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Posted by on Jan 23, 2010 in Product Review | 14 comments

Bike Video – My Thoughts on the VIO POV

pov

I don’t know much about video cameras. I’ve never owned a camcorder. So please take this post as my observations, not expert advice. My adventures in bike video and video editing began in October 2008 when Brian DeSousa came to Orlando.

Brian was generous in showing me CyclistView equipment and methods. And, of course, in providing valuable video of me cycling in Orlando traffic. With all that great video, I had to learn to do some basic editing. I hacked away at iMovie (the free version), later upgrading to the more-robust-but-frequently-aggravating iLife version. This was my first iMovie product.

bobbiescreen

Brian riding in front of the double paceline. Screen shot from VholdR video.

Brian returned in March. He spent a few days here and shot a bunch more video with me, including some group video that Dan Gutierrez used for an educational piece, and the downtown cruiser video I edited for this post. All of this video was shot on a VIO POV 1. I also had the opportunity to use a VholdR while Brian was here in March (more on that later).

Since Brian’s first visit, I’ve had the itch to buy my own camera. Bike cam video is such an incredible educational tool. But I wanted the best camera for the job, which meant plunking down big bucks on something I’d essentially use for hobby and volunteer work.

rodney

Robert Seidler shoots video of CO author, Rodney, for the LE Toolkit

The FBA Law Enforcement Toolkit project gave me a legitimate business expense to purchase my own POV 1.5 this fall. In November, Robert Seidler and I put our new POVs through the paces collecting video for that program.

Versatility & stability

Robert mounts forkcam

Robert sets up the hazardcam on his Bike Friday

One of the main attractions of this camera is the tiny profile of the camera head. You can mount the thing almost anywhere.

I had always been under the impression that mounting a camera to the bike would produce too much vibration. Many of the bike-mounted videos I’ve seen require a lot of digital stabilization, resulting in image loss at the edges.

When we mounted cameras to our bikes to shoot road hazards, I figured a little camera shake wouldn’t be a bad thing. The idea was to show why bicyclists need to avoid the edge of the road, and that conditions that are merely annoying to motorists can be intolerable and dangerous for bicycle drivers. Well, it turned out the camera was almost too stable for that purpose. It certainly belies the pain and suffering one experiences on a road like Summerlin Ave. Here’s a sample:

Choosing a Lens

The POV 1.5 comes with a 110° wide angle lens. VIO also offers a 70° lens for tighter shots. I’ve experimented with both. The 110° is ideal for both image stability (especially on the helmet mount) and showing the the peripheral scene. For traffic interactions in their entirety, this is essential. One limitation I’ve found with the wide angle is that it makes everything look farther away. If you’re demonstrating properly-functioning traffic dynamics, this is an asset, but if you want to show traffic conflicts, it doesn’t work well. The last 2 clips in the video below compare motorists passing into oncoming traffic. In real life, the one shot with the 110° was slightly farther away than the one shot with the 70°, but nowhere near as far as it looks on the video.

70degreeback

70° lens mounted to the rack

I found the 70° lens works best mounted to the bike. On my helmet, the tight field shook wildly, exacerbating every bump, no matter how hard I tried to absorb the shock and hold my head steady. On moderately rough pavement, the video is unwatchable (the above clip of Mighk on the six-lane road—U.S. 17-92—is on fairly smooth pavement).

rackbottom

110° lens mounted near the bottom of the rear rack

I like the 110° mounted on the back of the bike, but haven’t found a good forward-facing mount. There is too much side-to-side movement when it is mounted to the handlebars. When mounted to the frame pointing forward, the peripheral movement of the bars and cables is disruptive.

helmetcam

The helmet mount requires a still head while your body absorbs the bumps. Photo by Mighk.

A helmet mount is best for shooting overall traffic dynamics because of the high perch. There is also a benefit to being able to turn my head to follow action (like here). The downside is I can’t turn my head for a shoulder check when I’m holding the camera on a subject. I put a take-a-look mirror on my helmet visor, I’m still getting used to that. Another downside is the inevitable stiff neck. Plus, on our rough roads, I get sore quads and calves from holding myself off the seat and using my legs as shock absorbers. But as Dan G. says, “we suffer for out art.”

The display

monitor

The recorder unit is mounted to the Arkel handlebar bag mount with Velcro. It's handy to start and stop recording and to check the image.

A valuable feature this camera has that most other helmet-cams don’t is an LCD display. Being able to aim the camera and see what the image looks like on the fly is a big time-saver. When Brian and I used the VholdR, we had to set up the mount, then take out the card, put it in a portable player, check the image, and do it again until it was right. Then, since it was on my helmet, I had to focus on holding my head in the exact same place as when I set it up. At one point we tried to set the VholdR up on another rider in a hurry — skipping checking the image — it was aimed wrong and the resulting video was useless. With the POV, I can check the image without recording anything. And I can check it again as I’m riding to make sure it’s aimed where I want.

Accessories

My favorite accessory is the Ultra-Clamp, an incredible little contortionist with a vise on one end and a camera mount on the other (you can use any tripod-ready camera with it). It can be purchased from VIO or HelmetCameraCentral with the camera, or you can get it at a photo store. I bought mine at Colonial Photo and Hobby.

We used a magnet-mounted platform to attach the lens to a hat for shooting pedestrian crosswalk issues

We used a magnet-mounted platform (included with the basic camera kit) to attach the lens to a cap for shooting pedestrian crosswalk issues

The basic POV kit comes with a number of nifty mounting devices, but it’s missing some essentials that must be purchased separately. I bought the C-Clamp and Wide Flange Base to attach the lens to the ultra-clamp. I also use them to Velcro the lens to a helmet. VIO sells a separate mount kit, but I didn’t see anything in that with similar functionality.

Wish list

I hope the next generation includes an HD version and a bigger LCD (my old eyes need some help). I wonder if the color could be more vibrant.

An incredible tool for education and advocacy

In building instructional materials for cyclists and law enforcement, point-of-view video is priceless. It’s not possible to shoot accurate traffic interactions with video in a following motor vehicle. We’ve used a car to get motorist-perspective video for the law enforcement program. It’s valuable footage, but if the video car follows the cyclist for more than a few seconds, it really screws up the traffic dynamic (even on a multi-lane road). Then if the video car passes while there is traffic behind it, the cyclist is left with a herd of of angry motorists. (The same thing happens if any motorist sits behind a cyclist instead of taking ample opportunities to pass.)

The greatest gift the POV camera has given us is the view of the world behind the cyclist. Being able to show a continuous view of traffic overtaking safely, especially on roads most people think cyclists can’t use safely, is like shining a light under the bed and exposing the lack of monsters. Watching Brian and Dan’s Cyclistview videos gave me the courage to ride much more assertively on high speed roads. Once I experienced it, courage was no longer required — having cars pass in the next lane (8 – 10ft away) is so different and so much more pleasant than what most cyclists experience, it changes your entire perspective of the road.

This is an important tool for the education of non-cyclists as well. Once we demonstrate our legal right to use the road, the bogus safety and delay arguments become the weapon of choice for those who want to remove us from it (“That may be the rule, but…”). POV video is a powerful defense against mythology, misinformation and deliberately specious arguments.

Here’s an example of rear-facing video in daylight and darkness on Curry Ford Rd.

LE Toolkit production vehicle. We did almost all of our transportation for this project by bike. This often involved riding at slow speeds on arterial roads. The POV allowed us to run video along the way.

LE Toolkit production vehicle. We did almost all of our transportation for this project by bike. This often involved riding at slow speeds on arterial roads. The POV allowed us to run video along the way.

The video was shot by Robert Seidler. The daylight video was shot from the POV attached to the seat stay of Robert’s Bike Friday.  For the darkness video, the camera was attached to his seat post. The darkness video was shot at 6 AM on our way to meet the Colonial High School Bike Bus. Not much traffic eastbound at that hour, but drivers typically speed on such a road when it is empty. They all still saw us from a long distance and changed lanes. Our speed was never above 15mph, it was probably around 12mph. I was hauling a trailer with 150lbs of production gear.

The VIO POV was a huge asset to the project, allowing us to get valuable traffic interaction video while we rode from location to location.

14 Comments

  1. Cams for bikes is a very important educational tool for educating non-cyclists. I agree.

  2. I use the POV 1.5. Very much like it, good image stability, good performance on the microphone, but I’m hoping for a future one with better night performance, and a high-def one would be neat as well.

  3. The thought has occurred to me that a set of videos for those hauled into court as a result of riding safely, albeit assertively, might be useful to educate judges. From the POV of a windshield, things look very different than from a cyclist camcorder. While I’m not personally awaiting any court dates, I would like to feel confident I would win acquittal if I WERE, presuming I was actually riding safely and legally.

    FWIW, when I went to the POV site, it was unclear what package you really would have to buy to get something truly useful. The ULTIMATE package with a 1.0 was much more expensive than the 1.5 which seemed odd. Clarification?

    • Steve, I don’t know why the 1 is more expensive than the 1.5. I bought from HelmetCameraCentral on Brian’s advice. I bought their motor sports value package. I intend to do some in-car video to show that perspective (as in how far ahead you can easily see a cyclist), so including the power adapter made sense for me.

  4. Keri, your videos and articles, and the Cyclist View videos have been invaluable to me. They have helped me learn to ride in traffic, and in the dark. I can now get to work in different places around town from Kissimmee, like Semoran/Pershing area, Downtown, John Young Parkway / I-4 area, and Windermere.

    I feel much more confident now than I did even 2-3 months ago, and am even riding through Lake Buena Vista on Hwy 535 on Saturday evenings. It was pretty busy tonight, but man, for me so far, the right tire track is the place to be. You have so much more room as cars just go around you, and I don’t get honked at because I think they feel like at least I’m trying to stay somewhat to the right.

    Thank you for your videos. It helps so much to see how traffic behaves when you ride correctly, and gives you the courage and curiosity to go out there and try it, little by little.

    • Comments like this always make me smile. Thank you!

  5. Thanks Keri!

  6. Prompted by drummergeek’s comments, the question arises why LAB Traffic 101 courses don’t use video to illustrate things during the lecture portion of the course? It would seem an obvious thing to do and a lot more useful than the booklet and ppt slides. In my course, I didn’t get the impression that a new rider would come away with a clear idea of how to safely ride in traffic.

    Seeing is believing!

  7. I think a retrofit for the camera when clamped to the frame would be pretty easy to come up with. Something that would just extend the camera out in front of the cables. But from everything I’ve seen of your video I don’t really think you should change a thing. One thought I had on the microphone the sound is most affected by wind find a way to use your body as the windscreen. Maybe mount the mic facing backwards.

    • Good point about the wind noise. I really need to put more thought into the mic placement, I have a bad habit of ignoring it when I set things up.

      • If you watch the local news on TV, you will see a huge foam ball on top of the mike. That’s for baffling the wind. If it is too small or too thin, it doesn’t work.

  8. Such videos are great, but yikes at the $$$$$. I’ve been wanting to grab some video of me vehicularly/properly cycling on a couple of the major streets here, but couldn’t figure out how to secure my digital camera to the frame. I’d sooner duct tape it than spend as much for one of those POV cameras. After all, it has a mount on the bottom where it screws in…I really need to focus on getting that done.

  9. Outstanding work with the information videos.

    I own the VIO POV 1.5 and use it on my various bicycle rides along with other activities. The mounting solutions that come with the cam are excellent, but if you need to look at more options, Ram Mounts offers just about anything you could want. The quality and functionality is second to none. http://www.ram-mount.com/.

    The subject of wind noise is always an issue when filming outside. I always struggled with it until I found the WindCutter. They have a solution specifically for the VIO POV 1 and 1.5.
    http://www.thewindcutter.com/shop/index.php?main_page=index&cPath=1_113

    • Knale,

      Thank you so much for those excellent links!