By Brady Betzel
When my editor asked if I was available to fly from Los Angeles to San Francisco for a very special GoPro event, I think I might have pulled a muscle in my lip when I answered yes so quickly and so emphatically. Until I got to the Pier 35 venue, I had no idea what to expect, because the news was under NDA. I was awash with curiosity.
The camera company announced its GoPro Developer Program, which means, for the first time companies now have access to a development kit allowing them access to the intricacies of the GoPro design, hardware, and software to create much more custom accessories and apps than before.
Before I jump into the Developer Program, let’s back up a bit. A few years ago, GoPro changed the landscape of filming with the introduction of the Hero camera system, cutely referred to as a “capture module.” It was the smallest and most powerful camera that could produce the highest quality image for a very reasonable price. The camera could be put in waterproof housing, mounted in a car, or even mounted on your pet. A remarkable product that could even capture 4K video.
While the camera is generally beloved, there have been challenges when the footage gets to post. While the image is incredible for the form factor, the H.264 it creates is not the best for editing applications. It created headaches in Avid Media Composer with duplicate timecode and, sometimes,odd functionality when using an offline/online (or proxy/high res) workflow. So how do you get around that? You transcode everything that comes off of your camera through an app like EditReady, Adobe Media Encoder or maybe Apple Compressor, which can give you a much easier file to work with but also re-stripe the file with timecode that is more stable for your NLE.
GoPro Developer Program
With the introduction of the GoPro Developer Program some of the pain in post might go away. This means a much tighter integration into your life with companies being allowed access to a “Works with GoPro” developer kit.
For me, this means that my one-year-year-old’s Fisher-Price toys may now come with integrated mounting options in the actual toy. For post, it means companies can now use GoPro’s rear connection Hero Bus to connect external products like Timecode Systems SyncBac Pro, a timecode syncing solution between separate GoPro cameras. And for anyone dealing with multi-cam groups of GoPro footage, this will hopefully change your grouping life. Can you imagine it?! Grouping your GoPro footage by timecode and not a clap that echoes or nothing but a visual sync indicator! I experienced it firsthand at this SF event. You can either use the separate RF Timecode product they sell, along with an app to become your virtual switcher and timecode dispensary, or you can make one of your SyncBack Pro’s the “master” that controls all other GoPro’s. It’s really a welcome addition for media professionals.
Works With GoPro
What I also learned today was that companies that are being certified as “Works With GoPro” are baking in information to the GoPro’s QuickTime file. For instance, there are companies like Trace and Xensr Air that make some of the most amazing extreme sports and GoPro accessories. Xensr Air is a 3D Sports Visualizer that works in conjunction with the GoPro, while filming to bake in metadata like jump height, distance traveled in air and much more. Trace is a company that seems to have found the perfect amalgamation between extreme sports, social media and media manipulation. Trace records info like the number of waves that go by when surfing, turn angle, air height and more. It can then use that info when you use the PC or Mac Trace app to auto edit and auto color your video. So essentially it finds the “exciting” parts and edits them together. I saw it work, and it was actually great. The best part is that it overlays the info onto your video, i.e. if you went 10 mph on a wave, it will display it like a HUD.
What this really shows me is that the info is there now. Inside the metadata for these accessory-connected videos is a treasure trove of data. If gone through and datamined, you could, in theory, use this info to drive your graphics in apps like Adobe After Effects. Do you work on a television show that uses GoPro cameras to record car racing? You could troll through that info and use it to power infographics that are frame and data accurate. Now that is exciting!
Some other innovations are the BMW and Volkswagen integrations, but what I found most exciting are Block Risers’ and Go Puck’s offerings. These are smaller companies that have adapted GoPro’s ideology to their own work and integrated it through the GoPro Developer Program. Block Risers are a simple, yet amazingly brilliant, solution to filming with a skateboard and a GoPro. When you skateboard, typically you will put a riser between the deck and the trucks. What the team at Block Risers has done is used that to their advantage, so not only do you get the utility of a skateboard riser, but you also get a spot to either stash some stuff (literally called the “Betty Box” [Awesome!]) or use the GoPro mount. It mounts the GoPro under the board and in front of the trucks so that you get an unobstructed view as well as not having the GoPro in your way on top of the board. The innovation is awesome, and I love it.
Go Puck is a Qualcomm Quick Charge battery pack. They allege that it can run for a long time without charging when used as a power source for your GoPro. What is really innovative is the mounting ability they are creating. Before GoPro introduced the Developer Program, they had to have additional mounting hardware to get their power source to mount. Now they are integrating the GoPro Finger Joint mounts into their mounts for ease of use.
Looking to the Future
In the future, I hope to see an innovative and reasonably priced drone, a redesign of the Hero (maybe with a better internal mic?), possibly a more efficient and higher quality recording codec (H.265?), and, with the newly announced GoPro Developer Program, some amazing ways to control your GoPro through smartphone apps, devices and mounts.
At first I was a little skeptical when thinking about this new developer program. I kind of thought that this was GoPro’s way of squeaking out a little more money from companies trying to qualify their product for GoPro with the actual “Works with GoPro” label… and maybe it is. However, it really might be the new frontier for GoPro’s dominance in the “tiny camera that fits anywhere” market.
I love GoPro cameras and mounts, and without them I would never be able to film my kids in the water or running in the mud.
Brady Betzel is an online editor at Margarita Mix in Hollywood, working on Life Below Zero and Cutthroat Kitchen. You can email Brady at firstname.lastname@example.org, and follow him on Twitter @allbetzroff. Brady was recently nominated for an Emmy for his work on Disney’s Unforgettable Christmas Celebration.