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Old January 9th, 2006, 10:13 PM   #1
Join Date: Jan 2006
Posts: 2
Help,helmet cam w/nNovia unit or other DVRs.


I hope someone can answer my questions. And I'm not good with this camera vocabulary, I just started learning, sorry for my ignorance.

Situation: In my profession, I climb trees. I want to get a good helmet camera setup to record while I work. I want as good of clarity as I can get and I want to edit this footage on my computer (I have experience with that). Anyway I thought that with todays technology, there should be a good tapeless device out there that I could hook my bullet camera(s) into and I have been researching this past week on the net. Aaaah, let me make this shorter........

Here's my ultimate setup:

A portable digital recording device in my backpack. With lots of battery life (more than 1 hr) and lots of video storage (1 to 6hrs). I'm thinking the nNovia A2D with the 40GB might work. link:

2 bullet style cams on my hardhat, wired together with a switch between the two (one will have 90degree lens, the other 60degree). I think the sony ex-view with 520tv lines with mic might be the best. link:

I want a LANC control or other some remote switch on my hardhat to tell the device when to start recording and when to stop/pause.

A small viewfinder screen wired to the DVR, like pocket size to check the way things are looking. I saw a 1" one on a security camera site that might work. link:

I've written to many portable DVR companies lately to ask if their product would work with a bullet cam directly hooked up to them. Only one has replied so far, and the answer was no.

The one that reads like it might work, may be the nNovia units. Can anyone out there tell me that it will definitely work?
Can I have a remote recording switch too? -if not, I can deal with it I guess.
I wrote to nNovia a day ago, no response yet.

Also, anyone know of a wire harness out there with a switch to join the two bullet cams? If not, I can take the wires apart and wire in an appropriate switch.

I've tried to read as much info as I could find on these portable DVRs, but have never actually seen the words stating a bullet cam can hook directly to one.

Maybe if I understood all the abbreviations in the specifications chart on these devices, I could answer that question myself.

Here's a simple question I feel stupid asking: Is the "feed" from a bullet camera ANALOG? Is that what analog is?

I really hope someone with this knowledge responds. I've used the search option on this forum to get as much info as I could, but I still have these questions. (Oh, the link to the review on the nNovia A2D wouldn't work, the web-page must not exist anymore.)

Thank you for reading. There seems to be a lot of really helpful skilled people on this forum and I look forward to reading responses.

Thank you,
John David Driver is offline   Reply With Quote
Old January 10th, 2006, 03:05 AM   #2
Join Date: Dec 2001
Location: Frankfurt, Germany
Posts: 571
Hi John,

Don't worry about not knowing all the video jargon - I get dizzy trying to keep it strait myself. You are climbing trees, don't be ashamed of having video techno virdigo.

To answer some of your questions:

The cameras you are looking at are all Analog. Even though the web site doesn't say that directly. You can tell because the cable connection is either an RCA ((yellow plug which you also use for connecting the left (black) and right (red) audio channels into a recorder or your TV)) or a S video connector (usually black with four little pins and a plastic square to prevent you from plugging it in the wrong way. The outer ring on the S video connector is made of metal and has a shape like the cross section of a very round mushroom. This is also to prevent you from putting the S video plug in the jack the wrong way.

I can't really comment on the Nnovia, because I have never had it in my hand. But from what I have read about it, it should be exactly what you need. I don't know if it has a remote trigger.

The FS-4 has the option for a remote (cabled) trigger to start and stop recording, but you would have to have an analog/digital converter between the bullet camera and the FS-4 since it only records over a Firewire input. This shouldn't be such a problem since there are some pretty compact A/D converters which will work with batteries, like the ADS130 from Canopus

You would have to build a battery adapter for the converter but it should work.

As for building a switch for two cameras on your hard hat. I did something similar with two really cheap chip cameras. I hot glued both of the cameras to some loc-line tubing

and bolted one to the front and one to the back of a bike helmet. I used a really simple toggle switch fitted with two RCA jacks for the two incoming camera signals and one RCA plug for the signal to the recorder. I didn't have to damage the wiring of the cameras by doing this.

The switching from one camera to the other resulted in an "ugly" transition but worked fine.

I don't know if having the camera mounts moveable with the loc-line would be good for your application, but it might be an interesting option. You could change the camera from a forward view to a side view while climbing without having to climb sideways ;)

I also split the signal from the camera switch to a very small LCD TV which was also mounted to the helmet. If you are interested in good quality video I would not recommend doing this. But I don't know how else you would go about getting a reference image to a monitor which comes from behind the recorder. The FS-4 doesn't (and I don't think that the Nnovia) have a video out. By splitting the video signal in front of the recorder you will be degrading the signal some what.

There are also some issues about having a monitor in front of one eye while doing potentially dangerous activities. I used my set-up while doing some aggressive mountain biking and it definetlly effected my performance. The shots were good but I took some bad spills because of the set-up. In your case a spill could be lethal! Also the monitor caused the helmet to become unexpectedly heavy, which you really notice after about twenty minutes. So do some test in your back yard on a sapling before you go up a real tree.

I hope that this is of some help.
Daniel Kohl

Frankenstein meets XL1
Daniel Kohl is offline   Reply With Quote
Old January 10th, 2006, 04:29 PM   #3
Join Date: Jan 2006
Posts: 2
Thanks for that input! Anyone else have some suggestions???

Daniel, Your 2 rca jacks (from the bullet cams)going to the switch and then one to the recorder, did you find this (like at radio shack?), or make it?

A nNovia technician wrote me back today also!, they said:
Hi David,

To answer your questions:

1) Yes. The bullet camera will plug directly in the QuickCapture A2D.

2) No, you cannot use LANC control but we do have a small one-button remote controller that should do the job.

3) The battery lasts about 6 hours.

I hope you find the answers satisfactory and try out the A2D.

Best regards,

6hr battery! that's nice! I think that'll match the bullet cam batteries.

Apparently I didn't ask nNovia if I can hook a viewing screen to an output on the A2D. But here's what it says on their site:

" Bi-Directional Analog / Digital Operation
- Record digital video from an analog camcorder directly to hard disk in "edit ready" file formats.
- Playback digital video content to a analog monitor."

......So, is that last line saying I can hook a monitor to it. It does say "playback" though. Maybe it isn't live. I thought I read somewhere that it had an active video out the whole time.......

I hope someone with an A2D would see this thread and fill me in.
John David Driver is offline   Reply With Quote
Old January 11th, 2006, 05:11 AM   #4
Join Date: Dec 2001
Location: Frankfurt, Germany
Posts: 571
RCA cables are pretty easy to find. I am pretty sure that a place like Radio Shack would have them. But you should be able to find red and black RCA cables to cannibalize at any store with an audio video department. The color coding is only for your reference the wiring of the different colors on the RCA plugs is exactly the same (center pin is signal, outer ring is ground).

For my rig, I just cut a cheap RCA speaker cable in half which gave me two pair of RCA plugs with cables, or four potential video connectors. I then soldered the lose ends to the switch (the switch has to have two parallel rails that are switched simultaneously (one for the inner wire and one for the outer wire) like the last one on this web page:

One camera cable is soldered to one end of the switch and the other to the other end. A third RCA cable is then soldered to the center pins on the switch and that goes to the recorder. You have to do the same thing for the audio connection using a toggle switch with four rails if you want the audio to switch with the camera, or you can choose one of the cameras to deliver the audio the entire time and connect that one directly.

It doesn't look like the nNovia offers a video feed through. The Bi directionality refers only to the ability of the Nnovia to play recorded material back after it has been recorded. (too bad about that, that would be a nice function).

Concerning you idea for the monitor, don't forget to think about powering it. All the monitors on the page you linked, need external power. Also be aware that you need to have the monitor pretty far from your eye in order to focus your eye on it. The further away it is the less strenuous it will be to look at it, from looking in the distance (normal vision). I played around with a magnifying glass in order to decrease this distance on my rig. In the end my set-up looked like something from a bad sci-fi flick. You might want to look into what is on this page.

But money can't be an object ;) But at least you won't scare the birds in the trees or your fellow climbers while filming.
Daniel Kohl

Frankenstein meets XL1
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Old January 12th, 2006, 08:30 AM   #5
Join Date: Jul 2005
Location: Sydney Australia
Posts: 853
Just remember when Daniel says ugly transition he means ugly. The two cameras are unsynced and therefore are not timed to cut on the frame boundary. This will result in an ugly black glitch most times you cut. I'm not sure how the A/D converter in the NNovia will handle it - it may even produce a rolling frame on the cut. You can correct this is in post later on by losing a few frames.
John Mitchell is offline   Reply

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