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Al Downs

Video camera

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I would like to install a video camera in the cockpit and also outside. What is everybody using? Do some workout better than others? What functions can be controlled by remote control?

 

Thanks

 

Al Downs

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The leading contenders are: Contour, Drift, & Hero. Each has a few models, mostly based on age. Of course, you can always use pretty much any modern still camera, as they all have excellent video modes. The video cameras that are about the size of a pack of cigarettes are also pretty good, but may not mount outside very well.

The features that matter are: Battery life, mounting, angle of capture on lens, remote, external mic input, Propeller "issues", ability to see what you are shooting (or aiming), lens protection, lens rotation.

Features that sound cool but aren't that useful: GPS, Bluetooth...

Battery Life: More is better - My Drift can go about 4 hours on the extended battery. Batteries are easy to change. Also check how much spare batteries cost... are generic replacements available?

Mounting: I personally didn't like the Contour mounting system, you had to put on all these slide-on adapters, even one just to get a standard tripod hole. Most have tripod hole built-in, plus many different mounts.

Lens Angle: 135 degrees to 170 degrees works out nice. 170 shows some fish-eye effects, but not bad. 60-100 degrees are OK, but just don't compare (especially for flying). The still cameras and consumer pocket video cameras usually don't have the extreme wide angles.

Remote: Not essential, but nice to have. My Drift has one, but it turns out to not be that useful. For the remote to work, the camera still has to be "on", meaning its using battery life. It just lets you turn recording on or off. Some remotes may let you zoom, but without a way to see the screen, you have no idea what you are capturing. Remote or not, you'll still forget to turn it on or off!

External Mic: Essential if you want to capture radio/intercom. Some, like the Aviation-specific version of the Contour, have cables/jacks all ready to integrate with your headsets. My low tech alternative: take a bean-sized microphone and stick it in one of my ear muffs. Here's another trick, especially useful if you have the camera outside - use a $25 voice recorder (with external mic input) to record the radio/intercom, then merge it into your movie as another sound track. Very easy on every video editing program I've used.

Propeller "Issues": Because of the types of sensors and shutters used, the moving propeller may look weird, very weird. Some produce moving horizontal waves, others make the prop look bent. Stopping the prop, or even making it go backwards is not unusual. The very newest cameras, especially the aviation-specific Contour, have features that eliminate the propeller problem. Avoid shooting the prop, or shoot it at the edges of a wide angle.

Video Aiming: Figuring out what is going to be included in your shot is harder on some cameras than others. The Drift has a small monitor, so you can preview. The Contour has little lasers, so you get an idea of where the camera is pointing. If you use the bluetooth feature on the Contour, you can view the screen through your smarphone (goodbye battery life). You can always mount it, shoot some samples, then view your samples and adjust.

Camera/Lens protection: I haven't had it happen yet, but a bug at 140mph can mess up your lens. And a bit of rain could easily ruin a camera. Some cameras are inherently waterproof/resistant. Others have protective cases available. The drift is water resistant, with replaceable lenses and lens protection available. Only important if mounting outside.

Lens Rotation: Important to compensate for odd mounting angles. Many cameras allow the lens to rotate, or at least have internal software "flip" capabilities. When you have the camera mounted on the wing, at odd angles, its nice to be able to rotate the lens 12 degrees, or whatever, to make the horizon look right.

 

I've used several cameras, and each has it's pluses/minuses. Regardless of camera, a solid mount is the most important thing. Digital video cameras have this ugly thing, sometimes called "Jello" effect, that causes the video to have jiggly waves move though them... very distracting. A vibrating mount will cause the Jello effect to be much worse. Newer versions of cameras are trying to reduce the Jello effect.

I now have a Drift Stealth 170, but the new Drift HD is even nicer. I had a Contour+ but sent it back... I didn't like the mounting system and found that the battery life wasn't that great (especially with GPS/Bluetooth). The GoPro Hero is pretty popular with the flying crowd.

BTW, one feature I thought would be nice was the time-lapse photo thing. You know, show an entire 2-hour flight in 10 minutes. It turned out to be a hassle. You end up with thousands of individual photos that have to be made into a movie. 'Not a real easy thing. I found that using your video editing program and just using the feature to speed-up the video accomplishes the same thing.

Tim

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Tim,

 

Nice review, thanks.

 

What do you see as the main use for a camera? I think I'd get bored with taking pictures of running around the sky. Does it help learn about mistakes or performance in any maneuvers? Help in landing/TO? Do you have any movies to post or do you have any to recommend on YouTube as demonstrations of camera uses?

 

Where do you mount on in a CT? From your discussion above, it sounds like mounting to the rod the compass is on would be bothered by propeller flicker. Can you suction cup it under the wing and then put a safety cable to the tie-down strap? (You can see I'm paranoid about losing it.) On the cabin roof to shoot over the prop?

 

 

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We just got back form the bahamas and i used the hero2HD with the suction mount under the wing.

Could not have been any better! Video was perfect in every way...the HD was so good you could see the gravel pieces in the runway as i was taking off and landing.

The only things i saw that would make it better would be if i could turn it off and on from inside the plane.

The total cost was like $225.00 brand new off ebay.

 

Probably could spend several thousand dollars for all the extras but you wouldnt have any better video than me.

 

PS you can swing from the suction cup mount...it will NOT come off

 

mack

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Never leash it to the wing. If a camera mount ever comes loose you want it away from the plane. Otherwise it will beat your wing to death flapping in the wind. A new camera is considerably cheaper than the repairs to the wing..

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Never leash it to the wing. If a camera mount ever comes loose you want it away from the plane. Otherwise it will beat your wing to death flapping in the wind. A new camera is considerably cheaper than the repairs to the wing..

 

Good point.

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Jim,

Having video was invaluable when training. You can see so much more detail when reviewing the video after a flight. Otherwise, just sharing flying with others and documenting beautiful flights is why I do it.

Go to youtube and search for ctsw or ctls, or flight design. Many forum members have posted incredible videos. You can see the various mounting places. There is a link to some of my videos in my signature, below.

I'll bet that,eventually, cameras will be the $300 flight recorder for private aircraft...

Tim

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To me, the mount is more important than the camera. I use a suction-cup mount on the inside of the pilot's door window - up and to the left - out of my line of sight as much as possible. For the record, you can search my videos on YouTube using "N293CT". Some have music. Some have my radio calls.

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I've been very impressed with the quality of the video that I capture on iPhones.

 

I'll post links to an iPhone 4 video. Karen just got an iPhone 4s, which allegedly has an even better camera. Specs here:

 

http://www.apple.com/iphone/built-in-apps/hd-video-recording.html

 

Oh, and as far as remote control, the iPhone shutter or video can be activated with the "volume up" button on the supplied iPhone earbuds.

 

Just another option to consider - and an iPhone can do so much more besides.

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no reason to leash the camera as there is no way the suction mount is coming off.

i did not leash mine in any way, if it came off you just loose the camera.....no beating the wing.

 

mack

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I'm looking at machining a spacer block to go between a position light and the wing. The camera will mount on or in the block and also pick up 12 volts from the light. I believe FD would probably approve it. Anyone have any thoughts on this?

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I'm looking at machining a spacer block to go between a position light and the wing. The camera will mount on or in the block and also pick up 12 volts from the light. I believe FD would probably approve it. Anyone have any thoughts on this?

Let us know what you come up with if FD approves. This might be the way to go.

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Something like Roger made might work well also. The inspection hole is right there so maybe the 12 volts could be picked up easily.

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I probably shouldn't say this or let anyone know, but a wire(s) can be routed down through the wing into the cockpit. There are openings all the way down through the wing.

Camera mounts work very well screwed to the wing tie-down hole to secure mounts and the clear inspection port is right there too if a wire was really needed.

 

Read it, in 60 seconds this message will self destruct!

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Roger,

 

I looked at making landing lights that would fit where the clear inspection plate are, but I was concerned about having loose wires next to the flight linkages. Are there accessible places to secure wires in that area?

 

Your camera mount would work, but I'd be concerned about the attention it might attract.

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Finally got a chance to go up and shoot some video with Karen's new iPhone 4S:

 

 

 

Does a pretty good job. There is some weird "shimmering" artifact, probably from the image stabilizing. Mostly noticeable on initial climbout, for some reason. Plus, bear in mind this was all shot through the canopy and handheld. But for a phone, its still pretty amazing.

 

One really cool thing is that we have an Apple TV hooked up to a 47" LCD TV, and can stream the video direct from the phone to the TV - and it is amazingly sharp and detailed. The below image doesn't come near to capturing the quality, but you get the idea...

 

6760385963_5ceb33a5bc_z.jpg

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I've been very impressed with the quality of the video that I capture on iPhones.

 

I'll post links to an iPhone 4 video. Karen just got an iPhone 4s, which allegedly has an even better camera. Specs here:

 

http://www.apple.com...-recording.html

 

Oh, and as far as remote control, the iPhone shutter or video can be activated with the "volume up" button on the supplied iPhone earbuds.

 

Just another option to consider - and an iPhone can do so much more besides.

 

Ed, how do you mount your iphone, if you do?

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