The Tour de France made a great addition to its coverage this year. Velon, a joint venture of 11 of the world's top cycling teams, partnered with GoPro to mount GoPro cameras on some of the cyclists and crew in this year's race.
The footage has been spectacular. You can find it on Velon's Tour de France homepage, on GoPro's site, and of course on YouTube. If you want a quick 2 minute sampler, edited with music, here are highlights from Stages 1-7.
I'm partial to the footage that's edited but not scored with music. It has the feel of found footage, and the lens distortions of the extreme wide-angle GoPro lenses and the ambient soundtrack brings to mind one of my favorite documentaries of recent years, Leviathan.
This is one good example, highlights from Stage 4, the cobblestone stage, a recent addition to the Tour. You see cyclists pulling over to pee on the side of the road, spectators gawking as one cyclist stops to check his tire pressure, a crash in one wet righthand turn, and other moments that occur in most stages but may be skipped by regular television coverage. All of the footage is from a unique first person (first bicycle?) perspective. If you've ever wondered how computers see, for now the answer is probably through a stationary fisheye lens.
In Stage 3, a huge crash caused chaos in the peloton. This footage from a GoPro mounted on the chest of a team ORICA GreenEDGE mechanic gives a wholly original sense of the carnage. One can feel the occasional adrenaline rush of being a pro cycling mechanic in a stage race. It's thrilling ambient journalism.
I often cringe at the found footage Hollywood conceit because it depends on believing that someone would be holding a camcorder and filming every moment, even when being chased by giant lizards or witches. But the rise of the GoPro and other sports cams now gives a more believable scenario for such movies. We're not too far off from the first Hollywood movie shot (ostensibly) on a GoPro or other such action camera (that is, it could be shot on a higher end cinema camera but pose as a GoPro), or pieced together from snippets of iPhone videos. It's a whole new aesthetic, but one that's familiar to this generation raised on Snaps and Snapchat Stories.
More major sports should consider integrating such cameras into their broadcasts, or, as the Tour de France did, as supplemental footage on the internet. I'm not holding my breath, but it's not surprising that more peripheral sports have led the way here. Incumbents tend to be reliably sluggish.