GoPro HD

A month and a half after purchasing my big new toy, a Suzuki SV650S, I decided I should get some kind of camera to go with it. Originally wondering if this was a good excuse to purchase a new dSLR w/ video I was instructed that mounting a dSLR to a moving object is better suited to someone with more money than I have, in case the inevitable happens, it falling off at speed and shattering into a million zillion pieces. So I opted to go cheaper and smaller with a GoPro HD.

I’ve been sitting on this post for a while because I’ve been trying to find a way to make an interesting video. One that helps show some of my excitement on the bike while also not displaying any of the illegal things many people might do to try and achieve such excitement. It’s really hard! To get the lean angles that people expect, you have to go “too fast” and to get the sound from the bike you have to mount the camera in a boring location unless you’re willing to use the secure tapes that GoPro provides which so far I’m unwilling. Even just finding music that goes well with the video is hard. Because of these difficulties I’ve only managed to produce a couple example videos. So instead of showing off I’m going to take this opportunity to talk about the quality of the device as well as the video it outputs.

 Ok, I cheated. Drossel isn’t holding it’s full weight.

The GoPro HD itself is a pretty neat device, especially considering it’s size and weight. The device is 42mm x 60mm x 30mm (1.6″ x 2.4″ x 1.2″) and weighs just 167g (5.9oz) with the battery and the polycarbonate housing. This tiny package can do up to 1080p @ 30 fps and 127° view angle and if you drop it down a level or two can do 720p @ 60 fps and 170°. It also has a couple different modes beyond just video, it’ll do photos at 5 MP in four different modes, single shot, timelapse, 3-shot burst and self-timer. Depending on the base kit you choose the mounts and straps will differ. I accidentally ordered the GoPro HD Helmet Hero when I wanted to buy the Motorsports Hero so had to order some extra bits, such as the suction cup and motorsports mounts. However in all kits they include multiple housings, open design for better sound at lower speeds and a closed design for higher speeds as well as for use underwater to depths of 60 m (180 ft). Lastly, the device will output live SD/HD video to a TV via connectors on the side and included cables. Seems like a pretty impressive little device doesn’t it? Especially given the relatively low price point of $260-300.

Not included are the SD/HD cables, forgot them.

So far however, while I do enjoy using it, I have not been very impressed with the quality of the recorded video, it’s very much like that of a “good” cellphone camera. The biggest issue I have with it is something I knew going in and the same issue many people suffer through with cameras based on CMOS sensors. Rolling shutter. Rolling shutter is a side effect caused by flaws inherent in how a CMOS sensor works as it does not capture the entire frame at once. Rather a CMOS sensor scans line by line from the top of the sensor to the bottom. This method of capturing data off the sensor allows for the subject to move within a single frame causing a skewing effect or in some more extreme cases like propellers on a plane some really funky unreal photos and video.

My second issue with the GoPro HD is white balance. It seems incredibly rare that it actually gets it right. When I tried my first timelapse recording, nearly every single shot was different. There was no easy way to fix it in post-production without tweaking each frame individually, and there were 3,252 frames. This meant there was a constant flickering in the video. I did however do my best to adjust on some kind of average between all the frames. On the left you’ll see the unchanged photos straight out of the GoPro HD  and on the right some normalization via Lightroom before producing the video as well as a failed attempt at levelling the horizon. Additionally the video on the right also has a slower frame rate making it about a minute longer in duration. (Note: Let each buffer a bit before playing otherwise they’ll likely stutter.)


Another issue that cropped up on me was night time shooting. I rode out through the country side at around 23:00 with my high beams on and while I could see perfectly the GoPro made it look as though I was driving entirely blind. Even once I hit town again with the street lights all over the place it seemed to barely register them. Turns out part of this was my fault. I always leave the device set to 720p60 in case for whatever reason I feel the need to slow down the video for some slow motion, say perhaps, avoiding a deer that jumps out out of no where (I didn’t have the GoPro then). Leaving the device set to 60 fps works great in the day but at night it doesn’t leave enough time for the sensor to absorb light between frames resulting in what I described previously. Additionally the GoPro has a very tiny sensor and tiny sensors are very poor in low-light situations as their surface area for absorbing light is at a premium and amplifying what little light they receive increases the visible noise.

The addition of the LCD Backpack that GoPro offers has been invaluable for my use. Trying to get the device lined up and level on the bike has been difficult even with the screen, I can’t imagine the trial and error I would have had to go through had I not bought it. So while it’s over priced on their website at $100 I do think some of the value you’re getting is ease of use. Not only are you able to line up your shots more easily, you can visit the cameras menu and very easily adjust settings that I find just plain confusing using the little LCD on the front.

All in all I suppose I’m pretty happy with the little device but if GoPro were to ask me how I would improve the camera I would certainly provide them with a list. From things as small as remembering the date and time when swapping the battery out to bigger things like white balance and longer battery life and biggest of all, a better sensor. But, given a figma can hold the sucker up, I guess it is a pretty small little package for all it can do.



  1. Sweet – everyone seems to be picking up a GoPro lately. I’m tempted to pick one up too – but then again, I really don’t have much to take videos of. I don’t think I’m going to track my car, so there goes one of the cool things the GoPro is good for. Maybe I’ll mount it to my airsoft gun or helmet, but then again I haven’t played airsoft in a while. So yeah, I guess there are many reasons why I haven’t picked one up yet – but I’m still interested. What I like about the TV Connector is that I can hook it up to my head unit and see what I’m recording while I drive.

    Nifty video – but that music came up all of a sudden and scared the crap out of me. >_>’

    • Aka says:

      They’re certainly making money. They’re advertising race teams, their cameras are being used as onboard cameras for professional series, though never the top level pro series. So that’s definitely helping get their name out there. For the money I think they’re pretty good, yes you can buy cheaper cameras that do video but they don’t have any easy way to mount them anywhere.

      I would recommend picking up something similar if you were to do track days and what not. I have seen better solutions out there for about double the money if you were really into it.

      I don’t have such a fancy stereo in my car that it has a TV in, but I could see how that would be both handy and distracting. Though, you could use it as a rear mount camera for parking or something too heh.

      Thanks, it’s the first video I’ve really made, the two time-lapse ones were first but they’re just frames in sequence. I’m not really sure how I feel about it, I can see lots of areas for improvement and whathave you. But given I threw it together in Windows Live Movie Maker it turned out alright. I do find it a bit embarrassing using that though…

      Sorry about the music, I thought I had it fade in nicely.

  2. Heh, that’s pretty cool. Looks like you live on mostly flat terrain like me xD. A video like that on a winding, mountain road would be pretty awesome ^^.

    The video quality of that GoPro gadget doesn’t seem too terrible though a similar setup with a SLR and a good lens would be amazing. Are you sure you don’t want to try that? xD

    Anyway, nice job on the video ^^

    • Aka says:

      Yeah, unfortunately it’s pretty damn flat around here. I have to travel some distance to find more interesting terrain. It really makes recording a video boring as hell haha, you have to speed it up to 16x just to make it interesting.

      If I ever win a large amount of money, or become a rich investor or something, someone who’s rich anyway.. or maybe even a profession! … I’ll mount better video solution to my vehicles.

      Happy you enjoyed the video. I worried it was too full of flat and boring.

  3. Tian says:

    Oooh that looks cool. Looking forward to seeing more of your journeys!

  4. Mr.Cool says:

    Not sure where you live exactly but if you get the chance to go to north carolina and ride deals gap, jump all over it. i went for my first time with rx7club(im in ontario)in my 88 tii and it was amazing. im going back next year and every year i can after.

    • Aka says:

      Definitely on my list, along with others such as the Nordschleife in Germany, Top Gears ride through Vietnam, Top Gears drive to find the best driving road in the world, Mulholland Drive in Los Angeles and the entire west coast of North America, Anchorage Alaska to Tijuana. Among others I can’t think of off the top of my head. Of course, North Carolina and Tennessee are much easier for me to get to than the others. So that’s likely to be the first.

      How’d the ’88 TII hold up through the twisties? I assume you went with a varied group of older/newer RX7s and RX8s?

      • Mr.Cool says:

        it held up fine, considering that i was on tires that were minimum of 6 years old and cracking. i was pushing some good speeds and having a blast. i manged to pull away from a guy on a motared bike, but was at the limit of the tires, going through corners with all 4 sliding towards the side of the cliff.

        next year should be a bit better. and im also starting to save for my 13b peri port turbo build(if that means anything to you lol) im droping around $15k into the car and i want to come out with a streetable gt3 race car pushing minimum of 450whp. should be fun.

        • Aka says:

          Nice, I remember blowing up my old ’99 Subaru 2.5 RS at Cayuga, went to get a Ver7 STI swap and it got lost in shipping… No money lost, but circumstances were a bit strange around that. In the end I just got a standard motor put back in after months of waiting. Eventually bought a Saabaru and just did the Cobb on the Saab thing, stg2.

          I do wonder about the $15k and the streetable bit. Not sure the costs, but I remember the Ver7 STI swap was quoted at $12k or something, but after hearing others at the time it’d work out to considerably more in the end. As for the streetable bit, I’d think changing the dynamics of the motor that substantially would make the car difficult on the road. If I remember correctly, anything from the 80s was <200 hp.

          Regardless, it sounds like a fun challenge, but you'd have more fun on a bike 😉 (and it'd only cost 1/3 of that build)

          • Mr.Cool says:

            lol yes the bikes to come, maybe an rz350? i should have wrote that “streetable” lol, you know what i mean, is a gt3 car ever? $15K should be enough considering i do everything myself.

            on a side note, been going through alot of the site and noticed that your in southern ontario? im in toronto, just thought it was cool that you lived so close.

          • Aka says:

            I used to live in Toronto, moved out a couple years back and miss it. Though, I do not miss the traffic and it certainly wouldn’t have been a fun city to learn to ride a motorcycle in.

            An RZ350? You certainly like the 80s! My brother has an ’88 CBR-250R. It always seemed motorcycle sized until I bought my SV650S and realized just now small his bike really was.