When ski filmmaker and Warren Miller contemporary Dick Barrymore strapped a massive, counterweighted camera to his helmet in the 1960’s, it was a pioneering moment in action films. Today, tiny, high quality, point-of-view, or POV cameras are in widespread use by amateurs and professionals like Warren Miller Entertainment. The POV perspective allows filmmakers to bring the audience in for a new, thrilling experience like never before.
Not only have these little gadgets been adopted by professional movie crews, but amateurs and weekend warriors use them to share their experience with friends, or impress potential sponsors. Pro athletes use them to capture the action even when there isn’t a professional camera team around. “As a whole, I would say POV cameras have probably brought a greater level of excitement to the ski industry as well as a higher level of fulfillment,” said Warren Miller cameraman Colin Witherill.
It has been a long road from Barrymore’s enormous helmet cam. Even a decade ago, POV cameras were far below the quality of today. Professional photographers and filmers were excited when the cameras hit the market, but they left a lot to be desired when it came to quality, said Withrill. “But, they started to give camera operators numerous angle options that were otherwise not available, which is a great thing,” he pointed out.
Now, the quality of POV’s has reached a professional level, and several companies, such as Contour, GoPro, and Vio have given consumers differing options on what kind of camera to purchase. And if they have the skill on the snow as well as in the editing room, there is no limit to what can be achieved.
For his work with Warren Miller Entertainment or his own film company, Broadreach Images, Witherill said that POV cameras really open the options up as to how a story is told visually. “With action sports, especially those that involve speed and variable terrain, the cameras capture vantage points that have never been captured before, which can be quite thrilling. It also gives viewers a much better idea of how talented and precise the athletes have to be to do what they do.”
For cameramen in the field, the POV helps them increase the amount of options that they can then hand over to the field editors, according to Witherill. “It is always beneficial to have a POV running for that extra angle.”
The incredible and exciting advances in POV versatility, and especially in the quality of images captured has allowed filmers to access the kind of amazing shots and images that traditionally were only the realm of big-budget shoots. And the creative and technological evolution continues, keeping both filmers and viewers alike stoked. “I believe there is plenty of expansion in POV to be done in the near future. As camera size decreases and image quality continues to improve, we will have even more creative options,” said Witherill.
Ultimately, everyone can agree that POVs just add to the fun, whether for movie-goers, hopeful pro skiers, or innovative cameramen. Witherill points out their contribution to the stoke factor. “I know the more often I see someone getting some great pow, the more anxious and excited I am about getting some myself. It's always fun to relive some digger your buddy took as well. All and all, it adds to the experience both on an off the mountain.”