Beginner's Guide to Helmet Cameras - Feature Review - Dirt Rider Magazine

Are you sold on the idea after perusing our Helmet Camera Comparison? Capturing your ride on video is definitely loads of fun. But there's a lot that goes in to getting set up to record. The helmet cam feature in our November issue introduced six different helmet-mounted systems, and each of those has a corresponding sample clip, coming soon on addition to selecting a helmet camera, there are other things to consider before you'll be ready to hit record. The following guide to helmet cameras will advise you on all the decisions you need to make to get yourself fully plugged in, powered up and mobile!Battery PacksOpen enclosures give your batteries a chance to shop out and turn off your camera. And as we all know too well, Murphy's Law say that's going to happen right before you pull off the greatest feat in video history.Battery configurations come in two choices: a single 9V pack or an 8 AA pack. The 9V pack is significantly small and can run 15-20 hours* before needing a new battery. AA packs are bulky and usually only last 5-7 hours. Moreover, as the total voltage begins to drop in your battery pack, the system will lose quality in recording, most notably in color separation and brightness. You'll find yourself changing the batteries much more often with a AA pack in order to maintain the video quality. All of this adds up over time, so if you plan to go with a AA pack, do yourself a favor and buy a few shares of Duracell stock.*There is a new Lithium-Ion battery that is sold for smoke detectors at many national hardware chains for about $8. It's made by Duracell and promises battery life that is ten times longer than a regular 9V, meaning one of these puppies could keep you juiced for up to 200 hours.****Selecting a Recording DeviceIf you have a recording device already, you'll want to check with your helmet camera manufacturer and make sure your device is compatible with their camera. In most cases, as long as your device is capable of dubbing from another video source (you can look this up in your manual if you're not sure), then your system is most likely compatible.Camcorder or Personal Media Player?If you happen to be in the market for a recording device then you need to decide between a digital camcorder and a persona media player. Either can be found in the $200-$250 range.Camcorders offer the highest quality setting you can get for your helmet cam. The camcorder is also the only device that is capable of hosting LANC input (remote start/stop button). The camcorder is also fragile and bulky, with more moving parts. Also, the cost of DV tapes can add up. You will also need to consider the additional requirements when it comes to getting the footage onto your computer (discussed below).Personal media players are extremely compact, lightweight and durable. They allow you to record your helmet cam footage directly to compressed mpeg4 format—a standard computer-ready video file—via an internal hard drive or removable Compact Flash memory. The quality is slightly less than a miniDV and battery life can be a challenge if you cannot make use of a car adapter.Connectors:****Cheap Wires = Cheap Signal = Poor VideoConnectors are the most common weak point of any audio/video system. If you use the cheapest RCA connectors available with an expensive DVD player, it will produce output similar to a discount model.The same theory applies for camera systems. When you use RCA connectors or telephone wiring, you are leaving your signal unprotectedEquipment StorageThe last thing you need is a place to hold your battery pack, excess wire and your recording device. This can be any combination of what you want, have or need. Even for extreme weather conditions, there are waterproof cases available, such as the Pelican case. If you ride desert or cross-country and need a water bladder, then be sure to get a pack with a little extra storage space. Or you can simply use an old fanny pack (note: smaller = tighter pack = less bouncing and shifting while the pack is in use).SharingIf you only want to replay your videos on your TV, then you can skip this section, as any recording device will have A/V output cables that can be attached to your TV for direct video playback. However, if you want to share your files online, edit your footage and/or burn CDs or DVDs for others to watch, then you're going to need a computer. The choice of recording method from above will drive how much computer you're going to need.Computer needs: A firewire card is required to get footage off of a miniDV camcorder and onto our computer. But if you opt for the personal media player instead, you'll save yourself a trip to the store. The files on many personal media players can be transferred via USB, and the compressed video is more manageable (vs. the larger file sizes of miniDV footage), so no extra RAM was required for tweaking our files.Video EditingMost computers have Windows Movie Maker which will do fine for basic editing functions, such as cutting dulls spots, adding sound (music), and stock video mods like brightening. However, the videophiles of this world are probably going to run out and drop $800 on Adobe Premiere so they can drool over the 1 million tools that they'll probably never use. But hey, they like the security of knowing that the fish-eye-disintegration-mezzotint-adjust tool is there, just in case they need it.If you don't want to bother with the downloading and editing software, but still want to look awesome on video, do what we do; send your raw footage to the guys at Twenty20. For a small cost, they'll put together a professional quality action video... starring you! For more info on Twenty20's video editing service, click here.