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Mad Ax

Camera mounts on transmitters

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This is something I've been meaning to do for ages.  Filming and driving at the same time is a tricky challenge to master, even just driving around the garden.  When you're on a tough stage of a crawler comp course, it's even harder.  A while back I bought some swivel mounts with a tripod thread on them, thinking they would be an easy fit, but unfortunately the base had the exact same awkward and archaic thread as the top, so I couldn't fit them to anything without buying yet more camera mounts.

Fast-forward to Wednesday, when these turned up.

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They are hotshoe camera mounts.  The idea is you slip the square base into the flash mount, screw down one of the nuts, spin on a second camera, and use the second nut to lock it in place.  And then you have, like, two cameras stuck together.  Which you totally want, right..?

Anyway, the first victim of my electric drill was my FlySky i6 transmitter.  I figured the best place to put the mount was on the top-right shoulder.  I opened the case to make sure there was nothing fragile behind that spot.  Sure enough, there are some wires that could be damaged by an incoming drill bit, so they were disconnected and slipped out of the way.

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Then a whole was drilled.  I started with a small hole so I could enlarge it gradually with a slow drill speed, to reduce the chance of the drill slipping through and damaging the switch.

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And, fitted.

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I used one of my swivel mounts on here to get the camera sitting flat.  It's not perfect - if I tighten up the bottom nut, the case wants to open up.  Also the transmitter is now very heavy on the right side when the camera is mounted, which might get annoying.  If that happens I'll have to relocate the mount, or put a counterweight on the other side.  I'm about to do 2 solid days as the Scaler Nats with this Tx, so I'll know very quick if it gets on my nerves!

There are no pictures of the camera fitted to the mount because, well, think about it...

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Next victim was my trusty old DX3C.  I've had this for years, I've got loads of compatible receivers (which aren't available any more), so I was loathe to damage this one.  I've never even taken it apart (I had to peel the decals off the back to get to the screw holes).

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I could do a sturdier job here by screwing into a plastic panel.  Also it's a lighter installation because it won't need the swivel adapter, plus it's in line with the grip, so left-right balance isn't affected (although it may feel top heavy).

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Fitted

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In fairness, I did actually take photos of both handsets with the camera mounted using my phone, but thanks to the wonders of modern technology it takes 5 times longer to extract photos from the phone than it does to get them off the camera, and I'm in a rush to get packed for the nats before I start work (in like 6 minutes) and this post really exists just to make sure I emptied the photos off the camera, because I'm probably going to take way more videos than usual this weekend.

:)

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When you move to do the right stunt the shot is ruined and the added weight in my opinion is not pleasant in the long run. Why not a cheap tripod?

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58 minutes ago, vodka said:

When you move to do the right stunt the shot is ruined and the added weight in my opinion is not pleasant in the long run. Why not a cheap tripod?

This will mostly be used at scale crawler events, so I'm generally up close and personal to the rigs anyway, and won't be moving a lot while I'm focussing.  Although I'll probably find it an extra challenge to keep the car in frame and do the drive I need.  On the other hand, this will save me the hassle of constantly putting down the Tx to swap to the camera to shoot my friends rigs - I can just hit the record button and away I go.  I'll have to see how I get on with the weight.  My camera is an Olympus TG-3, which is fairly small.

I've got a couple of cheap tripods which would be OK for shooting a particular corner on a circuit, but way too much hassle for crawler events.  I expect I'll walk a few kilometres through the woods this weekend, with transmitter, camera and a rucksack full of tools, spares, batteries and drinking water.  I don't want to carry a tripod as well.  Plus it would add a lot of time to setup the tripod before the interesting gates, and probably get in the way of other competitors (queues can get long at some tough stages).  The aim of this is to increase my spontaneity and encourage me to snap a still or start a video as soon as something interesting happens.

I always have the option of putting the camera in my pocket if the weight annoys me :)

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The Olympus is small, but not so small... Is easy to get tired. Try to search an head (or shoulder) mount similar to one used for action cameras. If yuo look in tyhe right direction you are always in frame, even if climb a rock with your crawler. (yes, you can look a bit weird.. but you can upgrade to a cheap and lightweith action cam)

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I did this to mine, no modification of the Tx necessary, but I used the lanyard hole so it probably wouldn't work for you, since it looks like you prefer to have a neck strap. The phone mount/cradle fits both this setup as well as my mini tripod (the black swivel base attached to the arm below came from a broken tripod of the same model). When the phone is on the front, it does get a bit heavy, but I just kind of learned to work with it. I've been keeping the phone + cradle in my pocket when I do trail walks, and then just spinning it onto the swivel mount when I'm ready to attempt an obstacle.

And also, I do agree with @vodka that in order to get truly amazing action shots, it's definitely easier to have one person operating the camera while the other drives, so each can focus on their task at hand. But mine and @Mad Ax's are a good compromise for day-to-day filming. I keep the tripod in my trail bag if there's something I need full concentration for. These swivel mounts are actually pretty universal, so I could swap out the phone mount for a nice camera (if I ever manage to get a nice camera).

It should also be fairly easy to set up FPV (first-person view) on the phone if I put a camera on the car :ph34r:

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I had plenty of opportunity to test this mod at the weekend, while traipsing around the English countryside at the UK Scaler Nationals.

The weight of the camera didn't really bother me - I got used to it fairly quickly, although it is awkward when hanging from the lanyard, as the transmitter can't seem to find a static position to hang, and wants to spin around and tug on throttle levers.  I have only recently started using a lanyard, purely for scaler events like this, so I can have both hands free to handle the winch.  For my forthcoming Arduino Scaler Controller, I might implement an "off" mode whereby no stick signals are sent to ESC or servos, so I can safely let the transmitter hang.

As predicted, taking videos while driving was challenging - I'll have to edit the best bits together as I went out of frame on a lot of obstacles.  I got better towards the end and it didn't detract from my day, as I only recorded for a few select obstacles.

Where it made a massive difference was always having the camera to hand.  Previously, the Tx would be in my hand and the camera in my pocket.  Even with a lanyard, there's a delay in getting the camera out, switched on and ready to shoot.  Now, my camera is on the mount, switched on and ready all the time.  That made it so much easier to aim and shoot whenever something interesting was happening.  I can't say I actually got any spectacular pics this time, but I haven't reviewed them yet.  I had intended to have an hour just walking the trails and snapping pics of other people's rigs, but I spent that hour modifying my CFX-W instead.

I'll post some photos later this week when I've had time to review them.

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5 hours ago, Mad Ax said:

As predicted, taking videos while driving was challenging - I'll have to edit the best bits together as I went out of frame on a lot of obstacles.  I got better towards the end and it didn't detract from my day, as I only recorded for a few select obstacles.

Editing takes so much longer than filming!

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@Mad Ax I'm sure yours will turn out better, but here's one of my first attempts at taking video from the Tx while driving.

Tripod shots are cool and all, but dynamic filming (following and focusing on the car instead of a fixed view) is a whole new level :D

 

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@El Gecko that's awesome!  I agree about the difference between static and dynamic camera, last year I took a tripod to a local area very much like your yard - lots of gravel and dust, I recorded my TXT doing plenty of burnouts and wheelies and jumps, but in the end the video looked so lame I never bothered to share it.  If I'd been following the truck it would have been so much better.

That said, I watched my vids last night and there were some issues.

- my TG-3 seems to have a wobbly zoom-out.  If I was zooming while filming, the picture went all wobbly.  One of the problems with filming RC cars is they're so much smaller than "normal" subjects, one moment they're too close in for the lens and the next they're a tiny dot in the distance.  Electric zooms never really give good results anyway, but moving the camera in and out while also trying to drive and keep my footing on slippery rocks isn't easy.  Maybe next year we should take a single, high-quality video camera and pass it around the group so the driver is never the videographer.

- there was a burger van on site with a noisy generator.  I say noisy, the muffler was rusted through and hanging off.  There's no damping in the mounts between transmitter and camera, and I guess the transmitter body was acting as a resonator box, because all the footage from near the hub is pulsing in time with the generator.  It's much better out in the woods, but the Tx still seems to transmit quite a lot of vibration as I'm walking or moving around.

- most of the shots are too high.  I tried to get down level with the cars, but the terrain made it really difficult in places, at least if I wanted to keep driving and not fall over.  A possible solution is to make a more complex setup that suspends the camera under the transmitter, but then I'd need a second monitor or FPV goggles to see the shot.  Probably possible if I had a full drone racing setup, but a lot of effort just to get some pics.

Overall I'm glad I did this, as having the camera to hand at any moment meant I could get some great candid shots, but this year it hasn't translated into loads of good stills.  I was so focused on getting more vids that I neglected the stills, and I don't have a lot to show for it this year.  On the plus side, that means less photos to wade through to pick the ones I want to share, and that means I might get around to posting an update on this event sometime before the next ice age.

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