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Contour GPS Helmet Cam

Discussion in 'Electronics' started by Rog42, May 15, 2012.

  1. Ever wanted to capture the action on the road? Down the slopes? Underwater? Well, I have, and have been looking at hands-free cameras for some time.

    So at last year’s Sydney Motorbike show, when I saw the Contour GPS on special, I made an impulsive decision and bought one.

    You get a couple of flat surface, rotating mounts with the device. As well as a goggle mount. The flat surface mounts attach with double-sided tape.

    So I haven’t stuck any to either my last, or my current bike. I just can’t bring myself to stick double-sided tape, or an ugly plastic mount on my shiny bikes. What can I say.

    I have stuck one of the mounts on my Black Fly Trekker Helmet. Not quite as easy at it seems. It turns out that helmets by and large don’t have too many flat surfaces. Those flat surfaces that are on helmets aren’t either vertical, nor are they perpendicular to looking directly ahead.

    Then, when you do find the best non-ideal spot, you accidentally stick the tape on too early or late. Gah!

    Still, I got the mount onto the helmet pretty damn close to the eye-line on the right-hand side of the Trekker. The mount isn’t vertical, but the camera compensates for that brilliantly. You can rotate the lens up to 90o left or right. The mount allows you to position the camera from the right or left (i.e. looking forwards or backwards) and pitch it up or down 360o.

    Laser Targeting
    When you switch the camera on, or press the power button when it’s on already, it projects 2 laser dots that indicate the horizontal line of the camera. So you can instantly see if:

    • The camera is pitched too low or high
    • The camera is rolled left or right
    Brilliant. Like beer in a bottle….

    …well, almost.

    This works well when you’re wearing the helmet at home and can see the laser dots against a (light) wall.

    Not so good when you’ve just changed the battery in the rain at a stop on the side of the road in the country. For that you need a view finder. I have a bunch of video that captures not much more than my bike instruments and a bit of the front of the road. Doh!!

    Contour Connect Card
    As it turns out, you can attach the Contour GPS to your iPhone via the magic of Bluetooth and an App. This allows you to see on your phone exactly what the camera is seeing.

    I was led to believe at the show, that my Contour came with this connectivity. (wrong) So I was pretty pissed when I got home and learned I still had to buy a connect card ($50 in Aus, $30 on Amazon)

    Then I ordered one from Amazon.com with a voucher I got for Christmas. This has been the first item ever not delivered from Amazon in my experience. Asking for a resolution hasn’t met with results either, because Amazon wasn’t the seller just the distributor. Grr!

    So as soon as I get a connect card, I’ll append this review.

    Svelte, functional and simple to use
    As you can see, the camera is black, and slim. The grooves on both sides allow you to slip it into a mount on either side of the helmet. It’s not a white, polycarbonate encased, block like the competition. The camera matches the helmet perfectly, and is pretty aerodynamic.

    The thing that I like most about the camera is the record button. It’s this massive sliding switch that you slide forward (Record) or back (Stop). When recording starts there’s an audible beep. And by audible I mean you can hear it through the helmet at speed. When you stop recording, or power the camera down, you get a double beep.

    Lasts Forever
    The camera comes with a 2GB MicroSD card to store the .mov files. This will record an hour or so at HD, or a couple at 720p. I picked up a 16GB (Class10) card, which will pretty much record an entire day’s riding.

    The battery on the other hand lasts a couple of hours, depending on mode of recording. So I picked up a spare one of those too. Generally before a day on the bike, I’ll ensure the memory card is empty, and the batteries both charged.

    You can record in true High Def, 1080p at 25 or 30FPS. Then of course there are other video modes, 720p at both 25/30 or “Action” at 50/60 FPS. There’s also a “Tall” mode, which allows you to turn the camera 90o which is designed for following skiers down a hill.

    At 1080 the camera films with 111o field of view. At the lower resolutions your view widens out to 135o.

    What can I say, the video is brilliant. The clarity is spectacular, colours brilliant, and exposure rapid. Even at high speed, through a dappled forest, the camera readjusts exposure promptly.

    Still Life
    You can pre-set the camera to two configurations, then switch between these with a dip switch in the field. I discovered the other day that one of the pre-sets is to put the camera in still photo mode. The camera will take geo-tagged photos every 1, 2, 3, 5, 10, or 30 seconds or every couple of minutes.

    This is a great option if you’re on a long ride. The idea is to leave the camera plugging away, then delete everything you don’t need.

    If you’re thinking (which is something that you kind’ve forget at stops) you can position your helmet to keep a record at stops too.

    Of course the camera is in the wind. You can change the sensitivity of the mic so as not to pick up the wind noise, to record the sweet sound of your engine rather. To date, I haven’t had too much success with this yet. Either there’s nothing but wind, or nothing…

    …hopefully I’ll get there.

    What About the GPS
    The GPS will record both your track on a map, as well as your elevation. That last is great for rides through the mountains, or for extreme height sports like skiing, mountain-biking, or skydiving.

    As with the photo modes, you can configure the GPS to record once or twice a second, or to be off. Having the GPS off will of course save battery life, and if you’re spending the day on a track, there’s probably no real reason to be tracking interminable laps.

    Having said that, the GPS does record accurate speed and would be good for practice or training purposes

    The Contour camera comes with it’s own Story Teller video editor software that recognises the GPS data. This will show your video alongside the synchronised map and elevation track. You can actually select where you are in the video by clicking on the map or elevation. Great for editing after a long ride.

    But wait there’s more
    Another quick benefit to the GPS highlighted itself to me recently when trying to create a Google map of a ride route. Saving a route for future rides. As long as your camera is recording (even photos), you can export the GPS track, to save onto the web later.

    Share the Experience
    The whole point of recording your ride is to share it with those who can’t be there with you. (or those who were there) In this, the Contour gives you a couple of options.

    You can pop your movies onto popular sharing sites like YouTube and Vimeo. You can also save the movie, along with the real-time mapping on the Contour site, then embed this later.

    I personally find the Contour Story Teller app frustrating. At least I haven’t worked out how to do simple things like add music, titles or transitions yet. I’m sure for video editing noobs it’s a great and easy app to use. But there’s so much I want to do that I can’t (yet)!!

    The dilemma?

    I have 6 rides, i.e. about 20 hours of video to edit that I don’t have the time to edit. Oh yeah, and I had to move 60GB of video files off of my laptop because I was running out of HDD space. Sigh.

    A Camera for Bikers
    Contour have definitely thought this through, right.

    • They’ve thought about aligning and configuring a helmet camera when your head is in the helmet (laser sights and Bluetooth connect).
    • They’ve thought about how to control a shoot when you’re wearing gloves. (Large sliding record switch with audible indicators)
    • They’ve thought about what happens when it rains (splashproof)
    • They’ve thought about different mounting options for any number of applications (flat surface, goggle, suction cup, handlebar, universal tripod mounts)
    • They’ve thought about underwater (5m & 60m underwater cases)
    • They’ve thought about making it easy to share for novices (StoryTeller software, Contour Website)
    • They’ve thought about being away from civilisation for a long time (replaceable battery & memory)
    • They’ve even thought about helping you find the best points of your video, and share where you are in the world (GPS tracking)
    In short, there’s is little these guys haven’t thought of. Perhaps a WiFi or 4G connectivity to stream video live but apart from that, I can’t think of much else.

    There are plenty of ride videos, even TV documentaries. Whereas in the past you’d have needed cameras, tapes, batteries, and another camera man (think Long Way Round). Now you could have a couple of these cameras, with some spare MicroSD cards, batteries, and a universal mount for a tripod to get shots of you riding past.

    I think this should be essential for any travelling rider…

    ..every rider.

    Apart from a live stream capability, I wouldn’t mind a mode that records just the last 60 seconds. I would have a couple of these cams mounted on my bike recording constantly, almost like a black box for the bike.

    If you move, you need your hands, and you shoot video. This is the camera for you.

    Well either this, or the Contour Plus
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  2. Nice review. I've been thinking to get a camera just to record daily comutting for SMIDSY purposes. Is it a hassle to keep plugging in the computer and edit the footage or is there an option to delete the files if you are not intending to keep?

    Btw, how about putting up some pics of YOUR camera? :)
  3. The Contour ROAM has a format button on the back, I use it to wipe the memory if nothing interesting happens.
  4. No problem to format the MicroSD Card on the Camera.
    • Open the Back
    • Push the MicroSD as if to remove it
    • As long as it's not making contact, switch on the camera. You should hear 3 beeps.
    • Replace the MicroSD card
    • Using a paperclip or pin push the button in the pinhole above the MicroSD card. Hold until you hear a beep.
    • Switch off the camera. Once you switch it back on, you'll be back in action
    Note: This will remove all the files, not only photos.

    I find it easier to have two MicroSD cards, and just swap them out of the camera into the laptop.

    Pics and video on my blog - between work and other online commitments, I've not yet taken the time to learn how to embed photos on the forum :)

    http://blog.rog42.net for the bike posts you can head to http://blog.rog42.net/category/passions/motorbike/

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  5. Ahh The Entrance Leagues!

    Heaps of riders! what group is it?

    (the short video on the blog)

    EDIT: Nevermind, opened the video on the contour website "The first five mins of the Black Dog Ride National Day Ride event in NSW 2012"

    Did the rider in the orange pants toss something at 2:11?!?!
  6. Good catch, I've no idea :)

    I literally posted the first 5 mins of the ride because I haven't had the time to edit the 3 hours of video and select more interesting bits.

    To be honest, as you can see it was pissing down, so the ride wasn't quite as spectacular or photogenic as it could've been.
  7. The connect card is great.

    It means I can line it up perfectly before I head off for the day , and easily check here n there..

    no more ruined videos from not having the shot lined up properly.


    my youtube channel up there ^ has some vids from it.

    I did this on the nullabor


    That WOULD be cool ... but ... battery life.....

    As it stands , with a large card and a few batteries on board, you can leave it running all day , and just keep what you want.... pretty much the same thing

  8. Rog / Stu have you used Contour's app for putting the map / telemetry info into the video? Or doesn't it work like that?
  9. The GPS data is embedded into the video file (from memory)

    Like this.


    Uploaded with ImageShack.us
  10. yep, as Stu mentions the GPS Telemetry Data is stored in the actual video file (.MOV)

    This caught me out as first, because although I knew the GPS had been working, I couldn't for the life of me find the GPS Track when I looked at the File System of the MicroSD card.

    Even "opening" the .MOV's in the Contour Storyteller app didn't help. You have to "import" the files. Then, everything is there. Track, altitude profile, and speed.

    You can export the track to a file that is recognised by GPS's and you can use to create a Google Maps overlay.
  11. Stu,

    I got my connect card this week - w00t. It tested ok. Looking forward to use it this week-end on the Multistrada Experience I'm headed to.
  12. [DOUBLEPOST=1357017834][/DOUBLEPOST]Do you know of a good editing program?

    I got a Contour Roam2 for Christmas, got some great vids of the ride on Sunday up around Tawonga Gap in Vic, but having trouble getting a decent editing program to cut bits out, add some effects, and dub some decent sound over bits that you can't really hear the bikes in.

    I've tried Aimersoft, but it's very limited in what you can do with it.
  13. Hi Shiralee

    I use:
    * iMovie on the iPad (when on the road) and the MacBookPro
    * Avid Pinnacle on the iPad

    and I have used Adobe Premiere & Premiere Elements, Ulead Media Studio, & Sony Vegas on PC's

    All of them will allow you to do multi-track editing to varying degrees, as well as add multiple sound and title tracks.

    For quick productions (cut a couple of snippets, lay a sound track, pop in a title or two) iMovie is arguably the quickest & cheapest ($6 on the iPad) - but you don't have quite the control or flexibility of other packages.

    The Contour Story sw that comes with the camera is hopeless imho I'm afriad.

  14. Thanks for that. Yeah, you're right - Contour Storyteller is pretty useless for editing. I only have laptop using Vista to edit on :( so, it looks like Adobe or one of the others might be the go. Would love the other tech gadgets, but will have to settle with this for a while.... we seem to be spending more on bike gadgets, bits and gear than we've ever spent on the car - lol. The bikes are a lot more fun too.
  15. They certainly are that - a LOT more fun...

    ...but then more money too. The 24k service on my Duc cost damn near $2k :-( so much for my bonus this year. Need to stop riding so much =D