I haven’t had a day off in quite a while and I take almost every television job offered to me. I answer the phone and say, “yes”. No matter how big or how small…and this TV job was a small network gig. I have to support my television equipment impulse buying addiction somehow…

contour1080

Well, I just bought a new bit of gear. The $329.99 ContourHD 1080p wearable full-on HD wearable point of view camera. I got it at BH Photo & Video a few days ago with free shipping! The Twenty20 company that makes this camera did not send me a demo unit. They sent me a 720p camera a month ago that I need to return to them. I plan on making money with the 1080p camera and this review is for my website, not for Twenty20.

I decided that the only way I was going to be able to experiment with the new model 1300 wearable HD camera was to just strap it to my head and go to work.

So I did… I must say that with the two batteries and 4GB of memory, I only captured “key moments” during my day. I did not just let the camera record all day long! This would not have been possible for me.

It may seem like I am playing around with this new camera and just acting like a tv geek, but I am not. Well, at least the playing around part. The best way to find out the limitations of gear (that you plan on using in the future on paid gigs) is to just go out and shoot with it!

Before you press play on the 11 minute 30 second edited version of my entire day embedded below, please read the rest of the blog.

Yesterday, I was hired to shoot the University of Connecticut vs. Holy Cross women’s basketball game at the DCU Center in Worcester, Massachusetts. I would be operating the hand held camera under the left basket (camera 3) for the standard definition broadcast on Connecticut Public Television (CPTV).

We used the Rhode Island based COX Communications “Mercury” remote television truck. This truck carries four Ikegami HL-387 hard cameras with large 55-66x lenses. The truck uses Vinten Vector 70 and 750 panheads. For handheld cameras, the Mercury rolls with four Ikegami HL-59 digital UNIcams. The truck is all standard definition, but CPTV brought along a Sony HDW-750 high definition HDCAM from the station and I was asked to shoot scenics of Worcester with it. We down-converted though the camera using SDI to get the pictures into the truck for the broadcast.

This was going to be a pretty easy, laid-back four camera basketball game and I figured this would be a great stress-free environment to walk around with a camera mounted to my head. And actually keep it running while I worked the game!

Tom

The camera is small, but not covert! People could see the camera hanging off my head. They asked me what I was doing and why. I just told them that it was a new Bluetooth hands-free cell phone device. These people all know me quite well and by now, nothing surprises them. They kept talking about Star Trek and Borg for some reason.

I already posted a review about the 720p version of this camera. You can read that here. I liked the ContourHD a lot and think $300 is a great price for the unit. The 720p ContourHD was used on Discovery Channel’s “Dirty Jobs” with Mike Rowe. Mike wore the camera on his head as he cleaned windows on a skyscraper in Honolulu. The video from the sub $300 camera looked good cut together with the Panny Varicam footage!

I still need more time with this upgraded 1080p camera for further experimentation. But here are my first impressions using the new model ‘1300′:

The size of the 1080p version is exactly the same as the 720p version. Lens, mounts, battery, 2GB microSD slot, USB 2.0 connection, dual red lasers and Hi-lo switch are basically the same as the 720p version. The only difference is “1080p” printed on the side of the camera in white. This camera costs $50 more.

This camera does have more recording options. They are listed below:

ContourHD1080p has five video settings instead of two:
Full HD – 1080p (1920×1080) at 30fps
Tall HD – 960p (1280×960) at 30fps
Action HD – 720p (1280×720) at 60fps
Contour HD – 720p (1280×720) at 30fps
Fast SD – WVGA (848×480) at 60fps

You can configure Contrast, Exposure, Metering, and Microphone Gain for the ContourHD1080p from within the Easy Edit software. I did not use the software for the video I shot yesterday. I just unboxed the camera, charged the battery via USB and ran out the door.

I found that the video looked good and the auto exposure, contrast and metering factory default settings were fine for a $330 1080p camera.

I was not happy with the audio. I found it to be very noisy and it really only picked up my voice clearly using the build in mic while the camera was mounted to my head. But was this camera really made with audio in mind? It is a point of view camera after all and most POV cameras do not even have audio.

Just before I typed this blog, I opened the ContourHD free “Easy Edit Software” on my Mac to see the camera’s settings. I was greeted with a message that said the clock and date on the camera was incorrect. The program automatically updated the date/time file time stamp with a click of my mouse to match my computer’s date/time. That was nice.

I then went into “tools” and clicked “configure camera”. The below window popped up:

video window

The software lets you set the video resolution for the “hi” and “lo” switch located on the back of the camera. It is possible to shoot 720p at 60 frames per second! I will be testing that feature out on a future blog.

In case you were wondering, you can set the camera bit rate to “high” and “max”. This differs with resolution setting, but I shot at 1080p 1920×1080 30fps using the “default” bit rate setting and my files were at 1.0MB/sec. Not certain if this is the maximum bit rate. I will have to test out “max” setting in a future blog.

This pop-up window also allows you to adjust the mic gain. I had the camera set at “33″ for the above video and I was not happy with the results. The sound was low and I had to boost it quite a bit in Final Cut Pro when I was editing. I plan on testing the sound at “50″ the next time I use this camera as a “Life Documenting Point of View Camera”.


lighting window

I then clicked the “Lighting” tab at the top of the window in the Easy Edit software. I did not adjust these settings, but you can get an idea how much you can configure this tiny and inexpensive 1080p video camera.

I will run tests on these parameters in a future blog. Right now, I am happy with the results and will leave the camera at the default factory settings.

recording time

This camera captures .mov files to a microSD card. I have not used anything other than a 2GB card so far and I have found that the card fills up after about half an hour of footage at full hd. The battery lasted about 3 hrs non-stop.

I will post actual h.264 .mov raw files with ACC audio straight out of this camera in a future blog so that you can download see the difference between full hd, tall hd, action hd, contour hd and fast sd. You will be able to play with raw files that were shot at the higher 60 frames per second.

I also plan on getting a hold of the GoPro HERO full HD POV camera for side by side testing. UPDATE: Dave Aldrich shot a great little audio test with the GoPro HERO camera. Check it out on Vimeo by clicking here.

I just need a little snow so that I can take this thing skiing!