Rope A Dope 2 has wrapped production in Oakland, CA at the Victory Warehouse. It was a grueling 6-day shoot for everyone. Three 10-12 hour long days were dedicated to fight scenes, one day being a complete reshoot, a training montage had to be completely reshot due to a continuity error, and our Red Epic was forcibly taken from us at gunpoint in Oakland. It was a war, but war is for fighters. The rest teach theory.

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Photo by co-director Pete Lee. Dennis and I just finished multiple takes of a jack-sweep with a front tiger fall. Once Pete and producer Clayton Barber yelled “It’s a wrap!” our bodies gave out and we buckled over in pain, Dennis with a busted hamstring, me with sudden muscle cramps in both legs and my stomach.

Will post screencaps and all kinds of updates as I edit this beast.

I bought my GoPro Hero3 Black Edition from Best Buy along with chest and head straps for the sole purpose of doing first-person action scenes. The FPS movie (“found footage”) genre is one of my favorites, and I think it’s criminally underused, especially in the action cross-genre, so my hopes have been to create solid action content for the FPS and found footage fans out there with our special brand. With it we shot a Star Wars fan video that went viral, a videogame-like weapon fight in the vein of Super Spy, and a Redneck’s guide to fighting a zombie without a weapon. As an action filmmaker who’s used the GoPro for almost two months non-stop, here’s what I’ve got to share.

GoPro-HERO3-Black-Edition

Design
The GoPro is dainty and can fit in your pocket along with the head strap and some extra batteries, so in terms of picking it up and going it’s a hell of a piece of equipment. The on-board buttons are tough to push, and pushing them might move your GoPro from whatever position it’s in. Often we found it easier for someone other than the wearer to push the buttons. The remote control, included with the Black version, solves this problem, though you’ll then have to deal with the Wi-Fi issue (below). As with any equipment that prides itself on being compact and easy to pick up and shoot, the side effect is that it’s a pain to change batteries and eject the memory card. Small and compact, but a pain to swap out accessories.

Video
The Hero3 Black has a wide range of resolutions and frame rates, from standard definition widescreen at 240 frames per second, to 4k @ 12fps. My favorite resolutions have been the SD 240fps for doing super slomo, 1440×1920 24fps for HD (giving you 360 pixels of vertical buffer) and 2.7k cine just to show off. 4K caps at 12fps, so from an action perspective it’s pointless using this resolution. Hero3 Silver does SD @ 120fps, so if you want the best in terms of slomo, get the Black, though the amount of noise in the slomo mucks up the footage to the point where it’s best used as a novelty. Otherwise the Silver will suffice, though you’ll lose out on the 1440 resolution option.

The lens is super wide, around 170 degrees, with the option to narrow significantly to something resembling a 45mm lens. So keep your crew completely behind the camera when filming because it sees everything. Since it’s so wide, your action will look comically fast, so whoever’s moving toward the lens needs to move at about 75% speed. The person behind the lens will have to move at normal speed.

Low light capability is very good, almost as bright as night vision, without the annoying green glow. Shutter speed gets blurry automatically with low light, since manual image controls are largely nonexistent, and the video compression gets pretty crazy when you’ve got any haze or UV light sources. Lots of shooting modes and great low light, but mid-grade compression in low light that won’t please videphiles. Action filmmakers probably won’t mind.

Sound
The sound is better than you’d expect from a tiny mic located on the side of the GoPro. Surprisingly good, but get an external mic for dialog. The main issue is the sound is usually out of sync with the video. A quick slide in your video editor can fix this.

Monitoring and Reviewing
The primary issue using the GoPro is figuring out how to monitor what you’re shooting. The GoPro transmits video and audio over its own Wi-Fi network to an Android, iPhone, or iPad using the GoPro app, which can then monitor what’s being shot. There’s a delay of about 2-4 seconds, but the app is invaluable. You absolutely MUST use it.

I tend to monitor with an iPad 2. My experience has been that the Wi-Fi signal is very weak, and it’ll often just cut out for no apparent reason. If you reset the camera, switch into review mode, or do anything besides just leaving the GoPro in camera mode, you risk losing your monitoring capability for who-knows-how-long. You’ll need to restart the GoPro AND its Wi-Fi (two entirely different functions), then reconnect to the Wi-Fi using your monitoring device, restart the program, and by then you’ve wasted five minutes. In an eight-hour span of time, we ran into this issue no fewer than ten times, so for a delay that happens more than once an hour, the GoPro just becomes annoying. By the end of the day we’re wondering why we didn’t just duct tape DSLRs onto our foreheads. (Okay that’s harsh, but those are raw thoughts for you.) I’ve used the Android app, but not extensively enough to determine if it’s more stable than using an iPad.

The other major issue with the monitoring software is that it has no option to review footage that you’ve already shot. To do that you need the LCD backpack (below), or you’ll need to connect the cam to a computer to review what’s on the SD card. Having to remove the GoPro from someone’s head or chest just to review footage makes it yet another annoying hangup in the production.

Glitches
Heads up – the GoPro glitches pretty regularly. The LCD backpack seems to add more reasons for the GoPro to crash, perhaps due to its added heat. Usually we have to pull the battery, open the box and lay all the tiny pieces about. After a firmware update, crashes are less common, but still happen at about 20% of the original crash rate. Random Wi-Fi disconnection happens at almost the same frequency.

I’ve had a few frames glitch due to fast movement, but if you can get away with cutting those frames it’s nothing too problematic. So far, no ruined shots.

Accessories

  • LCD Touchscreen Backpack – You’ll want to fork over eighty bucks for the tiny LCD screen to watch what you’re shooting live and review footage. The LCD for the Hero3 is a touchscreen, but the edges rarely register and I find myself just using the camera buttons to navigate it. If you’re hanging the GoPro in front of your face your nose will probably inadvertently push a button too. The LCD also seemed to display a lower quality image than the iPad did, giving us an inaccurate display of our footage. It’s best used for framing purposes. Get the footage onto a computer to see how it actually looks.
  • Extra Batteries – Battery life is around 2 hours (with the LCD), but charging time is nearly double that, so your workflow will suffer if you don’t have enough batteries to power through the day. The Wasabi battery pack is a good deal at $25 for 2 batteries and a charger. Get three of em if you plan on doing long days with the GoPro.
  • Head Strap – If you’re doing a fight scene, this is the strap to use. You can adjust for different head positions so it always captures the moves. Fast head movements might knock it off your head so get a chin strap and secure it that way. The screws don’t hold the GoPro as tightly as I’d like, so you’ll have to constantly readjust them.
  • Chest Strap – Not as useful as the head strap because any body movement will move the GoPro, but better for acrobatics.

Bottom Line
I like my GoPro. It’s a unique way to make action (or genre) films, and the end result always seems to entertain. Glitches and annoyances aside, you can sidestep all this by just getting two of everything. I have two GoPros now, which came in handy when the Wi-Fi for one of them randomly cut out and wouldn’t come back, so we just swapped everything over to the second GoPro and made it through the day.

I give this thing a B+ until they fix the heating issue and release one that’s got a better wireless transmission mechanism. Bluetooth maybe?

When we walked into the exhibit hall today to begin our Comic-Con 2012 adventure, the initial impression was: holy sh*t. Not only is Comic-Con bigger, but it’s louder, thicker, longer, and faster. Legendary is two hundred yards from us with a Dolby Surround system and a 130-inch LED TV near the ceiling playing every trailer since 2009, and Konami is around the corner with a booth that looks less like a booth and more like a castle.

The Stunt People exhibited the first day with an all-new booth design by Chelsea and Rebecca that drew a solid crowd. Sales were better than the last three years combined for preview night, when the exhibit hall opens for only three hours to a more select group of attendees who want to get in and buy the collectibles before the big crowd arrives on Thursday. The Stunt People banner is missing, so we’re showcasing the Action Pact Entertainment logo above the booth. People are less likely to assume we’re a stuntmen trade association this way. Once we get the SP banner we’ll put it in back above the TV for those who engage our booth.

Ric Meyers prepped me for his Superhero Kung Fu Extravaganza panel with him tomorrow night, where I’ll be featuring some action from Death Grip. it. I probably shouldn’t tell you exactly what he said about the fights in Death Grip, but I can say that of the six or so other film snippets playing, Death Grip will be the last one for a reason.

We’re going to do our best to get into other people’s panels, including one with an appearance by Jackie Chan and the cast of Expendables 2. To be honest, there’s no way in high hell we’re going to get into these, let alone meet the stars, and least of all hand them a DVD. The fanfare at Comic-Con is utterly super-human. There’s still a line around the building waiting to see a cast appearance at the Twilight panel on Thursday, and get this: the line started on Monday. These kinds of waits are common, and we simply aren’t hardcore enough to do it. Plus, we’ve got a movie to sell, and so far people are really, really digging Death Grip.

Enjoy these pics from the show. We’re stoked about tomorrow, and we’ll post plenty more pics from then too!

We’ll be taking orders for the Death Grip DVD, Blu Ray, and T-Shirt on July 1, 2012 at The Stunt People Store.

Death Grip Blu-Ray – $20.00 (disc has more special features than advertised, info here)

    

Death Grip DVD – $15.00 (disc has more special features than advertised, info here)

       

Death Grip “Knife” Shirt – $15.00

 

As a bonus, we’re also adding a new Stunt People shirt to the store. Back by popular demand, we’ve re-printed the “Our Pain Is Your Pleasure” shirt. We only have 72 of them, so get yours quick before they sell out.

Stunt People “Our Pain Is Your Pleasure” T-Shirt – $15.00

  

CA sales tax and shipping will be charged during checkout. Happy shopping!

A couple of stoners and a tourist witness a deal about to go bad. When the reputed kingpin spots them, it is time for some ACTION & COMEDY!

Directed by Jose Montesinos and featuring Dennis Ruel, Andy Long, Vlad Rimburg, Troy Carbonel, Ray Carbonel, Shaun Finney, Ed Kahana, Ken Quitugua, Sari Sabella, and Giovannie Espiritu.

The Stunt People Wiki is back online in full force, ready for you to add your stunt crew, films, and any information applicable to the premiere indie-action wiki. Concerns about spam have been addressed, as we have implemented a new Captcha system as well as email confirmation (details below), and there’s now a detailed help section.

Users who already have usernames registered can re-register their email by logging in and going to “my preferences” and “confirm email address”.

The SP Wiki was resurrected thanks to Dario Susman, without whom Eric would still be scratching his head at the old Wiki wondering how to access the admin panel. Thanks Dario!