Helmet Camera

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I’m determined that whatever this trip turns out to be, it will be captured on video. Considering how cheap standard definition DV cameras have become, it’s reasonable to assume that each rider on the trip could carry a a camera either in a tank bag or in a pocket. If the person at the front of the pack gets far enough in front, they can stop and shoot the other riders coming past… that sort of thing.

I’ve also mentioned to Andy and Lyn, the likely drivers of the support vehicle, that they’ll become part of the “crew” when they’re in range of the bikes.

But what has interested me for some time is the idea of helmet camera. Most of these consist of a “lipstick” camera and mount, attached to a power source and a DV camera, operating as a VCR.

I’ve been hesitant to invest in one of these so far. A tape-based recorder on a bike (particularly one that is recording at the time) is vulnerable to dust and vibration, not to mention damage in a fall. There’s also no practical way to see what you’re shooting while you’re shooting it, short of mounting the DV camera to the handlebars with the screen open – further exposing the equipment to the elements. The other big draw-back is the lack of control. Remote (LANC) cables are expensive (considering what they do), and pressing the record button on the camera itself is often impractical. There’s also the problem of the recording medium. While DV tapes are cheap, to record non-stop on the off-chance that something might happen is just not practical, and to fumble for the record button just after that emu has run out on the track in front of you is a pointless.

I have experimented with directly mounting a DV camera to a dirt bike, as you can see in this video clip. I wrapped the camera in a tailored piece of wetsuit material to keep some of the dust out, but I still had to resign myself to the fact that the camera might not come out of the experiment alive.

I’ve recently found a couple of solutions which address just about all of the limitations of a standard helmet camera. The one I’m most impressed with is the VIO POV1. It uses a waterproof camera (actually, the whole thing is pretty much waterproof) connected to a small recording device, which includes a screen and simple controls and records to SD card. The manufacturers claim that it can capture around 45 minutes of DVD-quality video on a 1GB SD card (though it can take up to 2GB).

What I love about the POV1 is th wireless remote, which you can strap to your wrist or handlebars. It includes a TAG button, which effectively allows you to capture an event after it has happened. The camera can be configured to capture video constantly, but it will only commit footage to the card permanently when the TAG button is pressed. It can be programmed to keep the preceding 15 minutes or more of footage, which means the operator can choose to record an event after it has taken place.

The camera comes with a range of mounting options, though there doesn’t seem to be a standard tripod thread anywhere on it, which is unfortunate. It would also be nice to be able to mount the capture unit and screen easily, though I’m sure a RAM mount and some cable ties will be able to solve that problem.

I actually think that at times the rider’s helmet is not the best place for a camera like this, unless the rider is very aware of the camera, and holds his head quite still. The one advantage is to be able to capture the rider’s point of view when something unexpected happens. Mounts on the fairings, facing forward and back, would capture some great footage.

Another thing I’m looking forward to trying is to use a long RAM mount arm (or one made of a series of clamps and balls, like the one pictured, only longer) attached somewhere to the front of the bike, which would allow the camera to capture the rider and the action behind. Having a long arm sticking out from the bike like an over-excited mirror poses some risks, but since the camera would weigh very little, I think I’d get away with it, particularly on paved roads.

Could make for some interesting footage.

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