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Product Review: GoPro HD Point of View Camera

– Derek M. Hansen –

As a ‘gadget geek’ who works with athletes, I’m always looking for new ways to capture performances that will either give me a better look at the way an athlete moves or provide a point-of-view that gets the athlete excited about the performance. The Casio Exilim high speed cameras provide these benefits with super-slow-motion review, but I have also recently stumbled on a product that gives me a new look on athletic performances: The GoPro line of wearable digital cameras.

I recently purchased the GoPro HD Helmet Hero model. This is a small, high-definition video camera that comes housed in a protective, water-proof housing. When you first look at the camera, it doesn’t look like much. It’s a small, modest, boxy-looking device with a lens, a few buttons and some ports for USB and HD connections. You won’t find a large LCD screen on this device or anything that could crack or snap off.

However, once you fire up this little device, you are surprised to see the great results on your computer. The HD Helmet Hero records 1080p, 960p or 720p resolutions at 30 and 60 frames per second. It shoots a 170º ultra wide angle in WVGA, 720p, or 960p mode or a 127º wide angle in 1080p mode, allowing for a wide image capture that can be useful for catching the action in most sports.

The HD Helmet Hero can also record automatic 5MP photos at 2/5/10/30 and 60 second intervals during your activity. All you have to do is press the shutter button once at the start of your activity and record up to 2.5 hours of high quality photos without having to hold a camera.

The HD Helmet Hero package that I bought includes mounts for attaching the camera to three helmets and two pieces of gear or vehicles, as well as a head strap allowing you to wear the camera like a headlamp. In addition, I also purchased a body harness that allows you to mount the camera on your chest.

If you happen to be participating in water sports or splashing around in the rain, you’ll be happy to know that the HD Helmet Hero is waterproof to 60m (180 feet) and protected from impacts by its removable polycarbonate housing.

 

Applications

The HD Helmet Hero is heavily marketed to adventure enthusiasts and extreme sports participants such as rock climbers, surfers, base jumpers, motocross riders and any snowboarders. Since I don’t participate in any of those activities or coach any lunatics, I thought of some other applications for the helmet camera.

1. Point-of-View Perspective

I first tried the camera for point-of-view recording for a football quarterback and some basketball athletes. Mounting the camera on their heads, I was able to see them perform throwing, catching and shooting from their point-of-view. I also had another athlete use the head-mounted camera for some sprint work. All of these examples yielded interesting results. As a coach, I don’t know if I was able to get anything out of the footage from a biomechanics point of view, other than seeing which direction their head was facing during the activity. Since I’m not a basketball coach or quarterback coach, I couldn’t pick out any specific attributes of their performance that could be of use to the athlete. However, the video was captured for the athlete to review at a later date, perhaps with a specific coach that could help with skill related information.

Additionally, the GoPro HD Helmet Hero provides a great “Wow” factor for young athletes. Not only does it look interesting when mounted on an athlete’s head or torso, but it also provides a reviewable perspective that they don’t often see outside of playing the game. In some ways, it provides the same perspective as offered by many of the video games the athletes play in their spare time. I’m a big fan of anything that helps to get athletes excited about their training, while gaining a greater understanding of their sporting performances.

Sports Demo – GoPro HD Helmet Hero from Running Mechanics on Vimeo.

2. Coach Perspective

For years, I have typically had a video camera in hand while coaching my athletes. I rarely saw a performance in real-time because I was always looking through the eyepiece or viewfinder of the camera to record the athlete. While it was useful in that I was capturing video that I could review later, it was also an irritant because I never got to see the performances with my naked eye.

The GoPro HD Helmet Hero allows me to capture athletic performances while coaching without having to hold a camera and film the action. I can mount the Helmet Hero on my head via the provided head-mount straps, or I can mount it on my chest using a harness that I bought separate from the Helmet Hero. In both cases, I am able to capture HD quality video and clear audio of my coaching session without having to hold a camera. Because the Helmet Hero captures in a wide-angle format, I am able to record a good deal of activity during our training sessions without constantly panning from side-to-side.

At the end of the day, I can dump the recorded data to my computer and it provides an archive of what was done during the workout. This is an important point because the training session rarely goes as planned on paper. I always plan my sessions with a good degree of detail. However, I am a proponent of being flexible to the needs of the athletes during the working, making adjustments to the exercises, volumes, intensities and recovery durations throughout. We may add more repetitions because the athletes are responding well to the work I am providing. In another case, I may shorten the amount of repetitions because the type of work may not be compatible with the physiological state of the athletes at that given time. The Helmet Hero camera will allow me to capture the actual session with all of the changes for me to review later.

The camera also captures my instructions and comments during the workout. Sometimes you provide the athletes with a cue that works very well. However, after the workout, you may have forgotten the pearls of wisdom that you passed on to the athletes. Recording your sessions with a video camera can provide you with an account of your comments and cues, as well as the resultant athlete performances.

Concluding Remarks

For an affordable price, the GoPro HD Helmet Hero camera provides some impressive results and a flexible approach to recording athletic performances. Athletes can see their performances in a point-of-view format that may help with their visualization of a performance. Coaches can use the GoPro camera to archive the coaching process in a non-invasive fashion. They can review the performances of their athletes, as well as their own coaching methodology and dialogue. The GoPro line of cameras may not replace a conventional video camera, but they can provide a novel way to capture athletic performances in high definition.

Pros:

– Compact, durable and waterproof
– Affordable price
– Wide field of view and great video quality
– A multitude of mounting options

Cons:

– No integrated view screen for quick review of videos
– Fixed focal length (i.e. no zoom)

 

What’s Included:
1 HD HERO Camera (5 megapixel)
1 Rechargeable 1100 mAh Lithium-Ion Battery
1 Waterproof Quick-Release Housing (180’/60 m)
1 Headlamp-Style Head Strap
1 Vented Helmet Strap
2 Curved, 3M™ Adhesive Mounts
2 Flat, 3M Adhesive Mounts
1 Three-Way Pivoting Side Arm Assembly
2 Quick-Release Buckles
1 USB Cable
1 Component Video (HDTV) Cable
1 Composite Video + Audio Out Cable
Warranty: One Year

 

Specifications:

Camera Optics
Lens Type: Fixed Focus (2ft/.6m – ?), glass
Aperture: f/2.8 (high performance in low-light situations)
Angle of View: 170º ultra wide angle in WVGA, 720p, or 960p mode
Angle of View: 127º wide angle in 1080p mode

Video
HD Video Resolution Modes: (subject to change, pending final firmware release)
1080p = 1920×1080 pixels (16:9), 30 fps, 15 Mbit/s data rate
960p = 1280×960 pixels (4:3), 30 fps, 12 Mbit/s data rate
720p = 1280×720 pixels (16:9), 60 fps, 15 Mbit/s data rate
720p = 1280×720 pixels (16:9), 30 fps, 8 Mbit/s data rate
WVGA = 848×480 pixels (16:9), 60 fps, 8 Mbit/s data rate
Sensor Type: 1/2.5″ HD CMOS, 2.2µm-sized pixels
Light Sensitivity: Super low-light sensitivity (>1.4 V/lux-sec)
Video Format: H.264 compression, saved as Windows- & Mac-compatible MPEG4 (.mp4) file
Exposure Control: Auto with user selectable center weighted average and spot metering settings
White Balance: Auto

Audio
Microphone: Built-in, mono with AGC (automatic gain control)
Audio Format: 48 kHz, AAC audio compression

Photo
Resolution: 5 megapixel
Capture Modes: Single shot, photo every 2, 5, 10, 30 or 60 secs.; 3 photo burst; self-timer

Storage
Memory: SD card, up to 32GB capacity (SDHC)
Average recording times (using 32GB SD card):
1080p (30 fps): 4h 21m
960p (30 fps): 5h 26m
720p (60 fps): 4h 21
720p (30 fps): 8h 09m
WVGA (60 fps): 8h 09m

Camera Connectors & Cables
PC Connection: USB 2.0 (data connection and battery charging)
HDTV Out: HD NTSC & PAL (component cable incl.)
Audio Out: Combo 2.5mm jack with stereo audio and composite video out
PC Compatibility: Windows® XP (Service Pack 2 or later) or Vista; Mac OS® X 10.4.11 and later

Power & Battery
Battery Type: Rechargeable 1100 mAh lithium-ion
Battery Life: Approx. 2.5 hrs
Charging: via USB to computer or optional power adapter
Charge Time: 80% capacity after 1 hour with optional power adapter; or 2 hours with a computer’s USB port

Waterproof Camera Housing
Depth Rating: Up to 180 feet / 60 meters
Construction: Polycarbonate and stainless steel
Hardware: Stainless steel

Size & Weight
Dimensions (H x W x D): 1.6” x 2.4” x 1.2” (42mm x 60mm x 30mm)
Weight: 3.3oz (94g) incl. battery, 5.9oz (167g) incl. housing

 

                  

 

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