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Glider Camera Mounts

Building Camera Mounts for a Glider

I wanted to try the low cost approach first with filming in HD and mounting stuff on the outside of the glider to see if it would even work half way decently before committing to more expensive higher- quality equipment.  Many have seen the excellent quality of the HD videos Kempton Izuno has put out and I was interested to see if cameras 1/10th the cost of what he is using could put out decent quality HD video.  While the results are not as good as Kempton¬ís, I am encouraged by the initial results and filming while in flight and telling the story of the day's task and adventure is quite rewarding personally to share with friends and family.

Click here to see examples of Bruno's soaring videos using this camera setup.

Here is the video setup on the April 18th and 21st flights:
1.  Inside cockpit camera - Kodak Z1285 I purchased used for $80.  It is a 12 mega pixel point and shoot camera and is one of the few point and shoots that can take HD video.  It is mounted to a cheap adjustable arm mount I picked up at Best Buy.  I am not happy with the extent of camera shake because the flexible arm is not rigid enough and I plan on replacing the mount with something sturdier.  It is positioned over my right shoulder and can swivel to look forward or out to the right wing while ridge soaring.


2.  Outside HD video camera - DXG-567V HD I got off of ebay new for $77 including free shipping.  :)  I said I was doing this on the cheap!

3.  Both cameras are using a Cokin wide angle lens.  Without this additional lens on each camera you would not get anywhere near the perspective of what it looks like in real life.  I have seen Cokin wide angle lenses priced for around $45+ online but then I found one guy out of Ontario Canada selling them on ebay for $15 with shipping! Crazy cheap.  I checked while writing this tonight and he still has listed 5 left at $4.95 each and then $11.95 shipping.  Thanks ebay!

These lenses come with adapter rings and I super glued the included 25mm adapter ring to the front of both cameras.  No joke.  It works great.  You just have to make sure you center it before you touch the two together because you only have one shot at it (instant bond) and don't let any glue drip onto the lens.  More expensive video cameras should have threaded lens fronts so you don't have to improvise with glue...

4.  Both of my video cameras use 8 gig SDHC cards.  That gives close to 4 hours of continuous video.  The problem I have had is that you can't get batteries to last that long.  The best AA batteries I have found so far are the Lithium Energizers that cost a small fortune.  I tried rechargeable batteries on the first flight and only got an hour of footage from the tail camera.  Rechargeables are affected by the cold and just won't last any longer length of flight.  When I am ready to launch I just turn on the tail cam and let it run until empty.  The cockpit cam can be turned on and off by hand.


5.  I spent one Saturday afternoon and built the camera tail mount and also 2 wing mounts and a nose boom mount I have not tried out yet. They are leading edge cuffs built from fiberglass and carbon fiber and then lined with felt on the inside.  This was my first fiberglass project and was quite simple to do.  Just take plastic food wrap and wrap the area you want to mold and then go another 3 feet in any direction to not get any epoxy on your glider skin.  I then taped wax paper over that to be extra cautious.  I then just used a basic fiberglass kit I bought from the Home Depot.  I put a small piece of 1/4 inch carbon fiber rigid sheet in between the fiberglass layers on the leading edge to use as a stiff mounting point to bolt to.  Just a word of advise: don't put the half cured fiberglass in the oven to help it finish curing - it stunk up my house for 2 days and the wife was not pleased.  ;)

This "cuff" is then taped to the glider with the same expensive but very strong left over cloth tape I bought from Tim at wingsandwheels to reseal my control surfaces and gear doors last season.  The mount stays on rock solid with generous usage of that cloth tape.  Bolted to the cuffs I am using 1" ball RAM mounts I purchased at gpscity.com. They had the best prices I could find and were very friendly to deal with.  The Ram mounts have adjustable arms and you can get a rubber ball with a camera mount screw in it to screw your camera onto.  Very slick deal.  I ended up taping a second attachment point with a balsa stick on the tail mount to the top of the camera for the second video because I was not happy with the camera shake on the first try.  It turned out much better than the first video.  Compare the two takeoff rolls and see the difference.


One word of caution - while I did not notice any adverse flight characteristics of the tail mount video system I know my exact weight and balance for my glider and the extra few pounds on the tail were within CG.  I also mounted it low enough to not interfere with the airflow to the horizontal tail.  I will be interested to see what the wing mounted cameras feel like to fly with.

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