Point of view cameras

Adding new angles to your story

To the top of an evergreen to a look inside an eagle nest. On purpose. To the bottom of a river for a roll on the rocks. On accident. Surprisingly, my waterproof, point-of-view camera always comes back to me and keeps recording shots I couldn’t collect just five years ago.
I won’t tell you which POV camera to buy, but I will tell you what to do with it once you have one. Use it. Use it often. I take my POV camera on every shoot. It may not always come out of my pack, but it is there when the opportunity presents itself. Anyone can stick a camera anywhere these days. The trick is knowing when to use it in the field and how to use it in the edit bay.
IN THE FIELD I shoot for video and print when I’m in the field. That means I’m already looking for shots that are appropriate for video and shots that are appropriate for print. Now I’m also looking for shots that are appropriate for POV. My POV camera does not replace my primary camera. POV is a secondary camera, but important nonetheless.
I ruined my first POV shoot with my own ignorance. I really didn’t believe how wide the shot was until I saw my backside. I kept shooting with my primary camera in the river while an angler wearing my secondary camera fished the river. I’m in every shot from the camera on the angler’s head. Sometimes in unflattering ways as I wallow in the water to get what I need. I thought I was creating a great sequence between both cameras when all I did was ruin the footage on one camera because I’m in every shot. POV cameras record wide so nothing is left out of the shot. That includes you, if you are shooting too close. Stay out of your own way.
Wide is good, but comes with a drawback. A wide-angle POV lens lacks variety. There’s no zooming in. You only get a close-up shot if you move the whole camera closer. You can be right on a fish fin and still have some breathing room. Don’t be afraid to move in to make that wide shot not so wide and create a little variety in your POV angles.
Also understand that putting a POV camera on someone else makes them your unofficial second cameraman. That cameraman usually doesn’t know how to shoot. Letting people wear your POV camera means you have to give up control over how your shot is framed. Be prepared to sort through a lot of bad shots to find a few keepers. You also have to be prepared for damage. I’ve never tried to collect on damage from someone I asked to wear my camera. That’s just part of the risk when capturing POV.
IN THE EDIT BAY Heading to the edit bay after shooting POV is like unwrapping a white elephant gift. You never know if there is something usable inside. If there is, it’s a fantastic surprise.
Look for steady shots with some longevity before movement sets in. Don’t expect it to be tripod-steady, but avoid uncomfortable rattles. Also look for variety. A good editor can see variety right away. That’s where moving the camera in the field pays off.
A good example of no variety is a video I received from a biologist. It was shot with a waterproof camera mounted on a boat while shocking fish for a population count. Great stuff. For about 30 seconds. After that, it’s frustrating to watch because the angle is always the same. Wide. He asked when I was going to hire him. I said, “As soon as you show me a close-up of a fish.”
Remember, POV cameras are secondary. You still have footage from your primary camera to look at. Go through footage from both cameras and build a sequence of shots that combine both. Now you’re working with footage from a two-camera shoot. The result is a well-edited piece with a variety of angles, including POV.
If shot well and used right, rare point-of- view footage ends up being worth more than the camera it is shot on. Case in point: my devastating dump in the Green River. The POV camera slipped right out of my hands as I hung over the side of a drift boat. It had three days of underwater footage on it. That’s all I could think about as I watched the camera sink. I’m still using that camera today. See the overboard rescue mission at www.owaa.org/ou. ◊
A member since 2009, Kris Millgate is CEO of Tight Line Media. She produces multimedia content for television, newspapers, magazines, Web and big screen. Millgate has 15 years of reporting and producing experience. Contact her at kris@tightlinemedia.com.

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