Cameras on Tour
At Leod Escapes we spend a lot of time on the riding motorcycles and shooting video. This was written in mid 2019 and technology is always changing. This is a summary of what we've learned that we hope will help you capture some of the magic of riding motorcycles.
Capture the moments - Small “Action Cameras” mean we can video our rides abroad and show them to our envious friends. It is however something else to pack and manage while you are on your vacation. Don’t let your desire to share the moment with your friends online take away from the great vacation experience you are supposed to be having yourself. If you are going to bring an “action camera” here’s a few tips to keep hassle to a minimum and get a better shot.
The right tool for the job - Most action cameras aren’t built with speed and vibration in mind. You need a camera with image stabilization if you are going to mount the camera on a motorcycle. This was GoPro’s greatest weakness for riders until the GoPro 7. It was often the reason we pushed people toward the Garmin VIRB camera. Now image stabilization on the GoPro 7 is really good. The camera battery will run out during the day, make sure you buy a camera with replaceable batteries and you have 3 or 4 batteries on hand. As of the 2019 season Leod Escapes uses GoPro 7 Black and Garmin VIRB Ultra 30. We consider the GoPro to have superior hardware but buggy software. GoPro 7 gets a better shot but is less reliable compared to the VIRB. The GoPro is also very fussy about which microSD card you are using, SanDisk Extreme cards work best. Other actions cameras are not as picky and you just need quality microSD cards meant for video.
Mounting & choosing your shot - If you don’t have image stabilization then helmet mount is really your best bet as your head is a natural gimbal that can stabilize your shot. Mounting on the helmet though is not always the most dynamic shot and mounting the camera high can make it look like your are going slow. Also everyone seems to ignore the fact that people ride with their head tilted down, you need to angle the camera accordingly. Be aware that the video camera does not track like your eyes. A quick turn of your head to look at something won’t look good on video. Mounting forward and low with the camera tilted up a little makes for a good road riding shot. Do not ignore the great shots your camera can get of your buddies and the surrounding country by mounting the camera on the top case or side case facing back. A handle bar mount facing forward or back can be interesting as well. Bring a few extra mounting plates or attachments. Review your footage often to see what adjustments you need to make. You'd hate to get home and realize your camera was positioned wrong the whole time. Also every time you stop, check to see if a your camera is free of bug splats as that can really ruin your shot.
Settings - Set to the highest resolution you can while still having image stabilization working. Also set your frame rate to at least 48 to avoid what we call “Jello World”. It’s a rolling shutter compression error that makes the background wobble when you go over a bump. Setting the field of view too high can also negate the image stabilization. Set for a field of view that’s somewhere in the middle to to avoid fish eye distortion and keep your image stabilization at full force.
Care & feeding - MicroSD cards have become so cheap you might be tempted to buy one big card for your whole trip. Given how fussy these cameras can be about cards some times we recommend you have three or four smaller cards. It does mean you’ll have to watch how full your card is getting but it also means you can quickly swap cards if there is a problem. We also recommend an aftermarket battery charger so you can charge all 3 or 4 of your batteries each night while you sleep. Video files are HUGE. Either bring a laptop with an external drive of a terabyte or more of storage or bring extra cards.
Creating the Show - Remember it’s not all about the road. It’s the food, it’s the sights, it’s the people you ride with, the places you stayed, get video of all these things. It works best to post multiple clips of video, no more than 3min long. Don’t forget to savor the moment yourself before you savor the envy of your friends.