The GoPro phenomenon is sweeping the world. From surfing and skiing to everyday adventures, GoPro has redefined the photography landscape and if you don’t already own one by now, you’ve surely heard of them. We were fortunate enough to meet one of the key figures in the success of GoPro, Creative Director Brad Schmidt. Boasting one of the coolest jobs in the world, Brad travels the world to create amazing content and to also source content of every day users to share on GoPro’s YouTube channel, which is now at 3.5 million subscribers. Here the pro himself shares his top photography and editing tips as well as some of the most creative GoPro content he’s ever seen.
Meet Brad Schmidt
How long have you been with GoPro? And how did it come about?
I’ve known Nick [founder and CEO of GoPro] since 2001. We met on his original trip through Australia and Indonesia. We travelled together for about two months, testing out prototypes of wrist strap cameras. I kept travelling and he went home to develop it and probably for the next six or seven years I helped him at trade shows or with product development. Then in 2009 he asked me to come work for him full-time in San Francisco and start a YouTube channel. There were probably about 12 of us at the time, now there are about 1500 of us!
What’s your role within the company?
I’m the Creative Director for GoPro media. There are several Creative Directors, but I am the one in charge of all of the video assets that you see. There are probably 100-150 content creators and artists at GoPro.
What is the name of one product you’d recommend?
We have a product called GoPro studio, which is for editing 99.9% of GoPro’s out there. The remaining 1% are using a 360 degree camera, which is six cameras set in a ball and they use an editing software called Kolors. We brought it out in the Spring. Basically, it takes six GoPro videos and puts them together in one spherical clip.
How has social media affected the brand?
I think social media has been an integral part of GoPro’s brand and how it has developed. Instagram, Facebook and other social channels have been huge platform for the community of people who are passionate about GoPro and love creating content they can share. Social media and content have really gone hand-in-hand with GoPro’s growth.
Which is the best social media platform for GoPro?
When it comes to video asset, YouTube has been our best performer over a long period of time. With Facebook and Instagram, views happen over 24 hours, whereas with Youtube you could have a video and it will slowly climb from 2 million to 30 million because it keeps getting viewed. But the engagement level and the amount of instantaneous level of engagement is a lot larger on Instagram. They are different social media platforms for a reason.
What are your top 3 tips on getting the best video using a GoPro?
- The biggest mistake I see is grabbing it and smudging the lens! 90% of the people using Go Pro are putting their hands all over it because it’s small and then all your footage is blurry.
- My top tip is licking your lens, I know it sounds really gross but I always do it. Then I let it dry so when you’re in the water it will repel all those drops. And the reason why? You need to use something that is hydrophobic or hydrophilic and our saliva has hydrophilic properties in it, thus when you put it on the lens of your housing it creates a smooth coat, which actually just disperses the droplets! I haven’t seen anything that works as well as spit. I also use one or two anti fogging wipes to make sure that the the lens doesn’t fog up, especially in water and hot sun.
- I think a large tendency of people tend to point the lens directly to their face. For a normal camera that’s alright, but a Go Pro has a really wide lens so if you do that, when you’re looking back at the footage one half of the footage will be sky and the other will be your waist. When you have a wide lens we call it the belly button rule. If I’m filming you, you’re filming me or I’m filming myself, I don’t point it at myself I actually point the lens at my belly button. What happens when you have a wide lens is, it will capture just over your head and the bottom of your frame will be at your feet. So, if you have it on your Helmut then you need to point it at your feet to show you’re cycling or skiing.
What are your top tips for editing?
- Always film! People forget to add environment and context when editing. What you want to do is make sure you capture it all in the first place. If you’re picking up your kid from school and you want to take them to the beach. The beach is the climax so you want to film the process of getting there. Film picking them up from school, film buckling them in, film getting out of the car and then when you get to the beach film them when they finally get in the water! When it comes to editing, you need all those little pieces to make people connect with the story.
- The other thing for editing is that most people want to shoot a sixteen by nine frame, but we have different resolutions that shoot a four by three aspect ratio. The nice thing about shooting a four by three aspect is that you can crop in the editing process. Maybe I was shooting too high or too low, but I have the power to adjust and change the frame.
- Another tip is to use Slow Motion, which is one thing that GoPro is known for. A lot of time it’s hard to digest what’s going on with orientation. For example, if you’ve got it on Sporte and he’s running around sometimes there can be too much going on and it can be chaotic and kinetic. But if you can shoot in slow motion, you can really digest what you’re watching. You’re going to be able to enjoy it without him shaking all over the place.
What is the most creative use you’ve seen for GoPro?
There is some wild stuff that we’ve seen! I think the coolest part about the camera is that we’ve seen people in the most peculiar places. I’ve seen lions eat them [GoPros], hyenas chew through the camera and I’ve seen Felix Baumgartner jump through space! I don’t know if you remember there was that Chilean mine rescue back in 2010 and we were still an action sports company then. My mum still doesn’t know who Kelly Slater is or Shaun White – she’s not a sports person – but when they were doing the Chilean mine rescue and they were actually putting the GoPro on the rope to see who was there, I remember my mum called me, she was crying and she said, “you’re helping save peoples lives”. This was a really cool moment for me. However, I think recently the coolest thing I’ve seen using a GoPro camera was an astronaut who took the camera and went into a zero gravity chamber. They had this ball of water that was floating and they pushed the camera into the sphere of water. To see the astronaut look just like a giddy child was great! That’s the stuff I really love about my work. I mean you come into work and you see this and you just go “God damn” people are really using us for the coolest things and the creativity is almost unimaginable! It’s something you can only dream of.