Go-Pro. The Pros and Cons

In the late nineties the supply of safety notes was expanding in the UK and Ireland, and in particular within the BRC and ANCRO Championships. At Patterson Pacenotes we were lucky enough to be at the forefront in this era and we have always tried to provide the best possible service and product. One of the things we felt at the time was that if we installed an on-board camera system, it would enable us to fine check the notes more throughly before they were despatched to the competitor. It was early days in both video and camera technology and a far cry from the sophisticated camera systems available today.

The point is that the original idea was purely for our own purposes. An extra check for the notes. We soon realised that in those days there was more to it than we thought. After a few experiments we discovered better ways of doing things and gradually got a better technical understanding of what we required.

At the same time, some of the top BRC drivers discovered that we had filmed our own recce. It didn’t take long before the question was asked if they could get a copy. Of course back then,( once the formalities were sorted), everything was recorded on VHS video tape. We had very crude editing facilities back then, and it was all done on a bank of VCR’s that would record from a master tape in real-time. No high-speed stuff, but it worked, and it was effective. And so the pattern was set for the modern take of the notes and DVD concept.

The point of this little blog is to try and explain why we use broadcast standard camera’s and lens as opposed to the new wide angled extreme sports derived camera’s that have flooded the market in recent year’s. It is a very technical environment and hopefully we can make it a little easier to understand.

We have tried many different camera setup’s in the past, almost to the point of frustration. Not long ago we had a three camera system that consisted of one broadcast camera and two wide angled camera’s. These were controlled together along with a VGA output from our Coralba trip and once combined, it gave a very good view of the road ahead, plus a wider angle of the side of the road. That was found to give too much information to the crew and after consultation with the MSA, it was no longer permitted to be used, in particular on safety notes events in the UK.

What we learned over time was, that a wide angled lens was just no good at giving you a picture of the road ahead. By default, a wide-angle picture has to be squeezed to fit on any type of screen to view it. A Go-Pro for instance has an angle of almost 180 degrees. When you view that on a TV or a monitor, it basically straightens out the view ahead. On the one hand you get a good picture, and in an on-board situation, it looks really fast. The big problem is that there are no corners to speak off as they have all been squeezed straight. In short, you can’t get any useful information from a wide angled camera if you want to check your notes before a rally. All you get is a straight road with a few ditches. So stick with a Go-Pro or something similar for your high-speed on-board from the event its self, but pre-event, get a good standard lens camera and let it read the road.

Below is a short example of just how misleading a wide angled camera be. The top image is the wide angle camera with the more conventional camera is at the bottom. Remember, to finish first on a rally, you first have to finish, and using a professionally prepared pre-event DVD with proper camera angles might just help to achieve this goal.