All the way back in 2002, Nick Woodman launched the first GoPro. It was a stills camera that used film and could handle depths of up to 5m. Little did Woodman know this was the start of an action camera monopoly. 17-years later and the word GoPro is used more frequently than “action camera”. With the cost of pro-sumer level DSLRs dropping consistently, and GoPros becoming seemingly more and more expensive (they received considerable backlash over the launch price of the Hero 6), are GoPros still relevant? It’s not secret that in the past few years the company has struggled to make ends meet.
Nick took a surf trip to Australia in 2002 and was frustrated at not being able to afford the type of equipment that lead to cool, close to the action, action sports photos that the pros seemed to get. So with a few $100k in investment money, Nick started GoPro with the intention of allowing amateurs to get pro level photos.
In 2006 the Digital HERO was released, allowing the user to record 10-second video clips. The video capabilities only grew from there, and in 2011 the HD line was launched, putting HD video right in the middle of the action.
By 2012 Foxconn bought 8.88% of GoPro for $200million, making Woodman a billionaire.
Between 2012 and today the company launched HD Hero 3, 3+, 4, 5 and 6, along with the Karma drone, GoPro Fusion and the entry level GoPro Hero. The company went from strength to strength in these years, and really managed to build the company’s brand to a global point.
Most recently the GoPro HD Hero 7 was launched, incorporating hypersmooth stabalisation and live streaming.
By associating with world-class athletes and having an excellent in-store representation, GoPro has successfully cornered the market with its brand. Other brands of action camera are referred to as “GoPro copy” or “GoPro knock-off”.
Their launch videos always induce a certain level of awe and inspiration in the viewer (just check the Hero 7 launch video below), and they continue to be ‘cool’ by sponsoring some of the best action sports athletes in the world such as Travis Rice, Danny MacAskill and Jimmy Chin.
Not only this, but they’ve built a community around the term GoPro. The hashtag on Instagram turns up 39.9million posts, and the company runs regular competitions on their websites, which give creators exposure and prizes.
The Hero 7 launch coincided with something coined “The Million Dollar Challenge” where consumers were asked to submit their GoPro clips for their chance at winning a cut of $1million. Tricks like this get you in the publics good books.
GoPros have all kinds of uses – the amount of films that have been created with them is astounding. Whole documentaries have been shot on GoPro, as well as you usual POV snowboarding videos there are clips of GoPros that have been (ethically, we hope) attached to eagles, vultures, hammerhead sharks and lions.
They have given us close up views of volcanoes, what the world looks like from the inside of a guitar and perhaps most spectacularly, shown us what it’s like to fall from space.
The size and durability of these cameras are their real strength. There’s practically nothing you could (reasonably) do to a GoPro to put it in jeopardy. This in turn allows incredible POV footage of your kids, dogs, fish, drinking habits, or whatever you really please.
They’re best used when their size and durability are exploited. Film and TV offer hundreds of examples of GoPro used outside of the traditional action sport set-ups.
For example, in car shots. these traditionally involve large, expensive and cumbersome set-ups. GoPros have changed this drastically. Just look at James Cordon’s celebrity car share. There are multiple examples of GoPros being used inside and outside of cars for a cheap alternative. The only requirements are your GoPro, a suction cup mount and an external housing (depending on how brave you are).
How about underwater sequences? Probably the most common use of GoPros is as a travel/underwater camera. Including a GoPro in your broadcast work for underwater scenes can come in a number of forms. Usually, a DSLR or video camera with housing will be used, but on smaller productions it may make more financial sense to use a GoPro for underwater sequences. As well as that, it has been known to attach the GoPro to a marine animal in order to get some incredible footage, otherwise impossible in the same resolution and frame rate.
In the early days, DJI drones were perfectly suited for strapping a GoPro to, as the consumer propriety camera tech wasn’t too great. The advantages were obvious – a better image from an incredible angle that usually required a helicopter to get. The disadvantages? Forgetting to turn the GoPro on. Now we have more affordable drones, this is a much rarer set-up, however new uses for the GoPro have been dreamt up, such as strapping them to the backs of eagles, or the outside of planes. The first time you see the eagle footage, you get an inkling of what it might be like to fly…
Being so small, it’s pretty easy to use a GoPro as an undercover cam/body cam. They may not be the smallest cameras in the world, and many brands and models are better suited to this work than them, but they are small, and commonplace enough to go ‘unnoticed’ in most places – especially the smaller models like the GoPro session.
And many more besides. There has been talk of GoPro getting into the live sports broadcasting space, which would be an interesting and exciting development. Imagine watching a goalkeeper’s perspective as he makes the winning save in the penalty shootout of a Champions League final.
The newest, top end GoPros have incredible specs.
The Hero 7 is particularly impressive, with 4k/60fps, 12mp photos, 8x slo-motion and their new hypersmooth mode that sounds like a gimmick but isn’t.
Obviously the downside to GoPros is that they’re fixed lens, and that lens is a superwide angle. You can change this in the settings by cropping the sensor, but it still won’t yield the same gorgeous filmic look of a dedicated video camera or good DSLR.
In case you hadn’t realised by this point in the blog, there are thousands of good GoPro videos on the internet, and trawling through them all is tough. Here are some more of our favourites.
Obviously the future is a little hard to predict. With AR and VR getting better and better, and the storytellers using them becoming more and more skilled, the GoPro Fusion has become an essential tool in the arsenal of 360 video.
Other than that, who can say? Nick Woodman is a notoriously unpredictable CEO, and the company has been through its ups and downs. Whatever happens next, we think you should definitely add a GoPro to your filmmaking arsenal sooner, rather than later. You just never know when you’ll find yourself needing one.