Any guy who has a GoPro secretly wants to be a hero with it. Come on, admit it, who wouldn’t want to capture that sweet trick (or rough wipeout) to reminisce? But even if you can’t pull off 360s and flips on your skis or mountain bike, you can create an epic video of your next adventure ripping down the mountain or catching waves in a good swell. All it takes is a little camera savvy and some practice. Pro mountain biker Aaron Chase has logged endless hours with his GoPro and crafted a slew of videos to showcase his stunts. Over the years, he’s honed his shooting skills to get the best footage, and learned from his mistakes—on the bike and in the editing room. So we asked him for the GoPro need-to-know. Here are the five tips Chase lives by.
Know your mount
Whether your GoPro is going on your SUP, snowboard, helmet, or your dog, it pays to be familiar with your mount’s movement. A choppy film can be fun (for a few seconds) but only if you’ve planned it that way. Before you film your shots, test the angles and the outcome. Chase, who films most of his action on the mountain bike, notes that mounting his GoPro on the handlebars is significantly bumpier than a helmet- or chest-mount, since the body’s motion absorbs jolts more readily than the bars. “"It all takes time. You want to watch the footage after you rig it so that round two will come out even nicer. You'll know how it will react."
Plan your story
There’s nothing wrong with driving blind and capturing the moment. But if your goal is a quality action short, lack of direction will doom you to mediocrity. “The trick, if you want to edit something cool, is to have it in your head before you get to your computer,” says Chase. “When you're shooting, shoot for that edit." Chase recommends finding edit points—specific shots that connect the dots and drive your narrative, like zooming out from a tree to catch passing action, or throwing a ball at the camera, then panning over to another key action. These will keep your raw footage rooted and flowing smoothly between shots. And it will make editing more fun.
Practice, practice, practice
Seems obvious, but you’ll only get that perfect shot on the go if you’re familiar with your GoPro. Take the online tutorial before heading into the field, and get a feel for operating the buttons blind. And don’t assume your angle is working. “The go-to shot would be to stick it on the top of your head,” Chase says, “but it actually doesn't give you much reference to what's going on, and your helmet might cut off a lot of the action.” If you want the most natural POV perspective, Chase recommends mounting the camera to one side of a full-face helmet. And, he says, always have a friend double-check where the camera is actually pointing.
Play the angles
Sticking to one field of view is boring. Chase likes to combine shots mounted from different positions to get a more complete view of what's happening. On a mountain bike, throw in a two-second shot that shows how the suspension is working. Or mount the camera on the back of your board, switch to your helmet, then hold it in your hand, and have your buddy follow you with a second GoPro. "It's good to have a couple of cameras and keep them moving," Chase says. And get creative: duct tape and a ski pole are useful for filming any sport. “Just create your own contraption or whatever it takes to try something new."
Shoot from this hip
The GoPro isn’t just a video camera. You can set it to take a photo every second, ten seconds, sixty seconds. Edit those into your video, or make a timelapse as you’re prepping for your shoot, executing an epic trick, or setting up camp. Chase likes to set his GoPro to snap two photos a second on motorcycle rides, moving the camera around periodically. “You’ll end up throwing away 400 photos, but you’ll get ten photos that are really cool.”