Secrets of Using GoPro Cameras- What We Learned at the Team GoPro Summit….

Scott Blase asked me today- “Can you share what they taught you at the GoPro Team Summit?”    I figured that is a great idea, as it was quite an eye opener for me, and worth sharing with everyone.    If you want to be better at using GoPro cameras, knowing the settings, and some of the finer things it does, learn what shots to take, and how to stage things up, then this article is for you.    It assumes you want to film and take photos of your favorite activities (family time, your sport of kayaking, fishing, biking, whatever you do), and have the shots to make a great edit that you’ll enjoy and others will too.


There are two categories of learning here….


  1. Logistical Planning (“The difference between the amateur and professional soldier, is that the professional focuses on logistics, while the amateur focuses on tactics.”  Winston Churchill)   This means the big picture.    What is your aim?
  • Think like a film producer and editor before you pick up your camera.    What will you want the final piece to look like?   What at the key elements that make up a great edit?  Here are some examples that you should be thinking about:
    • Storyline- what is the big picture story you want to share?    How will people relate to it?  Is it a comedy of errors?   Is it a love story, a building up to a big moment on a big trip, or local trip, such as a river run?   What is the reason you want to share this video?   Often  you did one thing you are fired up about and have that shot, but the shot needs to be in context to make it a video worth watching.    The Storyline is setting the context visually and with audio.
    • Getting the video and audio that makes the story.   Knowing what you want and getting what you want are two different things.    The logistical plan is to know in advance what you want to get when you are filming or taking photos, and the tactics will be how to get them.    Here are some of the things we were taught you should WANT to get as part of your day/days filming:
  1. Stage setting shot:   Wider angle shot that shows where you are, what you are doing…   Such as around the big scene, the river, the event, the lake, the general setting so people see the context of the rest of the video.
  2. Character development shots- Showing the faces of the people involved, so the rest of the video the characters are already identified and people can relate- this goes for family videos, action videos, whatever…
  3. Time Lapse- nothing is easier, nothing dresses up a video better than a cool time-lapse     Here is an example of one that I did during the summit…I’ll teach you how under “Tactics”
  4. Money Shot:  This is the action shots you already KNOW you want… it shows the meat of your activity.   It is the action in the kayaking, the waterfall, catching the fish and releasing it; it is the single best shot that you is the anchor of your video that you want to stage around.
  5. Celebration Shot:   How did that make you feel?   Don’t forget that the emotions that you have during your activity should not be removed from it.  If you are fired up on what you are doing, show it, get the smiles, the high fives, the or the anguish on a big crash (if you had one)…
  • Knowing how to edit into a story, or having somebody that can help you edit your video
    • It isn’t difficult to edit if you use GoPro Studio Templates.   They are already edited videos that you replace your shots with the shots in the video.    The editing, slow motion, stop action, music, intro, and outro are already done.   You only need the raw elements, the video clips to replace the existing ones with.
    • If you want to edit from scratch- use the blank template on GoPro Studio for easiest editing.
    • You MUST “convert” your footage from GoPro format to .mov format using the GoPro Studio (free program) anyhow, so you need that program.
  1. Tactics:   Knowing your camera and how to use it, knowing how to get each shot you want is needed in order to pull off your objective- to have the video you need to edit, or have somebody else edit.
  • Filming-
    • for POV (helmet, etc.) – set your camera at 1080, 60fps.    This will allow you to do slow motion and give you great quality.  Set the  iso to  400 for sunny, 1600 for cloudy
    • For hand held- put on 1080, 60fps.    iso of 400 for sunny, 1600 for cloudy
    • For good audio- need to have the camera out of the waterproof case, or use a “skelton case” which is not waterproof.   For audio in whitewater, you much talk very loud and it still doesn’t sound great.    Get your audio off of the water if needed.
    • Time Lapse- Use the “time lapse setting” the fourth setting in- first is video, second is single photo, the third is “burst mode” of 30 photos really fast, the fourth is “time lapse” where it takes a single photo every so often.    Use every .5 seconds for action stuff, 1-2 seconds for a short time lapse with medium action, and 10 seconds for a sunset, sunrise, etc.. where you are filming something very slow for a long time.   Push the button and let it run until you are done.  GoPro Studio automatically will take that and turn into a video by clicking on the first photo of the time lapse when you are “importing new files”.
    • Mounts- having multiple mounts and/or multiple cameras allows you to get the angles that make it a much better video.   Helmet mount only, or “crotch shot” only for fishing, for example, isn’t interesting and won’t do the trick.    My favorites are, and the ones we were told about at GoPro Summit are:
  1. Jaws Mount- this clamp mount will clamp to just about anything and has a “goose neck” that will move, twist, etc. to just about any angle.   I use this for fishing, for off the water stuff for time lapse, etc… It is perfect for holding the camera steady when you don’t want to hold it.
  2. Sticky mount- this is great to turn just about anything into a camera mount I have them on:
  • My paddle- for underwater fishing shots, for surfing shots on waves, etc..
  • Jackson Kayak “Bow mount” – I include them in every Jackson Kayak we make because it is such a great angle, pointing back at you, you get the context of where you are, plus your face… PERFECT for getting the “character” shots.
  • Surfboards, etc. etc.  put them anywhere!
  1. Helmet Mount- This is the obvious and most used POV shot.    Sets the context of what you see and is perfect for showing off what you are doing from your point of view.
  2. Elevated Mounts for Kayaking, fishing, etc..:
  • Levitar Mount- putting a stern or bow mount up on your kayak at shoulder level changes the shot dramatically and keeps the camera out of the water.  This angle is hard to beat for on water.
  • Power Pole or RAM Mount for fishing- Having a camera up over your head looking down is such a great angle for the “money shot”  and/or the “Stage Setting Shots” It shows you in context, shows your environment much better than a close up.
  • Quad Copter Shot- OK, so everyone isn’t going to buy a $500- $1000 helicopter to fly around and take photos or video.   However, it is both fun and makes some epic shots.   Once you have one, you’ll never go back… Check out the new 3D Robotics version….
  • Suction Mount- this is your ticket for putting on cars, trucks, on the hull of your kayak, etc..  sweet mount for places you don’t want to use a sticky mount.


Filming tips:


  1. Batteries:   the Hero 3+ has a new improved battery that will last over 3 hours, but you need to learn to conserve batteries if you are going out longer than that.   If you use the GoPro App or Remote when you are filming, the WIFI on the GoPro kills the battery much faster… you need backups.
  2. Using the GoPro APP on your phone:   The App is perfect for getting a “Preview” of the shot, you can see it on your phone to set the camera up, etc…    Or you can set the camera somewhere and use the Phone to start and stop the camera, as well as download and share the footage right from the camera… sweet!
  3. Lighting-  While you don’t necessarily want to plan your day based on getting the best footage it is KEY if you want the BEST footage you can get, to use good lighting practices.
  • Low Angle light- early day or late day looks WAY better.    Film your character shots, stage setting shots during these times if you can.
    • Camera pointing directly AWAY from the sun with the sun directly ON the subject is the best, most colorful, shots you can take.
    • Backlit: Pointing Camara AT the sun and filming the subject provides another cool perspective and makes silhouettes that look cool.
  1. Steady Shots:  BE AWARE of when you are filming and WANT to capture a good shot.   Any shaking of the camera kills the shot.
  • At that moment keep your head still if you have a head cam… example- I tend to nod my head when I meet somebody… it KILLS the shot every time.     When I think i want a shot, I need to keep my head pointed where I want and don’t nod!
  • Hand held- learn to bend your elbow just right (about 45 degrees) when pointing the camera at yourself to get audio or a face shot.  This keeps your arm out of the shot and looks like somebody else is filming it.  Keep it still to nail the shot.
  1. Clean Fog Free Lens:
  • Clean your lenses with a tissue, or rag before you go out.  If you see any dirt or residue on the lens it will be amplified by the sun and will be in the shot.
  • Use Anti-fog inserts for filming in water if you want to be sure to keep it fog free… I don’t use them, myself, but am pretty good about keeping my cameras from fogging up.
  • If your camera fogs up: open it up in the sun, but don’t touch it with wet hands!  If you have wet hands and need to change batteries, etc..  leave as little water on the camera as possible.   When you close it back up it WILL fog up after the warmth of the battery causes the water to evaporate.   Open again and let the fog disappear, and close.


Audio Tips:

  1. Don’t bump the camera when getting audio- It picks up all sounds and any bumping of it is VERY loud and ruins a nice audio piece.
  2. Take the camera out of the case for audio.   The cases muffle the sound and make it sound like you are in a small room with lost of echo.
  3. Short, clear, direct audio bites are best.     A two-minute interview about your day won’t make  good video.   Most videos you will make should be 30 seconds- 5 minutes.     30 seconds or less is a good rule for any verbal interviews.
  4. Know what audio you think you will want to use in a video before you go out….   Know what audio you got during the day, and try to get what you missed before you get out of gear, etc…   It is never helpful to get home and then do an interview that should have been done when you were on out and geared up.




Logistics:    Editing should be done based on what you have captured.   Your story might change from when you set out, to when you got back, based on what you actually did and captured and what the best shots, emotions, audio, etc.. were.    Don’t try to force a story.




  1. Step 1 is to move your footage from your camera’s memory card to a HARD DRIVE- you need to buy a 1-TB hard drive- NEVER put on your computer!!!  Too much memory is required.
    • Organize your footage on your hard drive like this:
      • Folder with your name on it (“ERIC JACKSON”)
        • Folder with the DATE and activity on it:  (5-18-14 River Rock Boatercross)
          • Folders- RAW, Select, and Photos under the dated one.
  • Copy the footage from memory card (open DCIM folder and select all video files)  to RAW folder
  • Copy photos from memory card to (open DCIM and find all .jpeg) to PHOTOS folder
  1. Use GoPro Studio to convert your footage.   Download from
  • click on “import new files” button on top left and go to your “RAW” folder and select ALL of your video files from there.
  • Click on ADVANCED SETTTINGS:  Click on “HIGH QUALITY” and click box “use for all future clips”
  • Click on the first video file that is now showing a thumbnail photo in Studio and it will appear on the main reviewing screen.
  • click “Play” and watch it.  Choose the “IN” and “out” locations that trim the shot to just the section you want.  You can choose as many IN and OUTs as you want on one clip.
  • After you have selected ALL of the clips you want to use and trimmed them,  click on the “Change Directory” button on the center bottom right.     Choose your “SELECTS” folder you created on your hard drive.  If you don’t do this, it will move your select files to your computer and you’ll run out of disc space!
  • Now click “Convert” and your clips will convert to a format that you can edit in any program, including GoPro Studio.
  1. Using GoPro studio to Edit footage
  • Click on “Edit” button top middle of viewing screen and it will ask you what “template” to use, or blank.    Each template tells  you how many shots are in the video, and how long it is and the type of music and “fast pace, or “one big moment” so you can get an idea before you click it.  Watch the template video and see if you like the style.   If So, choose that template.
  • You now have your converted clips on the left side, and the template in the middle waiting for you to switch out their clips, for yours.
    • They typically have the “right” format for the template, with a stage setting shot, character shots, etc. etc..    So try to use the same type of shots they do if you can.
    • Click and drag the clip you want from your list to the timeline where the template clips are and it automatically replaces it.   Now you need to make sure the right place in your clip is being used.  On the viewing screen you’ll see a yellow/grey line under the video that you can click and drag to move the part of the video that is being used.   For example if the template has a 2 second clip, but yours is 30 seconds, you need to decide what 2 seconds you want to use.
    • Repeat until done- each clip will be automatically slowed down or speeded up based on how the editor did the video.  You only need to add your clips.
    • You CAN remove the “GoPro” bumpers on the front and back end of the videos, or add titles to them.  I am on Team GoPro so I keep them there, but it isn’t necessary.
  1. Using GoPro Studio to Export and prepare for YouTube
  • After you are happy with the video you made, click “export” button on top of viewer.
    • Name it in the box
    • Click where you want to save it (I save them on my Desktop because they are compressed to about 100-200 mb and don’t take up too much space and I want them available to me without  having to get my hard drive)
    • Click on “presets” and click on YouTube to get the best format for uploading to YouTube.   Failing to do this will either yield a grainy video or one that Youtube has to convert and it doesn’t look at good.
    • You now have a file on your desktop that can be uploaded to YouTube.
  1. Uploading to YouTube
  • Create an account if you haven’t already.
  • open up YouTube and click on “upload video”
  • Select video from your desktop
  • name it, add a description that sums up the feel of it, and write a short note to your subscribers.
  • Tag it with the names of those in it, the locations, the activity, and any products you want to be found by (Jackson Kayak, Sweet, Kokatat, Mini-cooper) etc.. which helps people find your video by searching any of those names you “tagged”
  • Click Publish and make sure you are making it “public” if you want people to see it.
  1. Getting People to Watch the Video through Social Media
  • Share it on Facebook at the right time- Noon is always good, and weekdays are best:  Copy and past the link into your timeline updates, and wait for it to turn into a thumbnail.   Wright a short description of the video and then “TAG” anyone or any company that will help drive views… Tagging GoPro is good for GoPro videos because they have 7 million fans and are the BIGGEST brand on Youtube and Facebook!    If they share your video it will be huge.    Tag Jackson Kayak if it is in a JK boat, as we are the largest in kayaking and will help create traffic for you by liking or sharing it.
  • Share it on Twitter, same thing
  • Share it on Instagram-
    • You must get the video on your phone by emailing it to yourself, for example, and then saving to your phone.
    • then upload on Instagram and tag it appropriately as well.      don’t share from instagram to your social media sites- it isn’t as effective as uploading to each site individually (something we learned at GoPro Summit that I didn’t know and was breaking that rule daily!)



I hope this was helpful for you!



Eric Jackson

Kayaker, Fisherman, President of Jackson Kayak

Here are some of the videos I already edited using GoPro Studio, BEFORE I went to this GoPro Summit where I learned how to do it much better!

My “Good Karma in Mexico” video:  An action kayaking video…


My Muskie Underwater Video:



My 2013 Year in Review Video using the “Hero Template” of 127 clips…








Comments on “Secrets of Using GoPro Cameras- What We Learned at the Team GoPro Summit….”

  1. Scott Blase
    May 18, 2014 at 10:38 pm

    Great article EJ…awesome tips to try!!!!!

  2. Luis Morales
    May 21, 2014 at 3:28 am

    Would you recommend any file format conversion before importing mp4 files to final cut pro x? thanks

    1. May 22, 2014 at 3:22 pm

      FCPX should work natively just fine with those files. No need to convert.

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