New HD Helmet Cam
(updated: Jan 24, 2009)
Here are a few photos of my new helmet cam. When I refer to the helmet cam, I literally mean a video camera on my helmet. Not just a lipstick camera lens, but the whole freaking camera. In my case, the camera is the Sony HDR-HC1 High Definition Video Camera, with a Raynox 0.5X High Def Super Wide Angle Conversion Lens, and a Sony NP-QM91D infoLITHIUM battery (the biggest one). By the way, you should never buy no-name replacement batteries. You will get junk. Pay the extra and get the original equipment brand batteries. You have been warned!
Until you see high def video in it's native resolution, you don't know what you're missing. I can read trail signs and markers as I am whizzing by on my bike. It gives a much better representation of the terrain in that it does not look as "flattened out" like other cameras. However, you have to see it at 1920 X 1080 full-screen, which, unless you have a Mac, you aren't likely to see at this point. And unfortunately, much is lost when it is compressed for the web or burned to a standard DVD. I don't have pro software for making good DVDs, I have iDVD, which does a lousy job for mountain biking videos. Still, it's nice to have the raw footage in HD format so that I can go back someday and redo it.
So for now this will have to do, until they come out with smaller cameras that equal the quality of the Sony. The setup (camera plus counterweights) weighs around 6 lbs. Yikes. Six pounds on my head while I trying to maneuver down a narrow trail at high speed is not easy, but the results are worth it. That's also why I had to use a full face helmet for extra stability under the increased weight over my old setup. I did some neck exercises to strengthen my neck and I've gotten more used to the weight.
Like my older camera mount I used a simple L-bracket and three 1/4-20 bolts and nuts (the ones with the sharp points that dig into the styrofoam of the helmet). You can find these brackets in the hardware store, either shelving brackets or Simpson Ties. If you can't find one of the right size, use a flat Simpson Tie and bend it to a right angle.
I cut two pieces from a rubber sheet and glued them to the bracket using contact cement. This helps protect the camera. The rubber also helps hold the short 1/4-20 camera mount screw. Try to put this screw where the camera will be more-or-less balanced on the bracket. This is important. It has to be mounted securely or you will end up destroying your camera.
The hardest part is getting the up-down angle right. I drilled several holes into the bracket instead of just one hole so I could adjust the angle. Test the angle by mounting it and wearing the helmet in front of a mirror. Get on your bike if possible, too. Then after you've set it, do a final test run by having someone ride in front while you film.
Finally, I also cover the camera with a piece of foam and use a velcro strap for some extra security. This camera with lens and battery costs $1500 so I'm trying to minimize the chance of damage. The camera will get hit by branches so using foam will help protect it. As far as the lens, since I have a wide angle lens attached if it gets scratched I can just replace it without worrying about damaging the built-in lens which would be a lot worse.
For the counterweights I used 1" PVC pipe and filled them with money - quarters, nickels, pennies. Not only can you balance the setup by adding subracting coins, but it could come in handy in a sudden financial jam. Getting the slippery pipe to sit still on the side of the helmet is difficult. I filed grooves in the PVC as guides for the tie-wraps and wrapped them in foam and that helped. You can use tie wraps or hose clamps.
I wouldn't even try to get this thing through airport security. I could only imagine what would happen if I walked into the terminal wearing it.
So far it's been working flawlessly. You just have to learn how to control the camera without looking at it. Thankfully the controls on the Sony are located where I can access them even with gloves on. And it makes different sounds when it starts and stops recording so I can tell it's actually recording. Haven't screwed up yet but when you do it sucks.
Filed Under: How To
1. John said...
Nov 2, 2006 @ 9:04 AM
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