Monday, August 15, 2011

Forget the helmet cam

I'm giving up on the helmet cam for now. No computer I own can be coaxed into showing the bulky videos at anything like a reasonable speed. You can't edit what you can't see.

I did shoot some stuff for the local TV guy who is working on the bike safety video project I instigated last summer. I'm supposed to be working on the script at this very moment. It all seems pretty disjointed.

It's hard to get a camera to see what the cyclist sees or what you want the motorist to see. It's very difficult to set up single-camera shots that show traffic behavior when the camera vehicle takes up the space you want the other drivers to use.

It's hard to come up with an interesting voice-over when all you really want to say to drivers is "just give me space." All you want to say to other cyclists is, "Don't ride on the sidewalk, idiot! Don't ride against traffic!"

On Saturday I rode on the sidewalk for about ten feet to zip behind a pedestrian who had just committed to the crosswalk as I came blasting down a hill at an inconvenient speed. I twitched the bike to the right into a driveway, slipped behind the walker and shot back out through the handicapped ramp of the crosswalk to regain the street. It was one of those battlefield decisions you can't teach anyone or advise that they do. Sort of like the time I snapped the old Triumph Spitfire into a near death-roll, yanking it into a very fortunately placed side street as the gap I had merged into suddenly started to disappear. On the bike I had more options. The only thing I couldn't have done in the time available was stop short of the crosswalk like a good do-bee.

Anyway, the camera. I guess I thought with so much amateur video out there the technology would be as user friendly as digital still photography and music have been. I had not considered that wearable camcorders come to us from the world of Professional Videographers. The early adopters had professional backgrounds or hefty budgets and sophisticated amateur setups. This is in stark contrast to the fact that the first digital still cameras most of us knew about were very crude point-and-shoots. Home computers and digital cameras have co-evolved for well over a decade now. Meanwhile, little video cameras deliver either a jumpy, grainy image due to the limitations of the camera or a halting high-definition slide show on any but the very latest and greatest home computers. Minimum processor speed 3.2 GHz? Three gigs of RAM?

The first company that invents a competitively sized camera that will not only shoot HD but will also play nicely with elderly computers deserves all the business anyone can send them. I don't foresee being able to afford major computer upgrades anytime soon. By the time I do this video camera format will probably have been abandoned.

So much for video vanity.


RANTWICK said...

Amen brother. I love my gopro, but the computer requirements are indeed pretty rough. I also agree that no matter how good the camera, it is extraordinarily difficult to convey what it is really like on the bike. Many many times I've thought I caught something interesting only to find that the difference between what I saw and what the camera captured was too great to bother.

cafiend said...

Yeah. I noted earlier how the wide angle lens flattens and spreads out the scene. On one of my frame-by-frame staggers through a video I shot on my ride home recently I couldn't figure out where I was based on the image I was seeing.

To do the on-board video thing right you really need a helmet cam, a handlebar cam and a hand-held unit to cover all possible contingencies. You'd look like the human version of the Google Earth car.

Janice in GA said...

I have a GoPro too, and I couldn't use it on my old computer. I HAD to put the videos on my Newer!Faster! computer just to watch them. O.o

Steve A said...

This is a morale boost. My video is lousy but I feel better because I didn't drop a lot of money only to shake my head in frustration.

cafiend said...

This was clearly a case in which more procrastination would have been a good thing. I'd gone back and forth about the cam idea for years. Meanwhile, I was not doing a lot of research, because I didn't think it was a big deal. When every electronic device shoots video these days, how hard could it be to make a nice little camera? Right? Well, now I know. Chalk it up to tuition. Fortunately I only paid wholesale for it.