How a pro uses a helmet camera

So you’ve thought about getting a helmet camera to record your cycling for safety/fun but you are not yet sure how to go about it or if it’s for you. Fortunately, I’ve asked helmet camera pro Gaz (I’m sure he won’t like being referred to as that!) to talk about which helmet camera he recommends and how he uses it.

For anyone who doesn’t know Gaz (or Croydon Cyclist) he runs the Urban Cycling channel on YouTube. (Recommend you follow it here: http://www.youtube.com/user/gaz545)

Recently, as if to illustrate the value of helmet cameras, Gaz was hit by a car as he was pedalling down a bus lane. Of course being a helmet camera cyclist he captured a video of it.

Anyway, onto Gaz’s pearls of wisdom..

ContourHD Helmet Camera

contour-hdMy helmet camera of choice is the ContourHD. HD quality, slim line, multiple mounting options and easy to use buttons makes it a winner for me. Its advantage over the GoPro is the fact that it isn’t square on when you mount it to your helmet, so it looks a bit better.

But if people don’t want to fork out several hundred for a camera, then I would definitely suggest looking at the Veho Muvi range of cameras, they are great quality, well made and have some good mounting options. If you shop around you could pick one up for less than £50 (£57.99 with sports mount kit).

More info on the ContourHD

Staying on top of all the videos you record

I name all my helmet camera videos by [description] [date] e.g. CommuteW 10.10.10. These full videos are stored on a 2Tb external hard disk for 5 months. Smaller clips are trimmed from the full videos using Quicktime Pro and saved in a similar fashion with the description being the number plate if a vehicle is involved.

Getting the videos onto YouTube

Anything which i think could be worthy of going onto YouTube is then imported into iMovie. Here I add visual effects, texts, transitions, voice overs etc. After I’ve edited the video into a state where it could be uploaded, I watch through it several times and think about what reaction I would get. Some things seem pretty minor when viewing them on your computer but could be completely different when on the road, clips that fall into that area I will not upload even if i have put lots of time into them.

As I use a Macintosh, some of the applications I use are not available on Windows, some video editors you can use are Windows Movie Maker and Adobe Premier Elements.

Who should use helmet cameras?

Anyone that uses the road should use a helmet camera. You never know what is going to happen to you whilst you are on the road, and having the evidence on film of what happened from your point of view is so valuable. You don’t have to put lots of time into it like I do, and you don’t have to upload a lot of videos. I know of some cyclists that use helmet cameras that post very rarely on YouTube and that’s great because it’s not taking a lot of time away from their family’s and other commitments they have.

What first got you into using Helmet Cameras?

I really wanted to make a difference to the behaviour of motorists towards cyclists whilst we share the roads. It’s not very common to see a commuter cyclist as far out as Croydon, and thus the drivers aren’t really aware how to behave. So I used to get a lot of stick from drivers and I wanted to document it and see what can be done about it. Slowly but surely making a difference.

Silly Cyclists

This is a little video series that I’m working on which shows common errors that cyclists make on the roads, it’s basically an educational tool to help people understand what they shouldn’t do!

To follow Gaz: Twitter / YouTube

See also:

  1. My roundup of 3 helmet cameras
  2. Puncture proof tyres
  3. Cycling blogger hit by a car.. here’s how it happened

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29 Responses to How a pro uses a helmet camera

  1. Gaz 24/01/2011 at 9:16 am #

    If you have any questions you would like to direct to me. Please leave a comment here or you can contact me via twitter, my youtube channel or e-mail sillycyclists@gmail.com.

  2. Kevin Campbell's Blog 24/01/2011 at 9:19 am #

    would love to do this but can not afford to, if anyone wants to buy me the equipment i will be happy to

  3. thereverent 24/01/2011 at 4:49 pm #

    A technical question for Gaz that might be of use for others, so I’ll put it here.

    When taking footage from my MUVI cam and using IMovie to put it on YouTube I find the quality drops sometimes quite badly. Is there a way of uploading it at a better quality by saving it as file, then uploading or doing it a different way?

    • Gaz 24/01/2011 at 10:03 pm #

      That is interesting, i can’t say i have noticed that with my videos, be them recorded from my ContourHD’s, a veho muvi, my iPhone or a HD PVR. BUT it could be iMovie that is doing something in the export. You could try exporting the movie to your desktop using iMovie and choose the best settings, then upload it to youtube.

      There is always the problem that youtube is doing some sort of processing on the video which does mean it losses quality, but i wouldn’t expect that to be too much. You could try uploading it to Vimeo or similar to see if you still have the same issues.

      • thereverent 25/01/2011 at 9:26 am #

        Cheers.
        I will have to experiment with the smae clip uploaded different ways. I just wondered if it was a known problem.

        It helps your ContourHD is much better quality picture to start with, as any drop in quality using a MUVi really shows.

  4. Kevin Campbell's Blog 24/01/2011 at 6:23 pm #

    i know you did not ask me but thought i would mention it, i find that freemake video converter is a great application that you may find useful once the original video file is on the computer, use that to convert, once file is saved go to youtube and upload it

    hope my comment was of some help

    the application is free too, just google freemake

    • Andreas 27/01/2011 at 4:42 pm #

      Good recommendation Kevin – there’s a couple of these apps out there. Great to see they are free.

  5. Iain 24/01/2011 at 7:40 pm #

    Interesting viewing (well, when youtube can be bothered to stream at a decent speed) have to say, my first reason for having a look at silly cyclists was the hope I wouldn’t appear! (I didn’t!) The thing that strikes me is how many silly moves (both cyclist and motorist) gain such a trivial amount of distance, given that from my experience the general average speed of traffic is about 15 mph (on my occassional trips into London I seem to spend most of CS7 around the same vehicles) so why bother squeezing a yard or two…

    I haven’t got a bike cam, but will take a few photos of a few of my regular haunts in rural(ish) Surrey and cobble together something for Andreas for comment Friday (or whenever fits!)

    • Andreas 27/01/2011 at 4:43 pm #

      Thanks Iain – I’ll be keeping an eye on my inbox ;)

  6. Darren Alff 24/01/2011 at 7:41 pm #

    I have a GoPro camera and it wasn’t until I bought the thing that I realized it doesn’t have an LCD screen of any time. This, obviously, makes it difficult to tell what it is that you are recording exactly… or whether you even have the thing pointed in the right direction. I guess it’s one of those things that you just have to practice over and over again until you have a mental sense of what the camera is capturing, but are there any other tricks, etc for being able to tell what you are actually shooting?

    • Gaz 24/01/2011 at 9:59 pm #

      That is another reason I went for the ContourHD, it has two lasers that you can turn on and check that the angle is right, the lens can then rotate 180 degrees separately from the body so you can always get the right angle.
      This means you do have less trial and error but you can still make the mistake of filming upside down, which i have done.

      How do you mount your camera? My helmet mount is always in the same place, so i know when i put my camera on, it is pointing in the right direction.

    • thereverent 25/01/2011 at 11:17 am #

      I use a MUVI which also doesn’t have a screen. Its a bit of trial and error to gte it just right at first.
      But once you have it in the right position, if you can fix the mount in that position it means you always get that angle. I don;t take my MUVI off my helmet as I can charge it and get data off with the cable while it’s still on.

      For helmet mounts, I found by sitting on my bike in my riding position in front of a large mirror I could see what angle my helmet was at and so could adjust the angle of the helmet cam.

    • Mark Culmer 30/12/2011 at 4:25 pm #

      Hi

      I use a GoPro and it is helmet mounted, staying in the same position all the time, so I know the angle is correct. Re the date / time, just make sure you have set the date up and that will show in the file properties.

      Had to to use this just before Xmas, as someone actually nudged me twice before speeding off.

      The GoPro is great quality.

      Mark

  7. Christiaan 25/01/2011 at 9:10 pm #

    Thanks, appreciate these. This is the first one I’ve watched and it’s already going to effect how I ride tomorrow.

  8. matt_fantastic 25/01/2011 at 9:46 pm #

    will be re-positioning Muvi from handlebars (too much vibration) to helmet tonight… although that new ContourGPS looks VERY cool…

    • Andreas 27/01/2011 at 4:45 pm #

      Just checked out ContourGPS – very clever idea!

  9. Richard Gray 25/01/2011 at 11:07 pm #

    Very timely piece – was just looking around for a good helmet cam. I had a Muvi but had a lot of problems with it. Wouldn’t mount properly, kept on running out of battery and/or memory. Wouldn’t recommend it. Will try the Contour.

    • Andreas 27/01/2011 at 4:44 pm #

      Richard if you wanted to write a full review up of the Muvi then give me a quick message on the contact page – be cool to share your views on it.

  10. Neil Illing 26/01/2011 at 12:18 am #

    Silly Cyclists is my fave YouTube subscription :)

  11. Mark Culmer 28/01/2011 at 10:36 am #

    Hi

    Good feature. I have just got a GoPro Helmet Hero HD and use it for my commute Harlsden – Strand, via Canal & Hyde Park.

    Some of the drivers – just wow!! in terms in what they do and to have it on camera. Let me know if you would some of the clips or I could submit to You Tube for possible routes??

    I can take other routes etc to work and get some more footage.

    Mark

    • thereverent 28/01/2011 at 10:55 am #

      Setting up your own YouTube channel is pretty easy, so you could always do that.
      Have a look at Gaz’s and some of the other helmet cam cyclist channels if you want ideas (rogerhotuk, CyclingMikey, MelloVEL0, Magnatom, kmcyc for a start).

      • Mrs. Kmcyc 09/02/2011 at 11:06 pm #

        Aha! KMCYC was wondering why he’d gotten loads more hits as of late. :)

  12. Aussie Cyclist 28/01/2011 at 2:59 pm #

    Hi All,

    I use a Muvi clone from eBuyer.

    http://www.ebuyer.com/product/183959

    Half the cost, but just as good.

    :D

  13. Gaz 28/01/2011 at 3:14 pm #

    I have used both that exact product and the official Muvi. I’m afraid to say that i can’t agree that it is just as good.

    I found that the picture quality was worse and the battery life didn’t live up to expectations.

    The general opinion of the muvi clones, is if it has buttons and not sliders on the side, then it is of poor quality and you should avoid it.

    But if it works for you, then great. Do you post your videos online?

  14. Iain 01/02/2011 at 2:13 pm #

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-12330181

    Andreas retweeted this link earlier, worth putting it on here though, really does give an added incentive to have a camera. Indeed I think in the USA/Canada drivers who have a camera in their car get cheaper insurance.

  15. Iain 02/02/2011 at 2:25 pm #

    If only I had a camera… But as i don’t I’ll describe it. T junction with traffic lights, single lane with a green for straight one, single lane with a red for right, and a single bus lane again with a red for turning right. (that doesn’t sound too complicated or diffcult to understand does it?) This might work, Google maps link: View Larger Map

    So here’s me approaching seeing the red on my route (turning right) and easing back, only to see aFiesta making the same move run through the red to sit in no-man’s land. A citroen running with it took to the bus lane, ran beyond the stop mark again in no-man’s land. Muggins stopped at the line. There’s never a Police car when you need one, how often do they stop someone for no seatbelt on those shows and discover the drivers wanted, the car’s not insured etc… Glad they were in front of me!

  16. John Somers 30/12/2011 at 1:15 pm #

    After having recently purchased a Contour 1080P HD video camera (within the last 3 weeks!) any tips would be welcome on how to get the best out of the wee beastie!

    Currently I have mine mounted flat on the top of my lid, right beside & in front of my Exposure Joystick light and the wind noise is atrocious, so still playing around with the microphones sensitivity.

    So will be posting on FB some trimmed down videos in the near future – to highlight the cruddy roads I have to contend with while cycling in the Chilterns!

    I have been looking at video editing software (for Windows XP Pro OS) at a reasonable price – so any tips there would be useful as well.

  17. davembk 03/03/2012 at 6:52 pm #

    Well,

    There’s a particularly poignant reason why I look to the day when developments in helmet cams will materially make our cycling lives a lot safer.

    Our lovely 25 year old son was killed by a white van man hitting him from behind when we were out on a club ride one beautiful summer’s evening in 2008. Needless to say our lives are wrecked now. Some of the fall out from this is that our daughter has been put off cycling for life, and I look behind me every 10 seconds now, my road cycling all but ended anyway.

    One day though, the emerging internet streaming helmet cam will be as commonplace as the cellphone.

    I’m trying to imagine the new hesitation in the minds of drivers who wish us harm, or who simply don’t care, when knowing whatever they do is on the internet almost before they do it. No point anymore in wresting the cam from us and stamping on it.

    That’s a hope anyway.

    Dave

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