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How to Make a HelmetCam Using Your Nokia Smartphone

I have been a silent blogger for more than one year. It's actually one year and one month since I have published my last post on 10 January 2011. Things have changed a lot around me and now I'm not even using the Sony Ericsson phone mentioned in my last post!

Two things happened in the last year... on February I got a new phone as a gift from a friend, and on October I got a bike. That's it! Made in India, and called Hero Honda Hunk. It is said that this bike can topped to 112 km/h. For me that's not enough top speed, but this is one of the most stable bikes made in India. Most others waggle and vibrate, but Hunk is very stable at speed.

Due to the extreme excitement of the bike, I'd just forget to mention the phone! It's a Nokia 5230 and not that handy, but enough for my day-to-day activities. Same as most Nokia cameraphones, this one's camera is also not suitable for professional photography. But, its video recording is pretty good.

I really love to ride this Hunk... (despite of its gay name :-) ) it brings lots of excitement every time when it's over 100. Its stability at higher speeds, and stability when cornering, wheelies, stoppies... everything eventually tempted me to have a video collection of it. This is how I become interested in making a HelmetCam. I don't have much of equipments for this, and I've heard somewhere that a professional HelmetCam kit costs over US $200. So why not use my own cameraphone? Here, I'll explain how to get it prepared with a Symbian (Nokia) phone.

The simple setup is to wear your helmet, and then put the cameraphone in, and fasten it. This setup has a problem. Why? Whenever the touchscreen/ keypad hits your nose or somewhere in your face, there's a probability for video recording to interrupt. Or even it can dial emergency while you are on ride!

This is the time for SymDVR to shine. SymDVR is a very handy app which can turn your cameraphone into a DVR with lots of options. The main reason for using this app is, unlike your phone's in-built video recording application this allows you to lock the screen/ keypad while recording. This is a huge advantage as it also keeps the phone's backlight off while recording.

Other advantages include that it can calculate your riding speed using GPS and include as subtitles, landscape recording while keeping the phone in vertical position, etc.

Go to SymDVR homepage, download and install the app on your Nokia phone. Start the application, choose appropriate settings and start video recording. Once you start recording, you will see a Nokia Menu icon on the screen. Tap on it, and SymDVR will continue to record video, running in the background. Now it can be placed even inside your underwear without interrupting the record. :D

Be sure to have a strap for your phone. You can fasten the helmet's strap across phone's strap to make sure it's safe in case if your phone loosens inside the helmet and falls down on to the road. Other than that, the phone will fall onto the road making you distracted, eventually turning you into dead meat. If you don't have a strap, just go and buy. It won't cost much. This is important to avoid accidental distractions.
Image courtesy:

Now, we need to have is a full face helmet. We are going to need a full face helmet because then only it can be held between your face and the helmet.

If you plan to try this out in Sri Lanka, be sure to choose a helmet with a dark tinted visor. Most of the traffic cops are weird jerks, and if they see the cameraphone inside helmet they will remake the story as you were having a phone call while riding. (They just want you to invite them for a bribe). That's Sri Lankan traffic cops. So beware of them.

Firstly hold your phone vertically, and start recording on SymDVR. Then click on Nokia Menu icon to allow SymDVR to run in background, and lock the screen/ keypad. Even if you hold it vertically, SymDVR will record the video clip in landscape mode without having you to flip the phone, and without affecting the clip size.Then, while wearing the helmet, place the cameraphone in the helmet in the way shown in the photo below. It will fit between your face and the helmet.  Finally, cross the straps as described above.

In this setup, cameraphone fits between my face and helmet.

Make sure that your sight is not disturbed by the position of the camera. Letting it cover one eye and seeing the road by the other is prone for accidents. You need your both eyes to get the correct idea of distance to other vehicles on the road. If you still unsure why, read more about depth perception.

If it doesn't fit into your helmet you will have to find a workaround. A good suggestion that I have seen over the Internet is to use Velcro, but the problem is that you will have glue it onto the phone. :-/

Another suggestion of is to use a phone holder such as Nokia CR-119. You will have to remove the cone shaped part which in normal use attaches to a vehicle windshield. Carefully mount the phone into the holder facing the camera out. This arrangement will take more space inside the helmet, and it will fit better if your head is small. :-)

Make sure that camera is facing directly front. Start your ride, bang all over the city. Forget about the phone and enjoy your ride as much as possible.

A great feature that I really love on SymDVR is that it can measure your speed using GPS. This can be different from the actual speed , plus or minus 2 km/h, but with this feature on you don't have to look at the speedometer to get the speed on video. It also helps a lot to avoid distraction. Speed is recorded in a separate subtitle file (srt), and later you can use a video encoding software to merge it with the video file.

Once you are done, take the phone out, and open up SymDVR. Properly stop recording or otherwise you will end up with a corrupted video file. It will take a moment for the video file to be prepared. Once done, you can connect the phone to PC in Mass Storage Mode, and transfer the video file to your PC. It's in \SymDVR\ directory on your phone's memory card. This is by default hidden if you are using Windows on your PC.

After recording if you want to embed subtitles into the video, I recommend using mencoder. If you just want to trim the video file, you can use ffmpeg to get it done without affecting the video quality.

I have done some helmetcam videos using this setup. And.... here goes my first performing a stoppie somewhere near the end.........

And another I took at Malabe...

Well,... finally that's it! Thanks for reading.


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