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In Car Camera Set-Ups

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 Post subject: In Car Camera Set-Ups
PostPosted: Tue Jul 04, 2006 5:29 pm 
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As requested, here's the new thread. I've done this a bunch of times on a mountain bike board (I also do helmet cam setups) so I'm going to set-up this thread like I do there...a little different then you've seen before.

Post number one is the "Table of Contents" of everything I will cover for you. I'll do each section in a post, and then later add in the table of contents what page to find it on (if we go more then one page).

It also gives me time to do things like write the first section while here at work, and complete later stuff as I get home. After a few days all the sections will be up.

So! We will cover the following areas (I really should turn this into a magazine article :P):

Cameras and Recording Devices
- Two styles: Cameras, and Recording Drives
- Media Types: MiniDV, HD-DV, DVD, Flash/Hard-drive
- How to choose
- Brands/models

Auxillary Cameras (what we call "lipstick" or "bullet" cameras)
- What are they, how they work, equipment needed
- Brands and Models

Camera Mounts
- Suction Mounts
- Clamp Mounts
- Home Made Mounts
- Safety Straps, camera boxes, camera bags

'Toys' - Things I'm playing with that are just bloody cool, but not really necessary but worth reading about.
- ND filters
- LANC remotes
- Picture-in-Picture
- Multi Camera units

Editing
- This will be the shortest section...Dave don't edit :P

How I would go about buying equipment if I was starting out

-Dave

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Last edited by owdlvr on Tue Jul 04, 2006 6:06 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Tue Jul 04, 2006 5:54 pm 
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yes! i was just starting to research this same stuff

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PostPosted: Tue Jul 04, 2006 5:59 pm 
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Cameras and Recording Devices

Two styles: Cameras, and Recording Drives
The first thing to discuss is that there are two potential ways to record your track time. One is through a traditional video camera that has its own lens and recording media inside it. Some of these allow you to use auxillary cameras as well. These are small lenses that plug in and use the camera deck to record the image. (it's how you get the bumper cams seen on TV)

The other is using a recording device that records to something like flash memory or a hard drive. In order to use one of these you MUST have an auxillary camera lens.

A simple camcorder:
Image

A flash recorder:
Image


Media Types: MiniDV, HD-(mini)DV, DVD, Flash/Hard-drive
In the mountain bike community I get email after email (or post after post) about how awesome the DVD cameras are and shouldn't I just buy one? I am DEAD SET against them. But lets quickly cover the media types, and then we'll see why.

MiniDV - This is the current 'standard'. Sony has been trying to replace it for years, but like VHS it's here to stay...for a while yet. The tapes are small, used in both home and professional productions and thus easy to find anywhere. Don't believe me? I found them in Urumbamba Peru with no difficulty at all. The price is relatively cheap, and they work well. Negative points include the fact that the first 30secs of any miniDV tape is unreliable, and you'll end up buying tape after tape after tape...until you realize you don't _really_ need to save all that footage from Watkins Glen 2001.

HD-MiniDV - Same tape size, but HD quality. Only useful in an HD camera. Not as easy to find. Expensive, and for the potential quality you can get out of an in-car camera shot...not worth going for. Even F1 doesn't use HD for in-car.

DVD - Seems awesome, you record to a DVD that then plays immediately in your DVD player at home. Sweet! Problem: You cannot edit the DVD, or the footage off the DVD. You still need to run it through your camcorder into your computer. The media is not easy to buy, and it's a pain to edit...so, forget it. I base my media buying decision on whether or not I can run to a 711 to buy some in an emergency. If I get to the track and realize I forgot media, I want to go get some!

Flash/HD recorders - These are awesome. You record to memory directly, so pulling into your computer for editing is super quick. There aren't any moving parts, so they _should_ last longer. Also, they shouldn't drop a frame when you crash, nor should the tape come off the heads when you jump your car. (hmmm, maybe that's only rally guys). Anyways, this is definitely the future. The technology is limited by three things though: recording time. When you run out of space, the media is expensive. You might lose the second half of a track day because you don't wish to record over the first half of the day. The technology may or may not be durable. We don't use them in TV (yet) because we can't trust it. It is coming though.

So, based on media availablity and features needed, it all boils down to MiniDV or a Flash Recorder.

What style best suits your needs?
A year ago I would have told you the Flash recorder's weren't up to snuff and just buy a camcorder, but now that has changed. There are some REALLY good units out there. The day apple allows me to use my iPod as a recording device is the day I swear off traditional video cameras.

It boils down to this: Will you use a video camera for more then just in the car?

If you have kids, or plan on having kids, buy a video camera.
If you travel a lot, and would use it for travel video, buy a video camera.
If you're just planning on filming track stuff, or in-car stuff, strongly consider a flash recorder.
If you're not sure...buy a video camera...it's more useful in the long run.

Brands/models

If you only desire to _ever_ do the simple shot of looking through the front windshield through the two front seats, then be my guest and purchase any video camera made today. They'll all work, though some easier then others, and you will have an okay shot of you driving around the track.

If, however, you actually want to use your video camera to improve your driving skills then you're going to need some special features.

1) Audio/Video input - In order to use the footage the best, we need to be able to put cameras in places that show our steering, our shifting, our pedals, maybe the tach, etc. etc. In order to do this, we need SMALL cameras. We'll probably get a lipstick camera...so we need to be able to put the video into our camcorder. If you don't see why yet, just trust me...it will come later.

2) LANC remote port. Almost all cameras come with a remote. Most are infared and not very reliable in a car situation. Later I'm going to suggest a LANC remote that allows you to put a button on your dash with two lights. Green means the camera is on, red means it's recording. Your battery and tape life will be extended by HOURS...and I mean HOURS...of track time.

So, now if we were going to do all the research to find a camera that will fit these needs, you'll come up with two. Yes, two.

Buy either a Sony DCR-HC36 or a DCR-HC46. No doubt we'll be discussing why later in this thread. If you already own a camera, we can probably still make it work. If you're buying new, just trust me. These are the only two that will do every feature you could ever require, as well as the absolute minimum required.

My minimum requirements are simple: Be able to record from a lipstick camera reliably, and be able to turn the camera on and off via a wired remote while sitting in the car. Only the sony's will do it. The DCR-HC36 is the best deal.

Discontinued, but still very good are the HC-32 and HC-30. The only difference between the 30 series and the 40 series is the still camera function, which we're not interested in.

That concludes section one!

-Dave

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PostPosted: Tue Jul 04, 2006 6:39 pm 
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awesome! keep it comin' dave!

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PostPosted: Tue Jul 04, 2006 7:09 pm 
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Awesome job on the thread - waiting for more ;) especially on the HD or flash recorders.

I am not sure the I-POD has enough HP to do the real time MPEG4 encoding, although that's a guess and I am sure some of the Linux hack mob have been working on something.

My Cannon Elura 50 will also do the LANC stuff and works great with my Jonescam in car....or it did unit yesterday at NHIS when it just quit completely. Now I am really glad I paid that best buy warrant.

I have had 3 years of good solid service from it so far though.

I have also been impressed Whit the Jonescam, specifically as it has a much wider angle lens.

I want the data acquisition system with 3 cam inputs and live data overlay ...got other things to spend the 25K on though right now.

my 2c.

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PostPosted: Wed Jul 05, 2006 8:41 am 
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Will continue this probably tomorrow. Had a small accident with a shattering zip-cut blade in the garage last night...my palm is not so comfortable to rest on the laptop...

:roll:

-Dave

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PostPosted: Wed Jul 05, 2006 8:52 am 
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It's been stickied at this point, so you shouldn't have a hard time finding it, even if you're medicinally intoxicated next time you check in. :P

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PostPosted: Wed Jul 05, 2006 12:48 pm 
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tell me why take the sony dcr-hc46?
this one has no analog video-input? or have you a possibility to use it this way???

i want to buy a camera next two weeks - give me more info!!

thanks


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PostPosted: Wed Jul 05, 2006 1:52 pm 
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Working tomorrow (read bored tomorrow) so I will answer that and add more to the thread. Re-did the hand bandages, so hopefully it holds togther this time :P

Thanks Nate!

-Dave

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PostPosted: Wed Jul 05, 2006 3:47 pm 
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owdlvr wrote:
Working tomorrow (read bored tomorrow) so I will answer that and add more to the thread. Re-did the hand bandages, so hopefully it holds togther this time :P

Thanks Nate!

-Dave


I showed you mine (thumb damage), lets see it :) Seems the Motorgeekers are hurting themselves this month.

Hope it doesnt hurt too much

Timmmy

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PostPosted: Thu Jul 06, 2006 11:14 am 
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No photos, it's all taped together.
----

Why in car cameras?
I realized reading back on my first post that I never said anything about the reason for having an in car camera. All of my posts are going to be biased towards the reasons _I_ think you should have one, so a quick word on what that is might be helpful!

I think in-car cameras, at our levels, are best used for driver training. I want to look back, see what I did...where I screwed up...and figure out why. If I can't learn from my footage, it's useless.

Some of you may just want footage to 'remember the track day' by, or perhaps to show your families and friends what crazy things you do on a day off. I promise that ANY footage you take for development purposes will be good for this. But footage you take just for friends/family may NOT be good for development purposes.

So, that's my bias. On we go!

------


At the end of post one we have what I would call "Stage One".

Stage one involves buying a standard video camera that you'll mount and use to record footage as best you can. Possible shots, with a 'standard' lens include the traditional 'through the windshield' shot, and not much else. If you're willing to risk the camera you could mount it outside the car, but that's a hefty investment to watch skidding across the tarmac into the tires. So, for "Stage One" we're going to keep the camera inside the car, and stick to the traditional shot (more on how to mount that later).

What is this shot useful for? Well, we will see much of the track through the front window, and if set up correctly the steering wheel as well. We can get a better idea of what we're doign steering wise and line wise over just using memory, but it does have it's limitations. i) in my car I can't see both L&R apexes using this shot. I never know if I'm hitting the right side in the correct spot. ii) I can only see my right hand on the steering wheel. I could be holding a coffee with my left and not know it from the video. As a 'happy hands' driver who's trying to stop the habit, this is a pain in the arse. iii) watching anything more then a lap is bloody boring!
-----

A note on camera choicesEdit - I need to change this to DCR-HC96

All the equipment I'm listing in this thread is what to buy NEW. New models only, as that's what most of us have access to. You will likely find older models online that will work. The Canon Elura 50, for instance, is a great little camera that has all the required features for stages 2, 3 and 4. The problem is, it's discontinued. None of the current Canon's are useable for anything other then stage 1. Thus, you've got to buy one of the two Sony's I mentioned.

Buy the DCR-HC36. The HC46 is a waste of money, seeing as you get no better video features...just a better digital still camera. When are you ever going to use that? The HC-36 will do everything you ever need it to, from stage one all the way up. Heck, I use mine for professional TV work...so it's a good choice.

Rarely do we ever find a consumer product where the only smart choice is a single model. This is the case here. If you're looking for older camera models you should look for these features:

1) Audio/Video IN/OUT - Careful, some cameras (DCR-HC26 for instance) are Audio/Video out ONLY. You need video IN for stages 2, 3 and 4.

2) Firewire or USB 2.0 port - This is for moving video onto a computer for editing.

3) LANC port - Needed for stages 2, 3 & 4.

Next stop - Lipstick Cameras

-Dave

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Last edited by owdlvr on Thu Jul 06, 2006 12:54 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Thu Jul 06, 2006 12:12 pm 
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Lipstick Cameras!

Here is where the real in-car fun begins. By this point, you'll likely have used a standard 'stage one' camera set-up for a bit and now want more feedback as to what is actually going on with your car/driving. In order to do that, we need to be able to mount cameras in places where a camcorder would be too big, or too dangerous, to mount. Enter my best friend, the lipstick camera!

Image

There are numerous 'manufacturers' of lipstick cameras, but the truth is that most are using basic sony components tucked into a custom housing. Further down in the this post I will highlight the two manufacturers who's products I use, as well as some others. Unless you can come up with a good reason to shop elsewhere, I'd highly recommend sticking to the companies I work with. I've built a relationship with each and know the 'behind the scenes' of their products. I've hit trees with them, rocks with them, driven over one of them and fallen off my bike more times then I can count with both brands. All three of my cameras are still kicking!

The lipstick camera is made up of four basic components:

The camera:
Image
This is the back-bone of your system. The camera turns what it sees into a digital signal. It determines the quality of your final video. 520 lines is the current 'top' quality available, you'll also find cameras with 480 lines and 380 lines. At this point any camera you purchase should be colour. The more lines, the newer the technology and the better they handle weird light situations. My older 380 lines unit will 'blow out' sections of a sunny track. My 520 mounted in the same position, on the same track on the same day does not.

Buy the best quality you can afford.

The lens:
Image
Some lipstick cams allow you to swap the lens out. A 'standard' lens is usually 90 degrees. For INSIDE the car, we want the widest lens possible. 120-180 degrees. For OUTSIDE the car, a 90 degree works well, sometimes we want smaller. If you can afford it, but a lipstick that allows you to swap lenses. Start with a 120 degree, and buy lenses down the road if you like.

The battery:
Image
Most lipsticks use 12v, or 8AA batteries. You can usually order a battery holder like pictured, or a rechargeable battery pack. I wouldn't run the lipstick of your car battery, as the power isn't 'clean'. My personal choice is the 8AA battery holder, as I never have a problem running out of batteries or getting more. 8AA batteries will last me 8-12 hours when I work with TV (and can't afford to lose a single shot). I'll use them for 3-4 DAYS mountain biking where if I lose a run I don't really care. You should be able to do a weekend at the track on a single set of AA's.

The recording device:
See post one. This is where you choose either a standard camcorder, or a flash drive. You MUST have either a camcorder or flash drive to plug the lipstick into. They do not record on their own!! Most people will be moving from Stage 1, so they will already have a camcorder. If you're going to just jump into stage two, it's a coin toss...both are good options.

The brands, models, and choices
There are two big players in the world of lipstick cams; Viosport and Chasecam. (I'm going to get shot later by some third company I forgot!).

Viosport http://www.viosport.com
I first got involved with Viosport through MTB-Films. Two of my good friends produce Mountain bike movies and use Viosport cameras almost exclusively. Viosport has a few camera options, and some interesting accessories. Lets take a quick run through:

Tony Hawk Model - Skip it, low quality.

Adventure Cam II - I'm pretty sure this model is being discontinued, but the lowered price point makes this a wicked deal. So much so, I might need to buy another. The Adventure Cam II comes with a 90 degree lens (only) and they can't be swapped. It's 'weather resistant', we've ridden or driven with it in the rain, but they don't recommend putting it under water. For the price, this thing is awesome. $179 when I'm typing this.

Adventure Cam III - $329.95 as I write this. A big jump, for sure. You get a new coiled cable (that I'm not a fan of) but also the ability to swap lenses in the field. You can also play with a bunch of other accessories for this camera. With the new price on the AII, not really worth it for a 'first' camera. IMHO

Chase Cam http://www.chasecam.com

<will edit later...gotta do some stuff :P>

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PostPosted: Thu Jul 06, 2006 12:38 pm 
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hi owdlvr!

i asked why to buy a dcr-hc46 because i looked on the european/german sony homepage for the technical details of this camera.

here the link:
http://www.sony.de/view/ShowProduct.act ... CAM+MiniDV

at this link you (i) can see that this model doesn't have a video in nor a svideo-in. it only has DV-in. and i think this is not usable for the lipstick-cameras.

so - are the cameras here in europe different from your in usa?
or do i dont understand anything?

i dont want to 'kick' you but i'm a little bit confused!

thanks for help!


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PostPosted: Thu Jul 06, 2006 12:50 pm 
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Whoa smokes! They changed the specs on it!

My Sony rep assured me the HC36 had what I needed when I did a quote last week. Apparently he screwed up. It's the HC96 that is the new model required.

I will go up and change all the text above later today.

-Dave

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PostPosted: Thu Jul 06, 2006 2:30 pm 
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http://www.gomuchfaster.com/stack_DVR.htm

You all need to buy one of these. They rule!!!!!!

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PostPosted: Fri Jul 07, 2006 11:30 pm 
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the only problem is that the hc96 is nearly twice as expensive than the hc36. and this only for the possibility to have all options available to use these extra cameras.
would be quite nice to have this option but i dont know for me if i'll ever need it - although it would be good to have the video in functions. but very expensive....

other cams possible than sony?


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PostPosted: Fri Jun 01, 2007 6:08 pm 
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Here is my in-camera set up that I use for auto-crossing, hunting laser traps or what ever I can get on video. The mount consists of the "T" and "L" bracket from Home Depot connected by a 5" long bolt and butterfly nut/washer. My vid camera is a JVC DV 32x1 zoom and it works very good for my needs expect when the battery dies, I really need a extended battery for it.

JVC..brand new $200

Mount...brand new $9.00

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PostPosted: Sat Jun 02, 2007 4:03 pm 
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eek...wouldn't want to wreck with that beside me...

-D

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PostPosted: Sat Jun 02, 2007 4:09 pm 
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Yeah I have thought about that.


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PostPosted: Fri Aug 03, 2007 1:35 pm 
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owdlvr wrote:
Whoa smokes! They changed the specs on it!

My Sony rep assured me the HC36 had what I needed when I did a quote last week. Apparently he screwed up. It's the HC96 that is the new model required.

I will go up and change all the text above later today.

-Dave


People always ask me what camera I shoot my vids with....well it'd DRC-HC96. I've got over a year onit now without any problems.
The video uncompressed is simply amazing and the sound damn good too.
But like discussed above it's bigger than a lipstick. But realistically the only time I had an issue with it was in Christian's caged coupe trying to get a shot from a suction cup window mount. Than again if I had my bar mount even that wouldn't have been an issue.

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PostPosted: Fri Aug 03, 2007 3:05 pm 
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It's becoming a real problem, not having any cameras on the market with LANC ports. Between Warwick and I, we've been buying any and all HC-32's that come up on ebay. I think we're up to 6 or 8 decks now. It's getting a bit insane :P

-Dave

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PostPosted: Tue Aug 14, 2007 7:54 am 
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On board cam mounting el cheapo way :D
Image
mic
Image

I'm amazed, but it doesn't shake on ride (poor quality is due to the blue stripe on glass, and very poor quality recorder).

http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid ... 4444461772

Recorder sits under the seat (SD card type), takes power from the cigarete lighter.


Sau


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PostPosted: Fri Sep 28, 2007 7:07 pm 
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Posts: 278
A new trick I came up with is powering the lipstick cameras with the AA battery cradles (6) cells.

I use the DURACELL AA rechargeable 2650 mAh (on Ebay all day long)
and a Sony wall plug charger - Cig pack sized, flip out wall plug
Model BC-CSQ

Lip sticks rule IMHO, because the recorder can be whatever stored out of the way, only the helmet lead needs to be "contained"

Also the video reflects more of the driving experience, tilt in corners and head bobs, even looking out the window get captured.

Far more entertaining than a fixed mount, which looks slow and boring to watch.

Camera (sony) ~ $180 420 lines or up ONLY if your Digital Vid handles 500 lines of res.
Batteries ~ $20
YOU NEED To provide SOUND so you need a mic and watch battery from Radio Shack ~$15
Patch cord into Sony COMES with a video camera.
These are the tough part to complete the system, so make sure you have a mini phono 90 degree jack into the older Hi-8 Digital-8 units.

a SMALLER plug works only on the Mustek PVR-A1.

on those (pictured above - blue) they ONLY take a 512 SD. I haven't tested a 1 meg yet, but the video is 320 x 240 MAX. Figure 25 minutes run time then recharge of swap SD cards.........

-Scott by BOSTON


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PostPosted: Sat Sep 27, 2008 5:46 pm 
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mach 2 with my hair on fire
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Joined: Tue Apr 10, 2007 4:16 pm
Posts: 1499
Location: PNW
This really needs to be updated or lose its sticky. dave did a good write up its just outdated.

new options include;
www.goprocamera.com a $180 mini digi cam
www.raceoptics.com
www.themotocam.com
www.vio-pov.com

and probably others i dont know about.

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PostPosted: Sat Sep 27, 2008 7:11 pm 
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mach 2 with my hair on fire
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Joined: Tue Aug 10, 2004 7:05 am
Posts: 1904
Location: Squamish, BC...just 20hrs from 034!
Good timing, I was thinking of this the other day while at Interbike.

I can post up an update after I get back from Racing the Beetle. Warwick has been working a lot with the VIO POV units and they are awesome.

-Dave

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1971 Volkswagen Beetle - Salzburg Factory Rally Replica Tribute
1975 Volkswagen Beetle - Family Heirloom
1990 Coupe Quattro
1990 90q20v
1995 Ford F150
----
I'm not scared of commitment...I'm scared of you.


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