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Recording a Concert with a GoPro Hero4

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So I originally had said in my review of the GoPro Hero3 Black that the GoPro wasn’t very well suited for shooting a concert. Well, I’m happy to report that the GoPro Hero4 Black is a much better solution. The Hero4 Black not only records at a bitrate as high as 60 Mbps (vs 30 Mbps on the Hero3), it also has settings for spot metering, low light and you can even limit the ISO! That’s basically an invitation to record a concert right there.

I recently had VIP tickets to see the band Ghost at Stage AE in Pittsburgh and I thought it would be a great test for using my newly acquired GoPro Hero4. I made sure to get seats that were in the first row in the section that faces the stage square on. There’s obviously no zooming with a GoPro, but I still had hopes that I’d bring home a good quality recording of the entire show recorded from a stationary angle.

Last time I attempted this, I used the chest mount and the skeleton housing. This time around, I went with minimal equipment.

The equipment I used for the recording was the following:

I also found a kit on Amazon with a ton of accessories for only $38. There are a number of mounts in the kit that might be worth checking out depending on how you plan to use your GoPro.

If you are looking for additional batteries (and a charger) for your Hero4, here’s a good option on Amazon for only $28.

The GoPro settings I used for recording the concert were the following:

  • 1080p (should have used 4k)
  • 60 Frames Per Second (you should really use 90 FPS if you want your bitrates as high as 60 Mbps – I didn’t know this until after I recorded the show)
  • Field of View – Narrow (trying to “zoom” as far as I can)
  • Low Light – On
  • Spot Meter – On
  • Protune – On
  • White Balance – Auto
  • Color – GoPro Color
  • ISO Limit – 1600
  • Sharpness – Medium
  • Ev Comp – +1.0

Here’s a screen shot of the settings as they appear in the GoPro App:

GoPro Hero4 Settings

If you are recording a concert, the settings you need to focus on are FPS, Low Light, Spot Meter, Protune, ISO limit, Ev Comp and (optionally) resolution. Here’s the breakdown of the settings and why they matter:

Resolution – 1080p – I chose this resolution mainly because if the recording had worked out the way I wanted, I could burn the show to a Blu Ray. In hindsight it would have been worth shooting at 4k, as the additional resolution would have given me the option to scale (zoom) the footage to 1080p. The wide angle lens on the GoPro can be a problem when the shot is a bit too wide, so cropping/scaling 4k video to 1080p would help with that problem. It’s worth trying next time around.

Frames per Second –  I mistakenly used 60 fps, which dropped my bitrate down to 45 Mbps. If I had used 90 fps, my bitrate would have jumped to 60 Mbps. Those extra 15 Mbps are a much bigger deal when shooting in low light situations. Here’s a breakdown of the Hero4 resolutions and bitrates.

Field of View – Narrow. I chose this in the hopes that the wide angle lens wouldn’t be as wide as usual. Shooting in 4k was probably the better solution for this (see the resolution explanation above).

Low Light – On. The GoPro Hero4 finally has a setting for low light situations. It’s a unique setting in that it allows the camera to change the frames per second on the fly to adjust for sudden changes in brightness levels in whatever you are shooting. It’s a bit like lowering shutter speeds on a regular still camera. In other words, if the scene suddenly darkens, the camera can drop the frame rate to allow the camera more time to capture light. lighting that is constantly changing is a situation you run into at nearly every concert, so this a good setting to use.

Spot Meter – On. Spot metering is often used in the photography world. It basically tells the camera, “instead of basing the exposure setting on the overall scene, base it on a much smaller area” (usually the center of whatever the camera is pointing at). This is a good setting to use for a concert because you often have situations where the overall scene is very dark, but there are specific areas in the scene that are very bright. Ordinarily the camera would view a scene like that as being very dark, so it would compensate by boosting the overall exposure. You’ve probably seen a lot of bootlegs where the band member’s faces are completely washed out while the background is properly exposed – this is why. Spot metering helps with this by looking at a much smaller area to base the exposure on.

Protune – On. You need this on to access more of the advanced controls (such as ISO).

ISO Limit – ISO is basically just sensitivity to light. Higher ISO settings mean dark scenes are still properly exposed, but usually at the expense of video quality (more noise is added). By limiting the ISO, you can tell the camera, “don’t go any higher than this.” I chose 1600, which is high enough for a low light situation without adding too much noise.

Ev Comp – +1. Another “still camera” type of setting. Without getting too technical, this setting says, “add a little bit of brightness to the overall scene being recorded.” I chose +1 just in case my ISO was a little bit low.

I’m still working on figuring out the best additional equipment to bring along for recording a concert. Last time I attempted this with my Hero3 Black, I brought along an external mic, the GoPro BacPac battery, the skeleton housing, and a chest mount. I wasn’t too thrilled with my “human tripod” chest mounted footage last time, so here’s what I tried this time around:

The Hero 4 is so small that security barely even noticed that I had it in my hand (especially since I didn’t use any housing at all). The BacPac battery was stuffed into the front of my jeans and the mic adapter and external mic were in the top pockets of my leather jacket. I don’t know if they would have cared about any of that stuff, but better safe than sorry.

Once we found our seats, I was easily able to put the GoPro directly on the metal rail in front of our seats. Here’s a photo of how I had the GoPro originally set up (I should have just stuck with this plan)

GoPro Hero4 ready to roll

Here’s where I made a mistake. If I kept the GoPro on the rail, it was at a perfect angle to shoot the stage, but it could also easily get knocked off and end up on the floor below me, which would have been a $400 camera falling to its death. That scared me a bit, especially when some girl walked by and her purse brushed against the camera, nearly knocking it off. So I decided instead to put the GoPro on the floor. See the footage at the end of this post to see how that turned out…

The good news is that I’m getting closer to a solution that works. Just like with the Hero3 footage I shot last year, I’m very happy with the audio provided by the Olympus ME-51S. The battery BacPac from my Hero3 fortunately also works with my Hero4 and kept the camera rolling for the duration of the show (it just needs to be charged off camera) and the video quality from the Hero4 is very clean – much cleaner than the footage from the Hero3.

Next time I attempt this, I plan to bring in some velcro straps to secure the GoPro to the rail. The other issue I’m having is that the GoPro has just too wide of a lens to shoot a concert from the distance I was from the stage. One solution that I’m anxious to try is shooting at 4k, then scaling the resulting footage to 1080p. Another solution might be the Back-Bone Ribcage mod kit, which would allow me to put all kinds of different lenses on the GoPro. Of course, then I’d need to somehow get those lenses into the venue, but that’s another issue…

Here’s the resulting footage – notice that the camera was able to record the entire show and that the overall quality is quite good. I just wish I had previewed the footage using the app before I committed to putting the camera on the floor, but I was worried about battery usage. Oops.

Sorry to those in Germany who might be trying to watch the footage – YouTube decided to block it in your country.

Have you tried recording a concert with a GoPro, or do you have any suggestions for what I might have done differently? Feel free to leave them in the comments below!


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  • Roger Williams

    You’re my new GoTo Hero. Thanks for the in depth explanations of your thought process. Now I wish that I had dropped the extra coin for the 4 Black instead of my 4 Silver. I do need to rail against the rail though.
    Doing a shoot through is great if you’re composing to get a feel of placement, but I’m not a big fan of it on long video shots. (I actually have only watched to the 12:00 mark so far.) Double sided tape or BlueStik reusable adhesive putty would allow you to mount the camera to the second rail next to a vertical post allowing you to crop out the rail and protecting the camera (somewhat) from taking a dive.
    Your settings seem to be better than the venue’s as vitnessed by the color temperature of the big screen monitor. Spot metering was the correct call even though the band’s lighting director went unnecessarily overboard with the effects lighting.
    The audio in this final output appeared to be a little lackluster to me. It could be YouTube. It could be my laptop speakers. My primary go-to mic is a Rode video shotgun mic. I own a Rode on camera stereo mic as well, but the shotgun mic with the high pass setting on captures a dynamic range and eliminates some of the bounce coming off of the ceiling and walls. I just produce it to two channels to get the balance (I’m not try to record The Who’s Quadrophinea.)
    In closing, excellent job and I look forward to reading and seeing more of your work.

    • Roger,

      Glad you liked my post! That’s a good idea using double sided tape or adhesive putty, I’ll keep that in mind next time I attempt this.

      I agree that the audio could be better, although I’m still pretty happy with it considering the tiny size of the mic I used. I’d love to use something like a Rode shotgun mic, but I’m not sure how easy it would be to get it into the concert venue. I’ll have to do some research in that area.

      I hope I get the chance to attempt this again at a future concert. Most concerts I go to are general admission (where I’m forced to stand – nowhere to place the GoPro for a stationary shot), so I need to find very specific shows to try to shoot. Stage AE is a perfect venue for it, but VIP tickets are often very expensive. Basically the show needs to be a band worth spending $75 to $100 on a ticket.

      As soon as I get the chance to try this again I’ll be posting my results here. Hopefully it’s sooner rather than later!

  • Tony Vingas

    I was front row for this show! Awesome!
    Did you have to go through additional screening to bring in a camera? Press passes?
    Funny how I came hear for your dance recital set-up and ended up finding out that you filmed more than one Ghost show in Pitt! Small world.
    Great work!

    • I snuck the camera in. I didn’t bring any housing at all and I wore a jacket. Then when security did the whole “empty your pockets” thing, I just put the camera in my hand along with my wallet and car keys. They didn’t notice it at all. The rest of the gear (mic and cables) were just in the upper pockets of my jacket. I honestly don’t know if they’d even care about the GoPro since it’s so small, but I figured better safe than sorry.

      That Ghost show rocked! Funny that you found my site the way you did. I hope my dance recital post helped you out!

  • Kenneth shiver

    Have you try with low frame like 24? I have been reading a lot of places that the light better can get into the Camera .
    Im looking for a setup, to make a film in a nightclub, so thanx for your blog!:)

    • I haven’t, but next time I try shooting a concert I’ll be using 4k resolution. I could also give 24fps a try. You can still get 60 Mbps using 4k at 24fps, so it’s worth a shot.

  • Anno

    What about hero

  • Anno

    What about the new Hero 5 session? It’s very small, so I’m don’t have to worry much about security guard.
    Does it work well for recording concert? What FOV is best for the venue below.

    • I don’t have a Hero 5 Session, so I can’t really say how well it would do in a concert situation. Battery life could be an issue depending on the length of the show. Definitely the size of the Hero 5 Session is a huge advantage as far as being stealthy goes. As far as FOV, I think it would depend on where you can place the camera so it’s as steady as possible. If you can get a steady shot that has the stage at dead center, I’d go for that, and I’d shoot in 4k. I’d be curious to hear how this works out for you if you do end up doing it.

  • thebennies

    i am using a Yi4k for my last hammersonic festival. I have tried using your camera setting, unfortunately it was over exposed. Since hammersonic doesn’t have any strict rules about camera, I could freely review and update camera setting anytime.

    I end up using this setting: 2.7K 24fps, FOV Medium, Metering Center, Color Flat, ISO 200, Sharpness High, EV -0,5, EIS Off

    2.7k, enough to fill my 1080p preference, to stabilize and to do some panning effect later.
    Color flat. yi4k produce color that’s too pop for me. i stick to manual color grading.
    EIS off to avoid jiggle effect.



    Color Graded

    • Thanks for sharing your info! I’m guessing that the Yi4k has a different sensor in it, which would explain why my settings didn’t work for you. Regardless, this is great info – hopefully anyone looking for Yi4k settings will run across your reply to my post.

  • Lens Cleaner

    I enjoy talking with other Concert Goers like myself lol check out my shows and add me if you like
    Im always going to concerts


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