Analyzing your swim technique in the pool with the GoPro HD

GOPR0075 As part of my never ending quest to improve my swim from not-so-great to ‘better’, I’ve been recently playing around with the waterproof GoPro HD camera in the pool.  This allows me to record video of my swimming (as well as photos), that I can then review either poolside or later at home.  Additionally, I can then also take this video and send it to my coach for analysis. But, there’s a couple tricks I’ve found along the way to getting a functional setup for pool video.  First up – is where to place the camera and how to place it.  Both are critical to ensuring that you ultimately end up with usable video at the end of the swim. Within the GoPro HD box is a flat piece of hard plastic that the camera case initially comes mounted on.  In normal day to day situations this piece isn’t terribly useful – but in pool situations it’s the next best thing to sliced bread. Here’s the piece I’m talking about with the camera mounted on it (all this comes in the standard box): IMG_9279 Now, this piece by itself isn’t quite heavy enough to stay in an absolute position on the bottom of a pool.  So I added a small sandbag on top of it.  I have these from my diving BCD’s, but really anything with a bit of weight will work just fine.  I’m fairly sure you could pickup simple clean weights at Target or Walmart for a couple bucks and it’ll work the same way. IMG_7902 With those two together I’m able to get it to stay put on the bottom of the pool.  I prefer to place it about 10 feet away away from the wall, pointing down the lane at the other wall, the one furthest away. image The reason I want it a bit away from the wall is I don’t really care to capture any of the wall/flip action.  As a triathlete the wall isn’t really the most critical area for me to work on.  If you were a competitive pool swimmer, then you’d probably want to do some different video angles with that in the frame. image Speaking of the frame, on Tuesday I finally got the new LCD Bacpak that I ordered a few weeks ago.  This is a small LCD screen that snaps on the back of the GoPro HD and allows you to actually see what’s going on – as well as do quick review of videos.  The box itself for the LCD comes with abunch of snap-on waterproof doors to keep the whole system fully waterproofed.  While the button limitations of the GoPro design mean that you still won’t be getting an interface as easy to navigate as your normal camera – it does fit the bill for quick checking of video position while poolside. Also, if you want to review the video after a set, you can easily do that now, versus before without the kit you’d have to wait until you got home.  In my opinion after using the LCD kit, it should really be standard issue on the GoPro unit – it’s an entirely different device with it, and for the better. IMGP4223 Additionally, the GoPro HD has a interval picture mode which is actually fairly useful if you don’t want to deal with a huge video file.  Once you start in this mode it’ll take a picture every second (you can customize the length though), which means that before you know it…you’ll have a lot of pictures on your hands: image Finally, it’s time to look at some of the video and pictures while I’m actually swimming.  I should point out that one thing I learned is that getting the focus right is a tricky ballgame.  I’ve found that I need to get it to pick a focal point above water and start recording, before going underwater – this seems to make the video a bit clearer. image But I also am still not 100% satisfied in all circumstances with the underwater video crispness – I think I’ve got a bit more work to figure that piece out.  Above water it’s great, but it just seems a bit soft underwater. And finally, as for other positions, you can always just place it right on the edge of the pool to watch stroke recovery: IMGP4221image Of course, at the end of the day – you just want to see the video while underwater.  So here’s a quick video of The Girl during a recent swim – primarily because her form looks much better than mine.  Like a lot better than mine. A brief clip with the GoPro HD Hero while lap swimming One of the things I like about the this video setup compared to most sports technology is that this is really ‘fire and forget’.  Meaning, from a training standpoint I drop it on the bottom of the pool at the start of my main sets, forget about it, and train as normal.  It simply records me without interfering with my workout or costing me time during it.  I don’t have to futz with it or interact in any way.  Start…and stop.  After all, I want my time in the pool to be as quality focused as possible. As always, if you have any questions – feel free to post below, happy to answer them. (P.S. – I haven’t quite decided if I’m going to do a full ‘Athletes In Depth Review of the Go-Pro HD’, or just do small snippets like this.  There’s already plenty of reviews out there for the Go-Pro HD in general, so I’m not sure I’d add much there.  But for endurance athletes the information is a bit slimmer.  Any comments either way is always appreciated.  Also should note that everything here was bought by myself through normal retail channels.)

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34 Comments

  1. Thomas

    Great Blog :-D
    Try this: link to animalocean.co.za
    Or the Eye of Mine GoPro housing, for underwater filming.

    Reply
  2. And where do you get that empty pool from? My typical Zurich pool is so crowded, it’s absolutely unthinkable of installing such a contraption without ten people filing harassment complaints.

    I’ve been looking for cheapo ways to do underwater filming, the GoPro HD cam looks fun, but it’s not exactly cheap. I’ll try and find some waterproof case for my mobile phone, I guess.

    Reply
  3. Ray, Based on what I have read I think there are better ways to set it up. I have heard the best approach is to set it at the widest angle and have it point straight up to the ceiling rather than toward the wall. Did you try that approach? I think it will show you more detail and clarity of the entire stroke. I have seen it set up this way and mounted to a very small dumbell weight which holds it to the bottom. Your thoughts?

    Reply
  4. Hello Ray! First of all (this is my first reply) thank you for putting so much effort in this site, I am a daily visitor and love what you do.

    About the cam, I’ve own this one myself. and i can tell you this thing is so much fun. At the moment I am at a skiing trip in the French Alpes, I have worn this cam every day! Very crisp and clear footage of my non-ability to do a proper telemark descent on these slopes. Hilarious. I am going to use it a side of my treadmill, (som my coach can see my running techniques). And if my bike arrives, it seems to me a lot of fun to capture these images as well. (when the bike arrives, I am a tri-novice and have not yet decided about which bike. I have done a bike fit and the two options are the Cervelo P2 of the Speed concept 7.5…. Hard choice.)

    Besides this, thank you for your effort!!

    Jaap. (The Netherlands)

    Reply
  5. db

    Another option for underwater focus issues: link to goforfocus.com

    Reply
  6. Thanks all for the focus options – definitely going to try those out!

    As for the pointing upwards thought – it does work, but only in the deep end, I had a photo that I removed from the draft of the post, perhaps I’ll add it back in – but it’s taken at some 10-12′ deep and only gets one ful stroke in frame. It’s actually fairly rare that I get time there (only could find it just minutes before closing the other night). So usually I spend most of my time at 4-5′ deep. At that depth if you point straight up the camera isn’t side enough to really get your body for more than half a stroke given the distance to you.

    Thanks all!

    Reply
  7. Anonymous

    Ray,
    Save your time reviewing the GoPro Hero HD and just visit this website. link to reviews.cnet.com

    So, with all the time you are saving on reviewing the GoPro, how about dropping that FINIS Swimsense vs. SWIMOVATE Poolmate Pro review on us? Enquiring minds want to know!

    Reply
  8. Triathelete’s March issue also has a good way of setting up the camera in underwater. Page 56 of the magazine.

    Reply
  9. Tell the girl to slow her stroke down, focus on keeping a tight core and try not to wiggle down the pool. You’ll notice her hips are wiggling back and forth. Also her right arm looks to be crossing over the midline when entering the water. You want the hand to enter the water right in front of your shoulder (better for your shoulders). Just trying to help…

    Reply
  10. I am going to request that screen from GoPro. I feel like I am being blind without it.

    For further review you may check this software company and their videos:
    link to dashware.net

    I spoke with owner and I am getting a full support from him.

    Reply
  11. @Benjamin Try a local tri or swim club? It would help with your swimming and typically they get allocated private lanes. They will also understand the desire to film yourself swimming!

    In the case of our local tri and swim clubs they also have really cool diving cameras for swim analysis. I’m a little further south in Zug but I know there are some good clubs in Zurich.

    Reply
  12. A question Ray. I notice you also have the Pentax Optio W90 which is good for 720p HD and two hours underwater according to the specs.

    Why should I choose a GoPro over the Pentax?

    Reply
  13. I think the main reason of the GoPro is the mountablity on the bike. From a purely swim-perspective, I’d actually probably go with the Optio. But from a all-inclusive sports action cam, the mount options on the GoPro are key.

    Reply
  14. Just got my GoPro today. Also ordered a 32GB card. What would be the best setting to get the most video time out of? Have you tried the pics every 2, 5, sec, etc?

    Reply
  15. I choose the highest quality video – and even at that my 16GB card lasts me about 1hr 30m or so if I remember correctly.

    As for pics, yup – that’s actually really cool for swimming. When doing that I go with 1s, simply because you’ll capture more of the action (you) in the limited timeframe that you’re within camera frame.

    Reply
  16. DC, I have used the Coach Cam for years now and it has become cumbersome and unreliable for doing underwater swim analysis.

    I am hoping the GoPro will be be more reliable.

    Question: I like to walk alongside my athletes to capture video the entire length of the pool. I am prepared to go to LOWES and create a PVC/Clamp system to make this happen. Are you aware of any devices already made that would allow me to clamp the GoPro and walk alongside my athlete? Or will I need to get creative!?

    THANKS IN ADVANCE for your input!
    Coach Lance

    Reply
  17. Yup, if you pickup the bicycle mount kit (or seat kit), that’s got tons of parts that you can attach to just about anything. I’ve attached mine to my aerobars, which are 1/2″ piping (in effect) – and it works great.

    Reply
  18. Anonymous

    hello, i have got a gopro with snap on screen, how do you get it to show an instant playback on the screen after recording a video?

    Reply
  19. Anonymous

    Is this the outdoor edition of HD Hero 2? Thinking about getting it.

    Reply
  20. It’s the regular GoPro HD, but it works identically to the HD2 (also have that).

    Reply
  21. Yannick

    I ask, because I haven’t seen that plate on the product images of this outdoor-edition. Are you still using the plate, that came with your package?

    Reply
  22. Gotchya. Yeah, I still use the plate. The plate isn’t shown in the product images since technically it’s just a packaging piece. Kinda funny, I know.

    I just looked, at the HD2 does indeed come with the plate (just validated my product unboxing pics that I never published either).

    Enjoy!

    Reply
  23. Yannick

    There is also the motorsport edition which comes with a suction cup. But on the other hand it doesn’t have this helmet strap and headband (which seems to be good go for the bike). Aditionally intend to get the chestbelt for trailrunning. Do you think the suction cup makes sense for the pool (wee soon get a chrome-steel one in Lucerne)?

    link to hallenbadallmend.ch

    Reply
  24. It depends on the pool. I’m not sure though if the suction cup will work underwater though to be honest.

    Reply
  25. Yannick

    Yeah, I can see this could become a problem. Thanks a lot Rainmaker. :)

    Reply
  26. Yannick

    Back there: I have used it now for the first time under water, pointing at the ceiling at the deep end and I’m very pissed to find out it’s so much out-off-focus. Did you find a working solution? Could send you some example-pic by mail. I was recording in 960 50fps.

    Reply
  27. LN

    Can the GoPro be used to actually film swimming from the view of the swimming…ie mounted somewhere on the body?

    Reply
  28. I’ve seen a few folks use the Chesty mount strap to film above water (on their back) looking forward. Believe I saw a video from Alcatraz last year doing that. Though, you don’t see a ton of the stroke due to depth of field. You could invert it though underwater and you might get a bit more. I’m on a trip for the next 7 days, but can try it again in a week or so if I remember.

    Reply
  29. Actually, even better – an example of doing just that:

    link to youtube.com

    And…from a good swimmer (unlike me). Enjoy!

    Reply
  30. Anonymous

    We tried GoPro and had the focus problem plus the lense continuously fogged up even with the moisture bags. head coach purchased a SwimPro package (www.swimmingcam.com). purpose built for swimming coaching and gives our swimmers instant feedback. can also view live and record direct on my iPad!!

    Reply
  31. I realize that this post is pretty old and you probably figured this out already, but if you get a housing or a 3rd party replacement lens for the housing with a flat lens port the video will get better. Gopro finally came out with a diving housing that has a flat lens.

    Reply
  32. Cool, thanks for the heads up! I’ve gone ahead and ordered one. Looking forward to seeing how it shakes out!

    Reply
  33. Anonymous

    DC, I am late to the party on this, but noticed the last post you were going order the GoPro dive flat lens. How did it work in the pool? I have just ordered a GoPro for swim viewing. Thanks

    Reply
  34. Kenny Roberts

    I get great shots by putting my Gopro on the end of a extendable boom @ 1.5-2m (fishing landing net handle) this has a female thread in end . A bolt to fit this thread is drilled thru the helmet mount in Gopro kit .A friend is then required poolside to follow/film you from underwater in front or from side . @ 1.5 – 2m works well.Get written permission from management if public pool!
    Will post some shots of setup if not clear.

    Regards
    Kenny

    Reply

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