There was a time when stunt videos In the snow, parachute jumps or stunts on a BMX bike or motorcycle, were recorded from afar. As much, a few meters away. But with the miniaturization of video cameras, first-person videos soon arrived, the explosion of which came with the GoPro cameras.
The technology offered by GoPro cameras, and currently offered by other manufacturers such as Sony, DJI or GarminTo name just three brands, it makes it possible for anyone to put a camera on their head or on any part of their body and record a video walking down the street, climbing a mountain or jumping on a bicycle. And all in high resolution and without sudden movements.
But this type of video, in first person or POV in English, an acronym for Point Of View, already existed before. They were not as common, as they required specific professionals and technology not always available, but the results were equally spectacular. What’s more, the method hasn’t changed much, and similar devices continue to be sold as a professional alternative to GoPro.
Head and chest as axis
With both current cameras and previous methods, there are two options where to place the device for recording. We can place it in the head, usually through a helmet, or on the chest, using a special harness.
In the second method, normal cameras that are attached to devices known as bodycam, bodymount, chestcam or snorricam are used. Developed by Icelanders Einar and Eidur SnorriHence its name, it allows the protagonist of the recording to film himself while walking or performing any other task. It also makes it easier to record what is in front of you, although this second use is not as common. There are many examples of using snorricam, such as some scenes from Requiem for a dream of Darren Aronofsky, one of the first film directors to use this technique.
But let’s focus on it helmet use as a base to hold a camera while the actor or protagonist walks, runs, jumps or rides on a motorcycle. Literally helmets such as those worn by motorcycle riders or BMX professionals and other risky sports activities were used. Currently, there are many brands that offer appliques and fasteners cameras the size of a GoPro, but at the time, and still today, they were used DSLR cameras, the smallest on the market back then.
The good thing about DSLR cameras, or to understand us, digital reflex cameras of a single lens, is that it allows you to see in real time what you are filming or photographing, and it is that being digital allows you to photograph but also film. Its size, weight, the durability of its battery and the size of its frames match the 35mm film standard, made this type of camera the ideal candidates to become mobile cameras for POV filming.
From improvisation to professional
Currently it is possible to purchase a professional helmet where to insert a DSLR camera. Signature Glide GearFor example, it offers in its catalog a helmet to record in POV using cameras of just over a kilogram in weight. It can be adjusted so that the recorder can see beyond the camera and is available in two sizes.
With this type of helmets you can record from a short film to a movie whole in first person or riskier sports scenes such as acrobatic jumps with a bicycle or motor vehicles or ski jumps.
But years ago, this type of aid did not exist, so you had to figure it out yourself to achieve something similar with the available tools. A very graphic example is the one recently released Hadrien Picard, French photographer specialized in action sports.
On his Instagram account, Picard has shown images from 2006 of when “he didn’t have GoPro but he had an idea” as he says himself. “I wanted to show in a photograph what the rider sees when doing the pirouette.” To do this, Picard used a 640×460 DSLR camera. Specifically, a Nikon D70 with 10.5 fisheye lens placed vertically.
The sought photography and how it was made. Source: Hadrien Picard
And so that the camera did not jump through the air, Picard managed with foam and duct tape creating a box to place the camera and fix it to the helmet. An improvised invention curious to see now but that worked well, according to its own creator.
The improvised helmet and its assembly. Source: Hadrien Picard
The anecdote improves at times when Picard comments how they managed to activate the camera remotely. If the maneuver was not complicated in itself, photography was done at night, so in addition to a camera it was necessary complementary light through flashes. “The problem was that if I activated the camera and the flashes at the same time (…) they were faster than the camera, so I decided to use a long exposure and activate the flashes myself.” Said and done, someone activated the camera to take the picture after 10 seconds and Picard himself did the same with the flashes.
A story that reflects how complicated it is to do something before technology is really ready for it. As I said before, DSLR cameras are still used today to photograph or video record pirouettes or action scenes. But nowadays you can already use helmets of all kinds and adapted to fit cameras of all sizes.