave them be for the shoot. If you’re aiming to slow the footage down in post production then shoot 60fps or higher if possible. If you’re shooting for photos, burst mode is ideal.

How to: 10 tips for filming Kitesurfing with Gopro 2
Captures using burst photo mode

Another good tip is to film in a slightly higher resolution than you need, as then if you need to zoom in while editing you can do so without completely killing the quality. I tend to export in 720p as I normally upload to youtube or Facebook and I’m not massively worried about it being full hd, so I film in 1080p or 2.7k. Also you can pull screenshots at this resolution which are pretty clear. Bear in mind that filming in higher resolutions and frame rates will add to the size of the files, so wiping your SD card before a session or having spare memory cards on hand can be extremely helpful!

How to: 10 tips for filming Kitesurfing with Gopro 3

TIP #2 – Pick a spot and stick to it

Ask your friend where they’re happy doing their trick, where is the wind good and where can they repeatedly take off and know where they’re going to land safely. Ask them to do their tricks in that spot only, so you know where to expect them. I can’t tell you the amount of times I’ve seen a reluctant filmer cause a rider to jump too close to a beach and end up on it, or a rider suddenly change their spot and end up with the filmer diving for cover.

From a filming perspective think about where the sun is and where are you going to be pointing the camera during the trick, as a change in light can either make or break the shot. Shooting into the sun can be awesome and get you some really cool shots, but quick changes from shaded to bright can cause some nasty video effects. I spent some time filming with an sj4000 last season (cheaper gopro knockoff) which was an ok camera but just terrible at adjusting to light changes!

TIP #3 – Stay upwind if you’re not 100% comfortable

It might sound obvious, but if you’re upwind of your subject there’s less chance of them landing on you, kicking a board into your face or otherwise ruining your day. Also if your rider seems to be coming towards you at an alarming rate, diving upwind is generally always going to be the safest option for you….just remember to keep filming, it’ll be either a funny or horrifying memento afterwards!

TIP #4 – Move around a bit (but be sensible)

So this is kind of contrary to tips 2 and 3, but if you trust your rider move around a bit, get some different angles, get downwind or let them jump over you if you really trust them. If they keep doing their tricks in the same spot you should be able to figure out where you can stand without getting written off, and it can make for some of the best shots when things get a little too close for comfort! Having said that, be smart and wear a helmet, you’ll look like a dork but at least if a board or body comes flying your way you’ve got some protection for your noggin.

TIP #5 – Mounts

If you really want to get some more angles then there are tons of mounts out there. One of my personal favorites is the line mount, which can give you great shots although has it’s drawbacks if you don’t have a remote to start and stop recording while it’s there. I have a Camrig line mount, and it’s a great bit of kit which has lasted being mistreated and thrown around the world for the last 3 years so I can highly recommend it. Head mounts, chest mounts, board mounts or even just sticking the floaty back door in your mouth can be great ways to get 2nd and 3rd angles. Bear in mind too much of this kind of footage can be a bit nauseating for people to watch, as there can be a lot of movement, but for short clips in a whole video they’re great.

There are also a lot of innovative home made mounts out there, and they’re a really great cheap option for getting those awesome angles. http://www.diygopro.com/ is a fantastic resource I’ve used in the past and might inspire you too.

TIP #6 – Field of view

This is something a lot of people seem to forget when they’re filming with go pros and action cams, that a lot of them allow you to change the field of view and get rid of the fisheye. Gopros allow you to select medium or narrow FOV (even linear on the hero 5), which give the illusion that you’re filming with a non fisheye camera, and make for a nice change over the course of a video. It can be a great tool and allow you to create a full video using just the one camera if you’re on a budget.

TIP #7 – Export as soon as you get home, and make your life easy when filming

I’ve lost or wasted a lot of footage simply because I haven’t bothered exporting or editing when I get home. Once it’s been sat for a month or so you will tend to lose interest in editing it together, so I always like to get it all off the camera as soon as I’m in and go through it. It can be a long and tiresome process but it’s sure worth it in the end, and your friends will be stoked to see it sooner rather than later while the session is still fresh in everyone’s mind.

The other thing which really helps is if you’ve got short clips to work with, like 10 seconds or so max, because then it’s easier when editing to go through and name individual files. When you have 2 minute videos with 4 tricks from 4 different people in each, editing becomes a real pain! So please, filmers/friends thank you for offering to film, but PLEEEEASE make my life easier when I get home and start the editing process!

TIP #8 – Get another camera

Action cams are great, but they have their limitations. If you’re just out for a day and want to capture the action easily then sure they can be a great way to get footage, but in the long run they’re a second camera at best. They are fantastic tools, but ask anyone who has shot in waves how much the fisheye flattens out the look of the swell, or how they were just a little too far away and an amazing trick became a useless clip thanks to the wide angle. A dedicated video camera or a DSLR with a few lenses will allow you to get those shots which a go pro just can’t manage, and playing with the settings on a fully manual camera allows you to really experiment with the way you capture video, like shooting in lower light or from a distance and getting some perspective into your shots.

Tip #9 – Fail to prepare, prepare to fail

When I’m going out filming I like to sit and think about what I want to capture before hand, I’ll even write a list if I have a specific project in mind. As a rider you can really help your cameraman by knowing what you want to capture, sit and talk about it before you hit the water so you’re both clear on the aim of the session, and if your photographer or videographer asks you to do your trick in a certain place, damn well stick to it. If they’re not looking your direction then they can’t see you, and if you suddenly decide to take off upwind and hit a lull, it isn’t going to be pretty for either of you!

Tip #10 – HAVE FUN!

Having said all of that, the main thing which keeps me in front of or behind the camera is having fun, so no matter what you’re doing just keep that in mind. If someone is struggling with a trick and starting to stress out take a break, try something else and come back to it, dick around a bit and take stupid shots. It’s all good filler if you don’t have enough banger footage for your latest kiting blockbuster, and you can all laugh at the stupid clips and crashes with a beer later so it’s win win.

For our advanced clinics I shoot video through the week and one of the best parts is sitting down and watching it all as a group at the end of each day, because you can really see your mistakes and everyone has a good laugh and a good cheer when someone either fails or makes their trick!

If anyone has any comments or tips that you think I’m missing, please feel free to leave a comment or drop me a message, and most importantly, enjoy your next session 😀