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December 2014
Issue: March 1. 2014

Review: GoPro Hero 3+ Black Edition

By: Brady Betzel
MANUFACTURER: GoPro

PRODUCT: Hero 3+ Black Edition

PRICE: $399.99

WEBSITE: www.gopro.com

- 4K video for under $400
- Ultra durable, comes with water-proof housing 
- Protune color profile allows easy color matching 

On October 14, 2012, I was glued to my laptop, watching what Red Bull was billing as Red Bull Stratos, a free fall space dive! GoPro has always had, in my opinion, one of the best marketing strategies ever: Be a Hero. You can’t find a more effective and consistent roll out of extreme action videos in any company’s social media profile. Just follow @GoPro and everyday you will get at least one jaw dropping video filmed with a GoPro camera. 

Red Bull’s Stratos event would be one of the pinnacle events in GoPro’s evolution. It’s not just a kitschy camera that can be stuck to anything; it’s a major contender in the fight for capturing the most compelling content in or out of our solar system. Felix Baumgartner literally walked out of this little spacecraft outside the Earth’s atmosphere and free fell faster than the speed of sound, all while having five GoPro Hero 2 cameras strapped to him. 

Just recently, GoPro released a video showing off their footage. It’s breathtaking, almost like a scene from Gravity. YouTube: “GoPro Red Bull Stratos — The Full Story.”

If you’ve been working in post for more than a few years, you’ve seen the momentum shift from tape to tapeless. Sometimes good and sometimes bad workflows have been the result. At first, I was really hesitant with tapeless footage because it did not have a “master,” the deluge of footage was great since there really was no more limit, and there were so many different formats that you had to have a million codecs installed to even just watch the footage, let alone transcode it. I still have some of those feelings, but it’s getting better, and since I’m editing now, I don’t have as many pains about it as the assistant editors do. 



SPECS

The GoPro Hero 3+ Black Edition is a modern marvel. It weighs less than an iPhone (2.6oz!), is smaller than an LTO tape, and is easier to operate than some baby toys. I was sent the GoPro Hero 3+ Black Edition, which has a few quality improvements over the White and Silver editions, such as the ability to shoot 1,440p/48fps or even up to 4Kp@15fps, and records in a highly compatible H.264 codec in an .mp4 wrapper. It also includes a Wi-Fi remote for the camera, which can be purchased for the White and Silver editions for $80, however if you have a recent iPhone or iPad, Windows Phone 8-based OS or an Android 4.2 or higher OS, you can download the GoPro app for free. 

The GoPro app is awesome. You can view what you are recording over a private Wi-Fi network setup between your camera and your phone or even pair up to 50 cameras to control all at the same time (at this time you cannot individually control each camera, i.e. you push record with more than one camera paired and they all record). 

When you purchase your GoPro, don’t forget to purchase at least a Class 10 microSDHC card. I wouldn’t get anything less than the 64GB Lexar High-Performance micro SDHC card. I have had great luck with it and it even comes with a USB 3.0 reader for fast data transfers to that new Mac Pro you bought a few months ago. Other than that, you are on your own with the accessories. GoPro accessories are so cool, you may need to take out a loan. If you are thinking there can’t be that many cool accessories, just Google: “DJI Phantom 2” or even the “Steadicam Curve,” and you will quickly understand. 



The GoPro also comes with a high capacity lithium-ion battery, a couple quick-release buckles, several adhesive mounts, a 3-way pivot arm, a waterproof housing kit (submergible up to 131ft/40m), and a USB cable for quick updates. You should also download the GoPro Studio Edit Software for your desktop if for no other reason than to correct the fisheye or adjust slow motion clips to re-export and use in your NLE or After Effects.

EDITING

From an editing standpoint, the GoPro gives the director of photography the ability to not be tied to his camera. He can put a GoPro under, around, and through anything with a little ingenuity. If you watch any TV today, you have seen a GoPro used. If you are an online editor, you are probably more concerned with the color and compression. Previous GoPros had some noise issues. The GoPro Hero 3+ Black Edition has pristine shooting quality (at least in decent lighting conditions). With the advanced Protune setting, you can even neutralize the colors, giving the colorist a way larger latitude to pull colors than if set at the stock setting. 

From an assistant editor stand point; if the field does not set up a GoPro camera correctly, it can be a nightmare, at least in reality TV. GoPros don’t come with the ability to change or program timecode, so you rely heavily on the crew for setting the proper time of day and date on the camera. They also do not allow you to rename footage or clips inside the camera or within the app while recording — both of which would be a great addition to the GoPro app. So when organizing, importing, and grouping the footage, it takes an adept assistant editor to properly work with the footage. If there was no audio recorded, time was not set, and the date was not set, it can get very difficult to sort and group the footage quickly and accurately. This is an example of where you can’t save money by fixing it in post.



Sometimes NLEs see different GoPro clips as the same clip. This happens a lot if you have clips from multiple cameras that are named the same. This creates a nightmare when relinking and going into online editing — all of a sudden your clips relinked to the wrong masters then you have to individually overcut the clips by hand. No thanks! A good idea is to transcode your footage to the codec compatible with your NLE (Avid DNx or even ProRes are good starts).

CONCLUSION

Whether you want to strap a camera to your kid’s bike as they pedal for the first time, or shoot from the inside of a garbage can as it gets dumped, the Hero 3+ Black Edition is one of the most versatile and just plain awesome gadgets I have ever used.

Brady Betzel is an Editor at Bunim/Murray Productions in Van Nuys, CA. He can be reached at: bradybetzel@gmail.com.