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Helmet Cams: How to get great footage

Reid Armstrong/40 NorthGrand County, CO Colorado

I had some pretty high hopes when I headed out on a snowy Wednesday last week with two friends to test out a GoPro’s HD Helmet HERO at Winter Park Resort.I imagined coming home and editing the video into some serious Warren Miller reel complete with a Metallica soundtrack playing in the background.Um …. not so much.I got home and downloaded what turned out to be six incredibly large files. Three hours of downloading later, I was dismayed to discover that there was a huge blotch of ice/snow/water over the lens almost the entire time.We took cute shots of me and my friend waving at the camera before plummeting down the mountainside – and all you can see is our blurry arms wiggling along the sides of a chunk of ice smack dab in the middle of the lens. All my Warren Miller ambitions melted into a puddle at my feet. Clearly I needed some advice from an expert.So I texted 911 to my friend Mut. I mean … Chris Adelman, my lawyer friend in Glenwood Springs. (We called him Mut in high school.)”It takes practice,” he said, chuckling at my fail. “I shoot a lot of film and a lot of it isn’t very good.”We talked while he was driving his son to a birthday party and juggling a client on call waiting. When he isn’t busy being a successful lawyer, father of two and husband to one incredibly brave and understanding woman; he is plummeting over 40-foot waterfalls, skiing off cliffs, riding motocross in the desert and paragliding.And, most of the time these days, he is making those leaps with his GoPro video camera mounted on his paddle, ski, handlebars or the lines of his parachute.

The first key, Chris said, is to spray Rainex or a similar product on the waterproof case. About the Rainex, he says, “Do what it says on the bottle. Spray it on, let it dry and buff it off. Whenever snow or water hit it the Rainex dries it off.”



“It’s really important to think about the angle,” Chris said. GoPro has a super wide angle, “so anything more than 10 feet away is going to look far off.”(A GoPro fan to the core, he said there are helmet cams that do better with depth of field, but they don’t have better view.)Because of the wide angle, putting the camera on your helmet distorts the image, making things look smaller than they really are, Chris explained.”When you film kids, you have to get right up on them and hold the camera in your hands … lower than you think.”

Perspective is key, Chris said: “Have some body parts in it. Hands and skis.” Chris recommends wearing the chest harness. “It’s the best location, down low near the center of the body,” he said.But head and chest aren’t the only places to wear a camera: “A pole out to the side gets good footage,” Chris said. “And, I’ve mounted it right to my ski and have gotten some really good footage.”Try some fresh ideas, Chris said: “Like the guys who mounted a camera on a ski and left it recording while they drove to the resort.” They used some of the footage in the video they later made.My favorite Mut idea is to “turn the thing around and film somebody behind you.”



Keep the takes short. That’s a lesson I definitely learned.”A 5- to 10-minute run in HD is a big file,” Chris agreed.Pushing the start and stop button on the video camera helps.Cheap editing software can further break up the footage and lace it together in a more interesting way.

Common mistakes, Chris said, are leaving the camera in picture mode, not charging the batteries or running out of memory space.”I’ve gotten burned a few times,” he said. Like that time he went over a 40-foot waterfall with his helmet cam on only to realize at the bottom that he’d run out of batteries. “And I thought, ‘Well, I’m not doing that again.”(Not sure whether he meant heading out with low batteries or going over the waterfall.)”It’s not a toy that you take out of the box, use and nail,” Chris said. “It’s trial and error. You’ll get home and find out you’ve aimed the camera in some kooky way, that its up too high or down too much.”

And, if you don’t get a video cam under the Christmas tree and want to test one out, Winter Park Resort offers eMotionCam for rent. These cameras are featured in the December issue of SKI Magazine under “Stuff We Like,” page 37.The $44.99 rental price includes a DVD copy of the footage, which … given my five-hour saga trying to download and play the files … is well worth the money.The rentals are available at Winter Park Resort Rentals in their Village and West Portal locations.


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