This is the 3rd Installment of the POV Action camera series; Camera mounting ideas for action sports, brought to you by PointOfViewCameras.ca and Trailpeak.com|
Our second article on POV camera production dealt with music selection and copyright infringement. For July / August, I’ll discuss the more creative topic of where to mount your camera(s) to make the most of your mountain biking POV video experience.
In my shooting, I primarily make use of the VIO POV 1.5 camera system. I do have an additonal low cost DRIFT X170 unit that I am experimenting with. The lipstick camera head of the POV makes for great flexible camera mounting in the tightest of places.
I can’t help but repeat some tid-bits of advice from previous pieces in the series, especially when it comes to finding out where best to mount your POV video camera. I can’t help but stress that practice is your best strategy for figuring out what angles work, and what ones flop. During your fun group and solo rides, paddles, local hikes and climbs, this is the best time to play around with mounting ideas. Make sure that if other people are around for the activity, they are cool and patient with the process. Sometimes it’s enough incentive to say that you’re making a YouTube video and that they can be in it, and then they’ll be all game to ham it up. If things don't go so well, put the camera away, and enjoy the moment!
I have also previously mentioned that it’s wise to have two or three of your most versatile camera mounts on hand, pre-rigged to you and / or your gear of choice. That way, changing camera angles doesn’t include the long drawn out process of also changing the camera mount. This process takes a long time, and by pre-rigging, camera change ups will happen faster and you will be more efficient, giving you more time to keep the activity real and fun. On top of that, you will be more liked and attain higher levels of popularity!
OK, now the fun part. I certainly can learn a ton more on mounting ideas, but this is what I have played around with so far with definite POV success for mountain bikes:
Standard solutions are of course frame mounts. Vantage points that are interesting tend to feature moving parts against non moving reference points. An example includes my favourite that places the camera on the rear chain stay on the drive train side, shooting forward. The low angle makes the shot look energetic, and action packed. The tapering view of the chain stay adds great perspective which helps with a sense of depth. Seeing the chain moving past the field of view along with the leg and foot cranking the padals looks great too. A wide enough angle also reveals some scenery and ground terrain. If you can set the camera back enough, you can even see the chain move along the gears on the cassette or deraileur during gear changes. Very cool! I was able to do this through the use of a small rod and microphone clip mounted to my chain stay. This position also makes for an easy camera change when you want to shot back at the riders that follow the camera. The low camera angle gives a powerful hero feeling for the audience.
Other cut away shots could include angles that shoot back at the rider’s face, or include other human elements. I’ve mounted the camera on the handle bars, so it would showcase the right hand switching gears, or using the brake lever. A cool perpective of the rider’s face can come from a low camera angle camera mounted somewhere along the fork or front region of the bike frame.
I’ve had limited success with mounting my camera on my helmet. My helmet shakes around quite a bit, making for really bad video. Other editors have had more success, so you will have to try that one for yourself. Just remember shots that give either high or low angles look better for mtn biking.
As an alternative to the helmet mount, I’ve mounted my camera on my backpack shoulder strap. Again, this is a versatile position that can easily change from shooting forward (trail view and or rider’s handle bar view) to shooting back at the riders behind you. The mount may need to be moved back slightly, but it’s a quick change never the less.
Seat tube camera mounts look great when shooting back, and keep the camera out of harm’s way. The view of the wheel and tire tread is interesting. This mount however, looks marginal when shooting forward because there’s too much leg and bike material blocking the scenery. Like helmet mounted shots, forward handle bar shots can often suffer from too much steering and head turning, often directing the view away from the trail. A better angle is to mount the camera along the side of the frame’s top tube or down tube, back slightly behind the steering tube. Once again, it offers a perspective of moving material (scenery and front tire) against a stationary frame of reference. (top tube) Watch that brake and gear cables don’t obscure the view.
Finally if you have suspension on your bike, you are obligated get a shot of it working for you. The camera can be mounted on the handle bar, shooting down along the fork line to see it compressing. The ground will be whizzing by, so it’s not a shot to hold for very long. Make sure you ride terrain that will give the suspension a chance to really react. Frame mounts will be an obvious choice to best capture the rear suspension at work, and appear best shooting with the suspension in the forground (subject / point of interest) and something else in the background.
I’ve explored one additional camera mount design that has rendered me some pretty knock-out footage for terrain specific shots. I call it the hover cam mount. It required a relatively low cost rig (around $30 for the parts) that can also work for other camera mounts in other action sports. I use a 30” boom pole from a microphone stand, with the addition of a 12” flexible goose neck that threads onto the end. These parts I bought at a music store. My camera unit mounts to this with a microphone clip, allowing further flexibility. The boom pole is secured to a 2x6 piece of pine shoved snugly inside an old hydration backpack. Once zipped closed, and tightly but comfortably warn by the rider, the footage is amazingly stable. The setup looks really "Inspector Gadget" like, but production shooting isn’t about the look of the camera person, but the results of the shot. The boom pole and goose neck apparatus rise up from my back, and the flexible goose neck positions the camera further above and behind my helmet. This shot allows for the perspective of looking down over the rider, and includes the handle bar, end to end, the rider’s helmet and the terrain of the trail ahead. With such a wide angle, tight hairpin trail turns, and trail-side drop offs take on an amazingly distorted view. You obviously have to watch out for over hanging trail features like tree branches that can clean your camera’s clock as it were.
In conclusion, I’ve described a number of POV mounting solutions that work for biking videos. These “pov” shots should not be the main stay of your video. Static shots of riders going by should be included. Holding the camera trail side and panning it as the group rides by is very effective. So is mounting it high in the branches of a trailside tree or even on the ground beside the trail itself as riders zoom past.
Next time, I will continue on the theme of POV camera mounting ideas with a focus on sea kayaking. If you have suggestions on mounting ideas I have overlooked, please write me an email, and I will share your suggestion in this piece.
shannon at trailpeak dot com.
East coast editor