The INNOVV website has just been updated with the details of the new C5 full-HD remote head camera system. I’ve been beta-testing a pre-production one for a few weeks now and have to say it’s a neat and waterproof system that has excellent image quality. Communication is via a smartphone app (Wi-Fi not Bluetooth) with outstanding ‘live-view’ ability.
It records in 1080@30fps and 720@30 & 60fps, has an internal battery for independent operation, park mode, an internal microphone and a socket for a remote microphone. The recording unit is small and lightweight and because it’s waterproof, can be mounted just about anywhere on a motorcycle.
Anyway, enough for now ….. pop over to the INNOVV website for more information and later on, once I’m done beta testing I’ll post up a review. At the moment I’m especially keen to see how the C5 and K1 video quality compares – day or night – so the Capo’s getting plenty of use! Here is a picture of the recording unit ………… remember, this is a PRE-production model, so the one for sale may look a little different, especially the final body colour.
I joined the HD camera bandwagon back in January 2014 and since then have enjoyed (or not!) the delights and foibles of the GoPro Hero 3+ Black camera. Constantly charging a bucket load of batteries, taking it on and off the bike then getting frustrated when the current battery needs replacing/recharging in oh-so short a time.
In the end of course the penny dropped. The GoPro is simply overkill for day-to-day riding where (hopefully) nothing of any note happens. But if it did, I’d still like to capture it if possible, just in case it could help with an insurance claim or legal dispute.
I realised that what I wanted wasn’t an ‘Action camera’, but a ‘dashcam‘ …. a subtle difference it seems! So here’s what I’d like it to do:-
Bike AND battery powered – turn on/off and record video with just the turn of the ignition key
2 cameras – forward and rear both recorded by a single unit
Full HD – 1920 x 1080 (30fps minimum) progressive with good low-light capability
Protect files – Either on demand or on collision detection
Be designed for motorcycles – waterproof and ruggedised.
And so courtesy of Jim at Abbey Motorcycle Instructors in Oxfordshire, an INNOVV K1 dual-camera kit found its way to the Capo. While the INNOVV didn’t tick all of my ‘wish-list’ it ticked more than most. The full specification of the K1 can be viewed here.
To fit the kit to the Capo required a bit of sacrifice. The long serving and ultra-reliable Autocom Pro-7 unit had to come off the bike and has now been streamlined and put into the tank bag along with the ICOM PMR446 radio. You really can’t keep a good, but very old bit of kit down for long!
The INNOVV 12v/5v voltage regulator is wired into the tail-light loom and installed on top of the ECU with a (provided) double-sided sticky pad. I have to be honest here and admit that I already have an extra loom in place ready for the Active Brake Light System which is still being built. So in the meantime I pinched its Molex connector to power the K1. Next the GPS unit was installed in the Capo’s luggage bay just behind the ECU on a 3D printed bracket so it fits nicely next to the MCCruise electric servo.
With that done it was time to install the cameras. I decided I wanted them on the center-line of the bike rather than bias them one side or the other. I wanted them EU/UK road friendly! The rear is mounted just above the tail-light and the front on the headlight guard. Both are angled down about 7º to reduce glare, each has an excellent view of the road with only the edge of the top-box getting in the rear camera frame. The cameras are each physically identical (just different cable length) and have machined aluminium bodies that are waterproof and heavy-duty, however the lens (especially front) is vulnerable and would benefit from some protection. They each have three 1/4-20 UNC thread mounting points (normal camera thread) and come with basic steel L-brackets. However I decided to make my own to best suit the mounting points – the rear from a piece of steel plate, while the front is 3D printed and bolts to the headlight guard (AP8791235). The final two items in the box are the push-button and a small loom that plugs into the DV recoreder, joining both button and GPS USB’s to one connector, however I left this off for the initial trials – more about this later.
With the kit fitted it was time to set-up the unit in the two recorder menu’s. Time, date and vehicle name are straight forward as was selecting camera orientation – one of mine had to be rotated. Initially I set both cameras to 1920×1080, then had a play with 1280×720 on the rear, but ultimately went back to full HD on both. Again all the settings (bar one) are covered in the manual. The one that is missing is ‘EDOG beep’ …….. INNOVV tell me this is to do with warning of being over-speed but requires the speed camera data to be installed. Besides, the ‘beep’ is under the saddle and inaudible for riders, so I leave it switched off.
The system also incorporates accelerometers in the front camera and they can be used to lock video files or start the cameras (Park Mode) when they detect an impact above a certain value. Setting this value is trial and error and at first I found it locked files when riding along our dirt/stone road. It’s something you can tweak over a few rides until it suits your roads/riding style I guess.
Operation and observations
With the Capo buttoned up, it was time to give it a whirl and see if it really is as fit-and-forget as I wanted. In short yes it is! We all have our little routines and mine is key-on, wait for the dashboard to finish its self-test, hit the starter and when the motor settles, turn on the lights. At that point the K1 turns on and immediately begins recording. I set mine for 10 minute segments, the selection is 1, 2, 5 and 10 minutes. At the end of the ride simply shut off the lights or ignition and the K1 reverts to its internal 3.7v 1100mAH battery** to finish the current file and store it, then it shuts down. It couldn’t be any more turn-key if it tried! The K1 also has voice (and beep/bong!) confirmations that tells you what it’s doing, but you look mighty odd jumping off your bike and sticking your ear to the pillion saddle, so I turned it off once confident it was working reliably.
With a 128Gb card installed it records for about 14∼15 hours before overwriting the first files it recorded. All video files can be viewed directly on the recording unit, with basic fast forward/reverse functions or remove the SD card and pop it into your computer. When you format the memory card in the recorder it adds a useful viewing program (Registrator Viewer 5.8 for Windows) that allows you to not only view the files but it can also show you location/speed/heading from the GPS data and data from the accelerometers. However, if you want to save your video as picture-in-picture format like you see dotted around the internet, you’ll need a video editing package such as Adobe Premiere Elements.
What about picture quality? I left the menu settings at default, however there are a few items specifically for tweaking the image quality – resolution, quality (Normal, Fine & Super Fine) as well as WRD (Wide Dynamic Range). This improves the cameras night-time images or images with strong back-lighting where objects appear more in silhouette. Personally I find the images pretty good but a little over sharpened such that there is some noticeable image ringing. Also the data rates differ front to rear, the front camera has a data rate of 12Mbs while the rear is reduced to 8Mbs and I found definite compression artifacts on the rear footage especially (for example) when riding along a tree-lined road where the image has lots of fast changing areas (overhanging trees) instead of a relatively constant sky. Maybe I’m being a little harsh here. After all it is a budget dual camera system not a high-end Sony/Nikon/Cannon! But having said that, and looking at the specification of the Ambarella OV2710 sensor and A7LA70 chipset I can’t help but think that image quality can be improved by tweaking the firmware. Maybe an update will be released in 2017?
Here’s a short video put together from K1 and GoPro (top left & audio) footage. The Capo popping on the overun has stopped since the new camchain tensioner was fitted and the slight front camera movement has gone since the new mount has been fitted ….. oh and some of the quality has been lost sending it over to YouTube. 🙁 I think I better do a new video!!
Parts not used
As mentioned previously, there is a push-button provided as well. This is used to lock/unlock (momentary push) the currently recording video file and (2-3 second push) to start or stop the recording. When recording an LED is lit in the button. Now here is quite possibly my biggest gripe of the K1 system. The button isn’t waterproof and the LED is so weak as to be almost impossible to see except in a dimly lit room (or car interior?). I decided to strip it to find out what makes it tick, then set about replacing it with something more useful.
The button has two functions – first it grounds a 3.8v signal line (the button push), second the LED is fed by a 1.8v 11mA signal from the DV recorder – both ground through a third wire. So I knocked up an interface box to improve the LED power and feed both signals forward to the old Autocom PTT (Push to Talk) button I still had on the handlebars. Now I have a waterproof, heavy-duty push-button and a much brighter LED that I can see in daylight.
Conclusion after 6 months use
Overall I’m pretty happy with the kit and enjoy letting it do its thing …. nowadays I don’t think about it and only check the cameras are clean before heading out. In fact I only checked the SD card yesterday after about a month – everything is recording just fine.
The one niggle I had early on was intermmittent locking-up or shut-down of the DV recorder. This was cured by fitting ferrite cores to all the leads. The only other change I’ve made has been the replacement of the bag provided for the DV recorder with a 3D printed frame – similar protection but with better ventilation for cooling – it does get VERY warm over time! Anyway, here are a few more bullet points that come to mind.
Build quality, installation instructions & general performance
Price (pre BREXIT £/$ crash!) of approx £200
Availability of accessories and spares
Communication with INNOVV – quick response to emails.
Could be better
Improve video quality – reduce compression and sharpening
Waterproof heavy duty button with bright LED specifically for motorcycles
Supply a pair of lens protectors in the kit
Susceptible to RF interference – shielded wires or add ferrite cores to cameras/GPS/switch wiring
Waterproof cases for the GPS and DVR unit.
Other things to possibly consider for the future ….
Improved battery capacity and reduced drain when unit is switched off
Wireless or Wi-Fi capability for intercom or Off-Bike video file storage on a smartphone. Maybe the system could notify you via SMS if the Park Mode is activated by impact?
Combine the DVR and GPS units to reduce the overall number of cables and connections.
* The voltage regulator has been updated with a sensing wire to be attached to a switched 12v source while the red/black connect directly to battery supply. The regulator supplied in my kit did not have this upgraded function.
** This is the same battery as used in the old GoPro / GoPro2 – Battery model AHDBT-001 or 002. There are loads of aftermarket versions of these on the Ebay if you need to replace it.
Twitter, Facebook, emails, texts … it’s a fact that the modern driver is ever more distracted and as a consequence, the one thing I hate most – rear end collisions, are on the increase. It’s the one direction I have little or no influence over what the driver is doing. The last incident I was unfortunate to be involved in dates back to July 2005. Sat minding my own business at a roundabout waiting for a gap, when in a heartbeat the day turned to s**t. White-van-man ran into the back of me …… Ripping off the panniers and exhaust of my lovely Triumph Trophy 1200, while at the same time bending the subframe and ruining the body work as it slid along the road. The drivers opening words were: “I didn’t think you were there”.
Thankfully he never contested that he was to blame and the insurance paid out pretty quickly. But it could so easily have gone the other way. None of the vehicles in the immediate vicinity stopped – they had a good gawp, then trotted on. If he’d argued that I’d cut him up or some other sob story, I’d have been hard pressed to prove otherwise and the case would have dragged on for ages. This is of course one reason why cameras make mighty useful tools for our defence!
In reality I’ve been using cameras on bikes for about 13 years now ….. First a 640*480 bullet camera feeding into a Sony Video Walkman (digital tape). Nowadays I use the GoPro 3+ I bought a few years ago, but it’s really not suited to the roll of ‘dashcam’ and of course, running two (forward/rear) is an expensive hobby! So I was interest to read recently about the Innovv K1 system.
The Innovv K1 uses dual cameras (1920*1080 full HD) that feed into a single recording unit and it is designed to be a permanent installation on the bike. Both cameras are recorded in full frame and can be played back as such or as ‘picture-in-picture’ on the recording unit built in screen. It also has a GPS unit that can overlay information onto the footage if you want. What I particularly like is that the cameras are fairly discreet and can be mounted out of the way of prying eyes and fiddly fingers. It has many more features that I’ll not go into here, but are well worth checking out on the Innovv website. Oh and the price is damn good when compared to many single-camera systems.
I really like the idea of an almost fit-n-forget system that starts and stops at the turn of the ignition key. Other than keeping the lenses clean I should be able to go about my daily business, smug in the knowledge that should something untoward happen, the Innovv K1 will have probably captured it and (if it detects excessive g) will have locked the video file to prevent deletion.
Of course common sense says that if vehicle manufacturers reduced the number of eye-candy gadgets and driver training were improved then the number of distracted idiots might reduce and I wouldn’t have to worry so much ….. but that’s not going to happen any time soon. Unfortunately the same is now happening with bikes, just look at the latest offerings. Colour LCD dashboards with more information, entertainment and interconnectivity than you can shake a very long stick at.
Above is a classic example of the latest sort of offering, also can anybody reasonably explain to me the obsession about knowing which gear you’re in and why it has to dominate the dashboard! It also appears that ‘neutral’ is so important to Ducati they show it you twice…… WTF! 😯
No siree Bob, none of this information overload for me thank you very much. I’m going to fire up the Capo, fiddle with the GPS for a minute, turn on the GoPro from the wireless remote, plug into the Autocom, kickstart the music and make sure the phone has Bluetoothed itself to the GPS/Autocom just in case someone phones, then I’m all set to ride around the corner for a nice loaf of bread ……….
……… The new breed of riders just don’t have a clue how simple life is with older bikes! 😉
Video on bikes ……. Nothing new of course, it’s been going on for ages. But for what it’s worth, here’s a potted history of moto-abruzzo’s fumbling’s as a videographer.
This pic is probably where it all began, back in 1992 on a hot day in Italy when I was bored. I strapped my analog camcorder to the cylinder head of the 1500 Goldwing and had a fun afternoon playing. The low perspective added drama to the shots and I could watch the front end working in corners …. Well as much as you can corner on a Goldwing! But of course the kit was bulky and not waterproof in the slightest, so once I’d had a play I never touched it again – especially in the rain soaked confines of the UK.
It was 2001 before I used video again. Now working as a full time Motorcycle Instructor I could see the value of using video as a training aid, so I fitted my Triumph Trophy 1200 with two 720×520 colour bullet cams (front & rear) and used a Sony Video Walkman GD-V800 deck to record. The cameras were interchangeable with PIP (Picture in Picture) so one image was primary while the other was a thumbnail in the corner. It all worked very well and I learned a great deal about camera placement, lens choice, filming and editing video from those days. Sadly, when the Trophy was written off in 2005 the video gear just sat in a corner of the workshop and never got fitted permanently again – mainly because no bike stayed long enough until I got the Caponord!
And that brings me up to date I guess. 2014, a new year and all that jazz, will see moto-abruzzo once again playing with video. Hopefully this time it will add a new perspective to the website and move things in a slightly different direction. After a few weeks of internet-homework, weighing up the pros and cons of some amazing kit, I’ve chosen the GoPro Hero 3+ Black as the camera platform to use. I’m not going to bang on about the camera as a zillion websites and YouTube videos are available to review this kit, it’s enough to say that in comparison to previous kit I’ve used it look fantastic, is a magnitude more advanced and ……. well lets just say I can’t wait to get filming!
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