GoPro announced their new “action camera”, the GoPro Hero 3. Not since GoPro’s acquisition of Cineform has GoPro got so much attention from the filmmaking community.
And rightfully so, the new Hero 3 is a hugh update.
The guys at GoPro have essentially revamped the Hero line up, while still keeping the things that made it great.
But is it now a tool that filmmakers and directors can use and take seriously?
As a music video director, I think GoPro’s Hero 3 has the potential to used in our art form more often.*
Either for the small screen – such as music videos and commercials, or for the big screen, big budget features.
And here is why?
*Note: Two things, 1) No one is suggesting that you should shoot a feature film with Hero 3 instead of another 4k camera that’s out there. Obviously the Hero 3 has it’s limitation. But for P.O.V shots, and as a “crash cam,” filmmakers have now an inexpensive and viable option. 2) We won’t know how the footage holds up, until we get the Hero 3 in our hands and test it out. The information below is based on the specs. So my opinion could change. Therefore, take this blog post for what it is – a extrospective examination of the Hero 3. Now lets get on with it.
The big (and exciting) news first.
The new Hero 3 does 4k! That is epic (no pun intended). 4k is considered by many to be the “best” or “optimal” resolution for projection. Until recently, the cheapest 4k solution was from the almost unknown company Point Grey.
That has changed with the GoPro Hero 3. .
For filmmakers and creative artists. The Hero 3 Black version provides the following resolution:
I have attached a graph below so you can get a better comparison as to the screen resolution that the Hero 3 offers.
Now how much “real” lines of resolution the Hero 3 actually produces remains yet to be seen. Filmmakers need to still get this little camera in front of a resolution chart. But it’s safe to assume that since the Hero 2 produced 500-700 lines of resolution, the Hero 3 at 4k, with its improved sensor will (hopefully) hit 3.1 – 3.5k.
Even if the 4K is not true 4K, that’s still alright. Because if you down rez it to 2K or 1K you will get a pristine image.
This camera is cheap. I mean dirt cheap. $399 for the high end version (Black Edition). As I mentioned above the cheapest 4k camera out there is from Grey Point. Grey Point offers the Flea3 for $949. But for $949 you essentially get a senor in a box. No monitor, no audio, no controls, no multiple frame rates, nada.
The next usable camera for film making that offers 4k comes in at $4,995 – the JVC GY-HMQ10.
Which is substantially more then the Hero 3.
Yes, there is no arguing that the JVC gives you much more manual control and a few more options over your image. But for more then 12X the price?
Either way, filmmakers now have an expensive solution for 4k point of view shots, or crash cam shots.
But if you are on a tight budget, GoPro still has options to help you get the shots that you need. GoPro offers the “White” Edition at $199 and “Silver” Edition at $299. But just remember that the White and Silver resolution maxes out at 1920 x 1080.
Because of the low price points, I think many filmmakers will find ingenious ways to make new and interesting art with this little camera.
I wouldn’t be surprised to see a lot of bullet time effects on YouTube in the near future.
Better Low Light Performance.
GoPro claims that the new Hero 3 provides 2X the better low-light performance.
If that was the case, then why didn’t GoPro have any night shots in their promo video?
I checked out the video twice, to make sure that I hadn’t missed anything, and I hadn’t, there wasn’t a single night shot.
Could it be that low light recording still sucks? Maybe? If you read the fine print on GoPro’s website you’ll see that it mentions 2X the better low light performance then the Hero 2. If that is the case I think using the camera for low light shots will not work. Cause God knows the Hero 2 was horrible with low light.
Either way it’s a move in the right direction – the low light capabilities of the camera have been improved – how that translates to on screen is anyones guess.
Better frame rates.
The Hero 3 now offers 24 fps. In the past the Hero line recorded at 30 fps. The new frame rate will allow the the Hero to be used in more film productions without the hassle of interpolation software to convert the 30 fps to 24 fps.
The unfortunate news is that with the new Hero 3, when shooting in 4k mode, you can not shoot at 24 fps. The only frame rate that is available for 4k is 15 fps. The highest screen resolution that you can shoot 24 fps is in 2.7K.
If you’re looking to just shoot for the web or do music videos, and need slow motion, you have the option to shoot at 120 fps and at 60 fps.
Most cameras already have the option to do 60 fps. So there is nothing new here. But it’s when you get into the 120 fps territory that you real begin to appreciate silky smooth slow motion.
Here are the frame rates that should interest most directors:
2.7K – 24 fps
1080p – 60 fps, 24 fps
720p – 120, 60
Remote Web Application and 3D.
Two things that I think don’t get enough attention when it comes to GoPro, is their Remote Web Application and 3D features.
Let’s first look at GoPro’s 3D application.
Since this little cam would be excellent as a crash cam, I think it would make for a even better 3D crash cam.
Think about it. Imagine, you have a car, fire bomb, or debris, hurling at the camera – these are excellent senerios for 3D – and you want to get as close as possible, without having to sacrifice your high end, thousands of dollar cameras – what do you do?
Simple. Put two GoPro Hero 3’s together to pull off the shot.
The GoPro Hero line gives you the option to combine two HD HERO cameras into a single housing to record 3D video and photos while at the same time recording in 2D.
And it’s super easy (see the image below). A synchronization cable plugs into the rear HERO Port on both cameras to connect them together, thus allowing both cameras to record video and photos in perfect synchronization.
Now for the remote Application.
As mentioned above, the new app, which allows you to control your Hero 3 from a smartphone and tablet, is a very welcomed feature.
With the new GoPro App you don’t need to touch the camera to control it. The new app will give you full control of all the camera’s settings. That means you can change, view and control frame rates, the shutter, battery life, live preview, and screen resolution from where ever you are.
Why you should not use it to make a feature film or commercial project.
This camera will by no means replace the more powerful digital cinema cameras out there. And I don’t think that was the aim of the company. The GoPro Hero 3 is another tool in your arsenal as a director. And like any tool, you should be aware of it’s strength and weakness.
If you are using this camera for a paid shoot like a music video, commercial or feature, here are some things to look out for.
2x better low light doesn’t mean it’s a no light camera. Sure it has “better” low light performance, but because of it’s sensor size and optics (lens) this camera will not get you the low light that a full frame DSLR with a 1.2 f-stop lens will.
No 24 fps at 4k. I mentioned this earlier. The unfortunate thing is that this puppy doesn’t do 24 fps in 4k mode.
No Manual controls. You can not control aperture or iso. This is gonna leave you in the mercy of the camera in those tricky lighting situations.
Poor post-production codec. The Hero 3 records in H.264 codec, .mp4 file format, at a low bit rate. This won’t give you the flexibility in post.
Here is the latest video from GoPro showing the Hero 3 in action.
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Manee Osman is a music video director in Toronto and New York.