GoPro Should Create a Video Editing Marketplace

If you record video of a vacation or experience, it needs to be edited before it can be shared. Otherwise, your video will be boring and no one will want to watch it.

There are two ways to convert raw video into a shareable format: 1) edit it yourself, or 2) get someone to edit it for you. There are plenty of software tools to help you with the first option, including iMovie, GoPro Studio, Final Cut Pro, and Adobe Premier Pro. But many people find these programs difficult to use, or simply don’t have the time to edit video. As a result, DIY editing software is not a realistic option for a large portion of the population.

Which brings us to Option 2. Talented freelance editors exist all around the world, and if they were easily accessible, people would be willing to pay for their service. I’ve spent the past year building Activid in an effort to bring these two groups together. Activid gives customers access to high quality and affordable video editing, and gives freelancers access to more consistent and higher paid projects.

Now let’s think about a video editing marketplace in the context of GoPro. One of GoPro’s biggest brand marketing objectives is to getting more people to share their videos online. To encourage sharing, the company has invested heavily in GoPro Studio, it’s DIY editing software. But many GoPro users have neither the time nor the skills to do their own editing, which means a good chunk of GoPro video never sees the light of day.

The Punchline

This is why GoPro should create a branded online marketplace that connects GoPro users with talented freelance editors. I’ve always felt that GoPro should explore this, and have written about the idea before. Unlike Activid, GoPro already has a loyal following of users who would be thrilled to offload their video to a GoPro-certified editor.

Imagine the following scenario. You just took a bunch of GoPro video on your weekend ski trip. At the end of the trip, your video is automatically uploaded via Wifi to your GoPro cloud storage account. Using your phone, you create a new project called “My Awesome Ski Trip” on the GoPro Marketplace app. You select the weekend’s best videos, choose a 2-day turnaround, and hit “Complete”. An editor then downloads your footage, edits it, and sends you back a polished-looking video two days later. Pretty slick, right?

This could be a lucrative stream of revenue if GoPro decided to monetize it. The company could take a percentage of each edited video, or charge customers and editors a monthly subscription fee to join the platform. Or, they could choose not to charge anything and simply benefit from more people sharing GoPro video online. Either way, creating a video editing marketplace seems like a no-brainer for GoPro. I hope they start exploring this idea, if they haven’t done so already.

If you’re a GoPro fan, check out my HERO4 Black review.

GoPro HERO4 Black Review

HERO4 Black

INTRODUCTION

Anyone who knows me knows that I’m a devoted GoPro user. I’ve been filming with GoPro cameras ever since the HD HERO Original was released in 2010. During that time, I’ve seen how each successive model has improved upon the one before it. Their latest model, the HERO4 Black, is a truly professional grade camera that produces stunning quality video. Yet, while the HERO4 is a big step up from the HERO3+, it still leaves many features to be desired.

Here is my newest video, shot mostly with the HERO4 Black during the Chicago Booth ski trip to Vail, Colorado.

After a week of using the HERO4 Black, here is my summary of its biggest improvements over the HERO3+, as well as my wish list of features for the HERO4+/5.

IMPROVEMENTS

4K video recording at 30fps.

4K
This is the obvious one. The HERO4’s new image processor now lets users record 4K video at a usable frame rate of 30fps, versus 15fps with the HERO3+. This is an impressive addition, and when used in the right way, it can produce amazingly high quality video. But for several reasons, I tended not to shoot in 4K, and it’s worth explaining these reasons to understand why 4K might not always be the best option.

1.  4K-30 doesn’t allow for slow motion playback. I like editing a lot of my ski footage in slow mo. Since 30fps is currently the highest frame rate offered in 4K mode, and slowing down 30fps video produces choppy playback, recording in 4K simply wasn’t an option for me.

2.  Shooting in 4K drains the battery quicker. This is because the processor works harder to process more information being captured by the image sensor. The HERO4’s battery life is already dismal, and since I only had one spare battery on me, conserving battery was a high priority. Cold weather conditions also decrease battery life, so being on a ski mountain didn’t help either.

3.  4K video requires more compression. The HERO4 has a maximum bitrate of 60Mb/s. Bitrate measures the amount of video data that can be collected from the image sensor, processed/compressed by the image processor, and stored to the memory card each second. To illustrate the importance of this, I’ll give an example. Say I record a video in 1080-30 with ProTune on. Then I record the same exact video in 4K-30. For both videos, the camera will process data at its maximum bitrate of 60Mb/s. However, for the 4K video, it needs to process four times as much data because the image is four times as large! To achieve this, the camera uses compression techniques to reduce the amount of information it needs to process, which results in some image quality loss. When there’s not much motion occurring in the video, image quality loss isn’t too noticeable. Still scenes, slow pans, tilts, stable tracking shots, and time lapses are great examples of when 4K really shines. However, during high motion activities like skiing, compression blocking can be a problem.

Outside of these performance-related issues, there are a couple other considerations to keep in mind when filming in 4K.

4.  4K video generates larger file sizes. In order to capture and store higher quality 4K video, the HERO4 Black processes information at a higher bitrate of 60Mb/s. This higher bitrate translates into larger file sizes. To give an example, the size of a one minute GoPro video captured in 1080-30 (ProTune off) at 30Mb/s is 225MB (30Mb/s ÷ 8Mb/MB x 60 seconds), whereas the same one minute video captured in 4K-30 is 450MB. That means 4K video takes up 2x as much space on your micro SD card than 1080p video, effectively cutting your recording time in half. It also takes up more space on your hard drive once you transfer your files to your computer. The decreased recording time wasn’t a huge issue for me, since I was transferring all of my videos to my laptop at the end of the day. But for people filming in more remote areas who can’t offload their files, this should be something to keep in mind.

5.  4K video requires much more processing power to playback and edit on a computer. When I tried watching 4K video on my old MacBook Pro, playback was extremely choppy. Editing it wasn’t even an option. So, I upgraded to a new iMac 5K and 6TB external RAID hard drive in order to more easily work with 4K footage. This was an expensive purchase, proving that the HERO4 Black is really meant for professional users.

6.  4K video is difficult to stream online, and not many people have 4K monitors. Today, very few people have an internet connection fast enough to stream 4K content. To fit through current bandwidth pipes, a 4K signal is often compressed to the point where it can actually look worse than a good 1080p signal. Additionally, very few people own devices that are capable of displaying 4K content. So even if you’re watching a 4K video, you likely aren’t getting any better picture quality. As bandwidth and compression algorithms improve, and as 4K devices become cheaper, these problems will slowly start to disappear.

New battery compartment design.

Battery door
The HERO4 battery compartment is built into the bottom of the camera and features an attached quick release door that makes battery swapping much easier. I frequently need to replace batteries, and often dropped the battery compartment door of my HERO3+ during a swap-out, so this redesign was a welcome improvement. The one (small) downside is that you now have to take the camera completely out of its housing in order to access the battery compartment. During activities like skiing, removing the camera can expose the inside of the housing to snowflakes, which adds moisture and can fog up the case when you close it back up.

Easier to replace housing backdoor.

Backdoor
With the HERO3+, I felt like I was about to break the housing every time I forced the backdoor on and off. Replacing the backdoor was very difficult, and I watched many others struggle with it as well. On the housing that came with my HERO4 Black camera, I find backdoor replacement to be much easier. Maybe I’m just getting better at it, but I really think GoPro tweaked the design.

Improved menu navigation.

Menu navigation 1
The HERO4 features a new menu that’s more intuitive to navigate compared with that of the HERO3+. Settings are now linked to what mode the camera is currently in, which cuts down on the number of button clicks needed to find the setting you want to change. Because there are now so many video and photo capture options, this was likely a necessary modification. One additional improvement could be adding a physical “Back” button to the camera. I hate when I accidentally pass by the option I want to change and need to scroll all the way through the menu to reach it again. I do this all the time, and it frustrates me. A back button (or scroll wheel?) would solve this problem.

Addition of manual control settings.

ProTune
The addition of manual control settings in ProTune further proves that the HERO4 Black targets professional users. I am by no means a professional videographer, but I’ve loved learning how to manually control the camera by using ProTune. Altering things like ISO and white balance was not possible with the HERO3+, and understanding how these settings affect the image has helped make me a better filmmaker. For example, I now always set ISO at 400 to reduce image noise in low light settings. (400 should really be the default, not 6400.) It would be fun to play with shutter speed if GoPro added this setting to ProTune, but I’m not dying for it.

WISH LIST FOR THE HERO4+/5

If I were a Product Manager at GoPro, here are a few changes I would suggest for the next version. Some might not be feasible due to constraints I’m unaware of, but none of them seem too far-fetched.

Backlit screen.
The GoPro screen is hard to read indoors or in low light. This has been a constant issue across all generations of GoPro cameras. Teaching my dad how to navigate the new HERO4 menu was especially difficult since he could only read it if the screen was right in front of his face (thus preventing me from seeing anything). I’m not entirely sure how a backlit screen would affect battery life, but I think it’s worth exploring. Especially if GoPro wants people to use their camera in low light settings (which, judging from their press and new launch video, it seems like they are).

Menu back button.
As I mentioned earlier, adding a physical “Back” button (or scroll wheel) to the camera would vastly improve menu navigation. I frequently scroll past the option I want to change because I’m rushing through the menu list (my friend is about to hit that sweet jump!), forcing me to scroll all the way through to reach it again. A simple way to go backwards would make my life a lot easier.

2.7K 4:3 – 48/60 video capture.
When I ski, I like shooting in the 4:3 aspect ratio to increase my chances of capturing the best shot. (The 4:3 ratio records 180 extra pixels on the top and bottom of the image, effectively capturing more of the frame.) As I mentioned earlier, I also like to film at a high frame rate (anything above 30fps) so that I can edit my videos in slow motion. 1440 (the 4:3 version of 1080p) is currently the highest 4:3 resolution setting of the HERO4 Black that can record at a frame rate above 30fps.

Now that YouTube supports 2K and 4K streaming playback, I’d love to edit videos in this higher resolution. In addition to achieving higher image quality, shooting in 2.7K allows me to crop the image on a 1080p editing timeline without losing any quality. This can be really helpful when adding image stabilization to shaky footage (will GoPro ever add electronic image stabilization in-camera?). For these reasons, I had hoped the HERO4 Black would include a higher frame rate mode for 2.7K 4:3.

GoPro recently announced plans to release a firmware update to the HERO4 Black and Silver that includes a higher frame rate for 2.7K. Hopefully they will provide a similar update for 2.7 4:3 in the near future!

Higher quality video download via the GoPro app.

GoPro app 1
I’m always frustrated when I take an awesome video, but can’t share it real time in a high quality format on my iPhone. The GoPro app only gives me an option to download videos in a low resolution format, which look grainy when I post them to Facebook or Instagram. I understand that file sizes coming out of the HERO4 can be huge, especially when filming in 4K or with ProTune on. But there could be an option to select a 15 second clip within a file (similar to what Instagram does), in order to limit the file transfer size.

To test the feasibility of this, I ran a couple quick calculations:

– A 15 second video filmed in 1080-60 (ProTune Off) resulted in a file size of ~56MB. The GoPro app transfers data from the camera to the iPhone via Wi-Fi at ~0.5MB/second.
– Therefore, a 15 second video transfer would take 1 minute and 52 seconds if kept at its original resolution.

That’s a bit lengthy, but if it means sharing an epic powder run in full HD resolution, then I’m all for it.

Slow motion and music options in the GoPro app.
As an addition to the 15-second HD clip feature above, it would be nice if the GoPro App had a simple slow motion option that automatically converted high frame rate videos to 24 or 30fps. Not only that, GoPro could include a music bank of 15-second audio clips that users could automatically set their videos to. If all of these features were available in-app, I would prefer this on-the-go method of editing and sharing to editing video on my laptop 95% of the time. After all, GoPro wants people to share their content with others, so why not make it easier for them?

Camera orientation auto-detect feature*
*Even though GoPro will enable this feature as part of their February firmware update, I thought I’d include it since it’s been on my list for quite some time.

Currently, if you want to record with the camera upside-down, you need to select a setting that flips the orientation to record right-side up. The setting is buried in the menu, and since I frequently switch between filming right-side up and upside-down, navigating to it every time is pretty annoying. I always felt that adding a camera orientation detection feature that auto-adjusts orientation would solve this problem. Big props to GoPro for adding this feature!

SUMMARY

The HERO4 Black is an extraordinarily powerful camera that has transformed the way I record my life’s most exciting moments. It allows me to share my experiences with others in a way that photos or video captured with another device simply cannot replicate. But, as with any consumer product, there is always room for improvement. Should GoPro choose to implement any of the features I suggested in my Wish List, their next camera will surely blow this one away.

In a future post, I’ll discuss some of the improvements GoPro could make to its accessories, packaging, and website, as well as propose some adjacent product lines GoPro should consider getting into.

Drone Diaries

A few weeks ago, I bought a DJI Phantom 2 Drone on Amazon.  I’ve wanted one for quite awhile, but I kept questioning my own judgment for contemplating such a ridiculous purchase.  After a few test flights, though, I can say with certainty that buying a drone is probably the best decision I’ve made since coming to business school.

To be clear, this thing is way more than a toy.  It’s primarily used by videographers who want to shoot aerial footage at a much lower cost than other options (like hiring a helicopter).  The Phantom 2 flies up to one kilometer high at speeds north of 25mph, and responds to commands instantaneously.  The controls take a little getting used to, but if you ever played N64 Goldeneye as a kid, it won’t take long at all.

First Flight

On the Tuesday night my Amazon package arrived, I felt like a kid on Christmas morning.  I placed the box on our kitchen counter, grabbed a knife from one of the drawers, and slowly began cutting through the tape.  After unpacking and assembling the different pieces, I decided that I couldn’t wait until morning to try it out.  My roommates watched as I placed the drone on our kitchen floor, both hands clenching the remote control in anticipation of first flight.  I powered up the battery, turned on controller, and shielded my eyes from the tornado of dust swirling around the propellers.  After a few seconds, I slowly pushed the left joystick forward, and the drone began to rise into the air.

My excitement was short-lived.  Within six seconds, I lost control of the drone and it  immediately crashed into the wall.  Should’ve seen that one coming.

Second Flight

Before taking the drone out for a second flight, I did some Googling to educate myself on any applicable laws.  Turns out there are several.  First, airspace above 400 feet is regulated by the FAA, so that’s the upper limit for amateur drone fliers.  In addition, operating a drone for commercial use is currently prohibited in the U.S. until the FAA figures out how to regulate them.  Which is why the FAA goes around busting awesome guys who deliver beer with drones.

It’s unfortunate that the FAA chooses to impede innovation in this nascent industry by not keeping up with technology.  The FAA is not expected to provide regulatory guidance of any kind until September 2015, at the earliest.  There are literally hundreds of commercial drone applications just waiting to be explored by large companies and entrepreneurs alike.  Beyond professional photography and Hollywood movie-making, drones have a myriad of uses: infrastructure inspections, crop monitoring and optimization, search and rescue, oil spill monitoring, police and emergency services, sporting events, package delivery, taco delivery…the list goes on.  Hopefully, commercial drone laws will be enacted soon, so that people can start exploring and commercializing some of these exciting uses.

Here’s a video of my second flight in Millennium Park.

Final Flight

Last weekend, I brought my drone to Lake Tahoe to film my friends and I skiing at Squaw Valley.  I captured some pretty awesome footage, and complete strangers started following me around the mountain to watch the aerial performance we were putting on.  On the way back home, we stopped by Lake Tahoe, and I pulled out the Phantom for a quick flight over the shoreline.  It was a beautiful day – sunny, no wind, and a crystal clear lake.

Midway through the flight, my drone stopped responding to remote control commands.  It began descending at a rapid pace, and despite my RC instructions to elevate, it crashed into the shallow water, breaking the gimbal and camera.  The drone bounced back up off some rocks, but the impact must have caused internal damage.  It began wandering aimlessly through the air without any ability to be controlled.  Eventually, my precious drone drifted into a tall pine tree about 40 feet up and plummeted to the ground.  The GoPro camera ripped off, and parts of the drone blades were scattered around the crash site.

I had a feeling this day would come, I just didn’t think it would come so soon.  There are still so many things I want to film with my Phantom.  And I was just starting to get good at flying it, too.  Oh well, I try not to dwell on the past.  Maybe I can fix it, or maybe I’ll just stick to ground activities for a bit.

I won’t be deterred for long, though.  Soon enough, my drone will rule the skies of Chicago once again.

Activity Tracker Survey

A couple of weeks ago, I asked my Facebook friends to complete an online survey about wearable activity trackers.  174 people filled out the survey – far more than I was expecting.  To everyone who did, thank you!  You can see a summary of the survey results in the SlideShare presentation below:

The results are clearly biased towards people of a similar age, education and socioeconomic background as myself, but I still think the answers reveal some interesting patterns.  To start, I’ve listed a few statistics, some more obvious than others.  They aren’t particularly actionable, but I found them interesting nonetheless.

    • Males are 2.5 times more likely than females to buy a tracker because they like using the latest tech gadgets
    • Females are 28% more likely than males to track their diet and exercise habits
    • Males are 2.3 times more likely than females to share their weight (duh)
    • Females are 59% more likely than males to wear an activity tracker
    • Of people who wear activity trackers, females are 17% more likely than males to consider design and style important
    • Jawbone UP Band owners are 53% more likely vs. other activity tracker owners to consider the design/style of their tracker very or extremely important

If I were a Product Manager at Jawbone, one area of the survey that I would study is the relationship between how often people exercise and what features they find most useful in an activity tracker.  For example, of survey respondents who don’t own an activity tracker, those who exercise a moderate amount (3-4 days/week) would find tracking their diet, exercise, weight, sleep patterns, and calorie burn 28% more useful than those who exercise a lot or a little.

I interpret this to mean that people who don’t exercise often have fewer metrics to track, and are therefore less interested in tracking them.  At the same time, very active people are comparatively uninterested in tracking metrics, perhaps because they are more aware of their habits and don’t need a written log.  This finding coincides with actual purchasing behavior – of the three different exercise clusters (0-2, 3-4, and 5-7 days/week), those who exercise 3-4 days/week displayed the highest percentage of activity tracker ownership.

Of people who don’t own a tracker, here’s how likely each cluster is to eventually purchase one:

    • 0-2 days/week (“infrequents”): 62%
    • 3-4 days/week (“moderates”): 61%
    • 5-7 days/week (“avids”): 39%

Infrequents and avids don’t find as much benefit to tracking health metrics, but of non-owners, infrequents are 59% more likely than avids to eventually purchase a tracker.  Said another way, infrequents have the lowest current penetration rate, but the highest potential adoption rate.  If Jawbone promoted an alternative feature of the UP Band that appealed more to this segment, perhaps they would be more inclined to adopt.

One option is to target infrequents by promoting UP Band’s social network features.  Many people consider UP Band’s mobile app and social network features to be the best of any wearable tracker, yet only 23% of owner respondents claimed much benefit from their friends wearing the same tracker.  (This might indicate that wearable device makers aren’t educating consumers enough on the social element of trackers before they make the purchase.)  However, going one layer deeper, infrequents are 43% more likely than moderates or avids to consider the social element important.  It seems that even though respondents as a whole care little about social features, those who do care tend to be infrequents.

Therefore, a Jawbone marketing campaign that highlights the fun of following friends’ daily activities and offering encouragement through in-app messaging could drive UP Band sales within the under-penetrated infrequents segment.  To gain conviction around this hypothesis, I would want to conduct a follow-up survey that asks non-owners, “If your friends owned a particular tracker and you could friend them through the device’s mobile app, would you be inclined to buy the same one?”

Jawbone could narrow its marketing campaign even further by targeting female infrequents.  Of people who don’t own a tracker, females are 74% more likely than males to monitor their physical activity with a smartphone app.  This means that more females are already using some form of technology to monitor their activity, and are therefore more open to wearing a tracker.  It makes sense, then, that of non-owners, females are 31% more likely than males to eventually purchase an activity tracker.

Just how big is the total U.S. market opportunity of this segment?  There are 112 million Americans who are 18-44 years old, Jawbone’s likely target age demographic.  Half of this population is female, which cuts the group to 56 million.  Going further, 28% of all respondents reported exercise frequency of 0-2 days/week.  A recent survey by watch retailer Timex yielded similar results, reporting that 33% of respondents exercise less than two days/week.  (My survey results are likely skewed lower due to a younger sample respondent bias.)  Multiplying 56 million by 30% yields ~17 million American females aged 18-44 who exercise 0-2 days/week.  At an average selling price of $150, the total market opportunity is roughly $2.5 billion.

Which is to say, “infrequent females” represent a large and under-penetrated segment of the population, and Jawbone would be well served by tailoring its future marketing campaigns towards this consumer group.

GoPro Makes My Vacations Better

Anybody that knows me knows that I love GoPro.  For those of you that aren’t familiar with GoPro, it’s an HD action sports video camera that can be mounted to almost anything.  I love the camera because it gives me the ability to tell a story about a vacation or an experience in a way I can’t achieve by showing pictures.  In general, video as a medium allows people to let their friends and family re-live an experience from a first-person perspective, rather than from a third-person perspective one usually gets when looking at a photo album.

Within video, GoPro solved the problem of capturing action-oriented experiences.  Before GoPro, it was difficult to carry and use your standard video camera while doing things like skiing or kayaking.  GoPro’s mounted approach allows users to attach the camera to the body or another device, allowing them to film hands-free.

I’ve been using my GoPro for some time now, and I’ve discovered that it’s use has created an unintended but beneficial side effect.  Adding a GoPro to the mix encourages my friends and I to perform for the camera, which usually makes whatever activity we are doing more enjoyable.  Whether we decide to jump off a higher cliff or try a new ski trick, it always seems that we rise to the occasion when the camera is on.  That makes the GoPro even more fun to use, because not only are we capturing awesome footage, but our experience is also better because of it.

As much as I’m impressed by GoPro’s product, I am even more impressed by their marketing.  Any time I walk into an electronics or outdoor sports store, there is a prominent GoPro display showcasing amazing HD biking or skiing video (we usually call it “ski porn”) along with various camera models and accessories for sale.  In most cases, the display is separated from the other electronics the store carries.  At Lake Tahoe (where I skied most of last winter), GoPro hosted mountain parties, sponsored skydivers with GoPro parachutes, and even lit up the entire side of a mountain one night with the GoPro logo.  Their marketing has been so successful that most people have probably never even heard of competing products, like the Contour.  I would love to meet GoPro’s Head of Marketing one day to find out how his/her team accomplished all this.