Tuesday Aug 14, 2007

Living with a Helmet Camera

Living with or at least holidaying with a helmet camera.

On a whim, well on the recommendation of the Gadget show, I bought a Oregan Scientific helmet camera for use on my bike and so obviously it came on holiday with me.

I should point out that I have had a few versions of the camera due to early ones just powering down after a few minutes. Each time the shop replaced them but the symptom persisted until I started using 2700mAh metal hydride rechargeable batteries, since then the camera has behaved flawlessly.

With a 2Gb SD card in it it will record 1 hour 2 minutes at 30 frames a second and 1 hour 20 minutes at 15 frames a second (I still don't know why you don't get twice as much time when you half the frame rate, perhaps when I'm back on the Internet I'll find out). For commuting I use 15 frames so I can just start it and forget but on holiday that seems pointless.

For cycling long distances, like the journey not to the viaduct, it was not particularly useful. It is impossible to predict when you will want to record. So I just hit record at the top of the hills and tried to remember to stop recording at the bottom. Since hills in France are real hills this results in many minutes of content of the form of “cyclist's eye view of going down a hill”1.

The best videos have been when out with the family cycling. I now have video of all my children cycling all be it from the rear but it still shows those early rides.2

I also took the camera out on our canoe trip, where it had to be strapped to my head, partly to see how it would work, partly to see how waterproof it really is (alas my canoe stayed upright) and partly just to look ridiculous, something I do rather well.

Three things came out of this.

  1. You need to take much more care of where the camera points. This seems obvious but as the camera has no view finder you need to get someone else to line it up. I failed to do this and have some videos where the shot is framed in the right of the shot and then the action all disappears stage right.

  2. Not having a viewfinder allowed me to forget about the camera so, while I looked strange I was able to get on with having a laugh and then dealing with the footage later.

  3. Lots of people seemed to think having a video camera was actually pretty cool, but most of those people looked like geeks, ie people who should be respected.

In conclusion:

Not having a viewfinder is both a blessing and a curse. It prevents you from spending hours worrying about filming events rather than being part of events however it also means that if you have not set up the camera perfectly, something that is extremely difficult to do when you wear it on your head, you can end up with a lot of poor or useless footage.

I look forward to the time when a camera is built into your sun glasses and can record 8 hours of footage. However until then the helmet camera is an entertaining bit of kit.

1Literally it is the view from the handlebars but anyone who knows how I descend hills this is not that far from my view.

2When one of them wins the Tour de France (sans drugs obviously) I look forward to supplementing my retirement selling these films. I even have nail biting footage of the “mountain top” finish as they battled to be first home. However I think I will keep contributing to my other pension just in case.

Wednesday Jul 25, 2007

Rare event

This happens so rarely that catching it on film is quite hard. The effect is achieved my multiple unlikely events all happening together:

First the car at the front of the queue of traffic is obeying the speed limit, since this is a learner driver that is not quite so surprising. Second it is slightly downhill. Thirdly I still had some energy (this is in the last mile of my return commute) and finally the road was clear enough to go for it safely.

Finally the fact that the blue car at the back of the queue of traffic pulled in to let me go made it rude not to.

The irony that I overtook just as I approached the traffic lights where I had to stop was not lost on me. Cars do this to me all the time often squeezing past dangerously close to me only to then have to brake hard to stop. At least I did not do that.

I reached about 34mph according to my speedometer (speed limits do not apply to cyclists in the UK).

No drugs or extra blood was added to the rider in the making of this commute. Yes I am really annoyed about Vino's test results. He had the story of the tour, the crash, hanging in their while injured and then the stage wins and as so often seems to happen, now some doping scandal.

Tuesday Jul 03, 2007

Rain, Hail and a VW driver

I thought the rain and hail was bad....

And then the nice lady in the VW came so close I could tap on the window to get her to move out.... she did not.

Sunday May 20, 2007

Helmet Cam out with BBT

My first trip out on a Sunday with my handlebar mounted video camera. Having had problems with the camera it went back twice to the shop who have finally replaced it with a new one. This one seems, so far, to work. The old ones would both power themselves off for no apparent reason failing to save what they were recording and leaving the SD card corrupt so it had to be reformatted to get back.

It does suffer from the same problem as the other cameras though, that the output is really boring. When it is approaching interesting, which is not often and only when travelling at speed, then the vibrations are terrible. So I hope to not post any showing me being cut up or pulled out on by cars.

Anyway seven of us rode over Headley then down to Newdigate, Ockley, over Leith Hill to Dorking then up over Ranmore and then to the Cafe in Leatherhead. Brilliant weather very pleasant ride.

63 miles, top speed 47mph Average 16mph

Tuesday Mar 27, 2007

Handlebar mounted video camera

I bought an Oregan Scientific 2K Helmet Camera for use on my bike. I was sold on it by the demonstration on The Gadget Show where they threw one out of the window into a pond while it was recording and it survived and recorded it all.

To start with I have mounted it on my handlebars for two reasons:

  • I don't usually wear a helmet.

  • It would be impossible to control the camera while on my head.

The second reason is the real reason my journey is only less than an hour when I come home, am fit, have a tail wind and the traffic is good. So most of the time I would need more than 1 hour of "film" but the camera with a 2GB SD card will only record 1 hour 2 minutes at the highest quality. So I either have to reduce the quality, something I will investigate, or stop the camera on the most boring bits. Since the whole journey is pretty boring and I aim to keep it this way as any excitement probably involves me being in collision with a motor vehicle.

Here is quick clip:

If you can't resist the temptation to watch, then turn the volume down as the audio is rubbish.

This is the decent from the roundabout on the Ridgeway and the Red Road in Camberley. This is fastest part of my journey so potentially the most difficult for a helmet cam on handlebars. However I am still disappointed about the quality due to the vibration. The only solution I can see is to mount it on my head. The content is terminally dull.

The other thing is the number of cars that overtake, one crossing the white line to do so. Since I topped out at only 33mph and would have hit that speed just as the car that crosses the white line passes. Since this is something that happens every day it did not really bother me at the time.



This is the old blog of Chris Gerhard. It has mostly moved to http://chrisgerhard.wordpress.com


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