A GoPro is an essential piece of equipment for any driver who seriously wants to market him or herself online. The following quick guide covers many of the basics from what to buy and how to mount it to how and where to upload your footage.
What GoPro Should You Buy?
There are tons of choices and a lot of great action cameras beyond the GoPro line. Garmin and Sony both make solid action cameras along with Chinese manufacturers like Xaomi and SJCam. But my personal recommendation would be a GoPro Hero 4 Silver. It’s the first GoPro to have a built in LCD touchscreen on the back which makes life a lot easier when you’re setting up your shot. It's also handy when you want to quickly review footage. Best of all, since the Hero 4 Silver is a couple years old, it’s pretty easy to find used online.
If you live near a decent sized city, check out Craigslist. You can expect to pay between $200-250. Just make sure you test it before you complete the sale. Another option is to buy a refurbished model from direct from GoPro. I've bought GoPros both ways and have never had a problem.
What Mount and Accessories Do You Need?
The main reason I recommend sticking with GoPro are all the mounting options – everything from suction cups to helmet and chest straps. I personally use the plastic GoPro roll-bar mount, but that’s not what I’d recommend for a driver. I need a mount that’s small and lightweight for travel and easy to pop on and off several cars throughout the night.
But chances are, you’re going to want to mount your GoPro in one location and leave it there. RAM mounts are a great option and really versatile. But the one I’d recommend is the Bully Brand aluminum mount. It’s a little more expensive, but it's the most durable mount on the market - and the one that gives your GoPro the best chance of surviving a crash. As someone who’s gone through multiple plastic mounts, it will likely save you money over time. Whatever you do, don’t buy the “cheap” knock off mounts they list on Amazon. I’ve owned 3 and they never last more than a couple races. It’s not worth risking a $250 camera to save $50 on a mount.
Another thing you may want to consider is an extra battery. Search Wasabi GoPro batteries on Amazing and you'll find a two pack with a dual charger for under $20. I have this and highly recommend it.
Finally, if you decide you want to do a little more than in car footage with your GoPro videos, check out one of the motorized three axis gimbal stabilizers. GoPro makes one called the Karma for about $300. But a friend recently got the FeiyuTech G4 for $150 and had nothing but great things to say about it.
Where Should You Mount The Camera?
The on a sprint car the most common place is to mount it is as far back under the top left roll bar as you can get. You can mount the camera upside down if you want and just flip the footage when you edit it. Ideally you want to be able to see out the front of the car and see at least part of the driver working the wheel.
On a non-wing sprint car you can mount it directly behind the driver in the center of the back top roll bar, since you don’t have a wing blocking your view. On late models, modifieds and street stocks, I typically mount it on a bar to the right of the driver, but still far enough behind that you can see the driver and out the front.
There’s no right or wrong place to mount and you should definitely experiment. Consider where you're starting and the track conditions, too. If you're starting up front, you might want to mount the camera out the back to see more of the action. Likewise, if the track is heavy, you might want to mount it facing you to help shield the lens from getting covered in clay.
Lastly, make sure you consider lighting - especially after the sun goes down. If the track is poorly lit, then under the wing (or under the roof) is probably going to give you dark, grainy footage. You'll want to mount it somewhere it can get the most light to the sensor.
What Camera Setting Should You Use?
If you're using the Hero 4 Silver, you’ll want to shoot in 2.7k at 24 frames per second. That will give you the highest resolution, at a frame rate that not only takes up less space than 30 frames per second, but also looks more cinematic and less like a camcorder. I wouldn’t use protune unless you understand white balance, ISO, exposure compensation, etc. Just let the camera do it's thing.
If you're using another camera, set it at the highest resolution 24 frames per second allows. Some cameras claim to shoot at 4k, but only capture 10-15 frames per second, which makes for really jerky footage. You're much better off shooting a lower resolution at 24fps.
What SD Card Should You Use?
GoPros (and most action cameras) use a microSD card, which is similar, but smaller than a standard SD card. If you want to record hot laps, your heat race and the feature, I’d recommend getting at least a 32GB class 10 card. I personally use Sandisk cards and you can get a 32 GB class 10 MicroSD for about $16 on Amazon. These cards do come with a standard SD card adapter which you’ll use when you transfer the footage to your computer. If your computer doesn’t have a standard SD card slot, you need to get a USB adapter.
What Should You Use To Edit and Save You Footage?
GoPro has a free video editor that works fine. Window’s Movie Maker is also great (and free) if you’re on a PC. Likewise, iMovie is a great program if you’re on a Mac. Two things to consider when it comes to editing:
- Cut out the pace laps and caution laps until you’re a few seconds from going green. This will help keep people from skipping past your video when you post it on social media.
- Keep the natural sound of the car and don’t add music. If you’re making a film with interviews and other cuts, music is great, but for a GoPro video just stick with the engine sound throughout.
Where Should I Upload My Footage?
This is the biggest mistake I see drivers make. Most assume that YouTube is the best place to upload their video footage. After all, the video quality is better and YouTube is made for watching videos. And you absolutely should upload your footage to YouTube. But do not share a YouTube link on Facebook. Instead, always upload your video directly to Facebook. This is because Facebook is a competitor to YouTube, so they limit the reach of YouTube videos that people share on Facebook. By uploading directly to Facebook, it will auto-play in viewer’s newsfeeds, helping you get their attention and getting you more views.