This week GoPro brought together a bunch of their heavy hitting international team in Laax for 5 days of chilled out shred and afternoons spent nerding off learning the possibilites of the new Hero3 camera. Check the rad gallery of selfies and a lowdown of the haps...
Would I like to spend 5 days with GoPro riders Sage Kotsenburg, Eric Willett, Jamie Anderson, Iouri Podladtchikov, Ralph Backstrom, Elena High, Xavier de Le Rue and Hannah Teter while getting schooled on how to use the magical box of tricks that is GoPro's Hero3? The fact that it was being held in Laax - right up there in my list of 'Most Awesome Resorts In Europe' - only hastened my reply in the affermative. Having said that, even if they'd held it on a dryslope in Bognor Regis the chance to hang with that crew of bosses and tinker with the GoPro would have been too hard to pass up.
Ralph Backstrom, still smelling of Champagne from his winning of the whole damned Freeride World Tour a couple days before, was already there by the time I rolled in, while the rest of the crew, who'd been crushing the Euro X Games, cruised into town on the 12-hour party bus a little later accompanied by a bunch of dudes who boast a knowledge of what those little black and silver boxes can do that borders on the extreme.
This was to become apparent the next morning when we met up for the first of many clinics on how to work the Hero3. Now, previously I'd pretty much only ever hit Go and Stop, so to get the lowdown on what that camera can actually do, and how to do it, was an eye-opener. Videographers I know have expressed bafflement at the amount of sheer tech they can cram in and the quality of the output the Hero3 produces, and we've all marvelled at the Hero3 promo video, but to truly get the most out of the camera you really need to learn the modes, the software, the different ways of mounting it and so on.
Reeling with a mind full of '1440p for POV', '30 shots in 2 seconds', 'timelapse mode', '4K capability', '720p shoots at 120fps and can be slowed down to 1/4 speed', it was interesting to see how into it all the riders were. Perhaps unsurprisingly, as it offers them the chance to provide a unique angle on their riding and to pump out a bunch of content without even needing to wait for the filmer to drag his ass out of bed. You had Iouri strapping himself into a back brace with a pole jutting out the side and grilling the tech dudes on what was possible and how to achieve shots he'd been dreaming up, Elena having a bizzarre extension grafted on to her helmet and Hannah being wowed by the app that connects using WiFi so you get a live view of what the camera sees.
Ordinarily such technically-focussed nerd-offs would have sent many to sleep, but the media specialists they brought in from the US were just a bunch of laid back shredders who managed to strike the right balance of information and bro down-ery so it never felt like being at school. Of course, it wasn't just about the nerd room and when up on the hill the guys and girls cut loose as they filmed and shot themselves, follow-cammed each other, while us media types failed miserably at bagging anything more than a Finnish faceshot. The riders earn their coin for good reason and bagged a bunch of bangers lapping Laax's epic freestyle setup - Eric and Sage even managed to pass the camera between them mid-air, which is so insane that when you doubtless see it in a GoPro ad you'll probably think it's faked, while Ralph and Xavier sent it off the booters before heading off for some steep action.
Undoubtedly the highlight was the last day when the weather really turned it on and we were able to stay on the hill late for a sunset session that will have produced a heap of sick footage, the crew all smiles and high fives reflecting on this few days of deserved wind-down after a hectic season of travelling, filming and contests.
Yes, I was fed well and they bought me a couple of drinks, and, no, I have not tried any of the competition, but the fact is that the GoPro is an incredible bit of kit that allows everyone - from these cats on the team to Peter Punter - to create a ton of super high quality photos and videos. Are there any faults? My camera froze up from time to time (to fix just take out the battery and put it back in again), the software, while very good, is not the most intuitive, to get the best result you need to learn the modes and the post-production software, and they're not cheap - the Hero3 Black edition with the WiFi remote is in the region of €450 - but if you're into shooting yourself or your homies shredding, surfing, skating or whatever, it's an investment you won't regret.
We're trying to get an edit of the trip dialled, but in the meantime peep this one from the DC Finland team for an example of what this box of tricks can do..