For many outdoorsy types, it's all too easy to spend hours watching online videos of adrenaline junkies in their various exploits. This time of year, videos of skiers dropping into Corbet's Couloir and other epic terrain in and around Jackson are especially popular.
If simply watching inspires you to put on your filmmaker hat and make your own viral video, then GoPro expert Andrew Whiteford is just the guy to talk to. Whiteford, who describes himself as a "complete ski dork," spent time racing and freestyle and backcountry skiing before moving to Jackson after college. He and his friends started filming their adventures on the slopes, and when GoPro debuted in 2004, he used the action cams to film and began sharing his videos online.
The junction of the great snow year of 2010-2011 and the explosion of social media helped some of Whiteford's videos go viral, enticing viewers with footage of himself and his buddies ripping through fresh powder stashes and couloirs around Jackson, set to ethereal music. "Sick" and "epic" are among the most popular comments left on his videos.
Now, he's sharing his knowledge at the GoPro Steep & Deep Camp at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, scheduled for January 12-15 this year. Whiteford also shared his top tips for creating epic GoPro ski videos: how to make the most of a day out on the slopes filming, how to snag the best footage, and pro tips on editing. Lights, camera, adventure, action!
1. Get to know the camera.
The first thing Whiteford advises novice GoPro users do is to take some time and learn all about their camera, including the features and settings. “It's a powerful little thing, so you want to leverage that by understanding what settings are appropriate for different situations,” he says.
2. Begin with the end in mind.
In order to figure out how to make the best film possible, Whiteford suggests considering what you'd like to do with the film before you even head out the door to start shooting. “Is this for you to watch on your computer, or will you be sharing it, and with whom?” he says. “With that in mind, you can determine how you will create your masterpiece—utilizing different mounts, slowing or speeding footage up, and generally taking into consideration how much time you want to put into everything. The more complex videos will require more editing time and effort. So, if you don't need that, then don't sweat it. 'Set it and forget it,' I say.”
3. Practice with your gear before heading out.
The time to learn about your settings and figure out how to mount your camera correctly and make key adjustments is before you head out on the slopes. You'll have a much easier time learning from the comfort of your warm home than struggling to take your gloves off and fiddle with the camera in sub-zero temperatures. Whiteford suggests spending time learning about all the pieces of gear you'll be using, including mounts, before even heading outdoors.
“Taking the time to do some practice shots," he says. "Seeing how those look when you play them back will save you time and frustration when you're actually out trying to enjoy your activity."
4. Make sure you're “tight and dialed”.
That's what Whiteford calls being properly prepped: “Do you have everything you need? Batteries charged? Enough memory? Mounts? When I'm skiing, I'm always making sure that the angle of the camera is where I want it, and I'll check it with the GoPro app on my phone,” he says. This is a crucial part of the process, so make sure to take a few minutes and double-check all your gear before heading out.
5. Be prepared for adjustments in the field.
While it's important to make sure everything is just how you'd like it before you set out, sometimes things have a way of changing. Whiteford always keeps a multi-tool handy so that he can adjust his mount if necessary. “A hard impact could inadvertently flop the camera forward or backwards if it's loose,” he explains.
6. Plan with your battery in mind.
Every minute you film is a minute of battery that you use up and a minute of footage you'll have to decide what to do with, whether that's review it or store it on your hard drive. And be sure to turn off your camera when you're not filming.
“I don't take my camera out until I want to begin using it, and I will turn it off between ski runs to conserve the battery life,” says Whiteford. “It's no fun if you get to the top of the mountain on a powder day only to find your battery is almost dead from being on while you wait for first Tram.”
7. Bring plenty of battery power and storage space.
Whiteford suggests bringing at least one extra battery out into the field and being prepared for maximum file storage. “I don't go out without an extra battery or two, and I use the largest Micro SD card that the camera can accept,” he says.
8. Mount it up.
When heading out, Whiteford makes sure he has helmet, chest, and pole mounts, which he keeps handy in his backpack when not using them. ”It's really easy to have these all close at hand in addition to my avalanche gear, snacks, and extra clothing,” he says. On especially cold days, he likes to bring one additional piece of gear: anti-fog inserts. “If the camera is recording for a long time, it can become a little warm and that could create fogging inside the closed case in frigid conditions,” he says.
9. Watch your footage right away.
After an epic day on the mountain, it's tempting to sink into an evening of apres, but Whiteford recommends watching your footage as soon as possible. To organize the footage, he tags his computer files using colors on his Mac. If he sees a great shot he knows he wants to use, he'll “right-click” and tag that one red so he knows it's a good shot. He'll also clear out footage he knows he'll never use. “That time I accidentally recorded the whole lift ride? Deleted,” he says. “This makes it much easier to go back and find your favorite clips.”
Watching footage can also help a skier analyze their technique and the terrain. “When you're in the moment, you're simply reacting,” he says. “When you review the footage, you can slow things down and see exactly how you might improve your next run, whether it's choosing a better line, or simply not crossing your tips. I speak from experience on that one!”
10. Store footage on external hard drives.
When you upload your footage, it can quickly eat through available hard drive space on a laptop or desktop. To make sure he doesn't run out of space, Whiteford keeps a few portable external hard drives on hand where he can keep his files handy. “That keeps my computer running smoothly and I don't have to worry about where to put new footage from every time I come back from a day on the mountain,” he says.
11. Edit like the pros.
GoPro offers free Studio software, which offers how-to tips, that Whiteford recommends as a good place to start with the editing process. “With their online support and tutorials, it's easy to start learning how to craft a video that you can easily share online, whether it's to show family what you're up to around the holidays, or how you just stomped the first triple cork into Corbet's Couloir!”