Choose the right image settings.
When you want to record stunning HD video, I always recommend going with 1080P at 30 frames per second. This is the standard. You’ll have a nice, sharp picture that looks good enough to watch on your big screen at home. Higher resolutions, like 4K, will be demanding of your battery life and take up more space on a memory card. Lower resolutions won’t look as good when you play the video on a TV.
Don’t limit your internal storage.
GoPros and VIRBs both use a microSD card. This is the chip that stores all the pictures and videos. There are two main things to look for when you pick a memory card: the size and speed of the card. By size we’re not talking the physical dimensions, it’s the space in gigabytes. The smallest we recommend is a 32GB card. The last thing you want is to run out of memory space when you need the camera most. Personally I use a 64GB card. This will allow you to record about 4 ½ hours of video at 1080P 30. The speed of a card (rated by “class”) details how fast data can be stored. Recording HD video requires a pretty high write speed to ensure a smooth playback, so we always recommend buying a Class 10 card. Don’t go for that cheap Class 2 card at the drug store!
Use a Neutral Density (ND) filter.
If you’re filming with a spinning propeller in your shot then you’ll get a blur effect rolling through the video that can really disrupt the picture out the window. Adding an ND filter fixes this effect like magic. Simply attach the ND lens over the camera’s lens and you’re good to go. The VIRB XE Aviation Bundle comes with this extra lens, the GoPro does not. There are a few different options for the GoPro, prices all around $50.
Record the audio.
Radio transmissions add context to the video and make for an interesting dialogue when watching a flight. You’ll regret not saving this audio. The newly-redesigned cable from NFlightcam records all the radio chatter that goes through your headset, and also allows you to charge your GoPro in flight.
Beware of your battery life.
Having a small camera means that the battery can only be so big. The battery inside a GoPro or VIRB is Lithium-Ion and between 1000-2000 mAh. With GoPros under normal conditions you can expect about 1-2 hours of life out of the battery. The VIRB is very similar. This is actual time recording, not counting standby time, but I recommend turning off Wi-Fi when you’re not using it and only keeping the camera on when you’re recording. It doesn’t sound like a ton of time but most likely you’ll record in 5 minute segments when the action is happening or something worth capturing goes by. If you need more time, consider a backup battery pack.
Pick the right spot.
Think about the final shot when you pick a place to mount the camera. This is arguably the most important tip on the list. Keeping at least some of the aircraft in the shot can help add context to the picture, plus it adds to the subject of the picture. If you have time in flight, consider changing camera locations - mixing up the view from inside the cockpit to outside can make your video much more interesting.
Secure the camera.
These cameras are not an inexpensive purchase so losing one or even dropping yours is a problem I hope you avoid. Both the VIRB and GoPro include sticky mounts to secure the camera. These are semi-permanent so keep that in mind. If a less permanent option is right for you, the suction cup is our most popular choice. For outside the cockpit, we recommend the NFlightcam exterior mount. Patrick Carter, NFlightcam President and CEO, says: “We have manufactured over 4000 mounts and have yet to hear of one failing. I have personally used them on everything from J-3 Cubs to F-15s.
Check and double-check your shot.
The sooner you start thinking like a real photographer the better your videos and pictures will become.
Try out the time-lapse feature.
Most of the time it’s not a good idea to record an entire flight. By using the time-lapse mode on the camera you can compress a 30 minute flight into a short 2-4 minute video. What you’ll have is a flight from start to finish that looks like you’re flying at Mach 1 - it’s actually pretty cool.
Do something with the video!
After the time and money investment you’ve made in a camera, accessories, and framing up a beautiful shot, you owe it to yourself and your friends to put in the time to make a video worth watching. In some cases just watching the raw footage is fine, but with the availability and ease of video editing software there’s really no excuse not to have a 5 minute video of the best parts of your flights. The whole world loves to watch videos like these on YouTube. You can be the pilot who inspires a future aviator or helps prep another on the pattern at a new airport. So the next time that you’re sitting at home just watching the nightly shows, grab your laptop and work on a little video editing. It’ll only take 10 minutes to get something really great put together.
10 tips for using your camera for aviation
Jun 8, 2015
As pilots, we see some of the best views that the planet has to offer. From breath-taking sunrises and sunsets to mountain ranges and valley fog, there are many views worth capturing and sharing. But that’s only the half of it. First solos, passenger first flights and breakfast runs yield great footage too. Action cameras like the GoPro and Garmin VIRB are designed to record moments just like these; but you already knew that. Once you’ve bought a camera, what’s the best way to utilize all the features they have to offer? Here are my top 10 tips on what you should know so you never miss a moment of the action.