July 20, 2024
gopro & case
Go Pro Hero 3+ and full enclosure protective case


(Read this – then check out the recent UPDATED RELATED ARTICLE )

The Go Pro Camera is an outstanding little piece of photography gear. ( Previous Article on Go Pro ) It will shoot stills, “bursts” and time lapse photos.  But what everyone is really interested in is the use of the Go Pro to shoot video of their activities.

The Go Pro shoots outstanding quality video, capturing your actions and events with remarkable clarity.  But who enjoys watching “silent movies”?  Not many.  Fortunately the Go Pro also records sound as it makes those videos.  However, there are some limitations.  If you want quality sound to go along with your Go Pro videos you need to be aware of these limitations. That way you can improve Go Pro Sound and be prepared for your shoot.

The Go Pro camera (and here I am referring to the Hero 3+ model) itself includes a tiny little   internal microphone which is positioned on top of the camera just to the left of the lens (as viewed from the front).  When the camera is used all by itself, without any case, the little internal mic does a very good job of capturing sound and adding it to the video file.  But quite honestly, there will be very few occasions where you might use the GoPro without ANY case.  There will be times when you want a way to hold the Go Pro or mount it to some surface.  Additionally, the Go Pro is not exactly cheap and in most situations you are going to want to provide a bit of protection by using some type of a case. Go Pro makes a variety of cases for different types of activities.  Check out their site for all the mounts, cases, and accessories (www.gopro.com)  But be aware – different mounts and cases impact the sound quality of the recording.

Go Pro in Frame Mount with mounting base attached
Go Pro in Frame Mount with mounting base attached

Aside from using your Go Pro “naked”, without any case or mount, the “Frame” is the smallest mount available.  A thin, hard plastic frame which wraps around the outside edges of the Go Pro, it provides little if any protection.  But it does provide a means of attaching your Go Pro to other accessories and mounts which is very useful.  The Frame’s design allows the internal microphone to pick up sounds reasonably well.  Of all the mounts or cases for the Go Pro, the Frame provides for the best audio capture.


Go Pro in total enclosure case - good protection / poor audio
Go Pro in total enclosure case – good protection / poor audio

There are several other cases available for the Go Pro. They provide much more protection  for the camera but the downside is that they have a notable negative impact on audio pick up.  All of them cover the microphone on the Go Pro.  There are some optional backs, called skeleton backs, that can be used with these other cases. The skeleton backs are designed with openings in an attempt to allow better audio pick up than with a total enclosure case.  But from my experience these skeleton backs are very limiting.  Yes, you can hear sound somewhat but mostly this is sound which originates behind the camera.  So, for example, you can record your commentary while making a video of what is in front of you.  But the audio quality of that is rather poor. And the the quality of audio from a source in front of the camera is very poor.

So, how do you improve Go Pro sound while using it in a more protective case?  One possibility is to connect an external microphone directly to the Go Pro.  To do this you will most likely need to get a microphone adapter which will allow you to connect your microphone’s 3.5mm connector pin to the Go Pro via the USB port.  Unfortunately, the only case with an opening to allow this connection is the Frame.  The other, more protective cases, do not have an opening to allow this type of connection.  I have read of some industrious ( and brave ) videographers who have actually drilled an opening in the side of a case so they could use the connector.  I’m not recommending that approach.  Sounds a bit risky.

The alternative to connecting an external microphone to your Go Pro is to use a totally independent recording system.  This way you can get good clear audio while keeping your Go Pro in it’s protective case (and without drilling any holes in anything.) There are a number of external recording devices on the market.  After considerable research I opted for the Zoom H1 which to me seemed to offer the best balance of quality audio for reasonable cost.

Zoom H1 Audio Recorder
Zoom H1 Audio Recorder

With this little device you can make high quality recordings separate from you Go Pro video.  After your shoot you import the sound file into your computer and then sync it up with the Go Pro video file.  Yes, it is one extra step in post processing.  But it is a relatively simple step and the increase in audio quality is definitely worth it.

I’ll share more about Go Pro Video and sound issues as well as more information on the Zoom H1 in future articles.  Meanwhile, feel free to share and comment.

Quality Audio ………………..  Enjoy The Adventure!

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