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Yesterday I had a free day (rare on Sundays) so I went to shoot the round 3 of the NCAA Women Soccer Denver University @ Stanford. Stanford won (Denver squeaked by Maryland on Friday afternoon - 3-1 in overtime after being down 0-2 - and was clearly overmatched by Stanford - I'll post pictures of the game in a different post).
On my way out I grabbed my GoPro figuring our that since it was a day game I'd give it a try as a remote camera behind the goal. Since GoPro just released their Android App for remote viewing and I have the WiFi Backpack + Remote that would be a good way to see how it performed
The short story: the Android app is great for setting up the camera but useless after that. The quality of the pictures is ok (better than I expected) BUT there is a significant delay between when you press the remote and when the camera fires up. So I didn't get any good shots, but I am still posting a sample below for people to get an idea.
The setup:I am using a Hero 2 with the WiFi backpack and remote. I put the camera in the waterproof housing (which turned out to be a very good idea - more on that later). The camera is then mounted on a cheap ball head which is screwed to a triangular piece of 1/4" plywood (see pictures below).
I set the camera on an outside corner of the goals on the side where I would not get the sun in the field of view. The camera lens was right at the netting. When the officials did their pre-game inspection of the goals then didn't find anything to say against the camera setup.
I used my phone (Galaxy Note) and the GoPro App and as a remote viewfinder to adjust the camera so that I would see most of the goal through the netting and have no netting in front of the lens. That worked great.
I set the camera in multiple shots mode (it takes 10 shots in 1 second) and switched the remote mode to the hand-held remote. I haven't done extensive testing on the range of the remote, but it worked from the goal to the side line (you can see on the screen of the remote whether you are still in range of the camera).
Then I held the remote in one hand, finger on the shutter switch and press when there was a shot on goal.
- This is one sturdy setup... I started setting up while the Stanford team was warming up with shots on goal and the camera took a direct full force hit. The whole thing when flying 6' back, the plywood broke in half and the ball head was torn off the plywood. I just picked it up, remounted ball head at a different location on the plywood and set it up again - didn't miss a beat! Had that been my traditional remote setup (Nikon D700 + 17-35mm + PW+ II), I would have been a few thousand dollars in the hole... (but on the other hand I would not have set it up that close either).
- Because it is so sturdy and so small, it is possible to mount it much closer to the netting and the wide angle gives a perfect coverage of inside the goal. No more netting in the way of the action. And the officials don't seem to mind (I've seen similar setups at MLS games hanging from booms shooting from the top end corner of the nets).
- The depth of field is perfect for that application.
- Daytime image quality is sufficient for most application (web, newspaper and even some magazine publishing).
- One GoPro remote can control multiple camera (up to 20 I think), so conceivably one could have multiple GoPro remotes to increase angle of coverage,etc.
- The biggest problem I encountered was the remote delay. I am used to the PocketWizard where the is no delay (well, milli-seconds) and with the GoPro it's closer to 1/3 to 1/2 second. Since I didn't know that and I could not check the pictures at 1/2 time, I missed all the peak action. The solution is obviously to try to anticipate the action, but you get only one shot (see below).
- Once you press the shutter and the camera fires up a series of shot (again, 1 press on the shutter = 10 photos over 1 seconds) it takes the camera 10 to 15 seconds to flush its buffer to the SD card and the camera is locked up during that time. Which makes it all the more critical to get it right the first time. This is again unlike the setup with a DSLR and a PW where you have more flexibility.
- Since there are no control on the GoPro over shutter speed / aperture / ISO it's probably not even worth trying this during a night game or even indoors.
- The remote has two switches on it: power and shutter. Unfortunately both are next to each other and there are no tactile difference between the two, so powering off the remote instead of taking pictures is a real possibility.
- Battery life might be a problem... I don't remember if everything was fully charged when I started yesterday but the camera, WiFi backup and the remote all ran out of juice somewhere in the middle of the second half.
- The phone app is great to setup the camera: you can view / modify the camera parameters and use it as a remote viewfinder. You could use it to activate the shutter, but that's probably not realistic in this case. But the app and the remote cannot be used at the same time. You can switch the camera from the App controlled mode to the remote mode from the App but to switch back you need to do this on the camera. Also, I didn't see any way to view the photos that are stored on the camera from the App.
- Operating a remote is a distraction... This is not specific to the GoPro setup, but running a remote while taking pictures is a distraction and I personally find it difficult to operate both efficiently. There are two solutions to this: get someone else to operate the remote for you (I typically get my daughter to do this) or couple the remote with your main bodies (only possible with the PocketWizard setup). At my last MLS game I saw someone who had wired up a remote using a PW hooked up to a foot pedal (see photo below). That might be a solution.
What's next:I am going to keep playing with this in different setups. For the remote delay, before the GoPro WiFi remote was available I had hard wire the camera to use with a PW (took the camera apart and soldered two wires the the shutter switch on the camera board). I might try this next time, maybe with a foot remote.
PocketWizard foot pedal control