7 Things I Didn’t Know About the GoPro When I Used It for Field Research
The claim is that GoPro cameras, accessories, app and software turn regular people into heroes by providing the ability to capture and share photos and videos. The camera is commonly used for action sports but they are handy for activities beyond sports. GoPro Hero4 is the most recent camera but my Hero3 Black Edition helped me capture memories while traveling Brazil last summer for the World Cup. My experience using the camera in Brazil was good enough that I thought it might be helpful in my profession.
Photos and videos are helpful when doing research to improve products. They are good memory aids for who and what was observed. I wanted to use my GoPro Hero3 Black Edition to learn how well it would help me conduct field research. Jesse, my colleague, is researching ways to improve the Standup Paddle Board (SUP) experience. We decided to team up to make observations, and interview people while taking photos and video at Shaka Fest 2015. Shaka Fest celebrates Hawaiian culture and includes a SUP race and Hawaiian dancing.
1 / High quality 4k Cinema video provides fine details
I had never used the 4k Cinema setting before to shoot video. I was really impressed with the clarity and details that I could see. During research, I may not always know what details that I should capture in a photo or in video. Capturing video at this setting allowed me to clearly see this athlete’s lock tattoo on his bicep and the spider tattoo on his shin. These were details that I didn’t observe when I was capturing the video. It’s possible to do an image capture directly from the video to share it with others.
2 / Use the timer to capture action photos
Video can be too much at times. What I want instead are a couple interesting unplanned action shots to include in my report. I’ll set the timer to capture a photo every 30 seconds. I just let it rip until the moment has passed. I may hold the camera or perch it up on something. The app also does a nice job by grouping all the photos shot in that sequence. I’m able to review and easily delete what I don’t want or just select the few that I want to use and delete the entire group of photos.
3 / Capture authentic moments by snapping from the App
Pointing a traditional camera, looking in the view finder, putting my body into making the shot, and snapping a picture has caused people to stop and smile or give me the bird. Now, I setup the GoPro in an ideal spot to capture the action. Then I step away and use the app to snap photos or video. This approach enables me to capture the most authentic action shots without getting up in people’s business.
4 / Preview and Playback in the App are not supported with 4k Cinema video resolution.
I didn’t know that setting the Video Resolution to 4k Cin would limit my ability to perform basic tasks with the GoPro app. I didn’t have the ability to preview the 4k video. I was shooting without knowing what I was capturing. I didn’t know Playback in the app was not supported for 4k video files. Playback would have helped me see whether what I had captured was perfect, both video and audio. As it turned out, I encountered two significant problems. The first was that small movement of the camera while shooting video made the video appear unstable and jerky. The audio was weak because I forgot to use the non-waterproof skeleton door for better sound quality. And there were also some audio disruptions that may have been caused when I touched the camera enclosure. I didn’t know whether I’d have enough storage for 4k.
5 / No easy way to privately share
I needed to share my photos and videos with Jesse and the Shaka Fest organizer. There wasn’t an easy way to store the videos in a convenient place and selectively share. In our business we typically stash all documents and media on Dropbox for Business. All employees that are part of the team have access to these materials. There wasn’t a simple integration point in the GoPro app to move the files to my Dropbox and selectively share the images with the right people.
Bring extra batteries.
I can’t trust the how long the batteries will last. The battery indicator may show full and then drop to empty unpredictably. I bring extra batteries because I’ve had problems before when the charge indicator shows a full charge and moments later it’s dead. The indicator also doesn’t represent how long I actually use the camera.
Switch between the GoPro Wi-Fi and a real a Wi-Fi makes it cumbersome to share images.
It doesn’t seem possible to use multiple networks at the same time and so manually switching is required. I’d like to be able to move the image off the GoPro and into a cloud service of my choice with no steps in between.
I was looking forward to being turned into a hero by using the GoPro but that didn’t happen. My photos and videos were pretty good for my purpose but there wasn’t anything terribly exceptional about them. For field research, my iPhone and iPad are equally as good as a GoPro in image quality and much better for sharing. But the benefits of a small camera like the GoPro for field research include the ability to discreetly capture authentic and serendipitous moments. Those moments can be priceless with this type of research. I’m going to keep trying to use the GoPro to capture some hero moments.