Sunday, September 10, 2006


Video and audio from a Sony TRV10. Images added using Pinnacle Studio 9.4.

A few people said that the effect where the video gets really bright was cheesy and suggested I remove it. The eerie truth is that I don't know how it got there. The camera did that - it's not an effect I added.

Julia Othmer performing at Hill of the Hawk in Big Sur, CA 2005.


Thursday, September 07, 2006

Helmet Cameras

At CES in 2005, Samsung introduced the SCX-105 helmet camera. The specs of the device are really great, and the concept of a separate helmet camera was new for a consumer camcorder. I bought one as soon as they were available.

I've used this camera a lot, and had a great time with it. There are many reviews on the web, and depending on your application, you will run into a number of issues (some with solutions):

1) Battery life on the standard battery is in the 30-50 minute range - frustratingly short. SOLUTION: There are sellers on Ebay who sell larger capacity batteries and these are a great investment.

2) Internal memory is 500 Meg, which is 10 minutes of video at the highest quality. SOLUTION: I bought a 2 gig card which solved that issue.

3) The MPEG 4 video format is Samsung proprietary. I haven't quite figured out what is going on here, but I needed to download a special CODEC from the Samsung site. Unfortunately, the CODEC has some bugs and is not fully compatible with video editing programs. It seems to play fine in Windows Media Player, but I had trouble with Movie AutoProducer 5.0 and Pinnacle Studio 9.4. SOLUTION: Use STOIK (or some other video conversion program) to convert the video to some other format. This is a slow process, but STOIK allows you to do batch conversions and I leave it running overnight.

4) The external camera has it's own power source, and is very sensitive to battery voltage levels. This means that alkaline batteries have a very short life, and you can't use rechargeables in the cold. I have not tried rechargeables in warm weather. SOLUTION: Carry extra batteries or buy the newer version of the camcorder which use the main power source for the external camera.

5) UI for using external camera very clunky. SOLUTION: After a while you figure out the UI.

6) Helmet camera does not obey white balance settings - this is very important for snow sports. SOLUTION: use PC video editing software to correct white balance.

This camera has two lenses: the main one and the external helmet cam. By today's standards, the video quality of the main camera is pretty low and the helmet cam is even worse. You can read more about the video quality on That's the bad news.

The good news is that in the modern world of low quality web video, it fits in ok. And the really good news, and what was to me a surprising result, is how much better video from a camera mounted to your head is vs. handheld. I've shot a numer of ski videos with a handheld camera and the shots when I was moving shook so much they were generally unwatchable, even if I tried really hard to hold the camera steady. With a head mounted camera, apparently your body buffers the majority of this motion and the result is relatively smooth video. To date, I have only used the elastic band connected directly around my head.

In the following sample, all moving footage was shot with the external camera on the SCX-105. The photos were taken with a Sony Cybershot DSC-T1. The original footage (before uploading to Google where this video is hosted) was quite a bit bigger and looks OK on a DVD. This video gives an idea of the relative quality between the Cybershot pictures and the helmet camera. NOTE: I tried to correct the white balance on the video using Pinnacle. Snow scenes tend to be very grey since the helmet camera does not obey the white balance settings of the base unit.

The music is from Julia Othmer.

The following video was shot entirely using the main camera (rather than the helmet camera) on the SCX-105. There was no additional processing in Pinnacle, but this one uses a fire style from Muvee Autoproducer which obscures the quality. I'll update the post to fix this!

This was taken in Corpus Christi, TX while kiteboarding for the weekend. Many thanks to Cline Street Sailboards and Best who replaced a faulty kite that was purchased in Hood River. That's some serious customer service. If you are ever in Corpus Christi, please visit Cline Street Sailboards - they have kiteboarding gear and great customer service.

I hope both these videos show that the quality is fine for web video. On DVD it looks OK, but certainly far from great. I'd really like to find a solution for high quality video in a helmet camera. I bought a camera from and will post when I get around to using it to see how it compares.