VIO POV1, Video Recording System
By Mike Stoll
I’ve been using a helmet camera system to record my outdoor activities for several years. I recently tested the new VIO POV1, which is system that used a CMOS camera and a Digital Video Recorder (DVR) instead of the traditional mini DV camcorder. It's probably the most compact and “clean” (i.e. fewest cables) video system on the market. Its advantages over traditional systems come in size and power usage. CMOS cameras use less power than a traditional CCD camera, and coupled with a DVR, equates to a very low profile system. Also, by using a DVR to record your footage, your system is not susceptible to jarring like those that use a camcorder.
As CMOS and DVR technology continues to develop, I think they'll eventually replace the CCD/Camcorder systems as the market standard for wearable video. Historically, though, CMOS cameras have had a lower-quality performance than CCD cameras, and DVRs have had a problem recording at a true 30 frames per second (fps).
For benchmarking purposes, I tested POV1 against a traditional CCD/Camcorder system from Xtreme Recall. Below is a video link that compares video and audio from both systems. I mounted both cameras to my helmet, and tried to align them properly to capture the “same” shot.
Review - VIO POV1
VIO packaged their video system components in a nice, compact carrying case. When I opened the case, all of the components are neatly organized and secured into place.
I was very impressed with the build quality of all the components. The camera, cable, DVR, and wireless remote were all well constructed. They even included a lens cover for the camera (nice!). The DVR was waterproof, and was designed to handle a dynamic environment (much more robust than a standard camcorder).
VIO stated their product had an IP-67 rating - Temporary Submersion. The device is placed in water at a depth of 3.28 feet for 30 minutes. I did not test this unit in a wet environment, but I did examine the build construction of the DVR and found VIO used a well design gasket system to protect both the battery compartment on the back of the unit, and the auxiliary compartment on the bottom of the unit. Both compartments seemed to have a nice, tight fit. I have no doubt this system would work great for shooting video in the rain, or in some other damp environment (static water environments). Since the DVR is not rated for “water spray”, for those shooting environments like kayaking, whitewater rafting, or jet skiing, the manufacturer suggested storing the DVR in a waterproof pack (i.e. Aquapak).
Resolution: Even though Lines of Resolution (LOR) are not usually affiliated with CMOS camera performance, the VIO Representative mentioned their unit was rated around 520 LOR, which is pretty good. You can view the difference in resolution between the CMOS and CCD camera at the Link below.
The POV1 had good color saturation, but the CCD camera was a bit better.
Field of View:
The POV1 field of view was narrower, yet was good enough to capture a decent shot (I personally like as wider field of view, though not to the point of fish-eye).
Low Light Performance: The POV1 did not do as well in this category. When shooting my neighborhood at “dusk”, the POV1 video seemed a bit dark.
The POV1 used only one cable in their video system, making it the “cleanest” (i.e. fewest wires) system in the market in my opinion. The cable connected the camera to the DVR, and included an integrated microphone. The microphone was located at the ½-way point on the cable, and performed well for picking up ambient sounds. If you wanted to narrate through your video, I would recommend you use an external microphone and plug it into the auxiliary port located in the bottom compartment of the DVR. I would mention that if you want to use the auxiliary microphone port, you must remove the waterproof cover, which eliminates the waterproof rating of the DVR. Lastly, the cable connector that screwed into the back of the camera seemed a bit bulky, and made it slightly clumsy to mount on a helmet.
I really liked the wireless feature. It eliminated another cable that is typically found on a traditional helmet camera system. The POV1 Lanc was small, could be mounted in a variety of ways, and had a Record/Tag button and a Stop button. The Lanc operated flawlessly and pending the availability of technology, it would be nice to see some traditional Lanc features added to the next generation.
The DVR was an impressive piece of hardware. It had an integrated LED monitor that allowed me to verify the set-up position of the camera, and to view the recorded footage. The quality of the LCD screen was quite good in my opinion. The DVR was simple to operate, and its construction was very compact, yet robust. The battery and auxiliary port compartments were well designed and “tight” as it pertains to their waterproof construction. The DVR recorded the footage to a 1 GB SD Card (also accepts 2 GB SD Cards). I downloaded the footage to my computer by popping out the DVR’s SD Card, and sticking it into my computer’s multi media port. Though it seemed to take longer than expected, there were no data transfer issues. You could also download footage by connecting the included USB cable between the DVR and your computer. The DVR specification stated it was able to record up to 30 fps at its best quality setting, but from comparing its footage to that recorded on traditional Mini DV Camcorder, the video was slightly less fluid. From looking at other portable DVRs available on the market, the POV1 seems to be the most advanced digital recording unit (used with bullet/helmet cameras) as of today.
The system used (4) AA batteries to power the DVR and camera, which was great (no special batteries). The POV1 technology eliminated the need for a “special” secondary battery, thereby reducing the overall size of its recording system.
I did not use the software included with the POV1, but elected to use Adobe Premiere, which seemed to handle the POV1 compressed video files (MPEG4) without issue.
VIO is one of the top players in the wearable video industry, and the POV1 is a very nice product introduction for a CMOS/DVR type of system. The POV1 offers a lot of hi-end recording features in a compact package. Besides having a very short set-up time for recording, the POV1 provides a very “clean” recording solution that is simple to operate, and provides good video and reasonable audio performance. To use a term created by the photography world, the POV1 is a good “point-and-shoot” video system. As with any recording system, the POV1 does have its pros and cons. If you want or must have the “best” video and audio quality, you may want to stick with a traditional CCD/Camcorder system for now. Whether the POV1 is better or worse than a “traditional” system really depends on the application, and the needs/wants of a user. There is a definite market for this product, and I expect VIO will have a great level of success with its introduction. As technology continues to develop, the CMOS/DVR combination seems to be the way of the future.
Comparative Video Link
Xtreme Recall Waterproof System Clips:
Upper Gauley Part 1
Upper Gauley Part 2
UpperGauley Part 3
Lower New River Crash
I enjoy visiting West Virginia twice a year to raft down the Lower New River in the Spring, and the Upper Gauley in the Fall. I used to kayak, but had a bad experience and blew out my shoulder during a roll. Since then, I've changed over to rafting. I've incorporated the use of bullet camera systems, and enjoy experimenting with different camera angles. I've developed a relationship with Class VI River Runners (www.class-vi.com), which allows me to mount camera rigs onto their rafts, and we swap video footage. I've perfected what I call a "Fear Factor Rig" which mounts to the front of the raft to catch peoples' expressions as waves hit. I've just completed a prototype rig to mount on the back of the raft, which will "shoot" up the center of the raft, and incorporates a horizontal stabilization system. Regarding bullet camera systems, I like to use the product offered by Xtreme Recall (www.xtremerecall.com), the only manufacturer that provides a true, waterproof configuration. Their system is modular in design, which allows you to tweak/swap components. They offer a complete line of accessories, and can provide you with a customized, turn-key solution for your application.