You wanna put a camera where?

First publication “Australian Skydiver Magazine”, 2003

You don’t have to go back to far in this sport to the point where air to air video was a pretty amazing thing – 8mm and 16mm cameras mounted atop helmets, with the results sent for processing after the weekend’s jumping – on a rush job, you could be reviewing your skydive as early as next weekend. Today – thanks to miniaturisation and consumer electronics – debriefing the load one jump whilst climbing to height on load two is commonplace.

Even better miniaturisation has seen full-fledged cameras such as Sony’s IP7, small enough to slip into a shirt pocket. It’s pretty much a take-anywhere technology, and easy in the palm of your hand. But what if you’re looking for that special shot? Want to be a fly on the wall? An eye on the strut? You could put a camera out there – gaffer tape is pretty foolproof – but it might be smarter to just put the lens out there…

Leo Baker is a seasoned intermediate RW competitor who “gets” cameras in a big way. He’s also got the Electrical Engineering knowledge to make things work – and Jaycar electronics have the bits. He compiled a short shopping list for me:

Cat QC-3488 Bullet Style Camera with Panasonic CCD Sensor
This /is/ a camera – the leads attached are for power, and video – it has its roots in security installations. Just plug it in to anything that can record video, and away you go! It has a 380 line resolution – perhaps not quite up with today’s best cameras, but very serviceable – and a lens angle of 70 degrees, so it’s reasonably wide. Colour saturation isn’t a great as you get with a conventional camera – and worsens after a cold ride to height if mounted externally.

But you do get flexibility – for $329.

Next, you’ll need to get power to it. A sealed lead-acid battery has the “oomph” to drive the camera, 100mA required; Jaycar offer the following, which is well in excess of requirements for $24.95

Cat SB-2480 Sealed Lead Acid Battery 1.3 Amp Hour 12 Volt

A recharger, if you don’t have one, is essential:

Cat MB-3517 12V charger
…another $32.95

You’ll also need wire to hook the two together, and connecting lugs and so on – the Jaycar dudes are really helpful here.
Tim Bates has the best idea I’ve seen so far – using Category 5 Ethernet (Computer network) cabling allows a positive locking connection with ready made cable lengths. Alternatives include “cannon” style connections, like a microphone.

Most Sony handicam equipment has the ability to record video from an external source – check your manual, in any case.

The video lead may need to be adapted to meet the camera; this can be as simple as a

Get a couple of rolls of this
Cat NM2810 Gaffer Tape
At $13.50 a roll, it doesn’t sound cheap. But it will do the job if used correctly.

OK. Connect the whole lot together, plug the power (etc)

I’ve mounted this camera on struts, bicycles and shoes; clipped it to risers, dangled it from pergolas. It can go anywhere.

Thanks to Tim Bates and Leo Baker

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