With the advent of the many affordable HD helmet camera options on the market (especially the GoPro), the number of point of view (POV) mountain bike videos on the internet has exploded! To be brutally honest, the vast majority of the POV videos uploaded every day aren’t worth the time that it takes to watch them.
There are 2 main reasons for this poor video quality, despite the access to excellent equipment:
1) The camera angle never changes, many shots are shaky, and/or the only perspective used is boring.
2) Poor editing.
In the first half of this two part series, I will analyze a number of popular camera mounting options for mountain biking. Hopefully this will help you add a little extra zest to your next trail video.
Helmet: Top, Facing Forward
Photo Credit: Contour.com
The default camera mounting option for most people seems to be on the top of the helmet, facing forward. This is expected, as these types of point of view cameras are commonly referred to collectively as “helmet cams.”
Unfortunately, this perspective can sometimes be the absolute worst choice for an interesting video. If you are riding solo, this shot tends to create a flag pole-type perspective with nothing in the frame to add depth to the picture. It’s almost impossible to tell how steep the trail actually is or how large the obstacles are as there is nothing else to compare them to. Also, the bike is not in the picture at all, so the viewer has no idea how exactly the rider is handling his bike.
However, if you are filming a chase scene with another rider in front of you, this angle does an excellent job of capturing what the other rider is doing on the trail. This is the only instance when I’d personally recommend this mount.
Helmet: Top, Facing Backward
Again, this angle is really only useful if you are shooting a chase scene. Obviously, it would capture the performance of the rider behind you.
Full Face Helmet: Side Mount, Facing Forward
This is a pretty popular mount with gravity riders wearing full face helmets. The angle inevitably captures part of the helmet in the picture, and that little section of helmet is usually enough to lend a little bit of perspective to the image. Also, you can usually see the bike a little bit in the bottom of the frame, which is especially cool on jump lines.
Here’s an actual video to give you an idea of what this perspective looks like:
Photo Credit: GoPro.com
After the forward helmet mount, this is probably the second most common mounting option… unfortunately. Because of the fact that the camera is mounted directly to the bars, it is constantly being jolted and shaken by the smallest bumps in the trail. When I watch videos shot from this perspective I can rarely make out what is going on, and most of the time my head starts hurting and I turn it off. It’s also impossible to see how the rider is working the bike.
The one thing that a bar mount does well is provide a good view of the trail surface, if it is relatively smooth.
Seat Post: Rear View
Photo Credit: GoPro.com
While at first glance you might think that the camera would suffer a lot of shaking mounted in this position, the truth is that this is actually a very stable mount, especially on a full suspension bike. This is a very unique perspective that I find is a lot of fun to watch. When you are riding a bike, you never get to see the trail disappearing behind your tires. But with your camera mounted like this, you can when you get home to your computer!
Also, the rear wheel provides a focal point for viewers to keep things interesting and to provide a little bit of depth to the picture. I also find it fun to watch how the suspension responds to changes in the terrain.
When I’m riding solo, the chest mount is hands-down my favorite choice! Mounting the camera on your chest avoids the flag pole effect by providing close-up objects in the frame (arms and handlebars) that create perspective.
But the number one reason I enjoy this perspective so much is that the viewer can see exactly what the rider is doing, and how he manipulates the bike. Everything from shifting to braking to steering is visible to the viewer, making for a much more interesting video, especially if there are no other riders present.
One word of caution: make sure that your camera is aimed high enough to catch the trail out in front, because we don’t want to be staring at the top tube of your bike the entire time!
From ground placements for ride-by shots to having a camera spin around your head, your creativity is really the only limit when it comes to creating a unique perspective for your next trail video!
In the next installment, I’ll cover a few tips to help you edit your videos so they don’t end up in the expansive vault of neglected YouTube videos.
Based on the videos that you’ve watched or created, what is your favorite video camera mounting option?