Behind The Scenes – Up The Ante With A GoPro

Behind The Scenes – Up The Ante With A GoPro

I’ve always been enthralled with first person movie scenes, games and music videos. Clocking countless hours with Duke Nukem 3D in my parent’s basement on an old Packard Bell PC planted a seed that forever changed me. To this day I think The Prodigy's breakbeat electronic hit “Smack My Bitch Up” is one of the greatest first person videos of all time.

When my photography and behind the scenes videos started to gain a small following, I noticed the need to put people right in the action. It’s quite rare to find a video that really drops you right in the middle of the operation, as if you were shooting yourself. I had to ask myself, how can I produce a series of behind the scenes videos that really give insight into what I see day in and day out, without hiring a videographer?

Shortly thereafter I stumbled upon Jared Polin, FroKnowsPhoto and his unique first person videos. I was instantly hooked, but I saw a wide disconnect in what Jared does and what I do. So, I did my research, borrowed a friend’s GoPro and went to work. I always saw the GoPro camera as a cool device, but nothing I would ever need. Those that don’t own a GoPro usually say something thereof, until they actually purchase one. I found uses for this camera more than I ever would. It’s not only a great camera for unique commercial use, but also for behind the scenes and travel. Its low profile enough where people don’t notice it, but the quality is top notch for a camera of that size. It’s become a significant piece of gear in my bag.

Once I had played with the GoPro system for a few months, I decided to make the investment and purchase the Hero 3 Black Edition with all the necessary accessories and clamps. Unlike Jared, I had to keep the GoPro off my hot shoe so I could use the PocketWizard system. Luckily, I had purchased a Custom Brackets CB-Mini-RC a.k.a. the “Terry Bracket” a few months earlier. The CB-Mini-RC anchors to the bottom of your DSLR body and has a single “arm” that extends out to the middle of your lens for attaching a speedlight. With the bracket and a Nasty Clamp I had found in my studio closet, I finagled a sloppy GoPro mounting solution that worked for the time being. But, it was a poor concoction that fell apart with the slightest shake or bump.

After a few trials with that “ingenuity,” I decided to invest in a Tether Tools Rock Solid 11” Articulating Arm that I was able to rig to both my CB-Mini-RC bracket and the GoPro. The articulating arm gave me flexibilty to move the GoPro to any orientation and was heavy duty enough to withstand the abuse of daily shooting. In a short period of time, my “First Person Shooter” videos became a small success and I received a lot of amazing feedback from all over the world. But, along with that great feedback, I received much criticism concerning the audio. People loved the fast-paced music with the giant “clang-clang” of the shutter, but the overall sentiment was that I needed some professional audio to record my speech. People wanted to hear what I was saying to the model and my team. This is where it all got real and my camera rig was amplified into what has been called the “Christmas Tree.”

Also being a filmmaker, I know the pain of recording and syncing audio for film and TV. I didn’t want to have to take those extra steps to sync audio, so with even more research I discovered that you can record external audio directly into a GoPro using their 3.5mm Mic Adapter which acts as a “audio-in” via USB. However, this created an additional problem.. how would I rig the PocketWizard transmitter and a microphone on my DSLR? The Tether Tools Rock Solid Extension Bar was the end all answer to the problem. I was able to mount both a LAV microphone system and the PocketWizard transmitter to the extension bar which mounted to the hot shoe of the camera body. The LAV system plugs directly into the GoPro 3.5mm Mic Adapter and a sync cable runs from the PocketWizard transmitter ot the camera body. With all the added accessories, the entire camera rig weighs under 8 pounds, so it’s not as intimidating or heavy as it looks. The accessories add a meager 2 pounds to the 6 pound camera and lens.

Soon enough, I raided the GoPro store and purchased the backup batteries, an LCD screen, extra micro-SD cards and all the necessary accessories to make my workflow easier. I never thought I would become a GoPro fanatic, but through my travels it’s become a handy little device that I just love using for many different applications including behind the scenes, timelapses, travel photos and location scouting.

Just within the past few months, my camera system gained so much attention, I was asked to do a live webinar with Tether Tools to break down my camera rig and the inspiration behind the “First Person Shooter” videos.

Most of you are thinking.. why on earth would I want to carry around a rig like that? Well, It all comes back to providing quality content for your clients and your followers, which iI cover in detail in Content Is King – Five Fundementals To increase Social Engagment. A “First Person Shooter” video is a breeze to produce and can be an instant hit. It can not only provide a very unique behind the scenes look, but can be very insightful to a photographer looking for the right candid knowledge. I’ve learned to keep them short, fun and upbeat as our attention span for online content is about the same of a 3 year-old-child.

Grab a GoPro, some mounting accessories and throw the footage in your next behind the scenes video. Be sure to share, when I see anything from a first person point of view, in some weird way it takes me back to that nostalgic feeling of slaying apocalyptic aliens in my parent’s basement.

Clay Cook's picture

Portrait and Editorial Photographer, Clay Cook has learned the importance of going the extra mile, after a long, arduous run in the music business. Clay has shaped creative projects with History, Lifetime, Comcast and Papa John's Pizza. In addition, he has photographed assignments for Time, Forbes, The Guardian, W Magazine, USA Today, ESPN and Inc.

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The GoPro is a great and simple tool to increase engagement with fans, participants, and clients. Adding the wireless lavalier mic is a great upgrade to production values. This is all excellent marketing for any serious photographer.

I just don't get the heavy metal attachments to put it all on your camera, when it can be done so much easier and better off camera on a light tripod. Even in the BTS here, the actual GoPro shots on the camera are just a few seconds. The GoPro on a light tripod with the wireless mic receiver and the PW in the hotshoe eliminates the need for all those extra parts and weight that make it far harder to operate the real focus of the the shoot-the camera. You can even put the GoPro right next to the photographer for a nearly identical view. Trying to get the best photos while fumbling with 3 extra clamps, 2 cables, a GoPro and wireless receiver--no way.

Thanks for reading Scott! I appreciate the feedback! You have some great points in here, but setting a GoPro on a tripod, would create a very static and motionless shot, which is the opposite effect of a first person "over the lens" perspective. Fortunately, Tether Tools makes great attachments that doesn't require me to fumble around with it while shooting, it's rock solid and doesn't get in the way of my studio workflow.

Clay what was that triangle thing you were shooting with in the first video?

Bryan, thanks for watching! That was a mirrored prism. Basically 3, 3-inch mirrors taped together, which resembles something like a kaleidoscope. The results can be seen at the end of the video.

Great stuff Clay, love the first person shooter videos!

Thank you Stevie!

hey Clay! love seeing your behind the scenes. I'm curious, how far away are you from that blue backdrop? Hard to tell from the wide angle of the GoPro.

I'm trying to setup a similar mini studio in my place so I can shoot with the 70-200mm. thanks!

Thanks for reading Simon! I was about 15-20 feet away from the backdrop. It's a long living room that I set my studio up in. It's small, but saves me thousands of dollars.

Great setup. How/where do you licence popular music for videos like this?

Thanks Thomas! I appreciate you reading! There are several sources I get music, is a great resource or is also great for commercial use.

I definitely need to attach a GoPro to my camera the next time I shoot a festival (should be TomorrowWorld in September). Would be fun to try and capture the whole experience from being in the pit and on stage, to interacting with attendees walking around.
Officially inspired :D

Thank you so much Elliott! You should definitely do that and be sure to share with me! Looking forward to seeing what you capture!


There's a version of this first person photo/video shooter I've seen a while ago. You don't need a GoPro either. Simply get a double L bracket [ ] and mount your video camera underneath your DSLR.

Like this;


I've tried this and it actually works pretty well. Granted, it's cumbersome and heavier than what a GoPro would be. However, you're not limited to a GoPro's wide angle field of view, and can zoom in or out, say if you don't want your lens seen in the shot. Plus, depending on your video camera, video footage quality is markedly better than GoPro's. Kudos to your audio solution though!

Here's one with a D810 (not my pictures);

other references (again, not my pictures);


Right on Nick! I appreciate the feedback! This would definitely work and could give some cool results. In my opinion, think the best part about the "First Person Shooter" videos are the fact that you can see the lens, it gives a sense of place in the shot. Anyway, thanks again for the comment! in Doom II, when you have that BFG right in front of you!

Yes sir! Makes me want to go play now...

Hi Clay, Saw your Tether Tools video and really liked the idea and what you are doing with the set up. My one question is how do you deal with turning the camera for a vertical shot? Do you usually just edit those out of the BTS Videos, I thought that was what was happening in the first video. Can you set the arm so if you knew you were shooting primarily vertical stills the GoPro could still be horizontal. Thanks for the info!

You could use a rotating flash bracket.
As seen here;

Hey Ed! Thanks for reading and watching, I really appreciate that. Great question! The Tether Tools Articulating Arm is very flexible and can work in any orientation I see fit, just with a simple tweak. I shot mostly vertical, so it's a position I use often and the arm allows me to do that.

You mentioned about the wireless lav mic system - can you post a link to that here? or can you recommend a wireless system that can be used to pick up clear audio for say a documentary?

Hey Ojas! Thanks for reading, I use a very cheap Azden LAV system that I purchased a couple of years ago. My recommendations will always be RODE on-camera microphones or Sennheiser LAV systems!

One I did a while back on assignment with a GoPro -

Awesome Michael! I loved it, great pace and speed. I like how it was chopped up. Keep up the good stuff.

I just love the quality of the final images. Really nice high end work! Definitely somewhere to aim for :)

Thanks Mike! Really appreciate the kind words!

Seeing that studio setup makes me feel better about my situation.

very inspiring, thanks for sharing

Thank you for reading Steve!

DId the same thing on my BTS documentary work.. Really helps the audience especially those who are interested to see how I communicate..

Awesome man! Looks great!

I love seeing those first person behind the scenes videos. Provides a fantastic insight into how people do things in the industry. Keep up the great job Clay - love your work!

Thank you Michael! Means a lot man!