One of the strengths of the GoPro HD cameras is its ability to work in low-light situation
For the asphalt race, we used the optional back that has two holes cut into it. This is to improve sound-if speeds exceed 100 miles per hour and the camera is exposed to moving air, GoPro recommends sticking to the solid back. Overall, the sound the camera recorded was excellent. The camera was inside the cockpit so there was no wind buffeting and the engine sound came through clearly. After the race we did notice that there was some track grit trapped between the camera body and protective case, but none on the lens. Obviously, the open back is for use only in cleaner environments.
Exposure was also good for this camera. Shooting from inside a car is difficult for most cameras-video or still-because the interior is so dark compared to the light levels outside the car. By choosing center-weighted metering and pointing the camera so that it is looking out the windshield or window, the camera will expose for exterior light levels and allow the interior to be a little darker.
This also brings up one of this camera's few shortcomings: There is no viewfinder to help compose your shot. You essentially have to line it up as well as you can and hope for the best. In practice, though, it hasn't been bad. The camera lens has an extremely wide angle-a 170-degree angle of view-so framing is not an issue. In fact, in the Honda, we placed the camera on the same bar the shoulder belts are mounted to just to the right of the driver and managed to capture a full view out of the windshield, part of the driver, and part of the view out of the passenger window. Everything was in focus and the colors were crisp.
We had fun trying to find new locations on the car to mount the camera. This shot allowed
After that success, the next test was to take the camera to a dirt track, specifically Lancaster (SC) Speedway. Our goal was not only to see how well the camera handled the much dirtier environment of dirt track racing, but also to see just how many interesting shots we could get. Fortunately, we had access to two Dirt Late Model cars, a Late Model owned by Bill Hedgepath and driven by Mike Huey and a Crate Late Model that Huey owns and also drives. This meant moving the camera around between hot laps, heat races, and features, which was a bit of a stress test for the rollbar mount.
Because of its small size, the camera is relatively easy to mount just about anywhere you want. We were able to get some interesting shots of the rear suspension during hot laps and also found interesting shots by mounting the camera so it pointed out from the back of the car and even at the driver to show him working the steering wheel.
After the first heat it quickly became apparent just how valuable GoPro's protective case can be when filming dirt-track racing. Every time the car came back off the track it was covered in dirt and mud. I cleaned the camera by knocking off the biggest clumps of mud and then soaking it with water, paying special attention to the lens cover. Finally, I used a microfiber cloth to get the lens protector as clean as possible without scratching it. If the lens protector does happen to get scratched, GoPro sells replacements for $20 for two. This is a great feature for racers considering cameras like this from other companies which are obviously designed for cleaner environments and have no protection for the lenses. If they get scratched, the camera must be sent in for repair or replaced.
To cut out all the boring stuff, you will probably want to edit your videos with video edi
Overall, the camera worked very well and produced some outstanding video. If you choose, you can use the video right out of the camera, or you can use video editing software to create more professional looking videos with sharp edits, text, and even graphics if you wish. These can then be burned to DVDs to promote your team to potential sponsors or just give to your crew, friends, and family. We can see how a small, in-car camera such as this can be helpful to diagnose handling problems by using it to record exactly what the suspension is doing while the car is at speed on the track. You can also post the video to YouTube or other internet sharing sites to let the whole world see your driving prowess.
Doing your own video editing isn't especially difficult or expensive-some software such as Microsoft Windows Movie Maker (for PC) or Apple iMovie (for Macintosh) are actually free, if a bit basic. We've put together a video of clips from our testing, which you can view at www.circletrack.com, which was edited in Adobe Premiere Elements, which is a quite comprehensive piece of video editing software that can be purchased for $99. Just be aware that editing high definition video is a processing-intensive task for a computer, and you will need a fairly new machine to be able to do it.
So is this for you? If you have been looking for new and inventive ways to market yourself to potential new sponsors or display your driving skills to car owners as you move up the ranks, an in-car video system like this may be just what you are looking for. In-car video is also a great way simply to save your best races from a driver's eye view. Who knows, maybe someday you will be showing your vids to your grandchildren to prove that Grandpa (or Grandma) really was a wheelman back in the day. To get a better idea of what you can come up with, check out the video for this story at www.circletrack.com, everything there was shot with our GoPro HD Motorsports Hero camera.
Get The Camera You Need
Although we tested exclusively with the GoPro HD Motorsports Hero, there are other cameras like this on the market with different strengths and weaknesses. Before investing in a way to create in-car video for yourself, make sure to check out all your options.
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