How Helmet Cameras Work

Helmet Camera Shopping and Shooting Tips
Chicago Bears quarterback Matt Blanchard (4) wears a helmet camera during the Bears Rookie Minicamp in 2013.
Chicago Bears quarterback Matt Blanchard (4) wears a helmet camera during the Bears Rookie Minicamp in 2013.
© Robin Alam/Icon SMI/Corbis

A rose by any other name is still a rose, and the same concept goes for helmet cameras. The product has a few confusing aliases, including lipstick cameras, bullet cameras and micro-video cameras. Regardless of the moniker, a true helmet camera is designed to be mounted to – you guessed it – a helmet, thereby providing the true point-of-view (POV) of the user.

Cameras come in one or two piece designs. The smallest, lightest options are the all-in-one helmet cams, which lack the sometimes-annoying cords and recording unit of the two-piece unit. However, the latter typically features a screen that helps you review footage and mount the camera correctly, so that you can shoot at the angle you want, rather than blindly winging it [source: Long].

Here are some other features to consider [source: HDHelmet]:

  • Resolution: Shooting a POV documentary probably necessitates a higher resolution than say, capturing the aforementioned T-ball game.
  • Recording time: How much will you have?
  • Durability: Is the camera waterproof (for you extreme sporters)? Can it withstand shock?
  • Battery Time: You'll want at least five or six hours.
  • Internal memory: If doesn't have much, get a memory card.
  • Microphone: Most cameras will record sound, but if you want to record yourself talking, you'll need to get a camera with a microphone.
  • Wi-Fi (if that's important to you)
  • Accessories: You can buy helmets, straps, pole mounts and harnesses to make using the camera easier.

Once you've swiped the old credit card, it's time to learn how to use your fancy new toy. Much of the process will involve good old trial and error, especially since where and how it's mounted to your helmet will affect how shaky the video is and the angle of the footage. Since you'll likely be unable to adjust the camera in progress, you'll need to learn how to anticipate where the camera needs to be in order to get the shot you want. Here are some tips to get you started [sources: Long, Rose]:

  • Angle your camera just slightly lower than your eyes when you look straight ahead. If you're videoing your friends on their surfboards or snowboards, go even lower in some shots to capture their legs and feet.
  • Try to minimize camera shake so your viewers don't get seasick.
  • Don't only rely on your camera's POV. Get some establishing shots and interviews so that you have varying material for editing.

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