Viosport POV.1
Digital video heaven

[ Update: Tuesday - November 18, 2008 ]

It's so cool.  I received an email from Viosport that there is a new firmware version for the POV.1 (Version 1.3).  What does this all mean?  It looks like the engineers at Viosport has been busy updating their POV.1 helmet camera system.  This new firmware update allows the POV.1 to understand and utilize higher capacity SD cards.  What size?  Why 4GB and 8GB.  This effectively gives the recorder the ability to record 730x480 (e.g. S-Video) at 30 fps for a duration of 3 hours and 6 hours, respectively.  I don't know about you, but those are both wow numbers.  For me it's unheard of to record something at S-Video quality on SP setting for anything other than 1 hour at a time.  The Hi8 gets at best 1 hour 10 minutes.  MiniDV tapes can't do any more than 1 hour max.  Now the question becomes, how are you going to make the POV.1 recorder last 6 hours?  The 4 x AA batteries normally last about 4 hours.  I guess this means there is a mandatory clip stop on a 8GB SD to swap out batteries.  Can I ride four hours straight?  Hell no.  This means I'll still be recording about 1 - 1 1/2 hours at a time.

What is the other news about the POV.1 that's so cool?  Why it's the price.  You can now pickup the POV.1 for only $650 shipped.  I initially paid $850 for my unit.

As for the satisfaction with the unit, I'm totally satisfied.  The fact that everything is weather proof, that means I can moto in the rain and not worry about the video system.  I'll probably end up worrying about other things instead.  Because the price is so nice, I just purchased another unit (to use as my new rear cam) and a bunch of 8GB SanDisk SD cards to record long trips.

Time to get yourself a helmet cam system to document your trips, protect yourself, and scare the hell out of the cagers out there.

POV.1 on an Arai XD3 helmet.

[ Original article ]

Gone are the days of having to rewind the Hi-8 cassettes after every run.  Additionally, I no longer have to carry extra bulky Hi-8 video tapes as backup just in case I need to keep footage.  All I have to do now is change the recorder to play mode and remove any footage I don't want, but I'm getting ahead of myself.  Let's have a look at Viosport's latest creation.  The POV.1 helmet camera system.

The POV.1 is a completely engineered helmet camera system that is built from the ground up as a digital recording system.  This means everything is fully integrated.  It's no longer a mash of components from multiple vendors that need rigging in order to get things working.

The camera is specifically built for the digital recorder.  The digital video cable is a unidirectional cable with one end specifically designed to go into the camera and the other end going to the recorder.  Even though the camera is digital video, it's not HD.  Instead, the maximum resolution is 720 x 480 @ 30 FPS (S-Video).  Is it a true 30 FPS and not a claimed 30 FPS.  Yes, it's a true 30 FPS digital recording system.  Other manufacturers claim they get 30 FPS on their digital camcorder, but what they're not telling you is the 30 FPS they claim is not being written to a flash SD card.  I have a Canon Elura 100 which claims it can write 30 FPS but this is only to mini-DV tapes.  When I try to record video to a flash SD it's obvious the FPS goes down to the teens.  In the case of the POV.1, it's nice and smooth at 30 FPS.  Seamless digital video.  No video taring.

I made this flap using a piece of thick modelers sheet plastic to protect the screen and
also the keys  from being pushed.

There is a key lock when the unit is in record mode but that just protects the keys only.

As for the recording unit, it has an odd shape but it works.  The first thing you'll notice when you pickup the unit is, it's rugged.  You can tell it's been designed for military use.  As you can see from the images above, the digital cable comes in at the top and screws into the recording unit.  The unit is very easy to operate (even with gloves on) and quite intuitive.  At this moment you can use up to a 2GB SD card.  This means you can record up to 1 hour 26 minutes at the maximum resolution and frame rate.  Viosport mentioned on their website they might increase the capacity in their later firmware versions.  As it stands, the unit is pretty good as it is.

You can also maximize your storage by starting and stopping the recordings via a wireless remote.  The recorder uses 4 AA batteries to power itself and the camera.  According to Viosport, you can have between 4-5 hours of power using alkalines in continuous recording mode.  As for me, I went and purchased a bunch of nickel metal hydride (Ni-MH) AA rechargeable to save myself some money.  It's pretty obvious that the POV.1 goes through batteries like money is no object.  So if you get a POV.1, go pickup one of these bad boys so you can save yourself some money and the environment from uncertain disaster.

As to why I chose to go with the POV.1, there is a plethora of reasons.  Convenience is one of the key factors.  Since the the information is recorded to flash SD, I don't have to worry about needing physical space to store media.  The SD card are microscopic relative to Hi-8 tapes.  I can store a week long worth of footage in my 9L tank bag without a problem.  Because the footage is in digital format, it's easier to manipulate and remove data.  When I'm ready to edit, I no longer need to convert from Hi-8 to MPEG 3 format before editing.  Now I can do it all in the POV.1's native MPEG 4 format.

However, the biggest of all the reason is a trend that is going on in the consumer electronic industry.  For some strange reason all of the camcorder manufacturers have decided to get ride of the AV input capability on their camcorders.  It's getting to the point where you won't be able to plug in a remote video feed or microphone into your brand new camcorder.  Even the people at a Best Buy camera and camcorder department are noticing this trend.  Reviews on the web of Sony's HD camcorders tell the buyer to purchase older units because the latest HD camcorder from Sony doesn't have an AV in.  That's pretty pathetic.  At least have a mic in.

Mumbling aside.  If you're looking for a digital helmet camera system, the POV.1 is the answer.  It is more than capable at it's single function.  There are some instances where resolution limitation does appear, but what are we talking about here?  We're not trying to shoot an IMAX movie.  We're only trying to capture our experiences to share with others.  I sure like to see somebody put an IMAX camera system on a motorcycle and ride it around.  Wait.  Let me rephrase that.  Would you like a motorcycle with your IMAX camera?  I don't even think the acronym IMAX and the word motorcycle can be associated with one another.  I guess I could be proven wrong if it's on a Goldwing or a BMW Light Truck, but even then I still don't think it can be easily done.  The IMAX camera eats up film or storage at a rate equivalent to 72 FPS.  That's just to maintain its 24 FPS.  That's nuts!

Price: ~$850 for complete kit
Reseller: Helmet Camera Central

Update [ January 13, 2008 ]

Finally, I got to take the setup on a real test ride.  Recording rides of the work commute is nothing like the real thing.  Unfortunately, once I finished the test, I went right back to the old analog helmet cam.  Why?  Well, the digital recording system is convenient and all but the system's inability to have any type of image stability just doesn't help the entire situation.  We were in an out of tight bouncy curves and I can see every crack on the road.  In other words, I almost felt nauseous viewing the footage because of the lack of stability.  It's most unfortunate as it's a really nice recording system.

As a final nail, I will compare the digital footage with the analog system to see if indeed the analog video is superior because of the image stability.  So far it looks like I can't escape from video tapes no matter how much I try.  Let's see how things turn out.

Update [ January 14, 2008 ]

Image stability!  What's that?  What was I thinking!!  I guess it's been too long of a winter break since I shot my last helmet cam video.  When I tried out the analog camera today it's just a wobbly if not even more so.  It just goes to show how subjective I can be.  The Viosport POV.1 is just as good if not better than the Viosport Adventure Cam 3 in terms of image stability.  Really, how much stability do you expect when you strap something onto your head and ride around on really bumpy roads.  I fooled myself.  Now I get to put the POV.1 back.  I hate it when I fool myself into something that has nothing to do with anything.

Written on: January 6, 2008
Last modified: November 18, 2008