GoPro for Beginners

I recently bought myself a GoPro (the Hero 3+ black edition). I wanted it to be able to capture videos of the dogs in the park in a way that was hands-free.

I’m still learning things about it, but if you’re a beginner like me, here are some things that will get you started.

Getting it out of the box

You’d think this would be obvious, but it isn’t. The camera is mounted inside a hard plastic case on top of the box that contains the other stuff.
The easiest way is to watch this video about how to unpackage it. He also goes through how to set it up, put the battery in, etc.

What it comes with

Out of the box, it comes with a bunch of stuff including an additional back door for your housing. This is a good video to explain what all the stuff is. Note that when I bought it, it came with two extra doors: a skeleton door and a diving door. I guess they realized that the diving door and waterproof standard door were redundant:

Accessories

There were a couple of things I bought right off the bat. Some I’m glad I got, some were unnecessary.

Green arrowChest harness
I wear the camera on my chest at the dog park, which lets me film the dogs hands-free. I’ve also worn this harness over my lifejacket while waterskiing for some interesting video.

Red XHead harness
Hardly ever used this. Sorry I bought it. It doesn’t stay on that well either unless you make it really tight. And the chest harness works better.

Green arrowExtra batteries and charger
The people on the GoPro forums recommend that you do not charge it up by plugging the camera directly into your computer. Instead they say to get a separate charger and use your outlet or car port.

I got this one from Amazon that has a wall charger, a car charger, and also came with two extra batteries, which I use all the time:
Wasabi GoPro charger and extra batteries

I carry an extra battery in my pocket and when I run out of power at the park, I just pop another battery. Then in the car, I charge them up.

This is the one I got, but here’s a tip that will save you lots of frustration: do not try to use the USB cord that comes with this charger to transfer data onto your computer. The USB cord that Wasabi provides does NOT work for data transfer; only charging (it is missing the two middle pins on the connector. The middle pins are for data and the outside pins are for power).

Red XLCD Screen
The biggest problem with the GoPro is that it has no screen on it to see what you are shooting. If you have a Smartphone, you can get the free app to do this. But I don’t. So I bought an LCD screen that fits right on the camera:
GoPro LCD screen

But what I found is that having an LCD screen on the camera itself is really stupid. Most people wear the camera on their heads or chests, which means that you can’t look at the back to line the shot up. At the park I have to lean way back to see a little of what I’m taking or I have to unclip the chest harness and hold it up to my face.

What would make more sense is for the remote control it comes with to have an LCD screen, or even let me buy one that fits on the remote.

Another annoying thing about this screen is the amount of packaging. All of GoPro’s stuff is non-recycleable plastic and extremely wasteful packaging, and this is no exception. Since the LCD makes the camera wider, you need a new back door for the housing. But this came with six back doors. I kid you not, six! Three that fit my Hero 3+ (the regular, skeleton, and dive doors) and three that would fit a Hero 3 which is a slightly bigger camera, and which I don’t have! It would have made much more sense to package the LCD with the appropriate three doors that the original camera came with, and market it differently for a 3 vs. a 3+. The screen also comes in plastic like the top of greeting card boxes. Again, totally unrecyclable and irresponsible, IMHO.

Update: in watching this video, it looks like GoPro realized all these doors are stupid, so now you just get three. But I see they didn’t get rid of the annoying plastic container.

The one thing that I was very grateful it came with is the mount extension. I added that to the chest mount so that I can still point the camera the same way without having the extra thick housing bang into the mount. Works pretty well.

But as I said, an LCD screen on a chest mount is almost worthless. Sorry I bought it, especially because someone finally came out with a remote containing an LCD screen. This is on my list of things to get. Then maybe I’ll sell my LCD screen on eBay or something:


GoPro Remote with LCD Screen

Based on the Amazon reviews, it looks like they had some problems initially with their firmware, but sounds like they’ve been resolved. I’ll also mention that if you watch the video, you’ll see there is a bit of a delay in the wifi. It seems like there is also a delay with the Smartphone app:

Tips for Taking Videos

The first thing I noticed about the videos it takes it that you get kind of a fish-eye effect.

If you want the video to look like it would if you were using just a normal camera, you need these settings:
720 120 Narrow

This is a good article that explains some of the different settings:
http://abekislevitz.com/understanding-your-new-gopro/

That’s it for now. Here’s a video I took during waterskiing. I think next season I might try to mount it to the front of my ski instead of using a chest harness. If I do, I’ll also get a floating door for the casing just in case it falls off.

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