Capturing Kinetic Memories: GoPro Basics For Creating Amazing Video

camera equipment go pro


So you finally got a GoPro!

Welcome to the club. You're now part of a tight-knit community full of thrill seekers, free spirits, and rapscallions. And we all share one thing in common.


Maybe not that much motion...

...but we're not into lumbering cameras that cost hundreds of dollars.

We know we'd probably break them. That's why we've purchased THE staple of recording adventures and shenanigans.

You can drop, kick, toss, and strap your GoPro to whatever you wish and it'll likely come out unscathed.

But, what you do with it, how you use it, matters. Let's get started.

Finding your creativity

Once you figure out the bare basics of how to use a GoPro, you're left with a blank canvas.

You probably have a few ideas of what you'd like to use your GoPro for, but you know your opportunities are unlimited. It can be paralyzing.

You've got this wonderful tool in your hands, and the excitement from your initial purchase is still singing.

But now a question is posed:


Where should you start?

using gopro on top of a mountain


You definitely don't want to leave your GoPro lying on your dresser after just purchasing it. Now's the time to channel that excitement into creativity!

My advice is to start playing with it! Don't try and make your first GoPro video a masterpiece. Focus on trying out everything your GoPro has to offer.

Record your dog playing with a ball in slow motion.

Mount your GoPro on your head and play soccer with a group of friends.

Record with the various settings and modes and see which ones you particularly like.

You don't even need to know what all the settings do. Save that for later. Just record anything and everything so you can get a general feel for your GoPro.

Now That You Know What You're Doing...

right way to use gopro


Once you learn how to handle your GoPro, the next step will be figuring out how to make a video that's fun to watch.

My very first GoPro video was a skiing montage, and while it was fun to make...

...after stepping back and looking at the finished project it turned out to be uninteresting and dull.

The thing is:

There's a huge difference between having fun making a video and making a video that's fun.

Bring out the pizzaz

My mindset when making my first skiing montage was that skiing fast and bombing down hills would make exhilarating footage.

I mean, what's more exciting than wind buffeting your face and snow launching through the air behind you?

Unfortunately, the end product didn't end up conveying that sense of excitement.

Instead, the wide view angle made it look like I was slowly coasting down the hill. And when the skiing did get exhilarating, the camera was too shaky to even appreciate the action.

Not to mention...

for about half the video my camera was pointed straight at the ground.

The fact of the matter is, what you feel isn't what you see.

GoPro footage only captures a sliver of what's going on in your world. Therefore you need to get creative when you film. You need to look with the eyes of a movie producer.


Consider questions such as, "How can I convey emotion in my footage?"

Get a head start

To really create an exciting and fun video, you should think about what your finished product will look like before you even start filming.

Figure out ways to make your video stand out. For example, trying to make a thrilling skiing video is near impossible when you're an amateur skier.

Sad but true... but there's ways around that!

Instead, I've learned to take different approaches to my videos. Rather than showing my skill (or lack thereof), I now focus on memorable moments with friends.

If it's a beautiful resort, I try my best to capture the scenery from atop the mountain.

Focus on your strengths, not your weaknesses.

Here's a good trick for deciding on a theme:

Think about what the best aspects of your video will be.

For example, maybe you're great at mountain biking, but the trail you'll be riding on isn't the prettiest. To make up for the lack of scenery, you could angle the camera down some so it mostly captures the trail and your hands.


This will let you fully capture the obstacles you surmount and show your expertise at controlling your bike.

Playing with perspective

Another way to keep your videos interesting is to try out different camera angles.

If you look at the skater Chris Ray's skateboarding montage, you'll appreciate the variety he puts into his video.

If he didn't apply any imagination to his video, you'd get bored in the first 30 seconds.

But his constant changing of perspective keeps you glued to the screen.

Sometimes the camera's head mounted, sometimes he's holding it, and other times he has his camera on a ledge while he skates past it.

This switching of views breathes life into his video, capturing his talent through different viewpoints.

Don't Forget to Dazzle Them

Your video needs to be pretty.

Whether you admit it or not, your videos are mainly just something pretty to look at. It may remind you of fun times, or give you a laugh, but if it's of trash quality...

nobody will watch it.

It's almost physically painful to watch a pixelated and jittery video. So how do you avoid hurting your friends' eyes?

Pleasing the eye

Video resolution is how clear your footage will look.

It's the difference between a video on your phone and footage from the film Planet Earth.

You'll notice there's a wide variety of resolutions to choose from on your GoPro, giving you the versatility to pick the best choice for your needs.

standard aspect ratio gopro resolutions

Your initial reaction might be to immediately set your resolution to 4K.

If you want your video to look good, what can beat the highest resolution on your GoPro? Sadly, there are always restrictions in life.

And for good reason...

4K video looks the best, but if you plan on recording a day's worth of footage you'll have to reconsider using 4K.

That reason is that the file format is huge, which takes up all the space in your camera's memory. A few hours of recording can fill up your memory card depending on its size.

So how do you figure out your perfect resolution?

Video resolution is how clear your footage will look.

Find a balance between video quality and file size.

If you know you'll only be recording a few hours of footage, sure, go for 4K! If you need to be recording for a whole day, however, consider dropping your resolution down to 2.7K, or even 1080p.

Remember: 720p should be your last resort. The footage doesn't look terrible, but 1080p still looks a heck of a lot better.

Fisheye or tunnel vision?

Along with resolution, you'll have to find your ideal field of view (FOV). Basically, FOV is how wide your video will be. It can be super narrow, or it can have the classic "fisheye" look that captures everything in front of you.

Most GoPros have a wide, medium, and narrow FOV, although sometimes the medium and narrow FOVs have a different name.

Wide FOVs are perfect for capturing first-person action shots.

When strapping a GoPro to your head or chest, you're often moving around a lot. A wide FOV helps mitigate the bumpiness of your footage.

Medium FOVs strike a nice balance between narrow and wide FOVs and are useful for a variety of situations.

Narrow FOVs are much more limited, as they only capture what's right in front of you.

This can get nauseating when mounted on your head, so it's best to use narrow FOVs when you're mounting your GoPro on a stationary object.

What is frame rate and which should you choose

right framing using gopro

Image via

GoPros have the option of recording between 24 to 240 frames per second (FPS.)

This is the number of photos taken per second, as all video is just a high-speed slideshow of photos. A higher frame rate takes more photos per second, while a lower frame rate takes less.

Something to remember:

Usually, 30 and 60 FPS are the standard options used, while anything higher is great for recording footage meant to be used for slow-motion shots.

Here's why:

Like video resolution, a higher FPS takes up more space than a lower FPS.

Because of this, you can usually get away with 30 FPS. If there's going to be a lot of motion in your footage though, 60 FPS will help make the footage look smoother.

That's because there are more photos taken per second, meaning more of the subtleties of movement are captured.

Sticking Your GoPro to Everything

You don't always have to stick your GoPro to your head.

You have multiple mounts for a reason.

Half the appeal of a GoPro is that you can stick it anywhere. Use this to your advantage!

As mentioned earlier, changing up perspectives keeps your video enticing. Changing where your GoPro is mounted makes the exact same run feel completely different.

How the pros do it

Along with resolution, you'll have to find your ideal field of view (FOV).

Basically, FOV is how wide your video will be. It can be super narrow, or it can have the classic "fisheye" look that captures everything in front of you.

In an ideal world, you'd have multiple GoPros mounted in different places.

This would give you multiple perspectives of the same moment, giving you the freedom to choose between shots.

In practicality, many folks only have one GoPro so you'll have to get tricky.

The simplest solution is to have multiple mounts to switch between throughout the day. If you're surfboarding, a good variety would be a mount on your board, a chest or head mount, and a GoPro selfie stick.

If you don't have a selfie stick, you could even hold your GoPro in your hand.

Shocking, I know...

To mount your GoPro to an object, all you have to do is first stick an adhesive mount onto whatever you desire.

Pro tip: Make sure to get the alignment right on the first try, that way you don't have to try removing and re-attaching the mount.

After that, screw your buckle onto your GoPro case and slide it into your mount.

Turning Raw Footage Into Gold

Here's a question:

Do you want to make your own videos?

If the answer's yes, you're going to have to learn to edit. Period.

You're not the filmmaker of Birdman. You can't make an entire video out of one continuous shot. So it's time to learn the basics of video editing.

Starting from scratch

Before anything, you'll need a video editing software. If you don't have your own, GoPro offers a free video editor to get you started, which you can find here.

But, keep this in mind:

The software is pretty limited, however, so I recommend finding another software such as iMovie or Windows Movie Maker as soon as you can.

The first skills you'll need to learn are how to import footage to your software, how to cut video clips, and how to move them around in a timeline.

These are all simple tasks that you can learn to do on YouTube.

But, that's not all:

Aside from the technical skills, all you really need to know is that a video is made up of multiple clips you pull from your recordings.

Basically, you cut out all the boring parts of your footage, then keep the few memorable moments you ended up capturing. After that, you stick all the clips together, maybe rearrange the order of the clips, and there you go, you've got an edited video!

Become a copycat

Imitation is the most sincere form of flattery.

Just keep telling yourself this as you blindly copy what other YouTubers do.

In all seriousness, after you learn the basics, the best way to learn how to edit your videos is to watch what other YouTubers do. For example, take a peek at this snowboarding montage.

If you study other YouTubers' videos, you'll notice general trends across all GoPro videos. For example, there's always music in the background because GoPro audio is often just the sound of muffled wind.

You'll also find the footage is often edited with the music in mind.

You can picture it in your head:

During the intro of a song, the video will show exposition, showcasing wide pans of the scenery and introducing the "characters."

Then once the music gets going, the video will often transition to the meat of the video.

The central part of the video will usually be a series of clips, ranging between five seconds to a minute.

Know why?

Any longer and viewers typically get tired of the clips. Any shorter and the viewer has no time to figure out what's going on in the clip.

Finding your flow

Imitation is the most sincere form of flattery.

Just keep telling yourself this as you blindly copy what other YouTubers do.

In all seriousness, after you learn the basics, the best way to learn how to edit your videos is to watch what other YouTubers do. For example, take a peek at this snowboarding montage.

There is a point where you have to stop being a copycat.

At first, it's almost essential to find a "YouTube mentor" who you draw editing inspiration from.

On the other hand, once you figure out the basic tricks and methods of editing, you'll want to find your own style.

Here's how:

Think of editing like playing an instrument.

When you first start playing the guitar, you learn how to play the songs of your favorite artists. Eventually, though, you start wanting to make your own music.

In video editing, that's where you start finding your favorite tricks and techniques.

You might find you have a lot of fun with slow-motion shots. Or it turns out you have a knack for making seamless transitions.

Don't be afraid to get playful with your editing!

When you get the basic formula of editing down, you gain the freedom to put your personality into your editing.

Catering to the Restless

There reaches a point where you get a hunger for fame. You know your videos are beautiful, but you want more.

You want a passionate audience, and you know YouTube's the way to build one.

This is why it's hard:

Youtubers have the attention span of a kitten.

If you're just recording for friends and family, you can trap them in your living room and make them watch your whole video. YouTube viewers, on the other hand, are like those same kittens.

They're constantly looking to pounce on the next sparkly thing. If your video gets boring for one second, they'll instantly click on the next recommended video.

How in the world do you keep a kitten's attention?

First off, you need to put thought into your videos. Don't show them a bunch of random footage of your day off at the beach. Tell a story.

Direct them!

Wondering how?

Before even going to the beach, think of a rough idea that you'd like to convey. Maybe you want to capture the spirit of adventure, or you want to tell a story of three friends getting up to mischief.

Whatever it is, try and at least have a basic theme you'd like your video to capture.

But how can I make a story out of an ordinary day?

It's easier than it looks. Your story doesn't have to be an intricate tale with depth and symbolism. You just need to tell a story about anything.

It's not about the plot.

It's about how you tell your story.

The vlogger itsJudysLife makes videos about her everyday life and has more than a million subscribers. If you look at one of her videos, you'll see she has a few unique tactics to keep her videos interesting.

For starters, she intersperses multiple little stories in her videos.

Remember that attention span of the viewer... she's mastered it:

She'll fill you in on a current goofy situation with her kids, and tell you her take on it. There might even be a dilemma such as her kid leaving a toy out.

Then she'll show how she resolves the dilemma.

The situation itself is mundane, but by capturing the expressions of her kid as well as the dialogue between the two, you somehow get invested in the situation.

What if my footage is too loud to capture dialogue?

You don't need to talk to inform the audience about your situation.

If you're going to the beach, for example, you could start by capturing a shot of your friends packing gear into your van.

Then you could intersperse a few short clips of the scenery you pass by in your van. After that, record your friends getting out of the van.

And just like that, you've told the tale of you and your friends traveling to the beach!

Don't think too hard

The best videos are ones that you get creative with. You don't have to aspire to make a video that will please everybody. You also don't need to plan out a fancy script or try and make every moment overly dramatic. Let yourself get goofy and spontaneous, and eventually you'll pick up on what makes your videos one of a kind.

Bringing it all together

Get out there.

You know what to do now, so get to it.

One hour spent using your GoPro is worth three hours of reading about it (don't check my math on that). Experience will be your best teacher. The more you create with your GoPro, the easier the process will become.

So try and make all kinds of videos. Mount your GoPro on the side of your car. Make a timelapse of your cat playing in your house while you're gone. Create, create, create!

Before you know it, you'll wield your GoPro like it's an extension of your body.