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.

My Summer Starting Activid – Part II (Business Development)

When I started Activid, I had to develop a business plan.  I asked myself, what is my value proposition?  Who is my target customer?  What is my go-to-market strategy?  I made a number of initial assumptions based on gut instinct, and over time, most of them proved to be wrong.

I started Activid because of a personal problem – it took way too long to edit my own GoPro videos.  I figured there were countless other people like me who film lots of GoPro video on their ski or surf trips, but never get around to editing and sharing them.  With that assumption in mind, establishing partnerships with sports equipment rental shops and adventure travel outfitters seemed like a perfect strategy.  (Just picture a group of friends who filmed a weekend ski trip and return their equipment to the local rental shop.  Or a family who took video during their Backroads trip to Hawaii).  In return for promoting Activid, these businesses would gain free marketing (their logo would appear in customers videos) and also receive a portion of each sale.  Not to mention, they’d be adding a service offering that many of their customers would find value in.

Over a three week period, I cold called hundreds of rental shops and dozens of adventure travel companies.  Some expressed interest, but most did not.  I couldn’t understand why they didn’t see value in offering a video editing service to their customers – it seemed like such a logical pairing.  Perhaps the free marketing and commission weren’t big enough pulls, or maybe they worried about the quality of our videos.  Both are valid concerns, and maybe they need to see more traction before committing to a partnership.  Either way, I think this could be an effective go-to-market strategy in the future, but not one that’s available to me right now.

After failing to establish any large partnerships, I refocused my efforts toward direct marketing.  But first, I needed to validate my belief that the GoPro and action sports market was indeed the right market.  To test this, I flew to Colorado for the GoPro Mountain Games, with the goaActivid Handout - Frontl of promoting Activid to thousands of attending GoPro users.  Approaching complete strangers to pitch them my service was a big challenge for me.  I felt like a sleazy sales guy that I myself would try to avoid.  But as each day passed, I gained confidence and got better at making my pitch more efficient, informative, and friendly.  That weekend, I talked to over 400 people and handed out more than 600 promo cards.

Upon returning to Chicago, I eagerly waited for new orders to pour in from all the people I talked to who expressed excitement about Activid.  But to my disappointment, only a handful of people that I spoke with actually submitted video.  I asked myself, “Why did so many people vow to use my service, but so few actually convert?”  A conversation with a fellow GoPro user shed light on this question.  He remarked:

“Most GoPro users record video with a specific goal in mind, such as creating a highlight compilation of their ski trip.  They’ve watched other GoPro videos on YouTube and believe they can edit their video themselves, even though most won’t.  The simple belief that they are capable of such editing reduces their willingness to pay for an outsourced editing service.  In contrast, a mother who films her four-year-old’s birthday party harbors no illusions of editing her own video.  Therefore, her willingness to pay is not reduced by the thought that she can do it herself.”

I had discovered that my primary target market believed they could and would take time to edit a great video themselves, and didn’t want to spend money on someone else do it for them.   This realization forced me to reevaluate who I should target, so I reviewed what types of projects had been submitted to Activid over the past month.  Many came from parents who recorded video during a family trip or event.  Several others came from small business owners (like an African safari company) who wanted a promo video for their website.  Activid solved a real need for these two customer groups, and it was clear that I should redirect my focus towards them.

Launching an early version of Activid allowed me to study which customers used the service, and how they used it.  If I had waited to launch a more robust version, I would likely still be focusing on the GoPro market.  Similarly, reaching out to rental shops and travel outfitters taught me that I first need to focus on direct marketing.  I’m sure that I’ll continue to learn more as new customers come in, but for now, I think I’m on the right track.

Summer GoPro Videos

I recorded a whole bunch of GoPro video last summer, and I finally got around to editing some of it this week.  I had so much fun shooting the video – especially with my friends Tyler and Rob on Cape Cod – but always found excuses to not take some time to edit it.  I still have a bunch more to work on, but I’m glad that I made some progress.

This video is from a weekend I spent with my friends Tyler and Rob on Cape Cod.  They got into GoProing our activities just as much as I did, which made for a really fun trip.

 

I shot this video on a late afternoon when my parents and I went for a ride around Pleasant Bay.  The conditions were perfect, so I decided to strap on a wakeboard.

 

During my trip to Europe in August, I visited Interlaken, one of the extreme sports capitals of the world.  Every direction I looked, people were base jumping, paragliding, mountain biking, or sky diving.  Obviously, I wanted to get in on the action.

Video Editing Company

Whenever I go on vacation with family or friends, I usually shoot video of our trip with a GoPro camera.  I use iMovie to make a short highlights film after the vacation is over that I can then post online and send to my friends.  As I mentioned in an earlier post, I believe that video relates an experience much better than a photo album.  Even though it takes me a solid two days to create a good movie, I enjoy the finished product enough that I am willing to dedicate the time to make it.

However, there’s a reason why most people still choose to take pictures over video.  Watching raw, unedited video is awkward, and the process of editing video to create an entertaining 4-5 minute movie is extremely time consuming.  Most people are unwilling to dedicate the time it takes to parse through hours of footage, find the best clips, sequence those clips into an engaging story, and overlay music that sets the right mood.  As a result, the overwhelming majority of vacations/activities/experiences are still documented with pictures.

A New Market is Emerging

Over the last few years, the demand for action sports video cameras has exploded.  GoPro possesses a near-monopoly on this market and is growing at an extraordinary rate.  In 2011, GoPro’s estimated revenue was ~$250 million; in 2013, they may crack $1 billion.  GoPros are selling like crazy, but for the aforementioned reasons, I would speculate that only a fraction of users actually take the time to edit and upload their video to YouTube.  During a conversation I had with a GoPro employee, he told me that GoPro’s biggest long-term focus is getting video off of users’ cameras and onto the internet.  The more content that makes it’s way to YouTube, the more other people will see viral videos shot with a GoPro and want one for themselves.

Does GoPro eventually want to provide video editing services that eliminate the barrier to creating awesome video content?  Maybe.  They’ve already developed GoPro Studio, an application akin to iMovie that offers pre-loaded template themes that allow users to drop video clips into a prebuilt movie with music, titles, and other visual effects.  It’s clear GoPro understands their users’ pain points, but given the speed at which the company is growing, they may not have enough dedicated resources to tackle this problem now.

A Business Opportunity Awaits

I’d like to create a video editing company that addresses this problem.  I envision a service where people can upload their raw footage to a website, and experienced editors will turn that content into a beautiful short film.  Pricing might depend on the number of hours of raw footage uploaded, as well as the length of the final video.

I searched around the internet for competitors and discovered Videopixie and Viedit, online marketplaces that connect video takers with video editors.  In the case of Videopixie, users upload their raw footage to the site, and Videopixie’s network of freelance editors will edit the video for them.  The upside to this business model is scalability – Videopixie isn’t actually hiring any of its own editors, and instead takes a percentage fee from the transaction.  However, the downside of the business model (and one that outweighs the upside in my opinion) is Videopixie’s lack of quality control over edited videos.  Because Videopixie outsources the editing to freelancers, Videopixie customers may experience varying levels of quality depending on what editor they choose.  In addition, Videopixie is attempting to serve the entire spectrum of video categories, including action videos, music videos, customer interviews, game trailers, and so on.

If I started a video editing outsourcing company, I would do a couple things differently.  First, I would focus solely on action sports videos and other vacation videos shot with a GoPro.  Second, I would hire editors and train them on how to edit this type of footage so that all final videos achieve the same high standard.  By focusing on a particular type of video (action sports), it will be easier to train editors in a specific editing style, which will in turn help them edit videos faster.

I’m really excited about the idea, and I truly believe that there’s a market for this type of service.  I’m a big skier, and five years ago, no one was wearing mountable cameras.  Today, they’re all over the mountain. Five-year-olds, teenagers, dads – they’re all using GoPros.  I think that creating a service that caters to an unmet need in an exploding market is a good move.  My biggest question is – can the business model work?  That’s what I’m going to find out.

(If anyone reading this post has ideas, suggestions, or relevant business experience, please shoot me an e-mail or post a comment.  I’d really like to hear what other people think about the concept.)

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.