Dear Gopro


I’m super keen to use your loop mode in order to catch sudden, rare, and exciting events while sailing. You know, whale breach, rogue wave, perfect spinnaker hoist, man overboard, and so on. After doing a bit of reading and experimenting with it, though, I wish that it worked a bit differently.

I understand how it works currently. You set the length to be, say 5 minutes, and when you press the shutter button the camera starts recording video in up to 6 one minute chapters, deleting the oldest chapter when beginning the 7th. When you hit the shutter again recording stops, and boom, you have a video somewhere between 5 and 6 minutes long.

This works fine for a dashcam, where you just want to record a single, rare, big event, like an accident. Set your loop length to be an hour, and you just have to make sure that you stop recording sometime less than an hour after the accident.

But the kind of video that I want to shoot doesn’t fit easily into the way that loop mode works.

Let’s use a whale breach as an example. It takes 5 seconds, start to finish, for the whale to surface, clear the water, make a big splash, and disappear. We’ll say we want 10 seconds on either side of that for context and reaction, and then round up to an ideal 30 seconds for the clip. With the loop mode set to minimum length, that clip becomes at least 5 minutes. You may be fine with spending 5-6 minutes on a 30 second clip, and for something as spectacular as a close encounter with a whale, you probably are. But what about smaller things, like a joke someone told, or a nice bit of scenery, or a particularly efficiently executed spinnaker gybe? All those 5 minute clips start to add up.

Well, get a bigger SD card. And if it were just that, I’d suck it up.

But here’s another situation: an on-the-water collision event. So you have your camera set to a 5 minute loop to catch whale events, and that’s all going fine, but then some idiot hits your boat with his. There’s a bunch of yelling, handwaving, examining of damage, possibly some emergency repairing of holes, and by the time you’re on your irritated way it’s been 45 minutes. You hit the shutter button to stop recording, and for your trouble all you get is 5-6 minutes of your post-accident self being grumpy.

Now, you could have hit the shutter button just after the impact, which would have been smart. But you also want to record the behaviour of the other guy in the moments following, so you’d have to hit the shutter button to start again. And that works, as long as you remember to keep hitting stop + start every 5 minutes over the course of the encounter. I know I’m not that good.

Here’s the way I wish it worked:

First, specify the desired prerecord length, rather than the desired clip length. Then, each clip is recorded with a sequence of 3 shutter button presses:

  • start prerecording
  • save prerecord buffer and continue recording
  • stop recording and save

This way you can record unexpected events of different lengths. Whale breache? Two quick shutter taps afterward gets you a clip that’s basically what’s in the prerecord buffer. Long argument with idiot boater? One tap right away to preserve the precipitating incident in the prerecord, and then a tap to finish and save once he’s roared away.

So that’s the gist. And now that I read it over, it really is just two small tweaks:

  • Allow smaller loop lengths. 30 seconds would be my preference, with maybe 15 second chapters. But I can also imagine 1 minute length. Really, just long enough to recover from the surprise of the unexpected event and to think, “Oh, I should have recorded that. Oh wait, I still can!”
  • Change the 2nd shutter press into “save prerecord buffer and continue recording”. Then the 3rd shutter press becomes stop.

So what do you say?