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Old October 24th, 2005, 02:24 AM   #1
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Drag Racing DVR multi-camera setup.

Greetings,

I've only recently found this site and already reaped the benefits with access to much knowledge. Thank you to the community!

I would like to discuss my current project and thinking with the hope that your expert advice/criticism/praise/feedback/suggestions will help me make the best choices to achieve my goals. Please don't hold back!


The Environment
The racecar is an ANDRA spec Sport Compact Modified class car racing in the Australian drag racing series. The car has a six point rollcage (relevant for bullet camera positioning) and is .. well, loud (relevant for mic selection).

Racing takes place mostly at night under hard lights (say 90% of the time). The remaining time it is under hard sunshine. Obviously the lighting conditions are totally out of my control.

A drag racing pass involves lining up to race (0-30 minutes, not of interest), performing a burnout and staging (1-3 minutes, of interest), the launch and race (1 minute, vitally interesting) and the braking zone and returning to the pits (1-5 minutes, of some interest).

Each race is performed against one opponent who is either to the left or the right. There is no way of knowing if the opponent will be to the left or to the right until just before the race. It is of interest to shoot the opponent's vehicle during the run.


Current setup
Previously we trialled the concept with a bullet camera (Sony EX-VIEW HAD) hooked up to a Sony DCR PC9E (PAL) miniDV camera with two mics (one in cabin and one under bonnet).

We also had a grandstand view of the drag strip shot on a Sony DSR-PDX10P (PAL) with miniDV using the Sony XLR mic. We used a Manfrotto fluid head tripod.

Post production was using a JVC MiniDV firewire deck hooked up to the PowerMac G4 and iMovie.

The grandstand footage was pleasing and the XLR mic on the PDX10 did a reasonable job. The bullet cam footage was good when the camera was located out of the direct glare of the floodlights along the drag strip. The sound using the unbalanced mics was not good. Particularly the underhood mic produced lousy sound.


Project Goals
The goals are to shoot multiple camera angles with much improved audio and to step up to using Final Cut Pro for improved end results.

The physical setup in the racecar must be a no-brainer during the pre-race activities and must be able to withstand the forces of a hard launch at the racetrack.


Project Design
Grandstand Camera: PDX10P
For the grandstand PDX10P setup my only thoughts for a better outcome is to get improved sound. The camera is located say 100' perpendicular to the drag strip and elevated much higher. There are also loudspeakers carrying commentator's voice along the strip.

Any suggestions for a good XLR mic to capture the race mounted on the PDX10P? Any comments on running another XLR mic to capture the commentator's voice and running this to the PDX10P as well?


Incar Camera Angles
Incar the setup design is much different to the prototype. We wish to shoot five camera angles:

LEFT: Bullet camera mounted to the rollcage on the left hand side and shooting to the left of the racecar through the side window (if opponent is to the left).

RIGHT: Bullet camera mounted to the rollcage on the right hand side and shooting to the right of the racecar through the side window (if opponent is to the right).

The LEFT or RIGHT angle produces fantastic vision when you can see the opponent either being passed or passing the racecar. Obviously only one of these angles needs to be operating during a run. Medium importance.

FRONT: Bullet camera mounted to the rollcage facing the windscreen. This is the primary angle (most used during the post production). This angle shows what happens from a driver's point of view. It also captures instrumentation (like shift lights, gauges, etc) and the driver shifting gears. An opponent can also be included in the shot if the opponent is ahead of the racecar. High importance.

REAR: Bullet camera mounted to the rollcage facing the rear window. This angle produces good vision under certain circumstances; when an opponent is soundly beaten and falls far behind the racecar and when the parachute is deployed at the end of the run. Medium/Low importance.

DRIVER: Pinhole camera mounted either to the opposite side rollcage facing back at the driver or at the base of the windscreen facing back at the driver. This angle provides an element of the driver's reaction and can display the G forces at work on launch and when the parachute is deployed. Usually used sparingly in post production to show an alternate angle. Medium/Low importance.


Incar Sound
We've ordered the Studio 1 XLR adapter XLR-BP 3 Proto enable me to hook up three XLR mics to the miniDV 1/8" mini stereo jack.

We have no suitable XLR mics at this point and would love suggestions. My thinking is to capture these three audio sources:

CABIN: Located in the racecar cabin to capture the sound from the driver's point of view.

ENGINE: Located under the hood to capture the engine, turbo, blow off valve sounds. How do I ensure that this very harsh environment can give me clear and balanced sound?

BUMPER: Located on or near the rear bumper to capture the exhaust sound. Is it possible to capture the sound of the parachute deploying? This location is external to the car, although not in the direct airflow (rear bumper) and so I am concerned about how to capture clear sound.

I would appreciate suggestions for mics for these three locations, bearing in mind the sounds will be motorsport type sounds.


Camera Controls
Two toggle switches located in a cabin-mounted console accessible to the driver and crew chief.

One toggles between LEFT/RIGHT to control which of these two camera angles is recorded to that DVR.

One toggles between REAR/DRIVER to control which of these two camera angles is recorded to that DVR.

We could use some advice on how to make these two toggle switches and hook them into the overall setup.

Also a DVR remote control switch which activates all the DVR units. Ideally we want a single button which either begins recording to the DVR units or stops recording to the DVR units with a single press. Powering up of the DVR units would be performed by the crew chief prior to the commencement of the runs, again hopefully by a simple operation rather than having to press multiple ON buttons on multiple DVR units.

The idea here is to allow the driver or crew chief to very simply start all the cameras recording to the DVR units with a single button. There's nothing you need less during racing than having to remember to turn multiple things on and confirm their recording status, etc. It has to be simple and easy to do.


Digital Recording Devices
Originally we planned to simply add additional Sony miniDV cameras as the recording devices. However discovery of tapeless digital recording devices has opened up other options.

Currently I am discussing using the nNovia QuickCapture A2D 40GB DVRs with Larry Aubry from nNovia. We feel that these devices offer advantages over miniDV tape at post production time that may warrant the costs involved.

The XLR mics would then feed to the adapter and then on to one of the DVRs.

We have requested more information about the DVR rack solution that will provide a common power supply and a way to keep the units snugly together.

This raises the possibility of using the nNovia Remote Control unit, or a variation thereof that can handle remote control of three devices simultaneously.

I am interested in hearing about any alternatives to the nNovia DVRs.


Physical Device Location
The bullet cameras have mounts on various places within the rollcage structure. The signal and power cables will run along the rollcage in conduit to the media box.

I am not sure how to mount the mics at this point. Suggestions? The mics will feed back to the media box.

The media box will be located either in the passenger seat area or in the rear compartment. It will be constructed of carbon fibre or alloy and will be mounted to the floorpan with rubber insulation. The interior will be mounted with foam to provide some ruggedisation against shock.

The DVR units and the XLR adapter will be mounted inside and perhaps the cabin mic too. Provisions for power will be here too. Finally all the cables/leads will run to this box to control the DVR units.


Questions
What do you think of the project design as outlined? Any suggestions for improvement?

Am I on the right track here or is a major re-think in order?

What mics do you recommend for the various locations (above)?

How do I solve the issue about a single, simple remote control activation of the DVRs?

What advice do you have for construction and setup of the two camera feed toggle switches?

Anything else to help me out?

Your comments are appreciated! It's fantastic to find others who are really knowledgeable in these areas. I particularly enjoyed the threads with the onboard motorbike cameras and the link to the NHRA Sport Compact drag racing.

Look forward to gettin' some learnin'!
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Old October 24th, 2005, 07:19 PM   #2
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hey mate, welcome to the forum... i am familiar with what you guys do down there, i have the latest fast fours jamboree dvd.

having shot a bunch of drag racing over the last 13 or so years, i'd say that the way to approach this is to start off small, one camera at a time... you didn't mention what e.t.'s the car would be running, but hard drive recording is not the answer, it's simply not durable enuf... you need true solid state recording to memory chips, not a rotating platter... the nnovia unit is too big anyway, if you want dv recording, think firestore fs-4 with a solid state ide-interface memory card instead of the hard drive... the fs-4 has a triggerable hard-wired input as well.

if you read the thread with dan shaffner(sp?) and his motorcycle footage, a lot of this has been covered already... dan and i are both recording to the panasonic sv-av100, but if i was doing it all over today, i'd get the 3-chip mpeg2 successor to the av100 and hard-mount it to the roll cage... loctite a wide angle lens to it... you'd probably have to dis-assemble it and bypass it's mic with a custom hardwired mic input that uses it's own amp.

here is the latest onboard camera footage i have, i put the rig on a v-8 doorslammer running 6.9-7.1 second e.t.'s in the 1/4 mile, at ~200 mph... the picture froze up halfway thru the pass, but the audio is really good:

Drag racing footage with an incar camera

plan on having one person dedicated to setting up and operating the onboard camera, if at all possible... it's very difficult to pull this stuff off with one person trying to do everything.
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Old October 25th, 2005, 11:34 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dan Euritt
hey mate, welcome to the forum... i am familiar with what you guys do down there, i have the latest fast fours jamboree dvd.

having shot a bunch of drag racing over the last 13 or so years, i'd say that the way to approach this is to start off small, one camera at a time... you didn't mention what e.t.'s the car would be running, but hard drive recording is not the answer, it's simply not durable enuf... you need true solid state recording to memory chips, not a rotating platter... the nnovia unit is too big anyway, if you want dv recording, think firestore fs-4 with a solid state ide-interface memory card instead of the hard drive... the fs-4 has a triggerable hard-wired input as well.

if you read the thread with dan shaffner(sp?) and his motorcycle footage, a lot of this has been covered already... dan and i are both recording to the panasonic sv-av100, but if i was doing it all over today, i'd get the 3-chip mpeg2 successor to the av100 and hard-mount it to the roll cage... loctite a wide angle lens to it... you'd probably have to dis-assemble it and bypass it's mic with a custom hardwired mic input that uses it's own amp.
Dan,

Thank you very much for the welcome and for your reply.

We rigged up a single bullet cam to a miniDV camera last season with two mics and got some good footage. Now we are ready to step up and get some better footage and sound, and to also make the post production a bit easier.

Soild state does seem to have advantages over a hard drive and I would like to learn more. I could not find any reference to a solid state memory card on the Focus FireStore FS-4 site pages. Do you have a link?

Further, it seems that the FS-4 only has digital inputs for bullet cameras. And I could not find any reference to PAL.

Thanks again for your reply, love to hear more.
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Old October 26th, 2005, 06:50 PM   #4
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if you got good footage with a tape-based system, the car probably wasn't going very fast... or you were able to mount the recorder so that the vibration didn't cause tape skipping... i have heard of people suspending the recorder in a bag, attached via bungees to the roll cage, but it's a hokey way to do things.

the solid state memory that i am referring to is physically configured to replace any hard drive in a computer... it has an ide interface, so it'll plug right into the fs-4, instead of a hard drive... it looks like a hard drive... fairly common stuff in military and aviation applications.

the fs-4 is firewire only, so you'd have to rig up an analog interface... but then you'd still be limited to using the single-ccd bullet cam that you have now... maybe look at the solid state analog recoder referenced in the other thread, if you have to use your own camera.

that new panasonic mpeg2 camera has a 3-ccd pickup array... i bet that it has a better picture than your bullet cam, plus it has it's own solid state recorder.
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Old October 26th, 2005, 09:10 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dan Euritt
if you got good footage with a tape-based system, the car probably wasn't going very fast... or you were able to mount the recorder so that the vibration didn't cause tape skipping... i have heard of people suspending the recorder in a bag, attached via bungees to the roll cage, but it's a hokey way to do things.

the solid state memory that i am referring to is physically configured to replace any hard drive in a computer... it has an ide interface, so it'll plug right into the fs-4, instead of a hard drive... it looks like a hard drive... fairly common stuff in military and aviation applications.

the fs-4 is firewire only, so you'd have to rig up an analog interface... but then you'd still be limited to using the single-ccd bullet cam that you have now... maybe look at the solid state analog recoder referenced in the other thread, if you have to use your own camera.

that new panasonic mpeg2 camera has a 3-ccd pickup array... i bet that it has a better picture than your bullet cam, plus it has it's own solid state recorder.
Hi Dan,

Thanks for your reply. Not sure what you mean about tape based systems. There are Top Alcohol dragsters and funny cars running 5 second passes at 260 MPH using tape based systems with good results here. I'd expect a solid state setup to encounter less durability issues though.

Thanks again for the alternate thoughts on the FireStore and digital camera options, will do some more research.
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Old October 27th, 2005, 03:54 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kenny Shelswell
Thanks for your reply. Not sure what you mean about tape based systems. There are Top Alcohol dragsters and funny cars running 5 second passes at 260 MPH using tape based systems with good results here.
all of the pro networks over here use rf to transmit the video signal from the car to a receiver... it requires coordinating the frequency with the fcc(u.s. government federal communications commission)... i don't know of anyone putting a videotape recorder inside a serious drag racing vehicle... if you are claiming that somebody made it work down under, i'd really like to see a picture of how they mounted the recorder inside the car.

the nascar people bounce multiple rf signals off of a balloon or helicopter suspended over the track, but that's probably because they need the signal in real-time.

i have seen pics of the nnovia box suspended inside the front end of a dragster at a race in sacramento... but that kind of a setup is not realistic in terms of man-hours to install, and portability to various cars... there can be some serious logistics issues involved here, as well as drivers who are sensitive to what's being done to their race car.

right now it takes me upwards of 45 minutes to install the rig in a car... and i have to babysit it all the way, because some crew chiefs just can't be depended on to get the recorder started up right... you have to be prepared for the worst case when doing this stuff.
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Old October 27th, 2005, 06:10 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dan Euritt
i don't know of anyone putting a videotape recorder inside a serious drag racing vehicle... if you are claiming that somebody made it work down under, i'd really like to see a picture of how they mounted the recorder inside the car.
Ditto that! I get tape skip in my own car sometimes, and I only turn 14's in my SUV...i'm sure solid state recording would hold up much better.
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Old October 27th, 2005, 06:31 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dan Euritt
all of the pro networks over here use rf to transmit the video signal from the car to a receiver... it requires coordinating the frequency with the fcc(u.s. government federal communications commission)... i don't know of anyone putting a videotape recorder inside a serious drag racing vehicle... if you are claiming that somebody made it work down under, i'd really like to see a picture of how they mounted the recorder inside the car.
Thanks for your replies Dan. Not sure if I should be justifying what I already know(!) but I've seen Sony miniDV camcorders mounted directly to the rollcage of Top Alcohol funnycars numerous times. I don't have any still pix at the moment but will endeavour to get some next opportunity.

I do however have video of such setups. Am I reading you wrong or are you telling me I am talking out of my hat?

Here's a link to the Dalton Sport Compact rotary powered sedan running low 8, high 7 passes at 160+ MPH with a camcorder mounted directly to the rollcage. http://www.daltonautomotive.com/default2.htm Click on the "great incar footage" link.
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Old October 28th, 2005, 05:13 PM   #9
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that's a great website kenny... i was impressed with how well the incar camera held up on the first pass, but it's pretty obvious that it lost the picture on the second pass... didn't you see the white flash? i wonder if it was tweaked in post to compensate... still, i've seen a lot worse out of video cameras mounted directly to the roll cage.

what model of camera did they use?

the audio was horrible, but that's to be expected when you use consumer video cameras that don't have pads on the audio input.

i can only tell you what i know about incar camera, and how the tv networks over here handle it... again, nobody that i know of mounts a tape-based video recorder directly to the roll cage of a serious race car, and gets decent video out of it.
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Old October 28th, 2005, 07:03 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dan Euritt
that's a great website kenny... i was impressed with how well the incar camera held up on the first pass, but it's pretty obvious that it lost the picture on the second pass... didn't you see the white flash? i wonder if it was tweaked in post to compensate... still, i've seen a lot worse out of video cameras mounted directly to the roll cage.

what model of camera did they use?

the audio was horrible, but that's to be expected when you use consumer video cameras that don't have pads on the audio input.

i can only tell you what i know about incar camera, and how the tv networks over here handle it... again, nobody that i know of mounts a tape-based video recorder directly to the roll cage of a serious race car, and gets decent video out of it.
Dan,

Will get more info about what cameras were used at the next opportunity. I reviewed the footage from the Funny Car and Dragsters and can confirm you are right - there is more picture breakup than I remembered.

I never considered the footage might have been cleaned up in post production. And the audio seems to be the worst aspect of any incar footage! That's certainly the weakest part of our efforts so far.

Thanks again for your help.
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Old October 29th, 2005, 12:06 AM   #11
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Originally Posted by Kenny Shelswell
I could not find any reference to a solid state memory card on the Focus FireStore FS-4 site pages. Do you have a link?

Further, it seems that the FS-4 only has digital inputs for bullet cameras. And I could not find any reference to PAL.
Hi Kenny,

Here is a link to such a solid state recorder device. I don't know if it is what Dan is referring to though. The only shortcoming of the device is that it only records mpg compressed footage.

http://www.ffv.com/documents/MiniDVR_001.pdf

As for the FS-4, there are two versions, a NTSC and PAL version. You could hang a D/A converter between the FS-4 and the bullet camera using something like a Canapus ADV-100 which is pretty compact and can be adapted to run with four AA batteries. I can't vouch for the Canapus' stability though. I have a ADV-150 and sometimes it works fine and sometimes not.


...Dan, I sure would like to know more about the solid state device you were referring to. I am imagining a chip based device that could be inserted like a ATA Laptop HDD. That would be very nice!
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Old October 29th, 2005, 08:51 PM   #12
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that's it dan... someone in the other post actually bought one, the lucky guy... it'll go down to 4:1 compression, which is better than dv.

what you described for the memory recorder is exactly what it is... maybe think of it as a series of chips, mounted inside of a 2.5" hard drive case... same packaging, same ata ide connectors! it's a direct drop-in for a hard drive, so it should in theory work for our fs-4's.

let us know what else you find out kenny, there are very few people doing this sort of thing.
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Old February 27th, 2006, 12:31 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dan Euritt
that's a great website kenny... i was impressed with how well the incar camera held up on the first pass, but it's pretty obvious that it lost the picture on the second pass... didn't you see the white flash? i wonder if it was tweaked in post to compensate... still, i've seen a lot worse out of video cameras mounted directly to the roll cage.

what model of camera did they use?

the audio was horrible, but that's to be expected when you use consumer video cameras that don't have pads on the audio input.

i can only tell you what i know about incar camera, and how the tv networks over here handle it... again, nobody that i know of mounts a tape-based video recorder directly to the roll cage of a serious race car, and gets decent video out of it.
Hi Guys,
I decide to join this forum after seeing that Chris Daltons car was mentioned and I am having trouble with this particular setup.
I took that footage in the Dalton Automotive racecar. I used a Sony MiniDV TRV model camera in a case thats full of foam. This is strapped to the floors rollcage. I used a 420 line bullet camera mounted to the cage. The time that the picture went funny was my 9 volt battery going flat (used one battery per pass!) I since have a regulated power supply from the cars battery. The Audio is a huge problem that I am trying to overcome. The microphone used was a wireless spy camera's microphone which I was only using for the mic, then powered by a 9 volt battery. The problem I find is that when you use the AV In plug, this cuts out the external microphone input out of the camera. I have also tried several microphones from Jaycar that simply wouldn't work through the AV In lead.....any suggestions?? I only want to spend around $50 for a mic. The audio sounds 80% better before its compressed to put on the web!
Thanks, Looking forward to dicussing more in the future.

P.S I put up another pass I recorded a couple of weeks ago of the car going 7.90 @ 166mph!

Enjoy, Simon.
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Old February 27th, 2006, 04:50 PM   #14
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good to see ya out here, simon... thanks for the feedback, i couldn't believe it when he said that the video recorder was mounted to the roll cage! like that new clip, btw.

first off, you are using plenty of bandwidth for audio portion of the clip, so it's not the web encoding that's ruining the sound... if you were to look at the audio signal with some quality audio editing software, i think that you'd probably see that the peaks on the audio were crushed flat... it's over-modulating, which means that the volume of the audio signal coming in is too loud.

i get killer incar camera audio, as you've probably seen from the link i posted... i use a lapel mic, routed into a simple stereo pre-amp board that i built from a kit... the volume is turned down so low that it's really difficult to hear someone talking, which leaves plenty of headroom for the loud engine.

>>>The problem I find is that when you use the AV In plug, this cuts out the external microphone input out of the camera.<<<

that's exactly what's supposed to happen... the audio from the external mic replaces the lousy camera mic... see if you can turn off the acg on the mic input as well.
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Old February 27th, 2006, 07:55 PM   #15
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Hey Simon! Good luck with improving your setup.

I was wrong about Simon using the camera directly onto the rollcage in the Dalton car .. but I've witnessed that setup on Top Alcohol cars more than once; it does happen.

Looking forward to trying out my new setup soon using DVR and multiple bullet cameras with a better mic.
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