Going-Pro — Getting Immersive with Black Lives Matter with GoPro

Published On July 25, 2016 | By Mike Carroll | GoPro, KCRA-TV, Shooting News

(NOTE: This is not a political story, and is not about being pro or con on any political/social issue.
The only “pro” in this posting is “professional” and is about covering these types of events in a new & interesting visual way using the GoPro camera.)

I can’t imagine that any working professional journalist/photojournalist in the United States today has not been assigned to cover a Black Lives Matter march, parade, protest, rally or some other such event. This has, sadly due to the motivations behind the Black Lives Matter movement, become a part of the current American fabric.

As a TV news cameraman and frequent reporter-photographer for over three decades I have cover lots and lots of various protests, marches, demonstrations in that time. And, not to say anything critical, for or against any of these — Black Lives Matter, anti-war, anti-Bush, anti Clinton, anti-Trump, anti-abortion, anti-Wall Street, just to lest off a few — they all essentially follow the same format:

–People holding or carrying signs/banners that have been handmade/painted or been printed
–People standing or marching, one or a few people in the lead with a megaphone calling out a chant/phrase that the other people play off of or repeat
–Some people more demonstrative/emotional/giving the appearance of acting for the camera*

[*Yes, “acting” for want of a better word — and again, I am not criticizing, but as a professional observer, while the rhetoric of the moment is certainly sincere and passionate — it does have the appearance of being dialed up a notch when there is a camera or an audience/passersby/drivers by/spectator around. And this is true of all protests/demonstrations.]

Sacramento Black Lives Matter rally 3

In many ways these events take on a semblance to political street theatre or performance art. And this is all fine. This is how they work. Individuals uniting to express themselves on an issue.

Note: Again, if you participate in these events, do not take offense. Not taking sides. Just making a professional observation.

But for the working photojournalist who films/photographs this sort of thing frequently, whatever the subject matter/cause is, the coverage/photography eventually winds up looking the same.

So the professional challenge becomes:
–How can I photograph this in a new way?
–How can I film a type of thing that I’ve filmed a hundred or hundreds of times before in a way that it is visually interesting?
–Interesting both for myself who is photographing and for the folks at home who are watching on their TVs/iPhones/iPads/computers?

Sacramento Black Lives Matter rally 5

Enter: GoPro

The GoPro Hero 3+ when set to its widest lens/field-of-view mode** is incredibly dynamic and allows the user to get right in close to the subject being filmed.

[**The GoPro has a fixed lens, but in the menu you can set digitally how wide you want the angle to be from:
Narrow–approximately the 35mm equivalent of a 35mm lens
Medium–approximately the 35mm equivalent of a 24mm lens
Wide–approximately the 35mm equivalent of a 17mm lens]

I love getting in close to a subject and still having a wide vista happening behind and around a person.

Sacramento Black Lives Matter rally 2

This is very much in keeping in what we have seen in the cinematography of Emmanuel Lubezki, the 3-time Oscar-winning cinematographer of The Revenant and The Tree of Life.

I am constantly amazed by what this little $299 camera can do!

The GoPro’s automatic exposure seems to be able to adjust not just for the exposure of the light in a scene, but also within the scene is making adjustments to darken the sky and lighten the shadow area and adjust for contrast—all within the same shot–and AUTOMATICALLY!!!!!

I have an external microphone that I paid $45 dollars on eBay for, and this mic gets the cleanest audio—on AUTOMATIC!!!!–that I have ever gotten out of a camera!! Including my $50,000+ Sony HD XDCAM.

People can be shouting as loud as they want—and the GoPro can handle it! My ears don’t handle loud sounds so well—but the GoPro does!

Sacramento Black Lives Matter rally 4

Keep it Moving

As you know, I like to use what I call, an Active Camera — meaning that I like the camera to be moving, be it handheld and a walking Point-of-View, or using the zoom lens.

To me this is closer to Cinema Verité and the freedom that documentary cameramen enjoyed when cameras became lighter and portable audio recording equipment came onto the scene in the early 1960s, and which is so brilliantly familiar in the TV news coverage of the Vietnam War.

Using the GoPro as the Primary Camera

Most news cameramen use the GoPro as a secondary or gimmicky camera. I think it has vastly more capability than that.

As often as possible, once I have the necessary news footage that I need, I will sling my big Sony HD XDCAM over my shoulder and begin filming with the GoPro.

I use the GoPro as the primary go-to camera.

It is also small and so less obtrusive. People seem much more relaxed and themselves than when I have a massive–yes, it’s 2016 and we’re still shooting with behemoth cameras!!!!–news camera on my shoulder.

Note: On My Shoulder — As seldom as possible do I use the tripod. I love tripod shots, but I like to be able to move and respond and get involved with the camera at an event—to take the viewer at home to the scene through the eye/lens of my camera–as much as possible.

Aside from being able to get in close to cover the activity of whatever I am filming, it looks to me almost as a personal Journalist’s Eye perspective of putting the viewer there.

Much has been made about 3D and all-around or surround-vision for a new way of seeing, but I truly believe all those are fly-by-night fleeting gimmicks.

2D perspective is simpler to watch. And a good wide-angle involving perspective will tell the most and the simplest and the best.

I will be writing more about this in the coming weeks and months.

And to the amazing people at GoPro–are you reading any of this?


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About The Author

Mike Carroll joined the digital revolution in 1999 with a Sony TRV900 camcorder and Final Cut Pro, when it was only Final Cut Pro and not version 2, 4 or a Suite.

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