I always get a lot of questions about how I take videos, so I’m taking the time to spell out the system I use. There are four different components that come together that allow me to document my travels through video. You need something to do the actual recording, a place to mount the recording device, some place to store all the data from your videos and a way to recharge all your gadgets without relying on an electrical outlet in a diner.
All I use to take videos is my trusty Kodak V570 digital camera. The V570 can capture video in MPEG4 format. Why is that important? Because MPEG4 can compress video incredibly well, allowing you to store a lot of video using a relatively low amount of memory. I did a ton of research before deciding on this digital camera. There are a a lot of features in this camera that make it perfect for shooting video while on a motorcycle. It records video in MPEG4 format which allows me to store more video in less memory. Video can be set to record in either 640×400 or 320×200 resolution. I prefer the higher resolution, but selecting the lower one will allow you to store twice as many videos since they take up less memory. The audio capture is also pretty decent and you can witness this from my videos. The dimensions of the camera are 4x2x.8 inches (WxDxH) which make it easy to fit inside my helmet. Refurbished and sometimes new v570s can be had off EBay for as little as $150.
Mounting the Camera
I use two different methods to mount my camera. I can “mount” it by just throwing it in my helmet, which is the solution I use most of the time. The dimensions (4x2x.8 inches) of the Kodak v570 make it a perfect fit. The width isn’t that important since most helmets will have a decent amount of room side to side for a camera. The hardest thing about finding a digital camera that will fit is making sure that it isn’t too tall so that you can’t see over it, and that it isn’t too thick so that it is pressing up against your nose. The two inch height allows me to see the road completely. You probably can’t believe it from the picture, but the only thing that is blocked from my field of view is my speedometer. So I have to dip my head down an inch to see it (big deal). The camera is less than an inch thick so it doesn’t smush against my face either. I store my camera in my tank bag and when it is safe to do so I can pop my camera in and out of my helmet without stopping. This is why I use this method the most. I hate having to stop in order to setup my equipment. I find myself capturing more video if it is easier to do so, which makes the post-trip reminiscing more fun.
I occasionally use another method to mount my camera directly on my motorcycle. I use a mount from Ram Mount which works great. The plastic is very strong and I don’t worry about it breaking or being too flimsy. There is a very strong sucction cup on one side and a standard 1/4 inch screw on the other to attach the camera onto. On the flatter parts of my fairings I can apply the suction cup and it has a very strong grip. I always attach a string to the mount and tie it around my frame…just in case, but it has never fallen off. With this I am able to setup some pretty cool angles from the side from or rear. You can check out www.ram-mount.com to get all the parts necessary. The following video I shot at Deals Gap demonstrates some of the angles that are possible.
Dragon Runs to Sigur Ros
I always bring two SD memory cards that are used by my camera. If one fails, then I have a backup and I can start shooting video one my spare card if the first one fills up. They are 2GB cards which allow me to shoot an hour of video at 640×400 resolution and two hours at 320×200. Shooting at 320×200 resolution is sufficient for online video sites like YouTube and LiveVideo.com, but I always like have the highest quality video should I find an application for the video that requires the extra detail (like a DVD movie?). You can pickup these cards at NewEgg.com for $20 or less.
My Smartdisk PhotoBank is a key piece of equipment that allows me to take 20-40 hours of video without using a computer. It is a portal hard drive that allows you to insert your SD memory card in it and copy the complete contents onto its 40GB drive. It also supports Compact Flash, Microdrive, Multimedia Card, Smart Media, or Memory Stick memory cards. After I have filled up a memory card, I plug it into the PhotoBank and let it copy while I pop in my secondary SD card if I wanted to keep recording. This product is sparsely available through retailers but I managed to find it for about $110 online.
I use Powerlet electrical kits to charge all my gadgets. Essentially it act like cigarette lighter in your car, except it is a different sized port that is typically used for motorcycle related electronics such as heated vests or gloves. I have an adapter for the normal cigarette lighter style port that I use for some of the adapters I already had. This device is essential since I bring my IPod, cellphone, camera batteries, Photobank and GPS logger on long trips so there is almost always something charging. The particular charging kit you need will depend on your bike, so check out powerletproducts.com for more details.
I hope this is helpful for those of your looking to take video on your rides as well. If you haev any additional questions feel free to post them up in the comments. 😎