Friday, February 24, 2006

I Simultaneously Love and Hate Technology (part 1)

Last year before our annual trip to West Virginia, I purchased a helmet cam and a Canon ZR60 on eBay (actually I purchased 3 Canon ZR60s, the first two didn't work).

The helmet cam attaches to the side of my helmet with velcro, it is powered by 8 AA batteries, and it plugs into the camcorders analog input. You use the camcorder as a VCR and it records what the helmet cam sends it.

Its very slick. I enjoyed doing it a lot and I plan on doing it again when we go back there in 40 days. The quality of the footage is truly amazing considering the environment that it is filming in.

I did have some issues.

I went through 32 double AA batteries. Thats a lot. Not only was it expensive, but I lost an hours worth of footage because the batteries had died once and I didn't know. Also, it was a real pain in the neck changing the batteries out on the trail.

I spent half the time trying to dodge mud holes because I was afraid of getting crud on the helmet cam and ruining our footage.

Another issue that I experienced was the mini DV tapes only hold an hour's worth of video. Again, like the batteries, it is very difficult to change the tapes out on the trail. Even more so than the batteries because you dont want to get any dirt in the camera.

The last issue is that I had the camcorder, extra camcorder batteries, the battery pack for the helmet cam, extra AA batteries, and extra tapes all crammed into a backpack. It was heavy, I couldn't ride as fast as I wanted to and getting in and out of the whole get up was tough. Especially when everything is covered in dust and/or mud.

So, what kind of solutions have I come up with to make the whole experience more enjoyable?

A couple of friends and I toyed with the idea of adding a plug to my ATV that could power the helmet cam. It seems like a lot of work and hassle to go through, but it would probably work well. The other solution is to use 8 D batteries instead of AA. They will weigh more and take up more space, but they will last longer. Actually when you figure in the weight of all the spare AAs I carried they probably wont weigh much more.

As far as the mud holes are concerned...screw it. I am going to ride as fast as I can and enjoy myself. If we lose some footage. Oh well.

I can't do much about the mini DV tapes, other than replace the camcorder with one of these. Oh man oh man. Maybe next year.

And the last issue? I am going to get a tank bag. At the very least, I'll be able to keep the camcorder in it. Not only will this take some weight off my back, but it'll be easier to check how much tape is left, change the tape, check the battery status, etc.

Something else I want to try, just to add variety to the footage, is to turn the helmet cam around so it is filming who is behind me. I think that it would be kinda cool.

I can't wait.

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