NEW YORK CITY — Head-mounted action cameras are moving beyond extreme sports to intense protests.
Amid the crowd of protesters celebrating the one-year anniversary of Occupy Wall Street here yesterday (Sept. 17), some resorted to wearing helmets. It wasn't to protect themselves from police, however, but rather to hold extreme sports-style action cameras that provide a new angle on the events.
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The Occupy movement and similar protests have spawned a new era of live news coverage. In place of major media outlets' intermittent reports from big video rigs and satellite trucks, protesters have created their own coverage with hours of livestreaming online video from smartphones with 3G or 4G wireless connections. Instead of TV channels, they broadcast from their own Web channels on sites such as Livestream and Ustream.
But cellphones can capture only a limited eye-level perspective. To get a broader view, some livestreamers are also wearing the kind of wide-angle head-mounted cameras that snowboarders, cyclists and surfers have been using to provide a first-person video of their exploits.
The world of action-cameras (also called POV cameras) is booming, with more powerful models coming out every year from such companies as Contour, Drift Ion and even Sony. (Some companies are also making rugged, waterproof cases for iPhones.) But among Occupy videographers, one brand, GoPro, seems to be the favorite. The tiny high-def cameras sit inside rugged, clear-plastic cases that withstand not only surf and rain but also ski trail wipeouts. And they're about the same price as a good point-and-shoot camera.
At last night's protest in New York City's Zuccotti Park, TechNewsDaily caught up with James Woods — not the actor, but an Emmy Award-winning television professional who worked on reality TV shows and for CNN before joining the Atlanta Occupy movement last year. He carried both a smartphone and a helmet-mounted camera that he called the "GoPro 2" — likely the GoPro Hero 2, which the company classifies as a professional camera. The $300 model captures extreme wide-angle, 170-degree video and includes the protective housing, as well as accessories to attach it to a helmet and other sports gear.
With the addition of a $100 Wi-Fi kit, the Hero 2 can also stream live HD video wirelessly to a smartphone, and from there to the Internet. There's only one problem: the footage is often too good. Woods said the 1080p HD video requires about a 3 MB-per-second upload speed to sites such as Ustream and Livestream.
Woods can rarely get a reliable connection at that rate. So he often shoots HD video from his smartphone (which requires one megabit per second at most) and archives the GoPro video to play later on his Ustream channel.
Longtime livestream journalist Lorenzo Serna, who's been covering Occupy events since day one, has also started carrying a GoPro as a backup. While he broadcasts live from a smartphone, he also uploads the video from his GoPro afterward. And since the cellular connection sometimes drops out, the GoPro archived footage may be the only video he has from some events.