Why Does My Riding Look Lame on GoPro?

This right here, is called a wearable gimbal. It runs on batteries, holds a GoPro, and gets mounted to a chest strap. It makes your footage look really smooth. Before wearable gimbals became affordable, YouTube channels like BK-XC, Singletrack Sampler, and Nate Hills were not really possible. Watching unstabilized GoPro footage is cool for a few seconds, but starts to make you dizzy after a while. I should know, as I’ll look through hours of it to get the clips I need for my videos. Sometimes I need to take a break, or take a Tylenol.


In any case, I think action cameras in general give you a skewed sense of the actual terrain. Gimbal footage, while smooth and pleasant to watch, can further hide some of the features that are clearly visible in real life. The three channels I mentioned do a great job of showcasing the terrain with action cameras—probably better than anyone else out there. Still, I assure you that those trails look way bigger and scarier in real life.

To give you an idea of what these guys are actually riding, I put together some comparison clips. Here’s a clip shot on my Hero5 Session with onboard stabilization. Here’s that same section shot with a Hero4 Black on a wearable gimbal. And here’s that section on my Panasonic G7. It looks somewhat similar on all cameras, since it’s on smooth and flowy terrain. Here’s another similar clip shot on the Session. And on the gimbal. Finally, on the G7. You can get a better sense of the terrain in the third person clip.

Let’s try something more technical. Here, I’m riding down some rocks with the gimbal on. Let’s see that again. How big do you think that rock was? Let’s see it once more with the Hero Session. Although shaky, we can see those rocks a little better now without the gimbal. But, I bet you didn’t think they were as tall as me. Shot 3rd person, we can see they’re a little bigger.

Here’s a step down off wooden platform, shot with the gimbal. How big would you say it is? Let’s try with the Hero Session. Okay, now we’re starting to see not only the drop, but the gap between the wooden platform and the landing. Now shot from different perspective it starts to look way different. As you can see, the GoPro footage doesn’t even come close to revealing the size of this drop.

Some stuff will look about the same when viewed from either a first person or third person angle. Flowy terrain in particular doesn’t change dramatically. It’s when things get bumpy that you really lose a sense of what you’re looking at. Here’s a little patch of rocks filmed with the gimbal. Here’s the same patch with just a GoPro. And third person. Very doable by most mountain bikers, but still it looks like nothing when shot from the chest mount.

Let’s take a look at something different. Here’s a little jump section with wooden lips. I actually think the GoPro does a decent job in this case, of showing what they look like. On the camera though, you can see the nose bonk at the beginning, and the true steepness of the lips. On the GoPro you can barely see the nose bonk, and the lips look really mellow. This would also be the case for steep climbs, which probably look mellow on a GoPro.

Even the stuff shot on my G7 looks bigger in real life, because of lost depth perception, but the shallow depth of field brings a little of it back. By that, I mean that the focus is sharper in one part of the image than another. GoPro cameras by design, are made to bring the whole image into focus because they’re supposed to capture the entire scene. This, along with the wide angle lens, tends to flatten out the terrain.

So why would a camera designed to capture action be made like this? Why don’t they design GoPros to pick up the relief in the terrain? Well, let’s see what that would look like. Here, I’m riding on a very smooth trail with a high end Sony Camcorder. It has a floating lens for stabilization, plus a skilled cameraman holding it. How would you like to watch that all day? Yeah, a narrow field of view doesn’t work so well for first person footage. It would be like looking through binoculars on a jetski. So action cameras are not perfect but they are the best tools we have for the job. Having seen this video, I’d suggest you go back to the channels I mentioned and watch those videos with a fresh perspective. I’ll leave some links in the description for their channels, as well as all my gear in case you’re interested. Also, I’d like to thank my subscriber, Charlie Seymour for getting me a discount on this Hero5 Session. I left a link to his Instagram below.

Credit: Seth’s Bike Hacks
Hero5 Session: http://amzn.to/2hSJ7o3
My Gimbal: http://amzn.to/2iG8OKB


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