The GoPro ‘Personal Production Platform’ for Digital Content Creators

Part #1 – The Hardware Components

At CES 2017, Nick Woodman, CEO of GoPro described his vision of his company as providing the most extensive ‘personal production platform’ on the planet for digital content creators and consumers. I decided to test out his claim and see for myself if the ‘whole is more than the sum of the parts’. I gathered as many of the GoPro components as I could – everything from the Hero 5 Black camera and Grip with the new Extension Cable to the Karma Drone to the Omni Sync 360 VR Rig to cool apps like Quick, Omni Importer through to Kolor. It’s a well thought through product vision and when combined with GoPro’s video sharing platform, Plus, and their new interactive VR web developer toolkit, Forge.js, you suddenly have an incredibly powerful and flexible set of tools to produce and deliver a wide range of video experiences.

In order to put the GoPro ‘personal production platform’ through its paces and see how I could combine the separate components into a fun video piece I went down to my local recreational park where they fly radio controlled aircraft, helicopters and drones and took my Hero 5s, Karma and Omni rigs along for the ride. GoPro has now simplified and expanded its range of products. There are essentially only three cameras, the full-size GoPro Hero5 Black and the smaller 4K GoPro Hero5 Session and simpler Hero Session. They’ve re-introduced the new version of Karma drone alongside the Karma Grip and Grip Extension Cable. And for VR 360 videos they have the tried and tested Omni Rig based around 6 x Hero 4 cameras. Complimenting their hardware they have a range of software tools that make the workflow seamless and painless.

In Part #1 of this article I’ll be covering the different hardware combinations that can be used to get different shots in different situations and in Part #2 we’ll cover the software and workflow for processing and delivering a wide range of digital content for delivery to different audiences and platforms.

Here’s the hardware and software I used for this article:

  • 1 x Karma Drone with Hero 5 Black and ND32 PolarPro Filter
  • 1 x Karma Grip with Hero 5 Black and ND16 PolarPro Filter
  • 1 x Karma Grip Extension Cable
  • 1 x Omni 360 VR Rig with six Hero 4s but no ND filters
  • GoPro Omni Capture and Stitching software with GoPro Kolor
  • GoPro Quick and Plus
  • Adobe Premier Pro with the Mettle VR Plugins
  • Apple Logic Pro X
  • Apple FCP X
  • Vimeo and YouTube
  • GoPro Forge.js JavaScript framework

This is not a detailed review of what’s included in each separate product – there’s plenty of great articles and videos already out there covering the individual pieces – for example, see the excellent review of the Karma Drone and Grip by Jeff Foster:

And my review of the Omni 360 VR rig:

And Jose Antunes’ Hero 5 Black review:

This article and video is more a look at how the separate pieces of the GoPro product jigsaw can be combined into an integrated production and post workflow that delivers stunning results to a wide audience of digital content consumers.

I’m a FAA Certified sUAS pilot (Federal Aviation Administration 14 CFR part 107 small Unmanned Aircraft System aka “drone”) and took my Karma drone, Omni Rig and Hero 5 cameras down to my local park to put them through their paces. The Apollo XI Model Aircraft Field in the Sepulveda Basin in Van Nuys (near Burbank, California) has been home to the San Fernando Valley Flyers RC Club since the 1960s and is a great place to go and fly everything from model RC aircraft to helicopters to drones. Though it’s within 5 miles range of Van Nuys Airport we’re allowed to fly our drones up to 400 feet as long as we keep within the boundaries of the Apollo XI park.

Here’s the finished video I shot combining the Karma drone and Grip with Hero 5 Blacks and the Omni VR rig:

All in all, it was very easy to move between the Hero 5 Blacks, Karma drone and Omni 360 rig. Being able to take the Hero 5 and gimbal out of the Karma and plug it into the Grip and Extension cable and walk around shooting hand held footage was a real benefit in terms of getting both cool looking aerial and ground level walk around footage with a smooth, cinematic flow to it.

In Part #2, ‘The Software and Workflow Components’, I’ll be taking an in depth look at the software and workflow that makes all this happen behind the scenes and evaluating whether ‘the whole is more than the sum of the parts’. One of the key pieces in GoPro’s software strategy is their new Forge.js framework and I’ll be delving into how content creators can leverage it to make interactive web pages full of GoPro movies.

In the meantime, if you have any questions or comments on Part #1, please don’t hesitate to post them below.

Big thanks to the San Fernando Valley Flyers Club for maintaining the facilities at the Apollo XI field – if you live around the Los Angeles area and want a great (and safe) place to fly your drone, it’s definitely worth joining the Club:

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Neil Smith

Neil Smith is CEO of Rift Valley Studios based in Los Angeles, California. Neil is a FAA Certified drone pilot and VR expert with over twenty five years in the IT and filmmaking industries. Neil returned to school in 2000 to catch up on his reading and whilst studying Psychology and Neuroscience at USC (University of Southern California) he also started making HD documentaries on Neuroscience and became fascinated with the technology and workflow of digital content creation. After attending many of the classes run by the USC Cinema School he soon realized that Hollywood was about to go digital and would need IT expertise to complement traditional filmmaking skills. Since 2005, Neil has owned and managed a post-production and systems integration business in LA focusing on providing state-of-the-art digital technology and services to filmmakers and digital content creators. Having already been involved with VR IT projects during the 1980s, it was only natural that his interest should be piqued once the next-gen VR technology driven by Oculus Rift started to bubble up during 2013. Since 2013, Rift Valley Studios has been experimenting with different Drone and VR cameras rigs and workflows in order to optimize the production and post processes involved in shooting, stitching and delivering aerial and 360 VR digital content for industries like Real Estate and Media & Entertainment.

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