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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 bebrutallyhonest, 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 commonlyreferredto 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 FaceHelmet: 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:

Handle Bars

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.

Chest Mount

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!

Get Creative

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!

Coming Up

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?

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# Comments

  • trek7k

    Great article. I totally agree that many of the MTB videos out there aren’t worth watching – frankly the standard helmet mount perspective is getting boring.

    One “creative” mounting set-up I’ve experimented with is the steering tube facing backward mount. It’s good for watching your rear shock (if you have one) but otherwise you just see your legs pumping up and down (useful for riders in training?). Oh well, I’ll keep trying…

    My biggest problem seems to be shaky videos no matter where I mount the camera (though mine doesn’t work with a chest mount which may be the answer). I’ve seen a little improvement when I’m on a FS bike but on my hardtail the video shake is brutal.

    While POV cameras are lightweight and don’t get in the way of the ride (just hit record and go!) they really won’t ever produce anything close to the pro movies you see these days. Sure, those movies typically splice in a little helmet cam footage but they’re mostly shooting from fixed camera positions or even using booms and zip lines. And with fixed cameras the riders have to session the cool parts of the trail dozens of times to get different shots and perspectives.

    With that in mind I think multiple POV cameras on the same ride could make a cool video using some creative editing. Speaking of editing, looking forward to Part 2!

  • BikerPanda

    i really only want a camera so I can record my buddies falling. 😀

    I also want one so my g/f can watch clips of the places I ride so she can decide whether or not any specific trail is out of her skill level.

  • maddslacker

    My ContourHD is having issues and if I can’t get it fixed I may purchase a GoPro specifically for the chest mount.

    I used to mount mine to the headtube, but my new fork has a remote and the cable is in the way. This last weekend I helmet mounted and then followed my friends on the trail in order to capture some actual riding, not just trail…
    http://contour.com/stories/buffalo-creek-5212011

    One of the coolest videos I have ever seen was with the camera mounted on the downtube, looking through a dual crown downhill fork. Unfortunately the website is now gone, and even though I have a copy, I’m not sure if I can upload it due to copyright issues…

  • eastwood

    Love the chest mount angle (I first witnessed this in Goo’s videos – not yet ready to let the name go!!). I’ve got a Drift Innovation HD170 Stealth on the way, so unfortunately I won’t be able to shoot my videos that way… I’ll just have to get creative!

  • mtbgreg1

    On the topic that trek7k brought up, if you are going to get serious about creating mountain biking videos, you definitely have to make the move to a real camera with a 3rd person perspective. POV cams just don’t really cut it. But for those of us just out to have some fun, we can still make videos that are worth watching.

    @bikerpanda, Crashes make the best videos!

    @maddslacker, chest mount is definitely a big plus!

    @eastwood, I’ll still answer to Goo 😉

  • muttonmark

    I bought a GoPro Hd Hero this past winter, and I have to say that yes, the helmet view can get pretty boring. So I have tried lots of different views. Heck, I would have to say that with the crummy wet weather we have been having this spring in Michigan, the trails have been super soggy and not in the best shape, therefore the rides haven’t been that exciting. But the experimenting that I have done with my GoPro makes me want to get out and ride, anyway.

    Some of the mounts that I have used has been the Chest Mount, which is a good forward shot, but this too can get boring after a while. Some of my favorites so far have been on my down tube, looking forward just over my fork stanchions. It is steady, and it gives you my front tire in the frame for context, plus I can flip the camera around and shoot it in the air to see what I am doing while riding.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tPy4tvfb4d8

    Another new favorite is actually putting the gopro right on my fork itself. Thus far, this maybe the most stable mount I have, as the bike movement is absorbed within the tube and not the tube itself.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WEi3ID26VKY
    (This last video also has the rear seatpost view edited in, which I admit, I may have tried to edit a little too much with the different views. But hey, I’m not in hollywood, and even experimenting with the editing is half the fun)

    The strangest view that I have done thus far, is the seatpost/forward view. It gives a pretty good shot over my stem, and you can see exactly what the rider is doing during the duration. My friends aren’t real keen on the angle, as they said they were afraid of seeing “brain” if you know what I mean.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hc2u6HA7UMY

    Overall, these cameras can be tons of fun. I plan on mounting it on my boat, kayak, Ski’s, etc. Now I just need to find a good quality HD video editing software.

  • hazard

    I think some people miss the point a bit – POV cams are for just that – they’re not intended to capture high quality footage for use in major motion pictures 😉

    That said, the GoPro HD can produce amazing quality footage – I wold admit that straight out of the camera, the GoPro is a bit soft and pale on the color, but if run through a decent editor its good enough for tv commercials. I’m sure the HD versions of Contour and other brands can do just as well.

    My favorite angle for a solo ride is the chest mount – but I think if you’re doing to try to produce an interesting clip of your ride, it’s best to change it up and get multiple points of view – on angle for up to 3 minutes or more gets boring, imo.

    Cool article, look forward to the second installment!

  • trailsnet

    Thanks for the great information. I’v tried two different handlebar mounts and both broke while I was riding extremely mild (rail) trails.
    Since I ride trails all day long, a helmet-mounted camera would be kind of hard on my neck, so I’m still looking for a sturdy handle-bar mount.

  • RidingPastor

    Great article! I really like the perspective of chest mount camera. I also like the rear facing perspective to watch the rear suspension work. It would be awesome to have two cameras one chest mounted and one rear mounted and put the footage together.

    Can you edit the footage in iMovie on a Mac?

    I just don’t think that I ride enough cool stuff to warrant a camera.

  • FunkyJ

    Very helpful article. Thanks! Im gunna get me a chest mount! BTW – Gnarly ride!

    Cheers from Australia

    FJ

  • mtbgreg1

    @maddslacker, that’s a sweet video! I love how the wheel just stops when he’s in midair and you just think dang, that’s a lot of air! PS I think I’ve got that same fork.

    @muttonmark, those are some cool shots, although I think I’m with your friends on the last one!

    @hazard, well said! They ARE just for playing around and having fun with, but I do think that most people out there need to put a little more time into their vids to actually make them worth watching… even if they’re just for fun.

    @trailsnet, like I mentioned above, I’m not really a big fan of the handlebar mount. I think it is very shaky, and doesn’t offer a very good perspective.

    @Ridingpastor, having multiple cams would be awesome! But I don’t have the $$ for that… And yes, one of my friends edits them in iMovie.

    @FunkyJ, no problem, I’m glad to be of service! You’ll dig the chest mount. Be sure to post some videos up on the forums of some of your Australian singletrack, I’d love to see it!

  • MTBbasher

    Greg, have you seen the newest issue of Mountain Bike Action? Seems you’re one step ahead of them. Nice write up.

  • mtbgreg1

    No, I haven’t… I’m not much of an MBA guy.

    Is it on this same topic?

    Oh, and thanks! 🙂

  • 49637

    Hey guys, hi from Germany. I am filming with the GoPro since last season and have to say that the quality of the vids is the best. I like the seat post perspective filming to the front (seeing the fork work) and the chest mount perspective most. And a friend riding behind me filming me. Then cut it all together. Nice blog, great articels and niiiice filming. Fump!! See ya!

  • uni_geezer

    I like to use a variety of gopro mounting positions. For this video, using mtb buddy Charlie’s bike, we attached my gopro to his handlebars, traight forward, then used the 90 degree adapter for side view, then seat post rear view. Got some very good tracking shots showing the entire rider and surrounding terrain.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HVvc10Tp0W8

  • sburkey

    I found this thread while trying to see if anyone else was tired of POV videos from helmet cams. I’m going out tomorrow to shoot some video but we’re (my daughter and I) only going to do it where the camera is set up beside the trail to catch us coming down the track and going over jumps and around curves. It takes a long time but the result is a cooler video than helmet/chest cams. But…..I have to say I laughed out loud at Maddslacker because he sounds just like me grunting and whoopin it up all the way downhill. .

  • Craig_Vilas

    I had a hard time finding a mounting system that would fit my MTB video needs from a POV perspective. The closest thing I have found that’s lightweight but durable is the VuVantage POV backpack system. You can check out their webpage and youtube videos to better understand their set up, best thing is its forgiving when hitting branches, doesn’t break the mount or the camera.

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