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On-bike Cameras

From GummyCarbs

January 2016

This information was compiled in January, 2016.

Cameras

  • Mobius
    • Supports remote lens (8" extension).
    • Waterproof case sold separately.
    • No screen.
    • Novatek NT96650 + Aptina AR0330
    • 1080p @ 30fps
  • SJCAM SJ4000
    • Two variants: SJ4000 and SJ4000 WiFi
    • Many knock-offs, make sure to buy the real SJCAM branded version.
    • Replaced by the SJ5000
    • SJ4000: Novatek NT96650 (NT96655 on WiFi model) + Aptina AR0330
    • 1.5" screen
    • 1080p @ 30fps
    • 170 degree view
  • SJCAM SJ5000
    • Three variants: SJ5000, SJ5000 WiFi, and SJ5000 Plus
    • Novatek 96650 (SJ5000), Novatek 96655 (SJ5000 WiFi), Ambarella A7LS75 (SJ5000 Plus) + Panasonic MN3110PA
    • 1080p @ 30fps, 720p @ 60fps, SJ5000 Plus model supports 1080p @ 60fps
    • 170 degree view

Old Information

This info was compiled around 2009.

Self-Contained

  • GoPro has the best quality I've seen in a helmet/mountable camera. Does 1080p at 30fps, 720p at 60fps. Waterproof to 60 meters.

Camcorders

SonyDCR-HC30.jpg

MiniDV

PanasonicMiniDV.jpg
Standard MiniDV Camcorders record to MiniDV tape using DCT intraframe compression format, i.e. not MPEG-2 nor MPEG-4. This results in approximately one gigabyte per four minutes of video. A MiniDV tape holds 60 minutes of video.

The biggest question in selecting a camcorder for this purpose is finding one which supports AV-in (i.e. "Audio Visual input", meaning composite video and sound inputs). It appears that virtually none of the current crop of MiniDV camcorders support AV in. However, ebay and Craigslist provide a wide range of used models.

Notably, Sony has traditionally been known for offering AV input, and it appears that any model ending in 'i' will provide it.

Since MiniDV camcorders read from tape, transferring video to a computer will happen in real-time. So, a 30 minute video will take 30 minutes to transfer to a computer.

Hard Disk

Harddisk.jpg

Hard disk camcorders behave much like the DVRs listed below. They use MPEG-4 compression, which allows them to store more data, but yields lower overall quality. Being hard disk based, it's much faster to transfer video to a computer for editing.

Digital Video Recorders

Most DVRs record using MPEG4 or DivX compression, which yields much smaller files, but detail will be poor, particularly when there is a lot of motion. Some DVRs record in MPEG-2 format, like a DV camcorder.

Solid State

MPEG 4

  • Archos 405
    Archos405.jpg
    • 2GB built-in, up to 2GB additional via SD slot.
    • 640x480, MPEG-4 compression.
    • Requires the 5th generation Travel Dock in order to accept AV input.
    • No built-in speaker, no built-in microphone.
    • WARNING: Archos products attempt to honor Macrovision signals. Apparently, they aren't very good at it, so it's common for home-made videos to be flagged as Macrovision-protected. If this happens, the video is only viewable on the Archos device itself, it cannot be copied.
  • Sting by Sonic. Custom DVRs made by Sonic were used in Long Way Round.
  • Cylon Systems provides complete, Archos-based kits to UK police.

MPEG 2

  • ChaseCam PDR100 is the only recorder which will automatically cycle over itself (i.e. never stop to rewind/record, simply stop and swap cards to save desired footage).

Hard Drive-based

Bullet Cameras

HelmetCamera.com

  • HelmetCamera.com offers several types of waterproof camera. All use Sony CCDs.
    • 380 - $169
    • 480 - $259
    • 560 - $299

StuntCams.com

StuntCams sells many camera models and accessories, though their website layout makes it hard to really compare products. Their higher-quality 'Tornado' camera is obviously made by a Korean company called KT&C, and the rest of their lineup seems to directly correlate with KT&C's products (for example, compare the remote supplied by StuntCam versus that of KT&C, and compare the KT&C KPA-1 microphone to StuntCam's microphone).

Refer to their FAQ for better details than their product pages provide.

See this page for an image comparing the relative sizes of each camera.

  • Tornado 520 Res EX-View Cam $279
    • "This camera is a bit larger and wider than our other bullet cameras, but is the best camera for DVD quality footage."
    • 520 lines 'TRUE' resolution
    • 12V, < 100ma current
    • S/N > 68dB
    • 2.1, 2.5, 4, 6, 8, 12, 16, 25mm lenses standard
    • optional variofocal lenses 3.5-8mm ($49), 2.8-12mm ($69), 6-60mm ($89), 5-100mm ($119)
      • Note: this could be the KT&C KPC-650CH (standard 1/3" ExView CCD, 480 lines, most likely), KPC600BH (optional 1/3" ExView CCD, 600 lines), or the KPC-DN301CZH (1/4" CCD, 480 lines, remote control).
  • 550-line Sony CCD bullet camera with variofocal 4-9mm lens.
    • Image sensor Interline 1/3 inch SONY SUPER HAD CCD w/ HQ1 Chipset
    • Effective pixels 768(H) 494(V)
    • S/N ratio More than 45 dB ( AGC OFF )
    • 12V, 130mA max
    • 100% waterproof up to 6ft
  • 520-line Sony CCD bullet camera with pre-wired composite, mini-mic, and battery pack for $185.
    • 520 lines
    • 1/3" Sony CCD
    • 3.6mm lens standard
    • Waterproof if mounting hole sealed with silicon or similar, not recommended for submersion.
    • Note: this appears to be similar to the KT&C KPC-HD230CWX, which is available here for $109. Of course, this version wouldn't include the wiring, battery pack, and mic.


KT&C

KT&C appears to be the source for StuntBike's cameras. The full KT&C catalog appears on their American site.

  • KPC-HD353CW
    Title KPC-HD353CW 01.gif
    • 1/3" Sony CCD / 520 TV Lines (2:1 interlace)
    • 0.1 Lux / F2.0
    • Digital 3X zoom, A/D Key Controller Featured
    • Digital Day & Night
    • Built in Varifocal Lens (f4.0~8.0mm or f2.6~5.6mm manual Varifocal Lens)
    • Option : Remote Controller, RS-485 Interface
    • NTSC effective pixels - 510(H) x 492(V)
    • S/N Ratio - > 50dB (AGC Off)
    • A/D key Features Digital TELE & WIDE, PAN & TILT, Contrast, Negative & Positive
    • 12V (±10%)
  • KPC-HD230CWX
    Title KPC-HD230CWX 01.gif
    • 1/3" Sony CCD / 520 TV Lines
    • 0.1 Lux / F2.0
    • Digital 3X, A/D Key Controller Featured
    • Digital Day & Night
    • Fixed Board Lens
    • Option : Remote Controller, RS-485 Interface
    • NTSC effective pixels - 510(H) x 492(V)
    • S/N Ratio > 50dB (AGC Off)
    • A/D key Features Digital TELE & WIDE, PAN & TILT, Contrast, Negative & Positive
    • 12V (±10%)

Connectors

RCACable-3-3.jpg

Most likely, any camera and recorder combination will use some variant of standard AV cables. This typically consists of a yellow composite video connector, and two red and white audio connectors. Plugging and unplugging all of these connectors can get tedious, and they don't provide any sort of locking mechanism to prevent them from working themselves loose.

  • This catalog page shows a four-conductor miniplug to RCA cable, which looks a lot like the one that ships with the Archos 5th Gen travel dock.
  • VioTac sells cables with standard connectors (e.g. Sony HandyCam) on one end, and a mini-DIN on the other.
  • The image to the right shows the connectors used in Race to Dakar (click for larger version).
    Connector-closeup.jpg

TRS (Tip Ring Sleeve, aka Phono Plug, Mini Plug) Connectors

TRS connectors refer to the entire family of phono-type plugs and sockets. This Wikipedia page provides an excellent summary.

Two-conductor (mono) plugs are referred to as TS plugs. Three conductors are referred to as TRS. Four conductor plugs are referred to as TRRS.

Four Conductor Plugs

Nexus TP-120 "Telephone Plugs"

NexusTP120.gif

Long used by military and helicopter headsets, I first came across these on the San Francisco Police Department DR400s. The plug shaft is around 1/4" in diameter, and it provides four conductors.

Hirose HR30

HiroseHR30.jpg

Hirose makes the waterproof, multi-pole, circular HR30 connector, which looks very promising. It's waterproof, has chunky plastic tabs to assure proper orientation, and it supports ither three or six wires. Overall diameter is around 12mm. The HR30 provides many different options, each of which is selectable within the part number. For a full list, refer to their part catalog.
Some useful part number configurations are:

  • HR30-6P-3S - Plug, 3 wires, female (S) ($12 from Newark, $10.35 from Digikey)
  • HR30-6J-3P - Jack, 3 wires, male (P) (unavailable?)
  • HR30-6P-6S - Plug, 6 wires, female (S) ($7.82 from Newark, $6.79 from Digikey)
  • HR30-6J-6P - Jack, 6 wires, male (P) ($8.36 from Newark, $7.36 from Digikey)

Note that this connector may not be rated for the number of connection cycles required for daily use.

AMP Connectors

AMP-Tyco CPC connectors are circular, multi-conductor connectors. They are available from Action Electronics.

XLR Connectors

XLR Connectors are rugged, circular connectors typically used for audio connections.

Duraline

Duraline-MultiPinWaterproofConnector.jpg

Duraline makes a variety of plugs and connectors.

Molex MX150L

Waytek carries Molex MX150L waterproof connectors. These are intended for automotive use, though not necessarily many plug cycles.

Anderson SB50

The Anderson SB50 may be useful.

Weather-Pak

Weather-Pak sells several connectors.

Manipulating Videos

Downloading Video from Camcorder

Depending on the camera and computer, downloading videos may be very simple or extremely complex.

Windows

Windows XP and Vista include MovieMakerPro, which can be used to capture from a USB-connected camera.

Downloading from a Sony MiniDV HandyCam over USB will result in an MPEG-4 compressed video. In this case, much of the quality of the MiniDV stream will be lost.

Macintosh

If you download video from a MiniDV source using iLife/iMovie, it will convert the video to MPEG-2. This is undesirable if you're seeking the best quality.

To download raw MiniDV content from a camcorder under OS X, do the following:

  1. Download and install the Apple Firewire Developer's Kit.
  2. Use a 4-pin to 6-pin Firewire/i.Link/IEEE1394 cable to connect the camcorder to the Mac.
  3. Turn the camcorder on. Ideally, power it using its AC adapter.
  4. Run AVCVideoCap (located at /Developer/FireWireSDK25/Applications/AVCVideoCapp.app)
  5. AVCVideoCap begin.png Select "DV-VCR" from the list of devices. If this doesn't appear, then the camera isn't connected or powered properly.
  6. Click "Capture From Device" and enter a filename.
  7. AVCVideoCap recordingMode.png Choose "Tape Control" in the Recording Mode dialog.
  8. AVCVideoCap download.png The video will automatically begin streaming to the computer. The video should display in the download window as it is retrieved.
  9. AVCVideoCap done.png AVCVideoCap will automatically stop the camcorder at the end of the segment, or you can click 'Abort'.

Resources

Editing Software

This is a quick list of software which may be of use when processing video.

  • The Deemon SuperResolution very cleverly yields high-resolution images from lower-resolution input video by combining frames. It may not work well with the high degree of motion inherent to sports video.
  • VirtualDub is a simple, but very powerful (and free) video-processing application for Windows.

Resources