I get a lot of questions about what type of helmet camera equipment we use to record the videos with so I decided to build a page with info that will answer most of the questions. I have two complete systems and some extras to try to keep everything going. In a complete system you need the following items: Camera, mount, microphone, battery pack (to power the camera and microphone not the camcorder), and a suitable recording device with wiring to connect the video and audio inputs to the camera and microphone. The wiring normally comes with the recording device. Also, you will probably want to be able to edit the video and output it to a DVD or file to share over the internet. This will require a computer and some editing software.
We use cameras from Helmetcamera.com which we purchased along with their extreme mount in a kit. I have two I use and they are somewhere between 480 and 560 line units. I really don’t think it makes that much difference as long as it is at least 480 lines of resolution. The only problem I have encountered with these cameras is with the quick disconnect connection that comes with them from Helmetcamera.com to make it easy to disconnect the camera (attached to the helmet) from your recording device. This makes it easy to take breaks when you are trail riding and want to take your helmet off. The problem I have had with this feature is that the wires break right where it goes into the connection from all of the wiggling during riding. Helmetcamera.com was very good with customer service by replacing the cameras on at least 4 that I had go bad. However, I got tired of the problem and ended up cutting the connector out and having the wires shortened up and spliced together in the length that suits how we use them. Now I just make the connection using the RCA connector right inside the top of the backpack. This is not a problem if you have someone with you that can connect it after you put your helmet on. You can take you helmet off and disconnect it by yourself. Also, I’ve heard that the latest Helmetcamera.com cameras have the microphone built in to the camera cable. I would rather have a separate microphone which gives more flexibility on where you place it.
Along with the camera you need a good way to mount it to the helmet. The Helmetcamera.com Extreme Mount is just about the perfect solution to this problem. It’s an extruded piece of aluminum that the helmet camera fits inside of and has a plastic lens on the front that is easy to wipe clean while riding and is easily replaceable. It is an extremely tough housing for the camera and it is nearly impossible to damage the camera while it’s mounted inside the mount. The base of the mount is machined in a shape that conforms to most helmets and is provided with a strip of industrial strength Velcro that goes between the mount and your helmet. This holds the mount fairly securely but still allows you to remove and remount it easily so you don’t have to leave it on your helmet all of the time and requires no permanent modifications to your helmet. When we are setting up to record a race I take no chances and use a generous amount of duct tape as well to doubly secure the camera/mount. I also secure the wiring so that the wiring drops right off the back of the helmet and can’t get snagged by branches etc. This mount is the best setup I have seen and I whole heartedly recommend it.
The microphone we use was provided by Helmetcamera.com as well and simply plugs into the RCA jack on the wire attached to the recording device. It is powered by the same battery pack that powers the camera. I have found that it works best when surrounded by foam rubber and tucked inside the backpack out of the wind. It still picks up engine noise fine but if you want to talk into it while you ride you need it closer to your mouth, and then you have the wind problem.
The battery packs to power the camera and microphone is available in several different styles. I just use the one that holds 8 AA batteries with the connector to power both the camera and microphone. I normally use rechargeable AA batteries which with a full charge will provide power for 8-10 hours, or so I’m told.
We use mini-DV camcorders to record the videos. I have managed to purchase several of these off of EBay for around $100 each. I expected that we might go though some since this duty seems rough even if you don’t crash a lot. I didn’t want to have to worry about an expensive camcorder getting ruined. The camcorders I am using are two different models that are very similar. They are the Canon ZR-40, and the Canon ZR-10. They work well, are small and light, and seem to be very rugged. We have not had one quit working yet from the extreme duty. Both of these models have the LANC feature that allows you to use an inexpensive remote to start and stop the camera. I have also fitted the cameras with the extended life batteries which give 3-5 hours life. These can be purchased for $12-15 each online. We carry the camcorder in a Camelback backpack with bubble wrap taped around it.
Once you get your video recorded, you will probably want to import it into your computer and do some editing. There are many options on both hardware and software and I don’t pretend to have the best, but I’ll tell you what I use. The computer is a PC with Intel i7 quad core processor and currently has 6 gigs of ram and runs on Vista Home Premium OS. If you are buying a computer to do video editing with, get the best one you can. Definitely get as much memory and as big of hard disk as you can. You will be glad you did. A one hour mini-DV tape loaded onto your hard disk to edit takes up about 13 gigs of disk space. The good part is, hard disks are getting bigger and cheaper all of the time. You can always by an extra external one and hook it by the USB port. It works great!
The editing software I currently use is Pinnacle Studio version 12. The software allows you to do practically anything you want as far as titles, adding music, special effects, and of course cutting out the parts you don’t want. The software never alters your original recording so you can always go back and change anything or edit it in a different way in the future. Once you get your video edited you can output it to a DVD, output it back to a tape, output it into a file of many different types, or all of these.
For those of you thinking about getting into doing some helmet camera videos, I hope this helps answer some of your questions. If you have more just email me. Go ahead, take the plunge, it’s not that hard and it’s a lot of fun!
Some links: (For your research, I don’t endorse or recommend any of these.)