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NAB 2015: Choosing the Right Camera for POV Shots

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During NAB this week Douglas Spotted Eagle gave a very interesting talk on POV (Point of View) in broadcast. He also gave some very great tips on the equipment and techniques to use in order to capture the best POV possible. POV is not something that is really new in the film industry, but it definitely has seen a spike in its use. With smaller and more versatile cameras like the GoPro, it has made POV possible for productions of all sizes. POV gives the viewer a new perspective in the film and allows them to see through the actor’s eyes. You may have seen a POV view utilized in The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, when the dwarfs bolted down the raging river in barrels. This POV was a short cut, but allowed the viewers to see the action at a much closer and personal level. Douglas went on to talk about some of the different cameras available that are great for shooting POV and some of the features you need to look for in a POV camera. “We’re going to start with the HD mini cams, and some of the things that make them really great. First off, they’re low cost and they’re practically invisible. They allow us to have unique angles, like cameras above stoves and inside of ovens.” Douglas continued, “They’re disposable, in other words, if you need to throw one inside of a blender, who cares. As long as that SD card is okay when it comes out, no one cares.” He talked about Ice Road Truckers as an example of taking advantage of these “disposables” cameras. They set up a camera right under the tire of a truck. Needless to say, the camera was destroyed, but the POV shot was perfect, and the SD card was still functional. “You also have more angles for a lot less dollars. Humans have A.D.D. and the more times we can flip through different angles and give people more things to look at the more they like our programming,” Douglas went on to explain how edit times have changed over the years, “Back in the 1960s the Andy Griffith Show set the world on fire because they would never have scenes longer than three and a half minutes. Today the average edit time over the course of a piece of broadcast is about eleven seconds.” Douglas also mentioned during the filming of many of the Fast and Furious films nearly every scene utilized a POV camera. Of course, only about two minutes of POV were utilized in the movie but it allowed the filmmakers to always have the option to utilize a POV shot when it made sense. Cameras There are a lot of camera options out there for shooting POV but Douglas stated that if you’re working in a professional environment there’s only three types of cameras that will be worth your time, Sony, GoPro and Replay XD. “Yes, there are a lot of cameras out there, but in terms of having anything you can do much with we’re going to focus on just three.” Douglas talked about a few cameras that had a lot of promise for POV but ended up falling short during his testing, “I got really excited when Garmin came to the table their VIRB. We’ve got a company that has some money behind them, this has got to be a great camera. It’s also the heaviest POV camera that exists, but unfortunately Garmin missed the boat, the only thing they did right was they built it bullet proof, and built it with a one button operation. Outside of that it’s the most absurd camera you ever saw. It can measure your heart rate, it can measure your pacing, but for only the roughly twenty one minutes the battery lasts.” Douglas continued, “There are just so many little things you don’t think about with these cameras until you really start working with them.” During the talk Douglas outlined some of the most important things you need in a POV camera.
  • Lens elements
  • Sensor
  • Codec
  • Durability
  • Profile (No one wants to see a camera)
  • Storage
  • Resolution
  • Bitrate/Color sample 4:2:0 vs. 4:2:
  • Psf vs. Interlaced
  • Stabilization
  • Battery life/power options
  • Timelapse
  • Low light capability
  • Control ability/remote
  • Monitoring/video out
  • Audio
  • Mounts
Douglas went into further detail on the resolution for the different cameras, “There’s three cameras in the POV space right now that can do 4K. You have the GoPro Hero 4, Sony has their X1000 that does 4K and then Replay XD has got a 4K camera as well. Do you need 4K? You may or you may not, it just depends.” In order to determine what resolution you’ll need you should know where your content will be going. Douglas gave an example of a Bud Weiser commercial he worked on, which was a mix of GoPro, Sony and Red footage. That commercial was aimed only for the web, and 720p would have sufficed just fine. Many of the GoPro cameras he used on the production were shot using 720p. So it really comes down to where the footage is going to be. One thing to keep in mind is that all three of the cameras mentioned are all optimal at 1080p, meaning the processor inside the camera is optimized for working at 1080p 30 frames per second. Sony and GoPro also do really well at 1080p 60fps Douglas mentioned, which is the format he shoots at 95% of the time. “4K and 2K is viable in brightly lit environments and it is usable for recompositing shots in post. What I mean is that if we want we can shoot in 4K and since these cameras all have very wide lenses and we can recompose the shot in post without losing any resolution,” Douglas continued, “So if you shoot at 4K you can shrink down 75% of the image, in other words zoom in, and still have full resolution at 1080p. That alone is a very strong reason for shooting in 4K when you can.” Shooting POV is vital for many productions whether you’re shooting for TV, Film or Web. If you’re looking for the right camera to choose check out Douglas’ in-depth article where he puts many of the popular cameras to the test and outlines the best and worst of each.