Thinking of buying a camera to take away snowboarding? Already got one? Here’s a collection of ideas and tips for those who enjoy recording their snowboarding exploits…
Using the camera on the hill
Camera Size. Some people like to ride with a pack, others don’t mind, and there are some, like myself, who positively don’t like it. Whatever your stance on this is, the size of your video camera is going to effect (a) how often you take it on the hill, (b) how you carry it when you’re using it and (c) how much it hinders your riding when you’re not using it.
A bigger camera has the potential for higher quality images. A smaller camera will compramise on aspects like the lens, how much light it can get in, but in return will be more portable. My current camera has the handy quality of fitting inside my jacket’s goggle pocket. I like that a lot. It’s not perfect, but it means I don’t need a pack.
Camera Shape. Think about the ergonomics of holding the camera. The majority of the time I hold the camera in a “follow cam” position: pointing at the subject with an extended arm rather than holding it up to my eye. The traditional handy-cam shape isn’t particularly suited to this, whereas the newer file-based camcorders seem well suited.
Camera Handle. It might be worth considering a handle for your camera. They’re pretty easy to make and depending on the shape of your camera, it can make it much easier to hold when snowboarding. It may also enable you to wear gloves and still hold the camera safely…
“Follow Cam”. Filming a moving subject, whilst moving yourself. It can give you the shot you want, but be sure to practice first. You’ll need a bit of self-calibration to know where you’re really pointing the camera. When your friend asks “did you get that?” and you’re thinking “yeah I did!” – you don’t want to discover that you were actually filming the sky.
There is always the Lily camera drone which follows you down the slopes!
Get your friends to learn the basics. Two of the worst things: they stopped recording when they thought they were starting, and, they filmed you but the resulting video is terrible. Make sure your mates know the basics of your camera: how to check that it’s recording, how to zoom all the way out if they’re following you and how to turn it on and off.
“Go!” If you’re in a group and everyone is taking a turn, spend a few moments to agree a system of when to “go”. It can be really frustrating if you’re sat around a corner, you can’t see anyone and you’re not sure why they haven’t arrived yet. Walkie talkies can help in this situation, but sometimes they’re a bit of a fiddle.
Wide angle lens. I’d say this is almost a must, especially if you film follow-cam. If you’re moving and the subject is moving, keeping them in frame isn’t always easy. A wide angle lens helps, a lot. Unless you’re really into high-quality video, you should find a budget wide angle lens to be more than enough…
Helmet Cam? You may have no interest in a helmet cam, but if you do, don’t forget the option of attaching a remote lens. A video in input on your camcorder could give you the option to connect a “bullet-cam”. Keep the camcorder in your pack and attach a remote lens somewhere in line with your line of sight (or point of view). It can remove the need to buy a separate, self-contained helmet cam.
If you’re thinking of a self-contained helmet cam, be weary of cheap helmet attachments. I tried a helmet cam from the ATC range, the 2000, and although my first impressions of the camera were reasonable, in actual use it was dire. Although I haven’t tried one, I believe the more expensive VholdR cameras to be better. Sometimes you get what you pay for…
Consider also a multi-purpose action camera – something like the GoPro Hero 4 – that’s small, can be used with a helmet attachment, or simply used as an ultra-portable on-hill camera. It even films in 4K.
Recording format. When it comes to the choice between miniDV, hard disk and solid state, I like the latter. With solid state memory getting bigger and cheaper, it’s a good option for snowboarding: it’s a compact option, it’s quick to transfer files and the recording won’t “skip” or “jump” during use. MiniDV is still a great format for flexibility and high-quality. Don’t re-use your tapes – it’s not worth missing valuable tricks because the tape messed up.