So you want to self-film a motorcycle adventure, using only what you can carry? Wondering how to record motorcycle rides? Here’s my advice: Don’t.
Sure you can if you want, but don’t underestimate how taxing it’s going to be, how much space it will consume and how expensive it is if you don’t already have the gear. Post-production – that’s a whole different story and something that will likely cost you as much as your initial trip, also taking much longer.
If you’re still with me so far and still keen to do a film, then good on you. It’s going to be a hell of a trip. Here’s some of the footage I got from following the Dakar in Peru:
You’re going to need certain luggage, if you’re going to carry all this gear as discussed in my somewhat exhaustive packing list for adventure riding.
A final word of warning: If you want to make something worth watching, that’s not simply your family and friends sitting through your – honestly quite boring/shitty – GoPro footage, then you’re going to have to stop all the time for shots, constantly have a camera out and spend hours every night, backing up footage and charging and generally ruining the ambience. Here’s what you’re going to need for such fun:
Table of Contents
Adventure Motorcycle Filming Gear
How to Record Motorcycle Rides: Camera Equipment:
- POV cameras for each rider.
There’s a few options on the market such as the Sony Action Cam, GoPro and the new offering from DJI looks good, but is too early to make a decision on. If you’re going to get a GoPro get the 7 Black, because the stabilisation is as good as they claim. If you’re looking to save money, this is not the area I suggest you do it, but in a pinch I would recommend getting a second-hand GoPro Hero 4 Black because the image quality is good and the stabilisation on the 5 & 6 isn’t worth the extra money. Also, the newer generations are glitchy and require a stupidly large and problematic adapter for external mics, as they don’t have the ADAC chip (analog to digital converter) on board. I could write an entire article about the issues (some known to GoPro) I’ve had with this god damn thing that cost me an extra $100.
- Diary/Vlog Camera.
Ideally, a camcorder style video camera or well suited DSLR will be in your toolkit, but storage space and quick access/ease-of-use will typically nip this idea in the bud. I used a GoPro 6 Black with external mic adapter and a Rode Video Mic, eventually resorting to the internal microphones because of that god damned POS adapter. I now have a bunch of audio where you can hear my hand moving along the selfie stick/compact tripod.If you’re going to use a new generation GoPro and adapter, I’d suggest the 7 Black because that stabilisation will still make a huge difference to the hand-held footage. I think the best set-up would be a 4 Black, using the built-in 3.5mm port for the external mic and filming in the widest frame of view possible, so you can stabilise the crap out of it in post-production without losing your frame. With this setting, you will need some lens correction in post to remove the fish-eye.
- Directional microphone
I recommend a super cardioid/shotgun microphone to get the best out of talking to the camera without picking up too much background noise. If you’re really serious, you could also take a lavalier mic and a long cord, but I feel that if you’re reading my article for advice, then you’re not in that league. No offence, it’s also a self-deprecating observation.Shopping for shotgun mics designed specifically for camera that have a hot-shoe mount and a 3.5mm output so you don’t need an adapter for XLR, will probably lead you to Rode’s Video Mic series. The Video Mic Pro is the best sound quality, the Video Mic is a close second, the Video Mic Go is the budget option and then there’s the Video Micro which is more compact, but is cardioid and not what we’re looking for. I strongly recommend the Video Mic because it’s a bit smaller than the two premium options and doesn’t require you to take 9v batteries with you. Mine still works perfectly but is held together with duct-tape and super glue. I’m fairly sure the additional components and battery compartment on the other two would be broken by now. The Video Mic – being unpowered – does require a camera that can supply a very small current, so you’ll want to check it with your model of camera first. The guys at the shop were only too happy to help when I was looking at the first one I bought.
- Mirrorless Camera.
This is only required if you want to take still images, but it’s likely you’ll be in that basket if you’re the sort of person who’s filming the trip. I’ve managed to get 4 magazine articles about this trip so far, which is slowly chipping away at reimbursing me for the trip, which is worth considering.If you are going to bring a camera, I would suggest using a mirrorless due to their stellar image quality and compact size. I love my somewhat battered and dusty FujiFilm X-E1 which takes wicked images, even at my skill level. I believe Canon now offer a full-frame mirrorless which could be worth looking into.
I took a DJI Mavic Pro Platinum as used in the scenery shots in the above video and it was awesome, but bulky and took too long to set up. The action drone shots were taken by Ian Horan on a Mavic Air, which seems to be a much better option due to size and speed of set up. Granted, Ian’s a much better drone operator than I am, but he also had the more suitable device.Get the fly more combo, as it will be a while between charges and you will need the three batteries if you want to get good footage. It also includes a 12v charger which is going to be essential unless you’re staying at a motel every night, which means you’re not actually adventure riding, but I digress.You will need a good, recent model smartphone for the drone. Not only does it need decent processing power, but also a lot of memory available for the video cache. If the cache fills up, you will lose the video feed to the phone. This happened to me in Thailand when my drone was 400 metres beyond my line of sight (illegal) above very dense tropical jungle and was a shit-my-pants, I’m-about-to-lose-$2,000 moment. Delete the cache every time you get your drone out. The other reason you need a modern phone is so that it has a bright screen. I spent my time in the desert hiding under the motorbike with a towel over my head trying to see the screen of my shitty Sony Xperia, while Ian had his drone whizzing around from his new iPhone. If you use an Android phone, make sure it’s not on Stamina mode, as this will reduce the maximum brightness.
- 15 x 64GB Micro SD Cards
You’re going to need this much storage which seems ridiculous but is barely enough to cover you for two days footage, which will allow for when you have a flat laptop or get in to camp very late. You can choose larger format cards, but I prefer to have my footage spread across a greater number of cards until I have it backed up on at least two hard drives.Some older cameras can’t use newer generation SD cards, in which case you may need 32Gb or even 16Gb cards. If expense allows, get a new camera rather than changing cards.If you’re not at least recording in 1080p (Full HD), go home and make better choices. For the POV/helmet cameras you should also be recording at 60fps due to the speed of movement. This means your cards are going to need to have at least 15MB/s write speed. If you’re filming in 4K they will need to be a minimum of 60MB/s and they will also need to be 128Gb cards.
- 3 x 32GB SD Cards
These are for your camera, though you could also get away with having an adapter for a micro SD. You should take two adapters, as they are known for the little switch getting stuck which leaves it in read-only mode.
- 2 x (preferably 3x) 2TB Solid State Drives
You should be able to complete an individual project within 2TB of footage, though it’s worth calculating if you need more. Always have a minimum of two copies of your footage and preferably three.Vibration will eventually kill HDD’s (hard disk drives), which is why it’s important to get solid state drives.
I’m not a fan of the fragility of laptops being carried off-road on motorcycles, especially when you can now buy devices that can back-up all your footage. However, it is critical to review your footage as you back it up every night. Aforementioned audio problems might crop up and you need to catch it as soon as possible. I also have an unfortunate amount of diary cam footage that looks as though the sole intention was to film the inside of my nose, which is another reason to review as you go, so you can see where camera techniques, settings and angles can be improved.Hard drives are the number 1 failure point for laptops, and nothing causes this faster than the vibrations incurred on bike trips. You’re going to need to swap it out for a solid state drive, which is also going to save you a hell of a lot of transfer time, if you’re using your internal drive as one of your backups. With vibration in mind, every screw on my laptop has been re-screwed at least 4 times after finding them in the bottom of my bag as they will literally unscrew themselves. I recommend taking them out 1 by 1 and putting Loctite on them at the same time you do this to your bike. Because you are going to Loctite the bolts on your bike before setting off on a long cross-country trip, aren’t you? (Entirely rhetorical)
- Laptop Cover
- External Card Reader
With the amount of dust, dirt and vibration that comes along with what we’re doing, it’s not unlikely that your internal card reader (if you have one) will start being temperamental.For some reason though, my external card reader runs 10Mb/s faster than my internal reader, which would make a difference of half an hour per backup.
Charging Equipment, Cables & Batteries etc.
This one’s a bitch. A pain to manage as you go, and takes up a lot of space, but it is what it is and is necessary.
- Laptop Charger
You can take a 12v charger for your laptop, but you’ll also need the 240/110v (depending where you’re from), so you can skip the 12v charger, because you’ll likely take an inverter as discussed below.
- GoPro Battery Charger
As you will be using your GoPros as you ride, you’ll need an external charger for the spare batteries. You can get chargers that run off the standard USB C cable that comes with each GoPro and will charge two batteries at a time. Get the ones that encompass nearly the whole battery, as the other types will come loose while riding.Also valid for the point below, GoPro 5, 6 & 7’s share the same battery type but the 4 does not. Make sure you have the right variety of batteries.
- 10 x GoPro Batteries
No shit, 10! Like I said, this is bulky and expensive.Like, actually 10…
No seriously, $350 worth of god damn GoPro batteries.
- 3 x USB C Cables
I guarantee one will break, and then you’ll want a spare, because you will be fucked without it. I know packing minimal and light is the main ethos behind adventure riding, but filming is antithetical to adventure riding. This is the compromise we choose to live with. If you’re using a GoPro Hero 4, you’ll need a mini USB, but for many other models of camera, they require a micro USB. Make sure you have USB cables for every model of camera.
- Camera Charger
Depending on the model of your camera, it might be difficult or impossible to get a 12v charger. If this is the case, you’ll need the 240/110v charger and an inverter.
- Drone Charger
I wasn’t able to get a 12v charger for the Mavic Pro Platinum, and had to use the 240v charger plugged into an inverter that was running (very hot) while we were riding.
- 12v to 240v Inverter OR 12v to 110v Inverter
As said above, I had to use an inverter to power my 240v drone charger and I also had to charge the battery for my Fuji X-E1 with the 240v charger, running from the inverter.